A Linguistic Osmosis

  • Gavin Kennedy


The following examples reveal that a kind of osmotic linguistic imperialism has almost conquered modern interpretations of Wealth of Nations. Words that Smith wrote have been replaced by words he didn’t write or mean, and wholly different meanings have been given to words he did write. The assimilation of Smith’s legacy into stances, oft times totally alien to his intent, has reached such a pitch that whether anything can be done now to rescue it from its modern misuses is open to various answers, of which this essay, though, is one attempt:

Classical economics: Smith the prophet of laissez-faire1

The Wealth of Nations is a stupendous palace erected upon the granite of self-interest.2

After all, in a book [WN] which has been regarded as the locus classicus of the laissez-faire ideology for 200 years, a book which shook the world by recommending a maximum degree of freedom for business enterprise — in such a book surely the entrepreneur would play a major role.3

The capitalist division of labour which in Smith’s treatment is used interchangeably with the word ‘commerce’, is a necessary condition for such progress.4

The term ‘laissez-faire’ also provides a means of understanding an important aspect of the complex and detailed account of the commercialisation of Western society that we find in the Wealth of Nations.…


Nobel Prize Winner Capitalist Class Modern Interpretation Fundamental Error True Teaching 
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Copyright information

© Gavin Kennedy 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gavin Kennedy
    • 1
  1. 1.EdinburghUK

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