This week the ASI hosted the feisty Ruth Davidson to deliver a lecture on lessons from Scotland’s founding father of economics – Adam Smith – as she outlined her vision of an alternative to the SNP’s statist agenda.
Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you this evening.
It seems to me that there is a rather long and – if I might say – inglorious tradition of Scottish politicians hanging speeches round the neck of Adam Smith and his legacy.
I’m sure you’re familiar with them, but – for me – there seems to be two main types.
The first type is what I would refer to as the Gordon Brown method.
The Brown method is where you examine Smith’s philosophy from three hundred years ago and demonstrate that, astonishingly, it coincides almost exactly with your own policy agenda here in early 21st century.
Yes, it turns out that Adam Smith was a kind of New Labour prophet, just waiting to be discovered all this time.
Which shows your current policy platform isn’t a tricksy wheeze to triangulate left and right, all the better to scoop up the votes of middle England. Oh no!
It turns out that it has a “golden thread” linking it right back to the heart of the Scottish enlightenment where, before the words “Tony Blair” were ever heard, it was first discovered that liberal economics and social justice could go hand in hand.
The fact that Smith actually came from Kirkcaldy is just the cherry on top of the cake.
I can only say that if I was Gordon Brown looking for some kind of ballast to hold my political beliefs together, I probably wouldn’t have been able to resist either!
But that isn’t the only type of speech of course. There’s a slightly shabbier version of the Brown method which adds a great dollop of parochialism mixed with hubris.
This is the one where Politician B seeks to assert that pretty much everyone has got Adam Smith wrong from Day One. Apart, of course, from the speaker himself.
And why have they got him wrong?
Broadly speaking, continues Politician B, this is because they are not Scottish.
And, in not being Scottish, they therefore fail to understand the true meaning of Adam Smith.
Target number one is, of course, the Adam Smith Institute.