It’s Adam Smith’s 293rd birthday. What would the pioneering Scottish economist, who in 1776 published The Wealth of Nations as a staunch defence of free trade, make of the world and its economic relations today?
At one level, he would be delighted. His free-trade message certainly got through to most of his fellow economists today. They share his view that trade benefits both sides – both buyers and sellers. After all, neither side would voluntarily strike a bargain unless they each thought it would make them better off. That is why Smith argued for ending Britain’s ‘beggar my neighbour’ policy, dropping trade barriers – a source of particular contention in the American colonies – and welcoming open trade with anyone who would reciprocate.