My colleague, Dr Eamonn Butler, was quite right to castigate Alex Salmond, Scottish First Minister, for his disparaging remarks about Adam Smith and the Institute that proudly bears his name. Every few years some left-winger, usually a politician, tries the claim that Smith was really a sort of proto-socialist. It is never convincing because he was nothing like that.
At the ASI we always stress Smith's "Theory of Moral Sentiments" as a companion and precursor to his "Wealth of Nations." The left seem to think we treat Smith as someone who promoted selfishness, whereas the opposite is the truth. He said that our most salient characteristic is our ability to empathize (he said feel sympathy) with others.
The act of wealth creation, which requires trade, puts our co-operation with our fellow men and women right at the start of market economics. They trade so that each gains greater value than they had. Without that co-operation there would be no exchange and no wealth-creation.
Eamonn's very apt put-down of Alex Salmond was this:
“I shall be pleased to send him copies of Adam Smith – A Primer, my dummie’s guide to all of Adam Smith’s work. It includes not just the Theory of Moral Sentiments but his lectures on jurisprudence and on literature, which Alex may not be familiar with.”