Friday, October 7, 2011

Adam Smith in Zuccotti Park

Adam Smith (from 1774) is transported into Zuccotti Park (2011) via an m-brane wormhole created by an unexpected Large Hadron Collider collision event. He sees an an oddly-dressed, mostly-young collection of people with signs that don't make sense to him. The stunned but curious Smith wonders, "WTF?"

A young "Occupy Wall Street" protester comes up to Smith.

Protester (to Smith): Hey, are you one of those Tea Party dudes?

Smith: Tea Party? No, I ... I heard about something like that that just happened on some boat in Boston. But I wasn't involved.

Protester: Oh, you're British. I can tell.

Smith: You sound American. I was just sitting around with my friend, David Hume, and ...

Protester: Who?

Smith: Is this America?

Protester: Uh, yea. New York. You OK?

Smith: (quizzically to self) OK? (Protester takes it as an acknowledgment) What is going on here?

Protester: We are here to protest against the powerful bankers and corporations. They are robbing us ninety-nine-percenters of the wealth of this nation.

Smith: Hey, I'm writing a book on the economy. (to self) Wealth of nations. Hmm ... (slight pause) Corporations are abominations. And bankers unregulated by government are left to deceive and even oppress the public. I'm on your side, lad. What are the ninety-nine-percenters?

Protester: The ones not in the richy-rich one percent. Really, we're the ones being screwed by bankers and corporations and a government that serves them, not us.

Smith: Government has to regulate banks and businesses, especially when they grow large, to protect workers and to maintain the well-being of the social fabric. Capitalism of individuals in a viable market of goods, services, and inventions cannot flourish otherwise. The alternative is corporatism, a scourge on the people.

Protester: What's your name, man. You really talk the talk!

Smith: Adam Smith.

Protester: Hey, the crazies who support the corporations always talk about someone with that name. He's supposed to be against government spending on infrastructure and social services that care for the people.

Smith: Well, that's definitely not me. That "Adam Smith" sounds deranged. The people who follow that one are misguided.

Protester: Hey, gotta march. Later man!

Protester walks away.

The Large Hadron Collider-produced wormhole, which was unstable, closes. Adam Smith is transported back to 1774 Britain and his friend David Hume.

''The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from (dealers ... in any particular branch of trade or manufactures) . . . ought never to be adopted till after having been ... examined ... with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men ... who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public.''

''There is no art which one government sooner learns of another than that of draining money from the pockets of the people. What improves the circumstances of the greater part can never be regarded as an inconveniency to the whole. No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.'' Adam Smith, 1776

What Would Adam Smith Say? Justin Fox, Time Magazine, March 25, 2010