Adam Smith and his dinner
I never understood why they even bother to define economics. Everybody knows what it`s about. At least the students of economics do.
It is the study of how Adam Smith got his dinner. I`ll prove it.
In 1776, the father of economics, Adam Smith, wrote something that shaped the course of economics in the 18th century and continues to guide modern economic thought.
“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their self-interest.”
I didn’t know why Adam Smith`s peers did not raise red flags over this preposterous declaration.
“It is not from the benevolence…” He says. While being a moral philosopher.
But I won`t point fingers today. I`ll prove my point with logic. Like a rational “economic man”.
Smith says that people produce things to sell so they can make a profit. And solely for that purpose. The baker doesn’t make bread to make basic sustenance available to people. The brewer doesn’t make beer to make his customers happy. They do it all for self-interest. Basically for money.
Self-interest is the driving force behind the economy. As long as people keep doing what`s in their self-interest. Everybody will keep on getting everything they want. The economy will keep flowing. There will be bread and there will be butter and vegetables and meat and everything else you need to make a tasty dinner.
Self-interest brings it all together and you get dinner on the table. At least that’s what the father of economics says.
In short, what this means, is that people do everything for their benefit. And that, as if by magic, brings everyone together as a whole. Now that presents a very bleak picture of mankind.
(in this blog series, whenever the term mankind is used, it refers to men only.)
However bleak it is, it is what works. And we want something that works. Even if it goes against human nature. One thing that economists love to do is tell people that what works is different from how it should or how you want it to work.
And thus, the self-operating economy came about. Guided by an ‘invisible hand’. Adam Smith first used this term but it was due to the later economists who popularized it, that it has become so integral in the study of economics.
This inviable hand guides everything, does everything, and holds the society together.
And was also the force behind the dinner appearing on Adam Smith`s table.
But was it?
Who cooked the steak? Who carried it from the kitchen to the dinner table?
Adam Smith never married. He lived with his mother, Margaret Douglas, his entire life. One of his cousins handled the finances of the house. When he moved to Edinburgh to be the Commissioner of customs, Margaret moved with him. So while Adam Smith wrote the Wealth of Nations, his mother took care of the house and did all the chores.
So how did Adam Smith get his dinner?
Part of the answer to this question is his mother. But that did not occur to the father of economics.
After the invisible hand ladies and gentlemen, I give you, the `invisible sex`.
Ever since then, economists have been blind to women. To the fact that it is due to the women that the butcher can go to his shop and put meat on the shelves and keep doing it too. There was a woman available at home who would look after the children, cook for everyone, clean the house, do the laundry, wash the dishes, and anything else you can think of outside of the market.
But all of these activities were and remain completely invisible to mainstream economics. While we still have almost every economist and economics teacher asking this fundamental question of economics at the start of every economics course. After which they go home and eat dinner cooked by their wives, mothers, and sisters. And so this mainstream economy which is built on the hard unpaid labor of women becomes the economy that produces and exchanges value. And the other one, the one which is the backbone of the mainstream economy, just becomes the other economy.
Misogyny, capitalism, exploitation, inhumanity, and ignorance continue. All the men are happy. All the men are blind. Everyone is happy.
Hence, I end my logical explanation of why economics is all about Adam Smith`s dinner.
And until it is widely recognized that his mother was part of the system through which he got dinner on the table every day, I simply refuse to even hope that economics can solve major issues in the world. But that’s just my take.