On Capitalism: Smith vs. St.Simon

(St. Simon [St S] from 1817 time-travels back to 1776 and conveniently sits next to Adam Smith [AS]  in a bar)

AS: Hello good sir, I am Adam Smith from Scotland. From where do you hail?

St S: Good day to you, I am called Claude Henri de Rouvroy but most commonly Henri de Saint-Simon of France.

AS: It is nice to meet you. Say, what are your thoughts regarding this glorious rise of industry and capitalism in Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom?

St S: Glorious? It is the foremost poison of our society that exists today. This shortsighted drive for progress and profit will lead to the destruction of the economy itself!

AS: I respectfully disagree. Capitalism will be catalyst to a new era of progress from industrialism! A revolution, if you will.

St S: This revolution of which you speak may seem appealing, but you must consider the long-term results of it.

AS: The long-term results? Of course there will be long-term results! The consequence of this progress is nation-wide wealth and success on a scale only imagined in dreams!

St S: I completely disagree. How do you define this success of nations? Keep in mind the personal consequences of industry in addition to the social consequences to not only the business owners, but of families and the unemployed.

AS:  Would you not concur that the success and reputation of a nation is derived from two things: its skill with regard to labour, and of the number of citizens thus employed? Moreover, are not the recent innovations towards the de-specialization of professions the source of great production and new opportunities to work, and consequently wealth for the nation?

St S: The wealth of a particular nation need not be based solely on its productions. This individual egotism, this laissez-faire, laissez-passer mentality in industry leaves out consideration for the workers and those who are run out of business because of competition. One can hardly consider a nation holistically wealthy when the select few benefit from the toils and despairs of many.

AS: I offer a counterpoint that these successful few spur production and opportunities for labour for the good of the nation. Through the division of labour, with one labourer being skilled in a single aspect of production, the production efficiency and quality of goods will increase exponentially. As a result, the quality of life of even the poorest of families will become incomparably better over the majority of families in savage nations that suffer from poverty.

St S: I would hardly consider the cycle of all available workers rushing into the each successive industry with the promise of success efficient. It is a waste of resources; this action leads to deficiencies in the other industries while leaving countless men who have lost their jobs to your so-called innovations in industry with only the promise of future success to satiate their hunger.

AS: Your views are troubling, and they are only detrimental to the marvelous industrial revolution on which we are on the precipice.

St S: It seems we are of opposite beliefs then, and it appears that we will not be able to come a mutual understanding. I bid you farewell, but with a few parting words: remember my words in 30 years, perhaps you will see the errors in your beliefs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *