Monumental Achievement – Adam Smith…

Three years in the making, Dr Madsen Pirie, President & Dr Eamonn Butler, Director, of the Adam Smith Institute achieved a world first: the first major public monument to Adam Smith. Unveiled by Nobel Prize winner in Economics, Professor Vernon L. Smith, the magnificent statute was revealed to the world on July 4th 2008, during two days of celebrations. Standing ten feet tall, upon a ten foot pedestal, the striking bronze monument is a fitting, and belated, tribute to the pioneering economist and key thinker of the Scottish Enlightenment. From ASI’s own website, we learn that:

“The Statue shows Smith in later life — he spent his last years in Edinburgh — but still strong. Behind him is a plough, modelled from a contemporary plough in the Scottish Farming Museum, reminding us of the agrarian economics which Smith supplanted. Before him is a beehive, a symbol of the industry on which he believed progress was based. On top is a globe on which Smith rests his hand — made invisible by his academic gown. The gown itself reminds us of Smith the philosopher, exploring eternal ideas; and behind, St. Giles’s Cathedral completes the evocation. From the other side, we see Smith’s 18thC dress, with the City Chambers beyond, reminding us of Smith the economist, dealing with practical matters. His neckware is modelled on that worn by Thomas Jefferson, his wig is based on one of George Washington’s — recalling Smith’s strong support for free trade with America.”

Funded entirely by private donations, it is an outstanding reminder of his role in founding modern economics.

Debt of gratitude…

We at MBC have been very privileged to be both witness and participant in the broad policy debate on the centre and economically liberal right of British politics for almost twenty years now. From the inception of the Social Market Foundation in 1989 and the individual membership of Damian Merciar, through to his contribution in a non party aligned capacity, to both the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute of Economic Affairs – the leading intellectual forums of their kind in Europe, we have participated in the debate on the future of our regulated and former monopoly State industries.

We have witnessed and worked in these industries in their privatised and liberalised form, and witnessed the benefits derived from this liberalisation. We have argued for greater accountability of funding for Government sponsorship of “safe” sectors, such as aviation and sponsored medical research. We have helped promote and articulate the case for free trade in Damian’s personal involvement in the new and influential think tank, the Globalisation Institute.

We have argued the case for decreasing regulation as the benefits of competition develop a sector’s market – most obviously witnessed in the mobile telecoms arena, an area that didn’t exist twenty years ago, and one that flourished on the back of a liberalised fixed telecoms market. Who would have thought that not too long ago the Post Office was responsible for telephony in the UK?

Whilst it may be the new hegemony, its safety is not guaranteed. The rise of micro-management, the interventionist instincts of the present Government and particularly the indication that a future Government under Gordon Brown would make things worse – all these are cause for concern.

There is a simple clarity to non-interventionist commercial policy; our business benefits both immediately and in the longer term. The strictures of price transparency and free competition open our activities to the vagaries of customer loyalty, and the requirement to foster this loyalty. Whilst it is very stimulating to discuss Hayekian principles of Economic Liberalism, and the canon of Liberal Greats stretching from John Stuart Mill to Buchanan, it is more profound to contemplate them in practise, amidst the greater prosperity of personal choice.

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