ADAM SMITH: ‘INTELLECTUAL PROSTITUTE’ FOR BRITISH EAST INDIA & SLAVE TRADERS
Erle Frayne D. Argonza
Amigos y Amigas, Buenos dias! Magandang umaga! Good morning!
The title of this briefer may come as a shock to all those who pretend to know Adam Smith and, more so, for those who revere Mr. Smith as a cult Icon. Just to clarify to everyone, being a political economist and ‘economic sociologist’, I hold Smith personally in high esteem as an intellectual, and this briefer is not meant to flaunt irreverence on this gentleman. Smith’s place in economic history is already granite rock, no matter if laissez faire or physiocracy has become obsolete before World War II yet.
The thing is, fact of all facts, contemporary thinkers such as those guys from the ‘Chicago school’, led by Nobel notable J. Friedman (weren’t there Nobel winners who were demented, nay demonic in mindset? E.g biologist Watson, who claimed that Blacks are genetically inferior in mental intelligence). The revival of laissez faire, as one can see, was responsible for flawed policy regimes that led to the series of short cycle crisis since the early 70s yet, and which is now leading finally to the Great Depression that will mark the death blow to liberal capitalism that is now on its terminal phase. From this point of time onwards, there can be no more return to laissez faire without bringing back humanity to a catastrophic Dark Age reminiscent of that demonic age of the Medieval Era when sanity fled humanity for nigh 200 year at least.
I used to be a Fellow of the Independent Review circle here in Manila, a circle of eminent and illustrious intellectuals and business leaders (I was the only humble fellow here in the 1990s). Unfortunately, this group disbanded in 2002, due perhaps to methodological differences (I was active only till 2001 when I left for the USA for about a year). Entry to this group was by invitation, and that was how I got wind up of it: a female student of mine at the De La Salle University (DLSU Manila) had some of my articles (readings in class) read by his father, the Undersecretary Butch Valdez (Dept of Education) who in turn extended the invitation to the Independent Review circle thru her daughter.
Within the circle, it was Butch Valdez, the eminent Principal of the Valdez & Co that is one of the Philippines’ top auditing firms, who studied with intensity the physiocratic paradigm. He came across various readings about the life and works of Adam Smith, and wrote series of articles in the Independent Review (a journal-type magazine) in ‘97 and ‘98. Being among DLSU’s privileged coterie of most brilliant alumni, Valdez’s most revealing inquiry—Smith’s being a paid intellectual for the slave traders—did come as a shock to me, though it doesn’t shock me anymore that intellectuals do prostitute themselves before high paying clients (Antonio Gramsi and Edward Said devoted kilometric pages about intellectuals, both the ‘organic’ and the ‘autonomous’ types).
The research findings of Mr. Valdez concerning Mr. Smith can be summed up as follows:
· Previous to the years before the ascent to eminence of Smith, slave trade and the British East India Co or BEIC were among the accepted economic modalities. Needless to say, the BEIC was engaged in the trading of slaves. [Actually, my research went beyond that, as the same BEIC was also engaged in the DRUG TRADE, in the opium trade, and had an army of its own separate yet from the King’s army.]
· Physiocracy, which bannered ‘free enterprise’, was especially important for the BEIC and related monopolistic imperial groups since the paradigm promoted ‘free trade’ as well. Laissez faire was in a clash with mercantilism’s dirigist policy regime, remember, as it was also opposed to mercantilism’s promotion of industrialism even as laissez faire championed agriculturalism and the ulterior interests of the landlord class. Needless to say, physiocracy championed the cause of the gentry or big planter landlord and was scornful of the industrial class (in the Philippines there is nary a disjunction between ‘landlord’ and ‘industrial’ interests anyway, they are in conjunct.)
· At that historic juncture when the British Empire was expanding and eclipsing its power, the BEIC desired to optimize its profits from out of diverse trading engagements, most of all for optimizing the slave trade. It need not belabored that slaves were tied up to colonial plantations, and plantation economy was the only modality permitted by the British Monarchy as the definitive economic formation for the ‘4th world’ peripheries (colonies). The BEIC engagements’ optimization can best be done by procuring the services of intellectual mercenaries who could articulate in sophistical vogue the very doctrinal expectations of the Lords of the BEIC Hierarchy (a ‘Committee of 300’, per my research findings).
· It was precisely at that juncture of expanded slave trade when the BEIC’s talent scouts eyed the services of a Scottish gentleman, named Adam Smith, who could fit into the mental Pied Piper prototype for BEIC enslavement pursuits. It would be no wise to contend that Smith was a mental robot or ‘Manchurian Candidate’ controlled by overlords behind the scenes, for Smith was a man of his own mind, and up to the last instance he was indeed that ‘organic intellectual’ for the slave traders. He just couldn’t qualify as ‘independent intellectual’ though, for Smith was, in the yardsticks of the autonomous intellectuals, a ‘prostituted intellectual’ or ‘intellectual prostitute’.
The rest was history. Both the erudite and simpleton among the schooled populations of Earth know what Smith’s economic doctrine is all about. And many folks today are aware that the neo-liberal policy regime of the moment was a rehash of the same Smithian physiocracy.
I do wish that I could converse with Antonio Gramsci face-to-face today and request this noblesse thinker whether the term ‘intellectual prostitute’ is appropriate an inference for Adam Smith. I might have erred in judgement. Mr. Smith was a willing party to the enslavement, plunder and looting by the British oligarchs, and this ‘willing party to’ aspect may cancel out my inference altogether. Sous rapture, to quote Jacques Derrida.
At any rate, I have shared my notes, and thanks to the gentleman Butch Valdez for his inquiries shared to our circle. Thanks to Gramsci and Said too for their recondite peregrinations about intellectuals. Fellows, I hereby leave the inferential option to you, to decide whether Smith was indeed ‘intellectual prostitute’. Have a nice day!
[Philippines, 21 August 2008]
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