Adam Smith versus the Great Reset

Adam Smith versus the Great Reset

Discover the true essence of Adam Smith's vision of individual liberty and the threats posed by the illiberal "Great Reset."

To commemorate the remarkable milestone of the 300th anniversary of the birth of Adam Smith, the distinguished Professor Daniel Klein pitted against each other credo of the great Adam Smith versus the modern illiberal proponents of the Great Reset.

In this context, Adam Smith emerges as a luminary figure who championed the inherent value of individual liberty. Smith affirmed the presumption of liberty that “every man may pursue his own interest in his own way, according to the liberal plan of equality, liberty, and justice. He helped coin the word liberal with a political meaning. Liberal not in a utopian sense, in pursuit of an ideal; liberal not in a directional sense, but in a goal-directed sense. Smith was against the governmentalization of social affairs, which includes not only restrictions on our freedom, but also what those tax revenues and privileges create on the government side, which in modern times suffocates us. Unlike the free market, government lacks a robust mechanism for effective self-correction.

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The concept of the “Great Reset” is a slogan that embodies ideas that are fundamentally opposed to liberalism, favoring instead a path toward increased government control. Professor Klein openly admits that he is not an expert on the subject, but has studied Klaus Schwab and Thierry Malleret’s book titled COVID-19: The Great Reset. What emerges from this reading is a disturbing underlying message: Give in or we will hurt you.

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But who exactly is this ominous collective referred to as “we”? It appears to be an undefined regime of individuals, who hold anti-liberal views, such as the aforementioned authors. Not only does the book promote a political stance antithetical to liberalism, but it also adopts an illiberal mode of discourse. Strangely, even after finishing the book, the true meaning of the Great Reset remains elusive, leaving the reader to ponder its implications.

However, although the authors do not explicitly say so, their recommendations bear a striking resemblance to a system characterized by an overbearing one-party government that suppresses dissent and undermines the principles of free and fair democracy. The key difference with the Chinese Communist Party is the globalist nature of their proposals, which gives their ideology a distinct flavor.

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Smith acknowledges that the government is a special player, but it should be strongly discouraged from interfering in the affairs of its citizens. If the government intends to impose restrictions on individual liberties, it must provide compelling justifications. Smith advocates limited government because he recognizes that government inherently lacks the knowledge and incentives necessary to act in the best interests of the people. As organizations become larger, more centralized, and more top-down, they tend to become more corrupt. This is precisely why localism and decentralization trump globalism. Moreover, when a government lacks organic roots, it becomes even more deceitful and threatening than when it has such roots, as is evident in the supranational institutions we observe today.

At the core of Western civilization lies a precious gem: the understanding that in a complex world, it is crucial to let things unfold naturally. Those with the knowledge and responsibility to serve those affected by their actions must be given the freedom to do so. In the process, they can learn from the feedback they receive, both morally and communally, in a voluntary society. This concept is embodied in the Smithian notion of the spontaneous invisible hand.

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Although the liberal order has been under constant attack, the last few years have been special. But there is truth in what Smith (and Hayek) thought. Reality is fighting back, and it makes sense to people. Nevertheless, the challenge is upon us.

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  • Stuart Anker

    Stuart Anker is a recent graduate of Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana, where he studied Economics and Classics. During his tenure at University, he was an active advocate for Austrian Economic thinking and assisted in creating new connections between American Universities and the AEC. Currently, he works as a banking supervision analyst for the OENB (Österreichische Nationalbank), mainly working with significant institutions in Europe and abroad.

The views expressed on austriancenter.com are not necessarily those of the Austrian Economics Center.

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