An "unknown" contributor to human happiness appears on Bank of England bank note
The image of18th century philosopher and economist Adam Smith appears on the £20 banknote just released by the Bank of England. According to reports, many people are baffled by an image of a man they don't recognise, although he contributed greatly to human happiness.
As we remarked in the Liberty Timeline,
In Britain Adam Smith peers into the human character and recognises that most of us are egoists who want the best for ourselves and that this is a character trait that is unlikely to change. His brilliant insight is that when we have the freedom to create a living for ourselves within a system of just laws, we will cooperate with others to help ourselves, and our cooperation will be good for both ourselves and others.
Adam Smith understands that the natural forces of self-interest and freedom combine to create a tide of prosperity that will lift all boats. For Adam Smith freedom means not only freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but freedom to earn a living, freedom from burdensome taxes and trade restrictions, freedom from excessive government regulations, and the freedom to own and use property.
Adam Smith sees how freedom helps Brits succeed. Freedom unleashes individual effort and creativity because free individuals protected by just laws can create prosperous economies. Free individuals and free markets create the wealth of individuals and nations, while simultaneously raising the standard of living of poor citizens.
A significant modern tendency is to see making money as capitalism and capitalism as evil. Adam Smith writes before the words capitalism and capitalists have been coined. He is interested in how men and women can freely earn a living in what might rather be called "people first" economies. He fights the trade monopolies that protect the few at the expense of the many. He denounces the destruction of property rights and free trade in Ireland, which impoverishes the Irish, and makes them vulnerable to famine. He opposes taxes on labour, preferring taxes on luxury consumption because they hurt an economy and people least. His ideas, which we have barely touched on here, have contributed enormously to human happiness.
Adam Smith had the endearing habit of giving most of his own money to those in need. He believed that creating wealth must be governed by Christian principles to "do unto others as you would have others do unto you".