Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations in 1776 and is regarded as one of the fathers of modern economics. His image is depicted on the new £20 note. He laid the foundations for the basic principle of globalization/capitalism - the importance of free markets based on free competition. It is often overlooked however, that he actually expressed grave reservations about untrammelled capitalism, especially the threat it posed to the public interest.
"The proposal of any new law or regulation which comes from [businessmen] ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted til after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have upon many occasions both deceived and oppressed it."
Wise words indeed and as relevant today as then. I think he would be pretty horrified at the size, wealth and power of many corporations today.
News has come in of Tesco's £3.4 billion pound profit and Terry Leahy's £5.2 million pay package. Sir Terry was a lunch guest on Sunday of David Cameron the Prime Minister at Chequers, among a host of other retail leaders. I hope the PM heeds the warning of Adam Smith. I fear that the country is so debt ridden that business leaders will have more influence than perhaps they ought or is good for the public or the public purse. Untrammelled capitalism benefits few people and those that it does are the very people the PM is lunching with. Is it going to be a case of more of the same?