If consumption is immoral, then production – which makes consumption possible – must also be immoral. One who aids and abets a crime is as guilty as the perpetrator.
DBx: Mr. Fulmer’s excellent point applies no less forcefully to the arguments of those who insist that, although consumption isn’t immoral, it’s also, when done above a certain level, not honorable and, hence, is to be discouraged.
Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the interest of the producer ought to be attended to only so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer.
Alas, Smith’s very next line, unfortunately, is incorrect:
The maxim is so perfectly self-evident that it would be absurd to attempt to prove it. But in the mercantile system the interest of the consumer is almost constantly sacrificed to that of the producer; and it seems to consider production, and not consumption, as the ultimate end and object of all industry and commerce.
To too many people this reality about consumption and production is missed; this maxim is not at all self-evident (although it should be).
Too many people, when they encounter the terms “consumption” and “production,” don’t bother to think seriously about the meaning of these terms and about the connection in reality between consumption and production. Too many people – many of whom wish to advertise their moral elevation – leap to denounce consumption and to praise production as if the former is of questionable moral value, and also as if consumption and production are nothing but simple substitutes for each other, with consumption being a negative and production being a positive.