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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 232-233 of Liberty Fund’s 1982 edition of Adam Smith’s profound 1759 classic, The Theory of Moral Sentiments:

The great body of the party are commonly intoxicated by the imaginary beauty of this ideal system, of which they have no experience, but which has been represented to them, in all the most dazzling colours in which the eloquence of their leaders could paint it. Those leaders themselves, though they originally may have meant nothing but their own aggrandisement, become many of them in time the dupes of their own sophistry, and are as eager for this great reformation as the weakest and foolishest of their followers. Even though the leaders should have preserved their own heads, as indeed they commonly do, free from this fanaticism, yet they dare not always disappoint the expectation of their followers; but are often obliged, though contrary to their principle and their conscience, to act as if they were under the common delusion. The violence of the party, refusing all palliatives, all temperaments, all reasonable accommodations, by requiring too much frequently obtains nothing; and those inconveniencies and distresses which, with a little moderation, might in a great measure have been removed and relieved, are left altogether without the hope of a remedy.

DBx: Adam Smith’s gravestone, in Edinburgh’s Canongate Kirkyard, gives as his birthday, “5th June, 1723.” Because of the replacement of the Julian calendar by the Gregorian calendar in 1752, June 5th in 1723 is, on our calendar, June 16th. But there is also dispute about whether Smith was born on June 5th or on that day baptized, having been born several days earlier. If June 5th, 1723, is the day of his baptism, then the date of his birth might well be June 5th as we today reckon dates. Given these complexities and uncertainties, I have long chosen to take Smith’s gravestone as having the final word: June 5th is Smith’s birthday.

And so today, June 5th, 2023, is the 300th anniversary of the birth of this scholar of unsurpassed wisdom and insight. Despite endless attempts by the progressive left to claim him as one of their own – and despite attempts by “national conservatives” to twist Smith’s message to fit their bill – Smith is and will forever remain one of history’s greatest and most influential true liberals.

Happy Birthday, Prof. Smith. The world is greatly indebted to you.