Michael Barone has an interesting column on Adam Smith as a political pundit. He riffs off of a quote from Wealth of Nations, Book V, Chapter 1, para. 199:
In every civilized society, in every society where the distinction of ranks has once been completely established, there have been always two different schemes or systems of morality current at the same time; of which the one may be called the strict or austere; the other the liberal, or, if you will, the loose system. The former is generally admired and revered by the common people: the latter is commonly more esteemed and adopted by what are called people of fashion.
There’s a lot of interesting discussion fodder in this passage (modern relevance of “ranks”, etc.), but Barone takes it into a discussion of modern big-L liberal politics and the cultural differences that are manifest in this Smith quote. What caught my attention was his connecting it to what we call around here the “lakeshore Liberal” phenomenon:
It evidently irritates many liberals to point out that their party gets heavy support from superaffluent “people of fashion” and does not run very well among “the common people.” They like to think of themselves as tribunes for the ordinary person, ready to spend the government’s money to help him bear the travails of life, and they are puzzled when these people do not respond with proper gratitude.
Or, as someone commented to me many years ago when I was a graduate student and cat-sitting in a lakeshore high-rise, “they can afford to be socialists.”
Barone’s column is a more nuanced cut at the trite “red-blue” stereotype that has arisen, and I value his appreciation of the keen observations of Adam Smith!
Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link.