What Would Adam Smith Think of Our Budget?

“The statesman who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals would not only load himself with most unnecessary attention but assume an authority which could safely be trusted to no council and senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of man who have folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it.”

With the Union Budget round the corner, it’s time to recollect what Adam Smith would have thought of people presenting budgets. He writes in The Wealth of Nations:

The statesman who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals would not only load himself with most unnecessary attention but assume an authority which could safely be trusted to no council and senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of man who have folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it.”

That is, Mr. Jaitley:

  1. Is all set to get unnecessary attention,
  2. Has assumed an authority which can’t be safely trusted to any organization (council or senate), and
  3. Is doing something most dangerous since he thinks his government is fit to exercise that authority.

Smith was talking about a country like England, with only one government followed by local bodies. In a country like India, with a Central Government that has its hold over more than two dozen culturally and linguistically diverse states, Smith’s words above are all the more applicable.

(Image courtesy: volterra.co.uk)