FACT CHECK: ‘Tyranny Of The Totalitarian State’ – Did Adam Smith Say This Quote About Government Regulation?

Trevor Schakohl | Legal Reporter

A Facebook post claims that Scottish political economist and philosopher Adam Smith once said: “As soon as government management begins, it upsets the natural equilibrium of industrial relations, and each interference only requires further bureaucratic control until the end is the tyranny of the totalitarian state.”

Verdict: False

Smith did not author this statement. It was actually written by Everett Dean Martin in a 1939 academic paper.

Fact Check:

Smith, an 18th century Scottish political economist and philosopher, was best known for his 1776 work “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations,” which explores the topics of division of labor, productivity and free markets in relation to national prosperity.

While Smith supported limiting government control over the economy, he did not author the statement attributed to him in the Facebook post. The saying is not present in any of Smith’s works. (RELATED: Did Immanuel Kant Say A Quote About Science And Wisdom?)

“Adam Smith did not write that,” Wake Forest University political economist James Otteson told the Daily Caller via email. “A phrase like ‘industrial relations’ sounds distinctly twentieth-century to my ears.”

Indeed, the saying was actually written by professor and adult education advocate Martin in a paper presented to the Annual Convention of the Investment Bankers Association of America in 1939, according to Quote Investigator. The words, however, were Martin’s characterization of Smith’s economic philosophy, not a direct quotation from Smith.

Trevor Schakohl

Legal Reporter
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