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The masters, being fewer in number, can combine much more easily: and the law, besides, authorises, or at least does not prohibit, their combinations, while it prohibits those of the workmen. We have no acts of parliament against combining to lower the price of work, but many against combining to raise it.
Adam Smith debunked the sort of nonsense in that quote centuries ago when he described how free market economics would lead us all to the promised land.
So the assymetry is supposed to be normal?
Perhaps the human civilisation is not grown up yet. Ancient wisdoms say: don't cause pain to the others; control your own desires and powers. Yet the prevailing economic ideologies explicitly say to follow only your own interests, disregard the others; and they glorify unlimited greed and firmly oppose any critique of it. Was this really what Adam Smith meant?
Whenever the legislature attempts to regulate the differences between masters and their workmen, its counsellors are always the masters. When the regulation, therefore, is in favour of the workmen, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favour of the masters.
People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.
The pretence that corporations are necessary for the better government of the trade, is without any foundation. The real and effectual discipline which is exercised over a workman, is not that of his corporation, but that of his customers. It is the fear of losing their employment which restrains his frauds and corrects his negligence. An exclusive corporation necessarily weakens the force of this discipline. A particular set of workmen must then be employed, let them behave well or ill. It is upon this account that, in many large incorporated towns, no tolerable workmen are to be found, even in some of the most necessary trades. If you would have your work tolerably executed, it must be done in the suburbs, where the workmen, having no exclusive privilege, have nothing but their character to depend upon, and you must then smuggle it into the town as well as you can.
The Wealth of Nations makes for some jaw-dropping reading (just like Macchiavelli's The Prince, by the way) because of how strongly and frequently it is misrepresented in the public discourse. For instace:
Such regulations may, no doubt, be considered as in some respect a violation of natural liberty. But those exertions of the natural liberty of a few individuals, which might endanger the security of the whole society, are, and ought to be, restrained by the laws of all governments; of the most free, as well as or the most despotical.
People copy reference lists from papers just so it looks like their work is properly referenced. That is a fact.
A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
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