Adam Smith: the documentary

For some reason it’s always been impossible to find a good radio or TV documentary on Adam Smith (1723-1790) and his famous work The Wealth of Nations. But now Johan Norberg has completed a fine one, first broadcast in spring 2016. Part one is The Real Adam Smith: Morality and Markets in which Norberg outlines Smith’s life, historical context and the wider role his ideas played in his own era. Part two is The Real Adam Smith: Ideas That Changed The World – 250 years of progress and this explores how Smith’s ideas have influenced “the very things we see going on today”.

adam-smith-glasgowPicture: My Photoshop composite of two Wikipedia pictures, since I couldn’t find any I liked. A bust of Smith in the theatre at Kirkaldy, and an engraving of the Glasgow skyline and cathedral of the 1690s. Feel free to use it freely for your pro-Smith content.

Together the two programmes make a quality and up-to-date 100-minute documentary, both on YouTube. If you like what you see, you can buy a HD copy from The Real Adam Smith website. The film’s website also has background content such as a timeline and more.

Sadly a search of Google News and its archive suggests a complete indifference to The Real Adam Smith on the part of the mainstream media. A search there for “Real Adam Smith” yields only a single press release, from March 2016. Although the CATO website suggests that the documentary did quietly have a screening on PBS in America (the U.S. equivalent to the BBC) in early August.

What of our BBC? Predictably a search on the BBC for “Adam Smith” economics in programmes yields socialist Labour M.P. Tristram Hunt on “The Free Market” (45 minutes, “unavailable”); some link-bait titled “Adam Smith – Secret Socialist?”; and a discussion from the (historically very far-left) sociologist Laurie Taylor as part of his “Thinking Allowed” (“content cannot be played”). Such is the BBC left-think that we have to put up with here in the UK. There is one exception, though it doesn’t appear on the search results. It’s the BBC Radio 4 “In Our Time” on The Wealth of Nations an excellent 45-minute round-table format that is usually mostly free of leftist slantings.

Thanks goodness for the Internet.

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