October 14: All that glitters or, Adam Smith, fixed.

I bet when he woke up that morning he wasn't thinking, "My bald spot is going to be on the wire services today."

I can't find my copy of "The Essential Galbraith," because this is surely a J.K. Galbraith moment, but Adam Smith, today writing about colonization, is less ostentatiously snarky so maybe it's better:
In consequence of the representations of Columbus, the council of Castile determined to take possession of countries of which the inhabitants were plainly incapable of defending themselves. The pious purpose of converting them to Christianity sanctified the injustice of the project. But the hope of finding treasures of gold there, was the sole motive which prompted to undertake it[.]
Emphasis added because we have less time to discover snark in our busy age. The other day I saw mixed motives in the New World project -- Adam Smith sees more clearly than I do and knows that the Bible is just a fig leaf, if you will, or maybe "justification by justification."

The rest of the reading is even better, and, to save you time, I'm going to edit a highlight so you don't have to:
Of all those expensive and uncertain projects, however, which bring bankruptcy upon the greater part of the people who engage in them, there is none perhaps more perfectly ruinous than the search after new silver and gold mines financial securities. It is perhaps the most disadvantageous lottery in the world, or the one in which the gain of those who draw the prizes bears the least proportion to the loss of those who draw the blanks; for though the prizes are few and the blanks many, the common price of a ticket is the whole fortune of a very rich man... They are the projects, therefore, to which of all others a prudent law-giver, who desired to increase the capital of his nation, would least chuse to give any extraordinary encouragement...

Such in reality is the absurd confidence which almost all men have in their own good fortune, that wherever there is the least probability of success, too great a share of it is apt to go to them of its own accord on CNBC. But though the judgment of sober reason and experience concerning such projects has always been extremely unfavourable, that of human avidity has commonly been quite otherwise. The same passion which has suggested to so many people the absurd idea of the philosopher’s stone Laffer Curve, has suggested to others the equally absurd one of immense rich mines of gold and silver nonstop rises in the real-estate market.
The classics are still relevant!

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