The real problem with Ritchie is as Adam Smith suggested


The man whose public spirit is prompted altogether by humanity and benevolence, will respect the established powers and privileges even of individuals, and still more those of the great orders and societies, into which the state is divided. Though he should consider some of them as in some measure abusive, he will content himself with moderating, what he often cannot annihilate without great violence. When he cannot conquer the rooted prejudices of the people by reason and persuasion, he will not attempt to subdue them by force; but will religiously observe what, by Cicero, is justly called the divine maxim of Plato, never to use violence to his country no more than to his parents. He will accommodate, as well as he can, his public arrangements to the confirmed habits and prejudices of the people; and will remedy as well as he can, the inconveniencies which may flow from the want of those regulations which the people are averse to submit to. When he cannot establish the right, he will not disdain to ameliorate the wrong; but like Solon, when he cannot establish the best system of laws, he will endeavour to establish the best that the people can bear.

The man of system, on the contrary, is apt to be very wise in his own conceit; and is often so enamoured with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of government, that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from any part of it. He goes on to establish it completely and in all its parts, without any regard either to the great interests, or to the strong prejudices which may oppose it. He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board. He does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might chuse to impress upon it. If those two principles coincide and act in the same direction, the game of human society will go on easily and harmoniously, and is very likely to be happy and successful. If they are opposite or different, the game will go on miserably, and the society must be at all times in the highest degree of disorder.

I\’ve no doubt at all that we both regard ourselves as men of public spirit. I do fear he has become a man of system though.

3 thoughts on “The real problem with Ritchie is as Adam Smith suggested”

  1. The Pedant-General

    Presumably he would say the same of you: that you wish to ensure that your system of laws prevails (namely free markets, free cooperation between individuals etc) despite the fact that he, for one, disagrees with it. ergo, he sees you as a man of system.

    He’s wrong, but that’s probably what he sees.

  2. Disappointed of Tunbridge Wells

    I’m afraid what really turns me off the man is his belief that it’s OK for him to lie because he is ‘morally right’. To me, they’re mutually exclusive. If you are ‘morally right’, you don’t need to lie, or misrepresent the facts. Nor sacrifice integrity for the sake of a headline. See the first comment thread at for an example of the way that he won’t let the truth, or even simple fact checking, stand in the way of his rhetoric. It’s a shame; there is some validity to some of his message, but his sheer arrogance taints everything he says. Getting the details wrong undermines everything you say, and he relishes in his inability to handle numbers responsibly – if we can’t trust him to calculate a simple average, how can we trust him to estimate the tax gap, or the size of offshore tax evasion?

  3. Ritchie is preaching to the converted, and to give him due credit, he appears to be making a living out of it. People listen to the bollocks he spouts and, wrong or not, its populist appeal means that people are prepared to overlook the logical impossibility of what he says because it gives them a ray of hope.

    He isn’t interested in proving anything to anyone who is going to analyse his arguments forensically. That is why any such person gets thrown off his site (that, plus those people might cause alarm bells to ring in the minds of the already converted)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *