Bryan Caplan  

Smith's Benevolent Baker Quote, in Song

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All good economists love the Adam Smith quote about the baker:
But man has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is in vain for him to expect it from their benevolence only. He will be more likely to prevail if he can interest their self-love in his favour, and show them that it is for their own advantage to do for him what he requires of them. Whoever offers to another a bargain of any kind, proposes to do this. Give me that which I want, and you shall have this which you want, is the meaning of every such offer; and it is in this manner that we obtain from one another the far greater part of those good offices which we stand in need of. It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.
But it was only this morning, when listening to Sirius Radio's 40s station, that I realized Irving Caesar's song "I Want to be Happy" gets Smith's point across more succinctly and memorably.  The refrain:
I want to be happy
But I won't be happy
Till I make you happy, too
Here's the song performed by Ella Fitzgerald.  I hope to hear economists humming it from now on...




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COMMENTS (2 to date)
Pseu writes:

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Ken from Ohio writes:

This is interesting.

Over the last few years my thoughts dwell more and more on issues of liberty and libertarianism.

And I frequently "discover" lyrics in popular music that express these themes. This is particularly true for Bob Dylan.

So I wonder if these expressions are purposeful or if libertarian truth is simply part of the American psyche, such that it tends to emerge through casual conversation and popular song.

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