President Obama should put Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations” at the top of his summer reading list. This was clear after listening to his 54-minute list of economic excuses and policy proposals delivered earlier this month on the campus of Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland.
At times Mr. Obama suggested that the profit motive is somehow ignoble, an opinion shared by many on the far left. But every student learns in introductory economics class that the pursuit of profits is essential to a successful economy, allocating resources to the use consumers value most.
This is not exactly a new insight. Writing in 1776, Adam Smith noted, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”
The president spent nearly an hour demonizing his Republican opponent Mitt Romney’s economic policies and doubling down on his own failed agenda. He called for higher taxes on our most productive citizens and successful small businesses, more government spending and debt, and Washington micromanagement of wide swaths of the economy.
Instead of doubling down, Mr. Obama could have seen his party’s 2010 midterm defeat as a message from voters to move to the center, announcing that his vast expansion of government was temporary and necessitated by the financial crisis and deep recession.