Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2008 - "Adam Smith - Making Poverty History"

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2008

Why is presenting a play about Adam Smith at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2008 so important?

Because Adam Smith found motivation to avoid what his friend David Hume called Because he is a prime example of living by frugality and not greed. Because of his avoidance of using others for his own gain, ignoring their needs. Because he was compassionate and not insensitive. Because he was motivated to avoid drug and alcohol abuse. Because he knew how to avoid participation in crime, vandalism, conflict. Because he was a peacemaker, not a terrorist or war-mongerer. Because he did not abuse others in any way. Because he showed utmost respect for women. Because he knew how to overcome suffering. Because he is such an example of the good life so needed by ourselves and our suffering world.

Edinburgh Fesitval Fringe
The docudrama for this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe is "ADAM SMITH - Making Poverty History."

All performances are at 5.00pm. The dates are:
Sunday, 3 rd August: World Premiere
Sunday, 10 th August: 2 nd Performance
Saturday, 16 th August: 3 rd Performance
Sunday, 24 th August: 4 th Performance

All performances are at Edinburgh Festival Fringe Venue 125, artSpace, at St. Mark's Unitarian Church, Castle Terrace, Edinburgh.

&Excellent Dramatisation of Adam Smith and his Views...&
Read More of this review

Prof Gavin Kennedy

&A detailed and uncompromisingly intellectual live docudrama with commentary on the life and times of Adam Smith, the father of modern Economics...&
http://www.fringereview.co.uk/

&This delightful docudrama from multitalented, inclusive, locally based drama group The Radicals ...&
Karen Douglas http://www.uktheatre.net


Adam Smith is known as the father of the science of economics through his book, " The Wealth of Nations". I first read it as a student at Wabash College in Indiana. His economic theory was all I knew of Smith until I came to Scotland. As a parish minister in Glenrothes and as presbytery moderator I visited the Old Parish Church in Kirkcaldy where Adam Smith was baptised and its neighbouring Kirk, St. Brycedales, where the Rev. John Brown, father of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, became a good friend. I worked with his son, John, on the expansion of Operation Friendship International Youth Venture into Sweden. This eventually grew to include 13 countries and became affiliated to the United Nations as a non-governmental organisation. I followed Gordon's political career with much interest and appreciation. But it was not until much later that I visited the Adam Smith display in the museum in Kirkcaldy and listened to Gordon's commentary on the significance of Smith.

It was the terrorists' attacks in New York and Washington and the response of the war in Iraq that caused me, as an American living in Edinburgh, to make a search for an antidote to the suffering in the world exemplified by these two catastrophic events. I returned to philosophy, which I had introduced to evening service in Glenrothes and into my classes at Stewart's Melville College. Thus in my retirement in a troubled world, I began writing a series of plays on the Scottish radical enlightenment. I began with DAVID HUME - Citizen of the World and found that I sought to identify with him as he made his journey through life. Among those whom he met was Adam Smith. Hume cries out for Smith in that play. But with my limited knowledge, I still considered Smith an economist and not a philosopher. How could I justify writing a docu-drama on Smith in a series on philosophy? As I listened to economists talking about Smith, I shared the opinion of many. Adam Smith and "The Wealth of Nations" is part of the problem, not part of the solution, in a world of injustice and poverty. So I began the title as an open question: ADAM SMITH Making Poverty History ? But would my offering be for an audience to waste its time on the story of the life and teaching of Adam Smith when he was part of the problem and not a significant part of the solution? I began writing with this concern, believing that perhaps Immanuel Kant should be the choice for the next in line. He would be worthy of attention for I knew that he acknowledged David Hume as the one who awoke him from his dogmatic slumbers through his radical, critical philosophy. But Smith?

Yes, indeed: Adam Smith! Tell his story and let the audience/reader decide: hero or villain?

The life of Adam Smith can be divided into two parts.

First, preparation for writing "The Theory of Moral Sentiments" (to the age of 40).

Adam Smith was born in 1723 in Kirkcaldy, a small Scottish manufacturing town in Fife of some 1500 people, overlooking the Firth of the Forth towards Edinburgh. Its workers included colliers, fishermen, salters, sailmakers and smugglers. It was called the "lang toon" - that is, the long town. The Smith home faced the High Street, with long, beautifully laid-out gardens running behind it the equivalent of several blocks down to the sea. His father had been born in Aberdeen and became, first, the Comptroller of Customs at Kirkcaldy and then a member of the Society of Writers to the Signet, a branch of the legal profession found only in Scotland. Although he was a solicitor, his time was mainly spent in the legal management of the Scottish landed gentry, and he served the Earl of Loudoun, Principal Secretary of State for Scotland. His father died several weeks before Adam was born. He therefore never experienced a father's love.

His mother was Margaret Douglas of Strathendry (near Leslie, a village today just outside Glenrothes and just a few miles from Kirkcaldy) and the daughter of a land owner. She was affectionate and indulgent. But her son did not allow himself to be spoiled and came to be known for his frugality. She survived her husband by 60 years and died therefore when Adam was that age.

When he was three, Adam was stolen by gypsies from the door of his grandfather's house at Strathendry, which today is separated from Kirkcaldy by Glenrothes. His grandfather was informed by a stranger and, knowing the surrounding land well, conjectured correctly the route by which Adam was taken, vigorously followed in pursuit and rescued his grandson. But though this was good news for his family, would it become bad news for the world? In short, would the world today be better off if Smith had been kept by the gypsies? There are those who claim that Smith was the father of "laissez faire" capitalism, which is based on greed and self-interest. They claim that there is no such thing as society, and that all should be free to acquire all the wealth they want, that the best government is the least government, allowing people to make money in any way they like. In short, this criticism is that Smith may have brought incredible wealth to the rich, but also increased poverty to the poor. They claim that this on a national basis has even led to the war in Iraq. Then there are those who claim that Smith was the father of Socialism and laid out an economic system from which Marx, followed by Lenin, created Communism, and that, economically, this held some countries back by claiming that there is only society. Does this mean that Smith sacrificed individual freedom for the benefit of the state, with its militant revolution that justifies civil strife and war?

From his home in Kirkcaldy with land stretching from the High Street to the sea - young Adam could look south and see Edinburgh across the Forth, and look east and watch ships coming and going from the rest of the world. And he could see the port where his father had been the Customs Officer.

He went to the burgh school in Kirkcaldy where he and his headmaster, David Millar, held each other in high regard. There he was well prepared for studying moral philosophy under the radical enlightenment professor, Francis Hutchison. Hutchison did not believe that moral philosophy required the perspective of religious belief.

Adam then received the Snell Exhibition, which assisted young Scotsmen to attend Balliol College, Oxford, to become priests in the Scottish Episcopal Church. But he never pursued ordination, mostly due to the influence of David Hume's "Treatise on Human Understanding". Both believed that critical philosophy rather than religion should determine morality and, thereby, economics.

After seven years at Oxford, using its libraries but holding little educational respect for the lecturers and other students, he returned home to Kirkcaldy. Over the next five years he wrote the first edition of "The Theory of Moral Sentiments". He spent much time in Edinburgh giving two courses of open lectures on rhetoric and jurisprudence at Edinburgh University, meeting David Hume and others at various societies.

Second, further preparation for writing " The Wealth of Nations", first edition published in 1776 (from the age of 40-67).

Adam was head-hunted by his old university Glasgow to be professor of logic. When the professor of moral philosophy became ill, Adam was promoted to that department. The course included ethics (which he considered fundamental) but also the history of philosophy, political economics and jurisprudence or law. He continued to teach rhetoric and belles lettres to which he added literary criticism. Adam didn't read his lectures. He was an extemporaneous speaker who took into the lecture room a manuscript but seldom read from it. He repeatedly paused for comments from the students and gave illustrations to show relevance, to keep their interest, if not to keep them awake. (He read when he was giving a lecture personally to someone like Lord Buchan.) Thus his lectures were well planned but appeared to be extemporaneous talks, never overly discursive and bogged down, but never disorganised or rambling. Adam taught at Glasgow for 13 years, maintaining his friendship with Hume.

Then Charles Townshend MP, step-father of the 17-year-old Duke of Buccleuch, sponsored Adam to take the young duke on what we might call a gap year to France, where the two joined David Hume, who had become Secretary to the British Embassy there, for a few days. They journeyed on to southern France and Switzerland, where they met Voltaire. Adam was smitten by a sentimental novelist named Marie. What became of their relationship and that of his other lady friends, including a duchess and a comtesse, is exposed in the play. It continues with a scene to illustrate the friendship between Adam, Hume and Benjamin Franklin and their attitudes towards America's potential revolutionary war. How did they differ on what should Britain do with the colonies?

Then there is a moving scene of Adam's last dinner party with Hume in his Edinburgh home on 4 th July, 1776, the day America declared its independence. What was their attitude towards the revolutionary war?

The play closes with Adam moving to Edinburgh with his mother and her cousin, to become a Customs Officer, the death of his mother and finally his own death, followed by a revealing tribute by Robert Burns. Why does the docu-drama end with the unfurling of the United Nations flag?

The Characteristics of Adam Smith

Carlyle wrote, Smith had a harsh, thick enunciation, almost a stammer. His conversational manner was as if he were lecturing at least when he settled into it. In company he stood apart from the others, moving his lips and talking to himself, and smiling, always smiling. And if he was awakened from his thoughts and imagined conversations to take part in the one being pursued, he would begin haranguing and wouldn't stop until he told all he knew on the subject with the utmost philosophical ingenuity And if interrupted, he would give the point of view of his adversary. Contrast Dr. Johnson, who engaged in debate to win the argument. He talked for victory, not for truth, and never accepted being proven wrong. Boswell has recorded that "Johnson said Adam Smith was as dull a dog as ever there was". But how could he be dull when what he said was not? Radicals often are dull in manner because they tend not to be aggressive or assertive.

In short, Adam was shy, retiring, awkward, unassuming largely with disregard to what others thought of him or some day would think of him or of his writings. He had an almost photographic memory, was absent minded and often talked to himself. When writing, he composed slowly, struggling, or walked up and down dictating to a secretary. Contrast Hume, whose last volumes of "The History of England" were printed from a draft with corrections written by him in the margins.

Philosophy Plays. Philosophy Lessons & Philosophy Activities

Our philosophy plays are a great way to perform and learn about the life and times of philosophers David Hume, Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham and Socrates during your philosophy lesson for University Philosophy, High School Philosophy and College Philosophy class? We have advice for helping you perform your philosophy lesson. We have had great feedback and reviews of our philosophy plays as performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2007, 2008 & 2009 as a resource for those wanting to learn about philosophy.

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