Two friends told me about the New Yorker Denby article.
The most interesting part was the New Yorker /Denby connection.
Denby reviews a new book by James Buchan,Crowded with Genius, about 18th century Scotland and the creation of Hume and Adam Smith.
The history of the Scot in the 1750s was done two years ago by Arthur Herman in a superb book, How the Scots Invented the Modern World. The reason for interest in the history of ideas about commerce, Scot and Dutch, is because of the triumph of commerce in the past century. The triumph of commerce has been the leading subject of discussion by the inner world of public intellectuals for the past half dozen years, along with discussion about the questions connecting commerce and democracy.
I have no idea whether Buchan's book is as good as Herman's book, which the New Yorker never reviewed. The New Yorker is a snotty, sentimental, smart-ass bunch of Upper West Side nattering nabobs. The New Yorker thinks that socialism triumphed in the last century, at least in the hearts of their fellow Upper West Side nabobs.
So how does the New Yorker staff deal with the attitude of the many public intellectuals who tell them at cocktail parties how out-of-it they are? They give a copy of Buchan's book to their premier ideological lap dog, Upper West Sider David Denby, (I know him and find him a nice guy, but his mind is stuck in some lefty jazz club in 1940) and David tries to tell the New Yorker's wanna-be readers what is happening in the intellectual world.
Trouble is Denby is not competent to put anything in perspective, so he adds the following absurdity: "In the nineteenth century, Smith’s happy view of life in commercial society was rejected by the Romantics as insipid and by the Marxists as naïve, a mask for the despair of alienation. The later development of industrial capitalism, including the emergence, after Smith’s death, of dangerous factories and the immiseration of workers jammed into enormous sordid cities, was not something that Smith had envisioned. But his frequently stated belief in minimal government interference with the economy—the doctrine of laissez-faire—should not be taken as passive acceptance of the depredations of capitalism. Adam Smith was not an earlier version of Milton Friedman or Jack Kemp. He would not have been pleased with the inequities of income in the United States today. He defended the rights of labor and deplored the withering effects of specialization on the individual worker. Smith was a liberal in both the modern and the classical sense. Buried in the work of the great framer of capitalism as a vast impersonal system, there is a modern humanist."
David Denby has never read Adam Smith. The paragraph above is absurd and wrong. It shows no idea what Adam Smith wrote nor where the world is today.
So what is interesting, as I said in the beginning, is how the New Yorker tries to deal with its denial of the modern world.