The Authentic Adam Smith - His Life and Ideas by James Buchan Norton, HK$142 'I proceed to tell you the melancholy news that your book has been very unfortunate: for the public seem disposed to applaud it extremely,' David Hume wrote to Adam Smith on the reception to his great philosophical work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, which examines how we work out right from wrong. It was the stepping stone to his now more famous book, The Wealth of Nations, thrust into the spotlight by the likes of Margaret Thatcher and Alan Greenspan, who take Smith's 'invisible hand'. James Buchan, grandson of John Buchan (The Thirty-Nine Steps), says Smith, a product of the Scottish Enlightenment, has been wronged by 'economists and politicians, who constitute, even more than professional footballers, always the least literate sections of English-speaking society'. The Authentic Adam Smith, published last year as Adam Smith and the Pursuit of Perfect Liberty, is exceptionally good. Buchan manages in 145 pages a balanced biography and an interpretive critique, explaining with startling clarity Smith's theories about, and philosophy of, modern economies and the notion of equality. Interestingly, there is no evidence he championed laissez-faire capitalism and he firmly believed tax should be apportioned according to ability.