“There’s a great deal of ruin in a nation.”
- Adam Smith, in correspondence discussing the Battle of Saratoga, which marked a turning point in the American Revolutionary War against the British.
Every year at around this time, something rather magical happens to Edinburgh. The population of the Scottish capital swells by over 4 million people – and in a very good-natured way. Only the Olympic Games and the World Cup sell more tickets – and they only take place once every 4 years. As the comedian and writer Dominic Frisby puts it,
If Margaret Thatcher, Adam Smith or Friedrich Hayek were watching they would glory in this free market at work. Everyone is out for themselves, and yet there is huge camaraderie. You can be rubbing shoulders with a student one moment, an Oscar-winner the next. If one performer is having a hard time, you can be sure others will help him out in some way. There is no higher authority providing compulsory care. Everything is voluntary. Nobody is forcing anyone to do anything – except to turn up their show on time and not overrun.
The more successful performers do not have 45 per cent of their audiences taken from them and re-distributed to other more deserving or needy acts. It is known that, in most cases, a performer has worked hard to get where he or she is, they’ve done their hard yards, and the reason they are where they are is that they’ve played the game well. Injustice and inequality are everywhere, but it is an accepted norm in this world. The answer is to work harder and get better.