Collectivism and Protagoras of Abdera

Faith Ridler (2021) managed to capture many of the aspects of intellectual dishonesty and bankruptcy in her article in the Daily Mail titled ‘Father of capitalism’ Adam Smith’s grave is included in Edinburgh council’s ‘ludicrously biased’ dossier of sites linked to slavery and colonialism. The article records the false accusations made against Adam Smith. In an attempt to tarnish capitalism and promote a socialist and collectivist agenda, Smith is portrayed as supporting slavery and racist practices. The investigation demonstrates the sophistic techniques being used by certain political groups that are responding to the Black Lives Matter movement and how they are trying to supersede truth and promote an anti-capitalist agenda.

Plato employed the figure of Protagoras of Abdera (Cooper, ed., 1997) to demonstrate how truth can be twisted using false logic and appeal to emotion. Ridler reports that the Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review Group has linked several monuments and street names to oppression. Smith is included in the list as he had “argued that slavery was ubiquitous and inevitable but that it was not as profitable as free labour”. The statement is accurate. The point being missed is that every culture, and every society, throughout history has incorporated slavery until it was banned and depressed globally through actions of the British Empire (Kaufmann & Pape, 1999).

Such changes may seem small. In removing famous figures of the past, it is important to remember the words of Machiavelli (Barnhart, 2013), specifically, “One change always leaves the way open for the establishment of others.” The article reminds us that we cannot look upon the past in isolation and that if we allow small changes to occur, they lead to further changes. Those seeking to use the Black Lives Matter movement to promote anti-capitalist agendas undermine the enlightenment advances that allow the individuals making such accusations to use free speech, as they create a society of oppression and fear. The aim should be to be “the one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart” (Psalm 15:2-3).


Barnhart, A. C. (2013). Absens haeres non erit: Being in the right place at the right time. The Machiavellian Librarian (pp. 173–187). Chandos Publishing.

Cooper, J. M. (ed.). (1997). Plato: Complete Works. Hackett.

Kaufmann, C. D., & Pape, R. A. (1999). Explaining costly international moral action: Britain’s sixty-year campaign against the Atlantic slave trade. International Organization, 53(4), 631–668.

Ridler, F. (2021, Mar 6). Adam Smith’s grave included in sites linked to slavery and colonialism. Mail Online.

[Image: Adam Smith Statue (Edinburgh), by scotlandstudycentre from Pixabay]

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