Adam Smith is where you least expect him.

On the long plane ride I was reading Henry Kissinger leadership, which is one of the sharpest books ever written by a 99-year-old. (Ronald Coase, when he published his great How China Became Capitalist With Ning Wang, was 101!) Still, it’s a great achievement and a great read, regardless of the author’s age.

I did not expect the following reference to Adam Smith. In describing Richard Nixon’s character, Kissinger described “two Nixons”. One was an “overwhelmingly gracious”, thoughtful, developing a relationship with Kissinger that “could be described, in its operational character, as a ‘partnership’ – although true partnership rarely exists when power is unequally distributed between the two parties. The president can fire his security adviser without due process or warning and has the power to impose his preferences … Despite this fact, Nixon never considered me a subordinate when it came to matters of national security and foreign policy; Rather, he treated me like an academic colleague”.

Another was Nixon, “insecure about his image, unsure of his authority and plagued by a nagging self-doubt”. Regarding this other “part” of Nixon, who “involves a restless pursuit of approval”, Kissinger wrote that:

With this other Nixon was a version of Adam Smith’s ‘impartial spectator’: that is, a second ‘you’, standing outside yourself, observing and judging your actions. Nixon seemed to me haunted by this kind of critical self-awareness all his life.

i admit leadership The first Kissinger book I read. I would be interested to know if he mentions Smith elsewhere.

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