It happened that a certain heathen came before Shammai and said to him, “Convert me to Judaism on condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.” Shammai chased him away with the builder's rod in his hand. When he came before Hillel, Hillel converted him and said, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbors … The rest is commentary.”Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a
I begin with several assumptions. First, let's assume that Smith was right about our moral sentiments – that, as we discovered in Chapter 5, we are likelier to sympathize with the physically proximate, with the familiar, and with the beloved and “peculiarly connected”; and that we generally have difficulty sympathizing with that which is distant and unfamiliar without assuming facts and foisting alien criteria upon them by assimilating them to very particular, incomplete meanings and frames. Second, let's invert Pascal's wager, and assume that there is no God intervening in the world, invisibly directing human happiness through a “divine œconomy.” For Smith, “the very suspicion of a fatherless world” was “the most melancholy of all reflections.” But let's be melancholy and assume such a world. Relatedly, third, let's assume that Smith's commercial cosmopolitanism, which we characterized in Chapter 6 as a moral philosophic attempt to harmonize relations among distant peoples in a world that lacked an effective apparatus to enforce good-will, failed to hit its mark – that we still observe deep mistrust and horrific conflict among nations, among peoples, among peoples within nations, and so on; and that many people are not made “happier” (however we might conceive that) through the commercialization of modern life.