Crony capitalism—and a preference for a few large companies in each part of the economy that will function as agents of the government and be rewarded and protected accordingly—is the core of the Obama administration’s approach to the economy. It’s the essence of Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, for instance. And it is decidedly not about open competition in the service of the common consumer’s interest. You can name your new agencies consumer protection bureaus all you like, what they’re doing is making the economy more consolidated and easily manageable from the center, rejecting competitive enterprises in favor of public utilities. That’s basically the opposite of Smith’s vision.

And that is what Obama’s critics are criticizing—not his view that roads and bridges are necessary for commerce, but his ludicrous assertion that the very existence of public infrastructure (funded by the wealth produced through commerce, by the way) somehow diminishes the value of private enterprise or should silence critics of bureaucratic micromanagement and crony capitalism. Adam Smith would be no friend of that view, to put it mildly.