The proverbial old-school tie is being put to ideological use in Washington these days. The most popular neckpiece around the Reagan White House is one bearing tiny cameo profiles of Adam Smith, the 18th century Scot whose An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations limned the classic argument for getting government off the back of business.
Among wearers: Edwin Meese, Counsellor to the President; Murray Weidenbaum, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers; Caspar Weinberger, Secretary of Defense; and Martin Anderson, assistant to the President for policy development. Ronald Reagan was given an Adam Smith cravat by T. Kenneth Cribb Jr., the assistant director of Cabinet administration, but the President has yet to be seen wearing it.
About 5,000 Adam Smith ties have been sold worldwide by mail from the Decatur Shop in North Adams, Mich. Since the early 1960s, Owners Don Lipsett and his wife Norma have built a small business selling T shirts with the likenesses of famous conservatives. They started with Barry Goldwater and have threaded through to Spiro Agnew and Milton Friedman. Smith is available on T shirts too, but in only two sizes: large and too large.
The Adam Smith ties trace back to Britain in the 1960s as the club insignia for the University of St. Andrews Conservative Association in Scotland. The Lipsetts added the tie to their line in 1975, but sales have picked up with the advent of the Reagan regime. The Lipsetts know a bird in hand, as well as a four-in-hand, when they see one. The first two versions, costing $14 for 15% silk or $20 for 50% silk, are being joined by a "presidential" model costing $16 that has thin gold stripes. The firm offers an Adam Smith ascot for conservative women at $15. That leaves liberals fit to be tiedunless Adam Smith's free-market spirit inspires one for John Maynard Keynes.