You know what's always interesting? To read someone defend behavior you think is largely indefensible. Sometimes you come out of it with a fresh understanding of why a decent person would act that way.
Other times you don't.
And someone critical of Smith's attitude responded, "Since when was an agent a trade union official?"
WOW. Wow wow wow wow wow.
Let's break that down, because that's a very insightful way to look at agents.
Say you were in a trade union. When would you go to a trade union official?
1. When you're not getting paid.
2. When your work conditions are not acceptable for some other reason.
3. When the company you're working for is not living up to the terms of its contract.
Now, for most people, that's more or less what they want their agent to do. Not getting paid? Onerous work conditions? Publisher not honoring your contract? The thought is, you go to your agent.
The thought is, the agent is in your corner.
NOT TRUE. Someone who is defending agents thinks it's totally stupid to think that's true. Someone who is defending agents thinks that is a silly and pathetic expectation.
Why go to an agent? The person continues, "one reason only – because it was the best way to get the attention of a senior editor at a publishing house and get our work seriously considered."
This person is completely in agreement with Smith, whether they like it or not. Both think agents do not--even remotely--represent authors in any kind of meaningful way.
It's just that Smith thinks they ought to. Stupid, stupid Smith.
And stupid, stupid you if you have the same expectation.
Remember, just because you pay them doesn't mean they work for you.