Sunday, August 14, 2005

More Nonsense About Nelson and Smithian Economics

The nonsense is spreading like a wildcat meme. It's rapidly becoming the disease of the month, started by an author in search of a 'theory' that will sell more books, spread new light on Trafalgar. In 1805, Nelson's navy was not the most literate in the world, nor did it need to be. Royal Navy discipline and constant practice in bringing its guns to bear in 'close action' - the essence of Admiral Nelson's tactics, tried and practised at several earlier engagements since the Battle of the Nile, ensured victory.

To project back a, at the time, little known theme from the '"Wealth of Nations" is a silly folly of a grand order (allowing for its silly presentation as "uncompromising pursuit of the end"). Trafalgar was not unique as a Nelsonian battle - he had used the same tactical manouvre successfully before (e.g., at Cape St Vincent). Breaking from the traditional line-of-battle formation and going headlong for the nearest enemy ship, ignoring rank and precedence, was Nelson's way, which his officers followed because he ordered them so to do, and the seamen on the gundecks sprung into action with their devastating salvoes, not from reading Adam Smith (most couldn't read) or listening to others reading it, but because their officers and warrant officers ordered them to do so, and they had been trained to obey their orders.

Myths about Nelson abound - ever since Robert Southey, the lakeside poet, wrote his romantic book on him - and most are as shallow. The misuse of Smithian theories adds a new shallowness to the myths.

REVIEW : Nelson's victory at Trafalgar was heroic but horrific, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - Little Rock, AR, USA...

"Trafalgar worked according to the basic principle enunciated by Adam Smith that the individual's uncompromising pursuit of the end that will satisfy him will ..." zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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