Sunday, September 09, 2007

A Flattering, But Wrong, Attribution of an Author's Words

To have your words attributed to someone else is a burden most authors dread.

Bad Samaritans’ by Alan Moore (a co-author with Tomin T. Ahonen of
“Communities Dominate Brands” quotes a piece on his blog (here)

America's greatest treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton, met an untimely death in a duel in 1804. But his economic ideas keep firing back. In his 1791 "Report on the Subject of Manufactures", he quarrelled with the free-trade doctrines of Adam Smith and other liberal economists. He believed the government should shelter and nurse American industry through its infancy until it was strong enough to stand against Britain's manufacturing might. Critics of free trade have reached for this "infant industry" argument ever since.”

And he develops the quoted ideas by a reference to a book (I commented on it on Lost Legacy on 31 August):

It is a story told in Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism by Ha Joon Chang.”

Then Alan Moore first quotes The Economist:

Chang curates awkward historical facts calculated to discomfort neoliberals. He takes particular delight in puncturing the free-trade pretensions of the British. In 1860, 84 years after the publication of “The Wealth of Nations”, Britain forswore most import duties. But in earlier decades Britain had prospered behind manufacturing tariffs as high as 55%. It also invented some of the tricks and contrivances now associated with East Asia's aggressive export promotion, such as allowing exporters to reclaim duties paid on imported inputs.”

And he then states:

“However the counter argument via the Adam Smith Institute is :

Hamilton’s call in 1791 (Smith had died the previous year) to stand against ‘Britain's manufacturing might’ was not an appropriate description of British manufacturing strength so much as a description of Britain’s long held (since the 15th century) mercantile policy that had dominated its American colonies through an imposed monopoly of American trade.

The colonies were not permitted to develop local manufacturing activities and had to import everything of that nature from England (and after 1707, from Britain) and had to export everything it produced to Britain, which would re-export some of it to Europe. From an American point of view, it is no wonder that people like Hamilton confused the doctrine of Adam Smith, which were not pursued by British governments in practice, and the mercantile policies of monopolies, trade restrictions and colonies that were.”

I recognised this instantly as something that I wrote (an author knows his own words as a mother knows her children) and I didn’t get the from the Adam Smith Institute, genuinely flattered as I am to have Lost Legacy's posts attributed to the prestigious Adam Smith Institute, a leading campaigner for introducing competition into markets presently clogged with regulations and into the British state’s provision of goods and services that would be more efficiently distributed though market mechanisms than by state-employed bureaucrats.

I still prefer to have my own words attributed to Lost Legacy – and I am sure that the good folk at the Adam Smith Institute would prefer this also, as they may not always agree with every post of mine on Lost Legacy.

You will find the original paragraph of mine quoted above posted at:

A Korean Economist Misreads Adam Smith, as did Alexander Hamilton (and Frederic List)” on Adam Smith’s Lost Legacy (31 August).

I trust that Alan Moore will publish a correction.


Post a Comment

<< Home