Monday, October 01, 2007

Chicago Glen Smith Confuses Chicago Adam Smith With the Kirkcaldy Adam Smith

Glenn W. Smith: 'Could You Explain a Vote Against Children's Health to the Children?' (find it here: (‘PROGRESSIVE BOOKS, MOVIES, AND MUSIC- FOR PROGRESSIVES, BY PROGRESSIVES, ON BUZZFLASH’) at BuzzFlash – Chicago), gives us this harmless nonsense:

Would you tell them that once upon a time there was Adam Smith, who revealed the existence of an "invisible hand" and a "free market" that would ultimately make all things right and just even while creating temporary injustices?”

It’s a no-holds-barred contentious piece if you are of a Republican persuasion and a bit too strident if you’re not. (I’m neutral: I don’t vote in the US.)

For my comments on the so-called invisible hand scroll through Lost Legacy.

It’s plausible that a Republican politician said: ‘a "free market" that would ultimately make all things right and just even while creating temporary injustices", but it’s not what Adam Smith said or implied.

He wrote about perfect liberty as an ideal state but candidly reminded people that perfect liberty was not a situation that had ever existed, and was not likely to be found in the world. Perfect, or natural, liberty was not Adam Smith’s idea but was part of the theory of jurisprudence developed by philosophers like Grotius, Puffendorf, Carmichael, and Hutcheson, and which Smith was taught at Glasgow 1737-40, and which he taught in turn from 1751-64.

Some neoclassical economists (who were not taught moral philosophy, and most of them would not be familiar with its history or subject) have elided perfect liberty into perfect competition. Worse, people who were influenced by them, have linked Adam Smith to ‘free markets’, as if they are all the same thing, and in the ultimate nonsense using Smith’s name, they speak as if anything like a ‘free market’, or ‘perfect liberty’ operates anywhere in the United States, nor anywhere in Europe.

Markets in the real world are not in equilibrium, do not clear perfectly, and cannot be modelled except under assumptions absolutely impossible to apply in the real world. The ‘good news’, stated by Smith, is that real markets do not have to be ‘perfect’, nor need ‘perfect liberty’ be a pre-condition for Adam Smithian growth, which is the same as real world growth, but I suspect Glenn W. Smith doesn’t know that (nor, perhaps, does the President or his advisors).


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