Monday, January 21, 2008

Adam Smith Vindicated on His Visit to a Pin Factory

I received a reply from David Warsh this morning with a full, and typically authoritative, account of the issues in dispute, and its background, and an acknowledgement that he accidentally misled Tim Harford on the matter of Adam Smith's visit to a pinfactory employing ten men before he wrote Wealth Of Nations.

You will his full account at his Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations here: David's account of the relatively small issue of his clear statement that he did visit one such manufactory, possibly one near his mother's home in Kirkcaldy, or one such in Glasgow while he taught at the university, is thorough, clear and absolutely authoritative.

You should visit his book's blog and receive regular articles - of the highest standard of composition - on a wide range of subjects of interest to economists - he knows most of the main economists of the past 40 years and of their works.

Thus, Tim Harford is completely exonerated for his copying the allegation that Adam Smith did not visit a pin factory and that he simply wrote about one in his home. Apologies to Tim: his book should arrive soon and I shall review it here. Incidentally, there is to be discussion on the Marginal Revolution Blog starting this week on Tim's book.

Incidentally David refers to the article by J-L. Peaucelle. 2006. ‘Adam Smith’s use of multiple references for his pin making examples’, European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, 13:4, pp480-512.

At the risk of somebody claiming to the contrary, I read this article at the publisher's table during the History of Economics Society's 34th annual conference at George Mason's University, Fairfax, Virginia, last year and it is cited in my bibliography for the new book, 'Adam Smith: the moral philosopher and his political economy' (Palgrave: in press). As it took an hour of more, scores of participants must have seen me, reading and taking notes!

Now, if only Adam Smith had visited the pin factory so openly, and taken witness statements, we wouldn't have these allegations about his scholarly honesty in circulation. I still blame Murray Rothbard for becoming 'unbalanced' on this issue.


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