Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Question of Values

Marginal Revolution, a Blog that is sensible, normally, carries a post by Alex Tabarrork, here, comments as below:

“Markets in Everything: Adam Smith's House

The house where Adam Smith lived for many years with his mother and which more recently was used as a home for troubled youth has been put up for sale by the Edinburgh Council for £700,000. Sir Alan Peacock says "It's a disgrace that the council has agreed to dispose of a building as significant as this. It should be saved for the nation."
I think it would be a disgrace if the house went to anyone but the highest bidder.
Posted by Alex Tabarrok 13 March.

To which I have commented:

“Alex Tabarrock

I think you may be misunderstanding Sir Alan Peacock - a distinguished classical economist of ripe vintage. He has a letter in The Scotsman this morning clarifying his point:

'I am grateful to you for reporting the sale of Panmure House (12 March). I was quoted correctly but readers may be left with the impression that I was opposed to sale to a private buyer. This is not true, though a case might be made for some restriction on its use as a building of historic interest . As your leader suggests, it would be an excellent opportunity for private initiative, perhaps with a view to promoting genuine interest in and concern for the Enlightenment tradition."

Edinburgh has a long tradition of respecting its ancient architecture, which is why, what we call the New Town, an excellent example of Georgian architecture almost as old as the United States, is a thriving and much sought after part of the City 200 years later, and in the case of the 'Old Town', of even older vintage, with the Royal Mile looking structurally much as it did when Adam Smith was alive. You can still see the Customs House, where Adam Smith worked, much as it was when he worked there from 1788 to 1790.

Panmure House, where Adam Smith lived from 1778 to his death in 1790, and which is about 500 yards down the same street, is an 'A listed' building in the Edinburgh scale of architectural value, and is already legally protected, which severely proscribes what a new owner could do with it.

'Sell to the highest bidder' is an unthinking act of intellectual vandalism. Would you care if a sovereign wealth fund was to buy the house and the land (about a third of an acre) and build an apartment block upon it, or a car park, or a super store? Probably not.

Given the alternatives, including an educational facility for scholarly and visitor interest in Adam Smith's works and, as Professor Peacock suggests, an interest in the Enlightenment, a strong case can and should be made for it being sold for a self-funded private initiative to disseminate Adam Smith’s (and David Hume’s) ideas to a wider audience, to promote scholarship and visitor interest, allied to educational initiatives.

Partial knee-jerk reaction from job-protected academics to impose market solutions on others, which the beneficiaries of the pernicious tenure system in academe shelter behind, is unconvincing.


Post a Comment

<< Home