Thursday, April 17, 2008

On Becoming a Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute

A few months back I was invited to become a Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute, London, which publishes its influential Blog (here) daily and generally beavers away trying to influence legislators and those who influence them with radical - always Smithian - ideas on improving the UK economy (and, in the hope of imitation, the rest of the world).

I do not always agree with everything ASI promotes, though I do agree with most, and those aspects I occasionally disagree with are more often nuances rather than principles.

The ASI Annual Report has been published with a list of its Fellows and I am pleased to have been included. It is a singular honour to have one's work acknowledged and to be associated with the Institute. My remit is to comment on matters pertaining to Adam Smith's work and life. This is an extention of my efforts at Lost Legacy to just that, and I shall combined both roles with my usual diligence.

The next 'big event' at ASI is the unveiling of the statue of Adam Smith outside St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh on 4 July, which I hope to attend. The statue was paid for in the strict ASI tradition from private subscriptions only (no taxpayers' money) and, from photograph's, it looks the part (though I think it portrays a somewhat slimmer Adam Smith than he was in real life, especially from 1784 onwards - but ours is not to quibble).

Permission to erect the statue was given by Edinburgh City Council (then Labour controlled) and that in itself was a welcome step forward in the modern acceptance of Smith's contribution to the world's knowledge during the Scottish Enlightenment and beyond.

Another decision is eagerly awaited from Edinburgh City Counil, namely the disposal of Panmure House, Adam Smith's residence from 1778-1790. Currently, the new council (an alliance between the Scottish National Party and the Scottish Liberal Democrats) is considering the offers it has received in the Scottish system of 'blind auctions'. Being an 'A' listed building, Panmure House, buyers have to take account of 'public benefit' criteria as well as meeting the seller's aspirations (the minimum the Council will accept, which is likely to be more than the 'offers over' price of £700,000.

Those US Bloggers whose knowledge of Scottish property law is less than required to pontificate as some have done - including a few philistines simply saying 'sell it to the highest bidder' no matter what they intend to do with it. Edinburgh, as Scotland's capital has a remarkably good (though still relative) record on preventing the wholesale destruction of its historical legacy as has been the fate of many cities across the world, including in the United States.

Once destroyed, or allowed to decay by neglect, perfectly habitable and useable buildings, many of important architectural merit, become irreplaceable, until, when it has almost all gone, the people in the towns concerned realise what they have lost and start doing what they should have done a long time ago (as happened in Sydney, Australia during the 1970s - e.g. the Hordern Building).

However, no decision has yet been made and I await the eventual announcement in a few weeks time. Meanwhile, I shall watch for opportunities to answer queries from ASI on Adam Smith.


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