Saturday, October 24, 2009

Tenuous Links Do Not a Theory Make

Bill Bonner writes in Running Because I Cant Fly Blog HERE:

"Macro for Dummies"

“Later, economists of the Scottish enlightenment, notably Adam Smith and Adam Ferguson elaborated. Smith, like Harding, saw the economy ordered by the invisible hand of God. Ferguson saw markets as a ‘spontaneous order,’ which were the “result of human action, but not the execution of any human design

Adam Smith wrote nothing to suggest he saw the economy “ordered by the invisible hand of God”. Adam Ferguson, a former Chaplain to the famous Scottish Regiment of the Black Watch, may well have harboured such ideas, but Adam Smith didn’t reveal such beliefs, if he held them.

The meaning of the words, “result of human action, but not the execution of any human design”, does not necessarily imply that if it was not the result of “human design” it must have been designed by God; it could as well be the that their “design” was not necessary – it was not “designed” by anybody, or anything, but was the result of unintentional activities, some of which had unforeseen consequences.

Evolution of species shows that few, if any, life forms remained exactly the same from their predecessors over geological time; they change as their environments change, some became extinct, others change their forms, even dramatically from sea- to land animals, and a few changed from quadrupeds to bipeds, as the evolution of humans from Hominines show.

On Adam Smith’s alleged “invisible hand of God” theory, his religious beliefs did change from being a candidate for ordainment as a minister in the Episcopal Church of Scotland up to 1744 (at Oxford, aged 21) to a secular career as a moral philosopher.

I discuss this in my paper, “The Hidden Adam Smith in his Theology”, presented to the History of Economics Society, University of Colorado, Denver, June 2009 (available on request).

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Blogger Robert Vienneau said...

There is no such thing as bad publicity. I am almost halfway through the book I quote. Despite that quote, you'll will much to agree with, all of interest.

8:05 am  
Blogger Gavin Kennedy said...

Hi Robert

Nice to hear from you (I do visit your Blog regularly via my bookmark).

However, I feel I am missing something in your neo-cryptic comments.

Your comments (and your Blog's contribitions) are always welcome, though your interest in Ricardo-Sraffa, etc., is a trifle obscure for me. I listened to Blaug on the subject and found his case good as far as I could judge.

I am never comfortable with the "left" - "right" spectrum - it's rather dated since the French revolution was so long ago.

Smith was not a "rightest" (nor was he a "socialist"). I offer no comfort to those modern economists who successfully hyjacked his name, unnecessarily, for an episode in the Cold War, and the drift of economics into an imaginary mathematics of a world without human beings.

8:48 am  
Blogger Robert Vienneau said...

Hmm, I left out a word above. I'm just saying that you will find Milgate and Stimson (2009) quite interesting.

8:01 am  
Blogger Gavin Kennedy said...


I have ordered the book and will let you know what I think.

Subject of course to the current UK Postal strike.

11:29 am  
Blogger Gavin Kennedy said...

Milgate and Stimson's, After Adam Smith, Princeton Uinversity Press, has just arrived. From what I have read (the introduction), I agree with you.

I intend to review it chapter by chapter on Lost Legacy.

Thanks for the signpost.


7:06 am  

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