Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Origins of a Fable

Neil Buchanan writes in Dorf On Law Blog HERE

Bastard Keynesianism Today”

“The British did not imagine that Adam Smith's fable about the invisible hand could ever be taken so seriously. They (like Keynes) saw the fundamental flaws in even the most sophisticated markets, and they offered a withering critique of the idea that government's role is merely to let rational private actors engage in self-interested action

Buchanan is writing about the Keynesian – Friedman approach to monetary and fiscal policy and I refer you to the whole article in the link above.

My interest was in the paragraph quoted. Depends of course where and when you look.

Certainly in the 1930s there was a stronger reserve among Cambridge, England, economists to what had become 19th-century ‘classical’ economics about the market (Mill, Manchester School, The Economist, and their stories about ‘laissez-faire) and early misattributions to Adam Smith, than was common among Chicago economists, whose enthusiasm for harmonious markets was quite explicit in house.

Interestingly, Samuelson remarked, in a sceptical tone, about the oral tradition at Chicago in the 1930s (he graduated there in 1935 – and moved to Cambridge, Mass. for his post-graduate degrees), that such ideas as the ‘invisible hand’ doctrine had limited explanatory power, especially after “two centuries of experience and thought”. (See: Samuelson’s Economics, 1st edition 1948, page 36 and 12th edition, 1985, page 41.)

Unfortunately, Cambridge, Mass. conquered Cambridge, England, on these matters with the fading of Keynesianism under the triumph of Monetarism from the 70s. Meanwhile, and afterwards, the invisible hand myth conquered the profession with the ruthless energy of the barbarian invasions of Rome in the 5th century.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home