Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Progress Report

Job done, at least the revision part.

I refer to the revised text for my paperback edition of Adam Smith: a moral philosopher and his political economy (Palgrave).

Biggest change is to the invisible hand chapter 12, which brings up to date my critique of the modern consensus among economists which attributes this metaphor to the market (usually associated with adjectives like 'miraculous' or 'mystical', with theological versions attributed to god, and all linked to a supposed idea that it leads 'selfish' individuals to pursue their self-interest/selfish desires that somehow works out to the public benefit.

Following debates with various scholars since 2008 I have revised and added to my case. I presented the gist of the hardback version to the History of Economic Societies conference, first in George Mason University (Fairfax VA) in 2007 and in History of Economic Thought conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, 2008, to luke-warm receptions in the main. Several scholars did give useful comments as well and others remain friendly but sceptical. Some have remained critical ever since of course. The paperback brings the arguments for and against up to date.

To this work for the book, I have added papers, two published in Econ Journal Watch, May and September 2009 (debating with Daniel Klein) and one soon to be sent for publication on the interesting 'centrality hypothesis' by Daniel Klein. My paper on the role of Paul Samuelson in developing the modern consensus on the modern version of the meaning of the invisible hand, unfortunately heavily linked to Adam Smith, is near completion, and I am modestly pleased with it. I shall circulate it to colleagues in April for their comments. I hope to have it published in a journal.

I have gone beyond criticising the misattribution of the metaphor as Smith's 'greatest idea', etc., to exploring a) what it actually meant for Smith, and b) the sloppy (there may be a more polite word for what happened but I cannot honestly think of one) derivation in modern economics of what it allegedly implied and what is taught on campuses to innocent students who are unlikely to check for themselves.

This boils down to my explanation (a) of what Adam Smith taught and contrasting it with (b) what modern economists have imputed, raising the question: 'how did you derive (b) from (a)?.

It's a fair challenge.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home