Monday, April 19, 2010


Kenneth Anderson writes (18 April) in The Volhok Conspiracy HERE:


To which an anonymous correspondent replied:

Economists — being relatively little interested in intellectual history — will probably forget who originated them in time. Adam Smith’s ideas influence almost everything economists do and yet most economists seem to go through earning their Ph.D.s without ever cracking open “The Wealth of Nations.” That’s real immortality — people are so used to your ideas they forget to cite you or even read your original writings.’

Mankiw is a professor of economics at Harvard University and author of a set of popular economics textbooks and roughly describable as a ‘new Keynesian’ economist. Follow the link to read Kenneth Anderson’ post on what’s supposedly going on in the discipline, to which ‘anonymous posted his comment/her comment.

The lack of interest in economic history among modern economists is chronic – only bravest young (or retired) economists study the works of past economists – aided by the disparaging efforts of conventional departmental heads who tell staff who show any interest in history of ideas to stop it because their work doesn’t count for tenure (a pernicious system of job protection allegedly protecting academic freedom, but, ironically, promoting the sacking of those who do not conform to the ruling order!).

That so few economists read the Wealth Of Nations, though many more have a copy unopened in their libraries, is a major reason why myths about Adam Smith abound, some still infecting policies in their false guise as ‘Smithian’, such as the invisible-hand, laissez-faire, and ‘selfishness’ or ‘greed’.



Blogger alex said...

If Smith is considered old, how would people react if a student worked on William Petty!

These authors are a mine of ideas, which deserve to be unearthed.

11:29 am  
Blogger Gavin Kennedy said...

Quite right.

Because of the invention of the invisible hand, economics and economists pay a high price in public and political credibility.


3:52 pm  

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