Tuesday, June 14, 2011

For Geeks: Adam Smith The (or a) Founding Father of Economics?

Recent snippets from a discourse among historians of economic thought on the Web might be of interest to what we used to call ‘anoraks’ or a specialist in the sex-life of a rhinoceros (from late Friday dialogues among faculty).

My General Comment

The question and the several dozen responses from around the world produced a typical online debate among some of the world’s most informed scholars in the history of economic thought. The majority of professional economists, sad to say, are uninterested in anything in economic thought older that whatever is current, though this does not mean they are immune from past ideas - some of these impressive vintage are ‘the scribbling of some long dead economists’ which have greater affects on today’s ‘high flyers’ than many care to admit).

The idea that Adam Smith was the ‘founding father’ of economics is often banded about among today’s faculty, mainly from half-remembered lectures from their tutors of long ago, and unfortunately is about all they remember about him, along with the modern invented myths of “invisible hands” (post-1950s), old myths of “laissez-faire”, and derived myths of “general equilibrium”.

Of course, the ‘founding father idea’ has resonance with US-trained economists and has produced the inevitable reaction, mentioned in the opening post, of the counter-charge from ‘“J Schumpeter’s ‘History of Economic Analysis’, M Blaug’s ‘Retrospect’, and M Rothbard’s ‘An Austrian Perspective on HET’ that suggest that the accolade does not belong to Adam Smith, with some other names thrown into the ring as the actual ‘founders’.

It is a pointless debate rightly not joined in by Lost Legacy. Similarly, such assertions as Adam Smith being the ‘High Priest’ of ‘Capitalism’, and such like, are neither accurate nor helpful. These debates try to give some historical colour to present day proposals for this or that defence or reform of current arrangements. Let the proposals speak for their content, and leave spurious claims to a lineage to Adam Smith out of a pretence at their merit (or lack thereof).

On the smaller detail, let’s see what ‘weel kent’ (a Scottish phrase for ‘well known’) colleagues had to say, before the debate slid down into matters of interest less relevance perhaps, as into feminist histories, for example.

As to the origins of the general idea about Adam Smith being a ‘founder’, Richard van den Berg kept strictly to the question (a quality not followed by many others).

Altug Yalcintas asks a question of colleagues in the various Societies in different countries that form an international community of scholars dedicated to the study of the History of Economic Thought:

“J Schumpeter’s ‘History of Economic Analysis’, M Blaug’s ‘Retrospect’, and M Rothbard’s ‘An Austrian Perspective on HET’, all report that Adam Smith has been incorrectly thought to have created the science of economics and known as the “Founding Father.”

“I have been wondering: who thought so? These books do not provide any references. I did a quick search on Google but had no reliable results. Does anybody know when and who exactly coined or used the term “founding father” and thought Adam Smith created the science of economics?”

Extracts from the debate:

“In the advertisement (p. viii) to an American edition of J.B. Say's work there appears the phrase 'Dr. Adam Smith, the father of this science'. It doesn't exactly say 'founding father' but this is an early statement to the same effect. I don't know of any earlier statements. But others may.

This is the reference:
Say, Jean Baptiste. A treatise on political economy : or, The production, distribution, and consumption of wealth translated from the 4th ed. of the French by C.R. Prinsep; to which is added a translation of the introduction, and additional notes by Clement C. Biddle. Volume 1. Boston, 1821. 2 vols.”

And Altug Yalcintas: the scholar asking the original question provides supplementary details:

‘Lionel Robbins (A History of Economic thought p127) contradicts Schumpeter and claims that Smith "put political economy on the map as a serious subject"

Heilbroner makes Smith out to be the first "Worldly Philosopher", and the founder of an intellectual revolution (p41).’

Sumitra Shah, a regular and informed contributor also offers additional information:

“This may not be the final answer, but here are some relevant comments from Max Lerner's (1937) excellent

"Introduction" to WN:
"A new society, emerging from the shell of the old, creates a framework within which a great thinker or artist is enabled to do his work; and that work, in turn, serves to smash finally the shell of the old society, and to complete and make firmer the outlines of the new. Thus it has been with Machiavelli's Prince, with Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, with Karl Marx's Capital."

Answering the criticism about Smith's lack of originality, in the next paragraph:

"No first-rate mind whose ideas sum up an age and influence masses and movements to come is in any purist sense original. The Wealth of Nations is undoubtedly the foundation-work of modern economic thought."

I can't resist sending this. Answering the criticism that Smith was an apologist for capitalism and no more, Lerner says:

"All that concerns us is to see the curious paradox of Smith's position in history; to have fashioned his system of thought in order to blast away the institutional obstructions from the past, and bring a greater degree of economic freedom and therefore a greater total wealth for all the people in a nation; and yet to have had his doctrine result in the glorification of economic irresponsibility and the entrenchment of the middle class in power. A reading of Adam Smith's work and a study of its place in the history of ideas should be one of the best solvents for smugness and intellectual absolutism."

Altug Yalcintas, follows up with some relevant information about J. B. Say as the original source for the idea of Adam Smith as the ‘founder’:

‘In the first edition of his "TRAITE D'ECONOMIE POLITIQUE (1803), J.-B. Say wrote :

En 1776, Adam Smith [..] publia son livre, Inquiry [..]. Quand on lit ce livre, on s'aperçoit qu'il n'y avait pas d'Economie politique avant Smith. In 1776, Adam Smith [..] published his book, Inquiry [..]. "When one read this work, one feels that previous to Smith there was no such thing as political economy."

Nicholas Theocarakis, University of Athens suggests ‘it is worth looking at: http://www.econlib.org/library/NPDBooks/Cantillon/cntNT8.html#Richard_Cantillon_and_the_Nationality_of_Political_Economy,_by_W._Stanley_Jevons

Michael Perelman, (with whom I am seldom in agreement but of whom I respect for his diligence and originality) is a prolific writer in the Marxian tradition and always a source for data and insights into Adam Smith.

[From this point on the general debate began to meander away from the original question]:

‘This is from my new book, The Invisible Handcuffs. I would like to get some responses ...

Initially, Smith's Wealth of Nations did not make much of an impression, despite its popularity today. Although his earlier book, the now less known Theory of Moral Sentiments, was a sensation, his more famous work seemed as if it had missed its mark. Yet unlike most
ancient writers, whose importance recedes into the distant past, Smith's influence rapidly grew.

The book went through five editions, but each of the first two editions sold only 500 copies a substantial number, but far from a roaring success (Waterman 1998b). In Parliament, where the members frequently quoted important political economists, Charles James Fox made the first reference to Wealth of Nations on November 11, 1783, six years after the book first appeared (Rashid 1992, p. 493). Still another ten years passed before two of Smith's friends, Alexander
Wedderburn and William Petty's great grandson and former prime minister, the Marquess of Lansdowne, mentioned the book in the House of Lords (Rae 1895, p. 291).

Even in 1789 when Thomas Robert Malthus signed out the 1784 edition of Wealth of Nations from his college library, he was just the third person to do so (Waterman 1998a, p. 295). Up to the year 1800, only a few Cambridge colleges had acquired the book (Waterman 1998b). Emma Rothschild notes with some irony that when Adam Smith died in 1790, the influential Annual Register devoted but twelve lines to Smith
compared with sixty five for Major Ray, a deputy quartermaster general with an interest in barometers. The Scots Magazine gave Smith a scant nine lines (Rothschild 1992, p. 74).

Only after the French Revolution of 1789 made British property owners fearful, did The Wealth of Nations take on an air of importance. Thereafter, the rich and powerful appreciated Smith's ideological influence. For example, Francis Horner, editor of the Edinburgh
Review, rejected a request to prepare a set of notes for a new edition of The Wealth of Nations. He explained his refusal in a letter to Thomas Thomson, written on August 15, 1803:

"I should be reluctant to expose S's errors before his work had operated its full effect. We owe much at present to the superstitious worship of S's name; and we must not impair that feeling, till the victory is more complete .... [U]ntil we can give a correct and precise theory of the origin of wealth, his popular and plausible and loose hypothesis is as good for the vulgar as any others." [cited in Horner 1843; 1: 229]

Thereafter, Smith's influence steadily increased, along with the rise of Procrustean market ideology. In fact, as one current Smith scholars observed, "There were more new editions of The Wealth of Nations published in the 1990s than in the 1890s, and more in the 1890s than
in the 1790s" (Young 2007).

To which John Medaile, a ‘distributionist’ (google it) responds:

‘Michael: That's an excellent account. I am not convinced that Adam Smith is still all that popular. At least not the Adam Smith of history. There is another and more popular Smith, the one of legend, particularly the Legend of the Invisible Hand (a term he uses but once and that in connection with foreign trade). Within this Smythology, Adam is often praised for opinions he did not hold, and condemned for ideas he never actually expressed. It may be his fate to be the most often cited, but least actually read, of all the modern philosophers.’

Peter G. Stillman, Department of Political Science
Vassar College writes:

“I find Michael Perelman's statements about Smith interesting.

They do conflict with one fact that may or may not be true (and because I learned this years ago I may be misremembering).

Doing some work on Sir James Steuart's Principles of Political Economy (1767), I examined in the LSE library on a copy he annotated with an aim to publishing a second edition. But he did not pursue that aim because before his revisions were complete Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations and Steuart (or his publisher) felt his text no longer viable.

(As I type the above, I wonder how or where I discovered that for Steuart his text was no longer needed or wanted -- perhaps in some post-French Revolution text, which would square my story, now made apocryphal, with Perelman's. I certainly do not remember looking at any Steuart correspondence [though I might have].

(On the other hand, unless I am inventing the story out of whole cloth, there are those revised and annotated volumes in the LSE library, on which Steuart's work came to nought.)’

As expected Michael encouraged critics of his approach and one of the ‘big guns’ of the HET community, Pat Gunning, Professor of Economics, Melbourne, Florida
Duly responded”

‘Michael, it sounds to me like you have an ideological agenda.

The question for me is how Smith's work contributed to economic science, defined as the production of knowledge about the benefits or harm to the consumer role of various forms of market intervention. I take this to be the traditional definition of the profession, which developed around the turn of the twentieth century. I reject the post-socialism definition that developed later and that assumes scarcity in an objective sense.

On the basis of what I call the traditional definition of economic science, Smith's contribution was twofold. First he emphasized and gave a number of examples of the higher productivity of a division of labor that results from decentralized decision-making under market economy conditions (Smith's system of natural liberty). Second, he examined the effects of restrictions, including government-sponsored monopoly, on the
freedom of enterprise.

The flavor of your description of Smith (associating him with a "Procrustean market ideology") suggest that you either define economics differently or that you have not considered how to define it. It is difficult to tell from this excerpt.

12 First of all thank you to Alain for his appropriate comment.
I would not find Steuart's reaction surprising. He was disheartened by the reception of his great work, which he began with an apology for inelegant writing. He also made some comparisons of wage labor and slavery, which created considerable animosity.

Although WN may not have been a best seller its reception was far warmer than Steuart's.

p.s. The book also debunks Smith's presentation of the pin factory.

13 I don't believe this secondary source below negates any of the information posted so far, but does provide a rather different picture of how WN was received by Smith's contemporaries.

Sumitra Shah
Quotation from a review of two books by Campbell and Skinner and Skinner and Wilson: Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations Author(s): Donald White Source: Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 37, No. 4 (Oct. - Dec., 1976), pp. 715-720:

"It is also true that Smith's position seems to be secure, in textbooks at any rate, as the "Father of Political Economy." Certainly Wealth of Nations was an influential book and a genuinely popular one. Reading Smith's windy periods today, it is rather difficult to appreciate why his contemporaries admired his literary style, as well as his opinions, but they obviously did. Wealth of Nations went through five editions in Smith's lifetime, totaling over 5000 copies. The first edition sold out in six months.

T. H. Buckle in his History of Civilization in England (1857) mentions that Wealth of Nations was cited favorably in Parliament no fewer than thirty-seven times between 1783 and the turn of the century. Further, it is possible that the Tory government of Lord North appointed Smith, a Whig, to the lucrative position of Commissioner of Customs for Scotland (in 1778) because of the inspiration for new taxes North got from The Wealth of Nations."

For the last conjecture, the author gives this reference: H. Mizuta, Adam Smith's Library (Cambridge, 1967).

14 I do not find much usefulness for Michael's quotes on Smith from his new book. The quotes don't tell us who he believes better qualifies for the title, "Founding Father of Modern Economics." Perhaps, now he can go
ahead and tell us his nominee with the requisite explanation.

For all I know, David Ricardo might have avoided encouraging Karl Marx in the latter's belief in the meaningfulness of his labor theory of value had Ricardo not misinterpreted Smith's use of "labor's own value"
to mean the wage rate. Eugene Bohm-Bawerk also might not have had his considerable difficulties with the classical theory of interest had he not misinterpreted "capital" in Smith's statement of interest rate
determination to mean capital goods. Austrian economics would have been in much better shape today regarding the theory of interest. Also had John Maynard Keynes paid attention to understanding Smith's explanation of savings as the source of "capital" borrowed for investment, modern macroeconomics might have been in a better shape regarding the theory of
interest rates, and perhaps be unanimous in appreciating the role of savings in promoting economic growth instead of consumer spending.

There would have been no room for Keynes's meaningless "paradox of thrift" proposition since "What is annually saved is as regularly consumed as what is annually spent, and nearly in the same time too; but it is consumed by a different set of people" (/WN/, 1: 359).

James Ahiakpor

15 I would not add anything more, Pat, your assessment about Perelman excerpt is impeccable.
Alexander G. Economist, PhD.

16 "Procrustean market ideology," now there's a purely descriptive identifier.
Samuel Bostaph, Ph.D. Champaign, Illinois

17 Smith's idea of invisible hand (mentioned more than once) is actually very central in both his theory of market (wealth of nations) and in his theory of human sentiments and social behaviour: the invisible hand mechanism is one of the most powerful idea in modern social sciences. luigino bruni

18 One the most common mistakes in understanding A Smith’s role as “founding father” of economics is failing to (read) understand The Theory of Moral Sentiments, before reading The W of N. AG Economist, PhD.

19 Scholars interested in the early publication history of the Wealth of Nations might like to consult Richard B. Sher, 2004, 'New light on the publication and reception of the Wealth of Nations',The Adam Smith Review, 1:3-29. Vivienne Brown.

20 I would agree that political economy does not have a founder in the proper sense of the word. But I didn't understand the feminist critique. For example, Rosa Luxemburg refers to Quesnay as the "father of the Physiocrats." Is that inappropriate? Matías Vernengo
Associate Professor

21 I would like to suggest that 'founding father' captures the gendered reality of the times. Since women were locked out of the public sphere and all manner of intellectual and scientific endeavors, it had to be a father figure.

But feminist economists have criticized not just the implication of such a 'masculine' development of the discipline, but have attributed the continuing gendered nature of economics to its origins. Michele Pujol in her Feminism and Anti-feminism in Early Economic Thought, uses Smith's designated status to great ironic advantage. She writes:

"Smith was the founder of the classical school and the 'father' of modern economics...His writings gave an indication of the initial treatment women received from the pen of an economist who set out to develop a theory of the workings of the nascent capitalist system. They thus offer an invaluable perspectives on the origin of the contemporary economic approaches to women and of the failure of Smith's 'sons' to analyze the characteristics and role of the sexual division of labor (productive and reproductive) to the capitalist system (p. 15). Sumitra Shah

22 Roger, I believe that I have fully considered the implications of using the phrase "founding father." And I would not be surprised to find that others have also.

If the writer of the Wealth of Nations was Eve Smith, she would not have been called a founding father. To be sensitive to the fact of culturally biased language is one thing. To try to change history on the grounds that some historical figure could have been female, or could have been disregarded, is something very different.

A feminist critique of Smith's economics? Is there also a feminist critique of the uncertainty principle or gravity?

Only those who have difficulty defining economics would have this problem, it seems to me.

23 I would agree that political economy does not have a founder in the proper sense of the word. But I didn't understand the feminist critique. For example, Rosa Luxemburg refers to Quesnay as the "father of the Physiocrats." Is that inappropriate?

It's not about any critique, feminist or otherwise. Rosa Luxemborg would hardly, today, accept being enlisted in such an argument, polymorphous libertine that she was. It's instead about what Americans call a "tin ear", an aural blindness to the usage subtleties of the English language. The issue is that calling Smith "the founding
father of economics" instead of the "founder of economics" sets up a reader's expectation that there is someone who then could be called "the founding mother of economics", else why introduce "father" at
all? The only point of using "father" is either insensitivity to language or subtly to suggest that economics is itself gendered from its beginnings. So using the language in that way, writing that way, suggests that the rhetoric is either a poor writer/speaker/thinker, or a misogynist, alternatively either an uneducated person or what was
formally called "a male chauvinist pig". Hope this helps, and places Backhouse's amazed query in context.
E. Roy Weintraub

24 I am not American, for instance; the phrase "founding fathers" appears to have more or less the same sense in any other latitudes as for the Americans. And it gives me some idea of the relevance, in this case A. Smith as "founders" of economic science, I mean there could be many others . It seems that when someone is named "founder" his name stays in saecula saeculorum, relatively. Of course, across the times. AG

25 To ask who is the founding father of political economy is to assume, I think, that there is a clearly identifiable founder and an identifiable act of founding and that the founder is male.

(Ditto with "founding fathers," US style -- it assumes an identifiable group [excluding others], an identifiable act -- why is writing the constitution solely constitutive of the American 'founding' -- and it assumes maleness.)

When Luxemburg refers to Quesnay as the "father of the Physiocrats," I assume that she was drawing a *conclusion* that she came to after examining and interpreting the evidence. So, no, she is not being inappropriate. (If, prior to looking at the evidence, who was the founding father of the Physiocrats, you would be assuming *a* [or *a few*] founders, an act of founding, and fatherhood or maleness -- and all those *assumptions* strike me as inappropriate, potentially misleading, and, really, thoughtless.)
Peter G. Stilman

26 I confess to being surprised at Roger Backhouse's amazement at the use of "founding father." I always tell my students to remember that language has changed from the past. When I read to them "Economics is
the study of man in his ordinary business of life" from Alfred Marshall, I add that "man" is supposed to stand for humankind. Sometimes I rephrase the statement as "the study of people in their ordinary business of life."

I think I would encourage any student who takes offense at the "sexist" language of the past to pay more attention to the logic of economic analysis and lighten up!
James Ahiakpor

27 I should perhaps explain my amazement. The first question to this thread, I recall, concerned the origin of the phrase "founding father". People jumped into discuss the "founding" aspect but were silent on the other aspect of the term, namely the gendered metaphor.That is what surprised me.

In the context of the USA, for precisely the reasons Weintraub gives, it makes sense to talk of the country having been founded by those who signed the constitution. I would presume, though it is not my field,
that American historians have paid attention the significance of the term "founding fathers". In economics, on the other hand, such language is much more problematic.

I accept that Smith and many of those who wrote about his work in the nineteenth century and part of the twentieth, were writing in an age when people were not sensitive to the gendered nature of such
language. Nowadays, however, we do not have any excuse. With students who use the term "founding fathers", I simply invite them to reflect on their use of language. In the same way, I would expect most contributors to this list to wish to reflect on all aspects of the term "founding father" and was amazed that no one appeared to be doing so.
Roger Backhouse

29 Responding to the invitation of Roger and Roy, I think the phrase merits all kinds of attention, and what draws my eye is neither the "founding" aspect nor the "gender" aspect which was, as we all know, ubiquitous.

What interest me is that a "father", like a "mother", implies a "family". "Families" have members and non-members. Who gets to be part of the family of political economists? Whose contributions will we consider those of insiders? Is Adam Smith the point in our history at
which the economic insights of "ordinary people" start to count for less than those of the adepts?

Just to push the metaphor a bit-- check out the language of 19th century socialism, particularly that of the utopian socialists. The "family" is fundamental to all the imagery, sometimes in really intriguing (not to say bizarre) ways.

How is it that a discipline founded on the rhetoric of families manages to marginalize families in most of its analysis and for most of its history, pretending instead that we are all more or less rational adult creatures who can make independent decisions?

I think "lighten up", as James suggests, is exactly what we need to do. If we lighten up and play with the language we instinctively and naively use, we can learn a lot about our history. Bravo to Roger for inviting reflection from his students.

I leave to the side the intriguing heterosexist element in all this.
Evelyn Forget

31 As the use of language is very much detemined by the context in which and the audience for which it is used, also Marshall's use of 'man' reflects the male overrepresentation in economics, politics and business in the late nineteenth and early twenthieth century. The dominant ideas around gender relations in economics were that economics is a men's field and that raising children is a woman's business. Marshall for instance talks in his Principles of Economics about men predominantly in positive terms and about women in normative terms. He clearly made a difference between what he saw as proper economic behavior for women and as normal economic behavior of men. Perceiving the use of 'man' as generic is making these gender effects invisible.

My take on the 'founding father' question is generally not so much as to whether he was seen as, can be seen as or actually is the origin and the beginning of the economics discipline. Calling him the founding father of economics is in my view justified also because of his role in economics today. Still today many economists refer to him as an authority figure, and as a point of reference who defines what economics is about. Many new theories and concepts are introduced making references to Smith's work, for instance. Feminist critiques and analysis of Smith's work on the other hand tend to be met with responses that contain a considerable level of emotional content.

In my view trying to understand Adam Smith from a feminist perspective brings to light how his perception and take on gender relations have been of influence not only on his moral thinking but also on his pure economics, to paraphrase Schumpter. This is a valid and promising endevor, as it enriches our understanding of Smith and his work.

I agree that the question whether Adam Smith or Alfred Marshall were sexists is not a particularly interesting line to pursue, the role of gender in economics and in its history on the other hand is fascinating.
Edith Kuiper

32 Any who have followed this thread thus far and are interested in whether there is a 'feminist critique' of Adam Smith might take a look at Nancy Folbre's The Invisible Heart (New York: The New Press, 2001). In my
opinion this is an important contribution to the debate and deserves to be read more widely.
Anthony Waterman

33 And in addition to this Nancy Folbre's latest book Greed, Lust and Gender (2009) which is a great read on this as well. Edith Kuiper

34 Sumitra, surely you realize that many others besides women were locked out of all sorts of endeavors in Smith's time. Smith, in his contribution to economics as a science of the study of how the consumer role benefits from the market system and/or from market intervention, was not writing so much about the societies of his time as he was about a hypothetical situation of "natural liberty."

Relating this to the quote from Michele Pujol, it surely is irrelevant
whether the brewer, baker, and butcher are male or female; whether the pin factory manager is male or female; or whether women or men, acting in their own interest, often benefit others in this "hypothetical

As for the sexual division of labor, it seems to me that some aspects of what Michele has in mind are not part of a market economy (which assumes the use of money). The fact that, in this quote at least, she makes no distinction between market and non-market actions or
transactions suggests that she has not paid sufficient attention to the what economics, as I defined it above, is about. Economics, as I defined it, also does not pay direct attention to barter systems, human development, higher-level primate cultures, and a host of other things
that some people regard as important. But that is not a critique of economics; it is more a lament by one who had some ideological agenda.

I submit that so-called feminist economists, like most economists (including, sadly, the historians of the subject), simply don't care very much about the definition of economics. They have discovered other
ways to make headway in today's diverse economics profession.

35 This is a salient observation, given that "oikonomia" means "household management." What we call "economics," Aristotle would have labeled "chresmatike," "The pursuit of wealth for its own sake." John C. Médaille

36 On Feminism and Adam Smith, Edith Kuiper has a nice piece, "Adam Smith and his feminist contemporaries" in New Voices on Adam Smith (edited by Leonidas Montes & Eric Schliesser; Routledge).

37 Hi allo,

Might there be in this expression «founding father» a more or less conscious recall of the importance of the Church Fathers, early theologians of christianism (who, as no one ignores, were all males)?
Jean Magnan de Bornier

38 When Smith is referred to as the 'founding father' of economics, what does it mean?

I ask that seriously, because you do not need Foucault to recognize that there might be ideological purposes behind labelling him as the 'founding father'. For instance, you might wish to be pushing some of his theoretical-ideological goals, like economic growth or like the desirability of resolving conflict in an economic marketplace rather than a political arena. And what do you do with those (central to Smith?) elements of his thought (like the distinction between productive and unproductive labor, or the role of the state in adult education) that are not part of the contemporary economics that he purportedly 'founded'.

(As a current political example of my latter point: the Tea Party fellow travellers in the US recently engaged in reading the US Constitution in the House of Representatives to start the session, but they omitted all the parts -- agreed to by the 'founding fathers' and unarguable [I would have thought] part of the founding fathers' constitution -- that referred to slavery.)
Peter G Stillman

39 In all this talk of founding fathers, let us "never underestimate the influence of a woman, ... etc." Even in the manly sport of football the most heroic play is the "Hail, Mary", which may seem flippant, but for many Christians the main deity is Mary who managed to become the Mother of God without help from a founding father. Under Salic Law no woman may rule France, but that did not stop Catherine and Marie de Medici, or Marie Antoinette, l'Autrichienne, who weren't even French, either; or Mme de Maintenon, who ruled Louis XIV. Francois Quesnay has a claim to being a "founding father" of economics, but it was Mme Pompadour who installed him at Versailles. It was l'Autrichienne who got rid of Turgot who might have saved her and her hapless spouse from the guillotine.
Carrie Chapman Catt and the League of Women Voters she founded, and Eleanor Roosevelt whom they idolized, even in the age of housewives, inspired many mothers to inspire many sons and a few daughters to make economics their profession. Before the age of DINKS housewives with social consciences had less fear of professional retribution such as that which intimidated many of their husbands, so their thoughts could range more freely. While some embraced various nutty ideas, their freedom from conventional and authoritarian restraints is the necessary matrix (a feminist term) for creative thought.
In more recent times it was Joan Robinson who founded the innovative Cambridge School and faced down Paul Samuelson (for better or worse) in the Cambridge Controversy; and now it is Elinor Ostrom who may free us from the privatization-as-panacea doctrines of various MCPs.
So here's to the founding mothers, let us never think them peculiarly unfit for leadership. They may sometimes be forced to lead by manipulation, to let men take the credit; but they have led and still are, and will. OK, they sometimes lead us the wrong way, but so do a high fraction of the males.
Mason Gaffney

40 Listers,
It is my opinion that this view of Smith as the founding father is propogated by Malthus in his correspondence with Ricardo.
Malthus criticizes Ricardo for departing from the principles as laid down by (and here I have not had time to look up the reference) Smith. I do not recall Malthus's exact words and do not believe he used the term "father" but I think that an authority is easily viewed as a father. I think oral tradition (possibly at Cambridge) took over from Malthus.

Ironically when we ask who the mother of economics is the only reasonable answer is Adam Smith's mother. There is no woman that laid down the principles of supply and demand before Smith and really after Smith no woman came along and revolutionized beyond Smith. This implies, and I truly believe this, that pretty much all of the subsequent models in economics do have their inspiration in Smith, whether equilibrium or disequilibrium. I think most market problems would
be attributed to human nature, and not to markets.

Care to discuss this?

Scot A. Stradley, Ph.D.

41 Scot Stradley writes:

"no woman ... laid down the principles of supply and demand before Smith ... pretty much all of the subsequent models in economics ... have their inspiration in Smith"

One might, albeit with difficulty, make a case that all economics is a series of footnotes to Smith -- but one would make the task impossible who insisted that supply and demand was all there was, either to Smith or economics.
Julian Wells

42 Hi everyone,

According to the Chicago Booth School's official homepage, one can read that "Eugene F. Fama is widely recognized as the "father of modern finance."".

To their credit, they have bracketed this pretty empty term with scare quotes. In a way, if we are all the sons of Adam I suppose. But what I didn't know before was that after the Fall, one of his sons went on the be a father himself, and in Chicago.

43 Let me suggest that Capitalism does have a founding father, but it's not Smith, it's Mandeville, and everything written since is but a commentary, intentionally or not, on the subtitle of the Fable of the Bees: Private Vices, Publick Benefits.

44 For dozens of reasons why Turgot was Smith's master, see Hill, Malcolm,1999, Statesman of the Enlightenment. London: Othila Press.

45 Both Smith and Malthus would disagree with the notion that capitalism is founded on vice. Smith provides reasons for his opposition to this
in the Theory of Moral Sentiments. Human nature is variable, not constant.
Scot A. Stradley


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