Thursday, August 18, 2016


Andreas Ortmann, David Baranowski, Benoit Walraevens, joint authors of “Schumpeter’s Assessment of Adam Smith and The Wealth of Nations: Why He Got It Wrong” (UNSW Business School Research Paper No. 2015 ECON 28).
This paper is a most interesting assessment of Schumpeter’s well known critique of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations and very personal criticism of Adam Smith. The authors are to be congratulated on their thorough assessment of Schumpeter’s assessment, which also informs readers of the distinctive role of Smith’s analysis of Rhetoric, for which he is less famous - even grossly neglected - Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres (1762-3) - as I have long suggested on Lost Legacy.
Schumpeter had not read LRBL because it was not available as a version witten down and compliled by two anonymous students who attended Smith’s Lectures delivered in Glasgow in 1762-3. Because Schumpeter was not aware of Smith’s interest in the role of rhetoric in the expostion of ideas he has an excuse for his otherwise ignorant criticism of Adam Smith.
Interestingly, Adam Smith taught rhetoric for longer than any other subject. He was commissioned by Lord Kames and James Oswald (MP) to deliver public lectures for fee-paying attendees, mainly from the general public and from students studying law or religious beliefs at the nearby Edinburgh university, as well as several professors from Scotland’s Universities (Glasgow, Edinburgh, St Andrews and the university college at Aberdeen). Smith’s reputation grew each winter from 1748-52. Reportedly, Smith earned £100 a winter series which was close to the salary of a university professor.
Ortman, Baranowski and Walraevens demonstrate how Smith’s passion for rhetoric as a teaching method was applied throughout Wealth of Nations and remembering that his focus was on persuading government ministers (politicians) and significant others by the perspecuity of his arguments about the dangers of mercantile policies associated with foreign trade - such as the Navigation Acts - that led to European wars, colonial revalries and the inhibition of foreign trade.
The paper is available from:
The Social Science Research Network Electronic Paper Collection:

I strongly advise readers to follow the link and read some truly original scholarship about Adam Smith.
[See new regular LOST LEGACY Column: Roll of Honour)


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