AN INSPIRING EPISODE IN THE HISTORY OF ECONOMIC THOUGHT
David Sloan Wilson posts (October. 2016) on EVONOMICS
“The Woman Who Saved Economics from Disaster
Who is Elinor Ostrom?”
“Unbeknownst to her, Lin had stumbled upon a radically different configuration of ideas than the mathematical empire dominating economic theory. The mathematical empire was founded on the assumption that self-interest automatically leads to collective wellbeing. Lin’s work was founded upon a stubborn fact of life: self-interest often leads to the overexploitation of resources and other problems that make life worse for everyone, not better. When everyone was allowed to suck as much water out of the ground as they pleased, there was no invisible hand to rescue the situation.”
I had begun to think I was alone in Lost Legacy in my eleven year struggle to appraise the economics profession of the major misreading of Adam Smith on his use of the metaphor of “an invisble hand” and all that modern economists had constructed by treating people as if they behaved akin to the mathematics of particle physics.
I was wrong to be so pessimistic!
Step forward David Sloan Wilson and his account of the work of Elinor Ostrom, a Nobel Priz winner.
Please follow the link and read Elinor’s (“Lin’s”) story.
Mine is not so dramatic in the reaction of my colleagues. I attended several annual gartherings of historians of economic thought, was listened to in polite silence, and enjoined in intense conversations between the formal programme by several leading scholars, for which I was, and reman, grateful.
I retired in 2005 from Edinburgh Business School, Heriot-Watt University. In my last monnths at EBS, I completed my book, Adam Smith’s Lost Legacy (Palgrave), published shortly before my last day of paid work and I commenced my Adam Smith’s Lost Legacy Blog.
Lin, however, had a fight on her hands and she kept on it by producing detailed research that drew attention to what she discovered about economic behaviour. Eventually the Nobel committee spotted her work - the disgraceful and boorish attitude of several male colleagues shames them and their institutions of supposed higher education.
Historians of economic thought must be from a different part of the forest of ideas because I have not experienced such bad manners at any of the international conferences I have attended and delivered my albeit controversial papers. (Infirmity has kept me close to my home since 2010).
I urge readers to follow the link to EVONOMICS and read about
Elinor Ostrom. ‘Inspiring’ is one word that springs to mind.