Friday, July 21, 2017


Sam Dumitriu writes (20 July) in the Adam Smith Institute Blog HERE
‘Fake News in The Guardian’
Democracy in Chains smears Nobel Laureate James Buchanan (amongst others) with deliberate misquotes and pernicious accusations of racism. It asserts that Buchanan sat at the centre of an elaborate academic conspiracy to undermine democracy and replace it with ‘a totalitarian capitalism’.
Of course, this isn’t the first time Monbiot’s been taken in by a BS Vendor who happens to share his political biases – he frequently cites Naomi Klein’s sloppy Shock Doctrine which proposed a similar right-wing academic conspiracy with Milton Friedman at the centre (thoroughly debunked by Johan Norberg at Cato).
Unlike Maclean herself, it’s not clear if Monbiot actually understands what public choice theory (the field where Buchanan made his name) is.
Read the whole article by following the link above.
I think it is important that when we read something of which we have some claim to understanding and with which we profoundly disagree with a contributor’s comments, that we are sufficiently confident of our case that we offer a corrective comment in the interests of scholarly clarity.
Clearly, Monbiot on this occasion falls far short of that minimal scholarly standard as shown by Sam Dumitriu.
This if not a new cause for my concern as the author of the LOST LEGACY BLOG. 
In fact, LOST LEGACY was founded to correct the FAKE NEWS that Adam Smith believed the modern post 1948, nonsense of ‘an invisible hand’ mysteriously guiding supply and demand in the market, causing economic equilibrium, and Pareto’s welfare theorems 1 and 2. 
Whereas for Adam Smith, it was a metaphor for the simplest of statements that by seeking personal gain from domestic investment and the employment of domestic labour, the inevitable consequence was that the merchant also, and necessarily, added to aggregate domestic investment and employment. That’s all!

[Disclosure: I am a (moderate) Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute]


Blogger Alan said...

I haven't read MacLean's book so won't comment on it. There are, however, good criticisms of Buchanan's intellectual arguments and public choice (and more broadly rational choice theories). See, for example, S.M. Amadae's Prisoners of Reason: Game Theory and Neoliberal Political Economy, which includes a couple of chapters on Buchanan's intellectual arguments.

While the conspiracy theories may very well be loopy (and a mark of the Left's intellectual and political failings), neoliberalism is rife with contradictions and is taking us all in an increasingly ugly direction. One of the central contradictions is its dependence on a strong state to impose it's vision of a 'free' society. Ultimately, it rejects many of Smith's most important insights into human behaviour and is deeply anti-liberal. The tragedy is that Buchanan, Friedman, Hayek, Becker, et al. in trying to rescue liberalism and promote individual freedom, end up peddling a pseudo-scientific theory of human behaviour that may well end in totalitarianism. They were as wise in their conceits as the socialists and communists they criticised.

7:46 pm  
Blogger Gavin Kennedy said...

I was not defending neo-liberalism. Far from it. I have my own criticisms of it. I was criticising the articles main content. I have reservations, of course, about Friedman, Hayek, et al. Hence my moderate views on Adam Smith in the Adam Smith Institute.

8:09 pm  
Blogger Alan said...


Yes, I appreciated that! I maybe didn't frame my comment very well. I think if the Left were better at understanding and critiquing the intellectual basis of neoliberalism they'd have less need for conspiracy theories.


2:16 am  

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