Thursday, April 06, 2006

Sandra Peart Live at GMU

Sandra J. Peart’s Blog, Adam Smith Lives! is well worth waiting for because of the sheer quality of her short pieces that she occasionally posts (a busy US academic, she seems always to be up to her ears in assignments, here, there and everywhere).

Deidre McCloskey, a lively and controversial economist (I like her tilts at the obsession of professionals with mathematical analyses in economics), has titled her lecture ‘The Hobbes problem: From Machiavelli to Buchanan’ and I look forward to reading it (clearly America is where the action is at the moment).

Sandra Peart (who is highly privileged - she calls Professor Buchanan, ‘Jim’!) is introducing Deidre McCloskey at the lecture and she has posted extracts from her intended speech on the Blog she shares with David M. Levy, with whom she wrote: The "Vanity of the Philosopher": From Equality to Hierarchy in Post-Classical Economics’, (check Amazon).

Adam Smith – whose great books figure prominently in the work of both McCloskey and Buchanan – said that all of us are capable of imaginatively changing places with one another, a sort of "sympathetic exchange". That act of imagination takes place whenever we exchange, trading physical or imaginative stuff – goods or approbation – and it comes to temper pure self interest with a reciprocity norm that has been so important to Professor Buchanan’s argument for eliminating the off-diagonals in prisoner’s dilemma games. Only recently, with the development of experimental economics and neuroeconomics, have economists come to fully appreciate the subtlety and power of Smith’s sympathy. For Smith, the process of sympathetic exchange makes us generous beings, sometimes compelled to act in ways that violate self interest narrowly construed, as when Smith’s European gives up his finger to save those he has never seen and never will see.”

Read it in full at:

Unfortunately it is only an extract from her introduction to the ‘Inaugural James Buchanan Lecture’ at George Mason University (of which quite a lot of excitement has been aroused recently in numerous economics Blogs by a sporting event!).

The interest, and newly published writing, on Adam Smith’s moral sentiments is excellent news for his legacy. I have received an article this week on exactly this theme from Australia and I have asked the author if I may post it in full on this site. These gems are most encouraging. More please.


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