Thursday, January 04, 2007

New Work Rooted in Adam Smith's View of Human History

Lost Legacy spends some of it space and author’s time on trying to persuade readers to look at political economy in the same manner as Adam Smith approached it, namely, from his historical, and what amounted to, his social-evolutionary perspective. This makes the reading of Moral Sentiments and Wealth of Nations more productive. Simply trying to export Adam Smith’s works into the 21st century’s problems is bound to fail both Smith’s actual intentions and the reader’s requirements.

I have been impressed over the past year by materials referenced to Smith’s approach, and the real measure of his particular genius (for want of a better term – insight is too soft a term for what he did) by one of the best economics Blogs around, i.e., EconLog ( ‘issues and insights in economics’), otherwise known as ‘Kling and Caplan’, its authors. You can find an example of what I mean at their web site:

This links to papers on the 10,000 years-old human arrangements of the natural orders and the movement of some of them towards open competitive economies (known today as ‘developed’ countries) from what its authors (Douglas C. North, John Joseph Wallus and Barry R. Weingast) call ‘non-developing countries’, in contradistinction to the more common description of ‘developing countries’. Their latest paper is called ‘A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History’, which is held behind a subscription library, but an earlier forerunner is available directly from the Blog.

I will defer from summarizing it as I have only just read it (and I am busy grading exams) but I expect I shall return to it in a few days when I finish this task from my former day job.

Meanwhile follow the links and read the extracts. I think they are putting into a more formal framework what Adam Smith was doing in his two books, and his Lectures on Jurisprudence, and, of course, taking their framework much further in terms of coherence, and, I dare say, in terms of elegance.


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