Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Adam Smith's Edinburgh Home is Bought By Edinburgh Business School

The Principal of Heriot-Watt University, Professor Anton Muscatelli, has anounced the purchase of Panmure House, the home of Adam Smith from 1788 to 1790, by its Edinburgh Business School.

This means the restoration work can begin as soon as the funds are available and restoration architects have concluded the proposed work, keeping as close as possible to its 18th century character.

Those heritage vandals who flippantly suggested that it be demolished and turned into a McDonalds, and only marginally less silly, were those Bloggers - economists all - who invoked Adam Smith's mythical persona and called for the 'highest bidder' (by which I assmue they meant money) to 'win' the bid, betraying their lack of knowledge of how sealed bid auctions are conducted in Scotland. The seller is not obliged to accept any bid of the 'highest'.

The highest 'clean bid' is not necessarily the highest money bid and this was the case in the sale of Panmure House. The other bid was 'subject to structural survey', which for a 17th-century building (1690) could have delayed the exchange of missives (contracts) and also delayed the Council getting its money, plus the inevitable negotiations to reduce the bid price to take account of anything revealed in the survey.

The bid from Edinburgh Business School was 'unconditional' - removing the risk from the current owners to the University - and did not involve any public money or subsidy. Its public benefit criteria was to restore Panmure House as a post-graduate research centre of international standing for education in Scotland and internationally.

Panmure House is the last building standing that is associated intimately with Adam Smith and leading figures of the Scottish Enlightenment (many of whom met and dined with Adam Smith at his regular Sunday dinners) and where he died in 1790. His grave is about 100 yards away in the Canongate Churchyard.

There is a lot of work to do now at Panmure House; I shall play my modest part in that restoration work, as well as my work at Lost Legacy to restore his contributions to moral philosophy and political economy from the depredations of the epigones.



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