Wednesday, June 30, 2010

On The Mend

Hi Colleagues

I am slowly recovering at home.

Lost Legacy is neglected, but thanks to those that passed on their good wishes.

Just as soon as I am able I shall resume posting regularly – I miss the daily exchanges.

Currently, I am (slowly) re-reading David Tandy’a excellent ‘Warriors into Traders the power of the market in early Greece’, California University Press, 1997. On my first read some years ago I missed quite a lot of the detail.

It has often struck me that modern science, especially Marxists, have neglected the influence of commerce on development from the earliest times. Tandy’s focus was on 8th-century BCE Greece, yet reading Marx carelessly, nothing really happened until mid-19th –century ‘capitalism’ (see also Polanyi, 1944).

Smith placed the earliest propensity to exchange relationships with acquisition of speech (WN I.i.), which pre-dates even Greece, and the influence of bargaining is evident in all manner of forms (including language development!). The market preceded what we call ‘capitalism’ and took many forms. Even simple use of money presumes exchange relationships – and the Roman armies marched with their coins in their bags.

My family are helping complete the reading of the proofs of the paperback edition of “Adam Smith: a moral philosopher and his political economy”, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010, priced at the ‘give away’ price (thank you Mr Palgrave) of £18.99! I took the opportunity to add some new material to the hardback (price £65).

However, I missed the University of Richmond’s (Virginia) Summer Institute which had promised to be of the usual high standard, where young scholars and old hands met on all aspects of the history of our discipline. My own paper on Paul Samuelson’s key role in spreading the myths about Adam Smith and the ‘invisible hand’ gave the details of how he linked the innocent metaphor to the welfare theorems, without any basis in historical fact ,through the immense influence on undergraduates and their tutors (many of whom became tutors in due course) of his excellent textbook Economics: an introductory analysis, 1948, McGraw-Hill (4½ million sales, plus used copies re-sales) and 19 editions to 2010.

I shall come back in due course; the above took nearly an hour to type (plus re-typing) and I am tired now.



Blogger Smithian Economist said...

Glad you are back Gavin.

Andres Guzman

5:39 pm  
Blogger Gavin Kennedy said...


Thanks for your thought.


3:27 pm  
Blogger Donald Pretari said...


I just realized that you might be referring to the conference where James Buchanan read this paper I really enjoyed:

I don't remember any references to Smith, but I'll be viewing it again soon, so I'll check. The conference has other good papers as well. One paper is on Henry Simons!

I hope you are doing better. That's more important than any conference.

Don the libertarian Democrat

4:43 pm  
Blogger Gavin Kennedy said...


Yes, that is an audio report of the Richmond University Summer Institute 2010, which I was unable to attend due to my unplanned hospitalisation.

I had planned to present my paper, 'Paul Samuelson and the Invention of the Modern Economics of the Invisible Hand'.

However, this will be published in the December 2010 issue of the Journal of the History of Ideas. I could send to you a copy if I get an email address.

The quality of papers is high, followed by great comments, and the Institute is well worth attending.

Best wishes


6:30 pm  

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