Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Welcome Sign of Somebody Noticing?

Robert Vienneau writes the blog: Thoughts on Economics, and posts a most interesting (and for me, a satisfying) piece

"He's Mixin' Up The Truth With Something Funny, I Start To See"

“I consider the following propositions to be well-established:

Adam Smith did not use the phrase "The invisible hand" to refer to the optimality properties of a static general equilibrium supposedly brought about by the workings of competitive markets.

Thomas Carlyle did not coin the phrase "The dismal science" to refer to Thomas Malthus's anti-utopian theory of population. According to that theory, human population responds endogenously to increased prosperity, thereby making impossible any rapidly established, long-lasting general rise in per capita income beyond the custom and habits of mankind.

John Maynard Keynes, in The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, did not explain widespread and persistent unemployment by sticky, rigid, or slowly adjusting money wages and prices - a pre-Keynesian theory that, in fact, he opposed.

Many economists, I claim, teach the opposite of these propositions.

…It seems to be a quixotic and never-ending task to oppose demonstrably false statements about economics, often made by economists. Gavin Kennedy illustrates such a quest in defense of my first proposition.

Which is re-posted on another blog HERE

Facts & other stubborn things
the blog of Daniel Kuehn

and a commentator, Blue Aurora writes HERE:

Indeed, Gavin Kennedy is an excellent example of someone who goes on the noble (if very tedious) task of righting incorrect beliefs, as Robert Vienneau points out on his blog.”

Yes, it is sometimes disappointing that there is no, or very little reaction in the Blogosphere to Lost Legacy and the numerous issues in which it contends with common misinterpretations and manifestly incorrect attributions to Adam Smith among mainstream economists, including Nobel prize winners, of Smith’s Works.

This would not be so common if economists were to read what Adam Smith actually wrote and appreciated the 18th-century context in which he worked.

Robert Vienneau fights his own battles, mostly in higher theories from economists, including Piero Srafa, Keynes and rumbling debates about David Riccardo’s theories.

It can get “tiring”, even “very tiring’ from time to time. The founding struggle of Lost Legacy (title of my first Adam Smith book published in 2005) over the modern attributions of a wholly invented meaning of “an invisible hand” continues.

IN 2009 I opened a ‘new front’ in respect of Adam Smith’s supposed theological roots. In part this came to a (delayed) focus in the publication of "The Hidden Adam Smith in his Alleged Theology” (Journal of the History of Economic Thought, September, 2011). I have wrote a longer chapter, "Adam Smith On Religion” for The Adam Smith Handbook, edited by Chris Berry, Craig Smith, Maria Paganelli, Oxford University Press (forthcoming, 2012).

It remains to be seen what response it receives from among Adam Smith scholars (so far, the response has been positive; the stiffer test will be that of theologians and those wedded to the idea that Smith was an unreconstructed Calvinist – though, be clear, I am not challenging what theologians believe – only whether Adam Smith believed in Revealed Chritianity in that sense from around 1744).

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Blogger airth10 said...

How has the misinterpretation of famous metaphors like 'the invisible hand' and the 'dismal science' made the world worse? I don't thing misinterpretations of history have made the world any worse. We would still have found other ways to screw things up.

On a similar level, people think that without religion the world would be a more peaceful place. On the contrary, we would have found something else to fight about.

The world and people's words are meant to be interpreted. Through the act of interpreting we discover and learn about ourselves. The interpretation of the Bible helped transcend ourselves and learn how to live with each other.

Why the Islamic/Arab world did not develop as the West did is because interpretation, especially of the Koran, was forbidden. The right to interpret is a right of passage and part of democracy.

4:31 pm  
Blogger Unlearningecon said...


There is a paper here by GMU professors that you may or may not have seen:

It is focused around the idea that Smith placed the invisible hand in the centre of his book. When I read the abstract, my first thought was something along the lines of 'LOL', but they do offer a half decent argument, though I'd say they were splitting hairs.

Probably worth a look in any case.

2:06 pm  
Blogger Gavin Kennedy said...


Thanks for your commenting and your informantion.

I have, indeed, seen the paper by Daniel Klein and Brandon Lucas Centrality hypothesis. The authors sent to me a copy of their article before it was published and asked for my comments.

A debate ensued, the latest in Economic Affairs, journal of the institute of economic affairs, vol. 31. no. 1. March, 2011. Gavin Kennedy: 'Adam Smith and the Role of the Invisible Hand', pp 53-57.

In it I accept the physical centrality of the Klein-Lucas paper, as I did in an earlier exchange of private correspondence with the authors. The question remains of the significance of this fact, and I state my reasons for my doubts in my paper, and ~I also question the conclusions that Klein and Lucas drsw from it.


5:47 pm  

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