Thursday, December 28, 2017


Dr Clark McGinn, Harrow-on-the-Hill, Middx, UK (28 December) in the course of reminding readers of the Financial Times that Adam Smith had been a Professor of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow University, is slightly mistaken in respect of important aspects Adam Smith’s biographical details. HERE:
More to Smith than The Wealth of Nations
Sir, Of course David Wilson and William Dixon (Letters, December 21) are correct in reminding us that economics is an offshoot of moral philosophy. Adam Smith held the chair of Moral Philosophy in Glasgow University as he wrote The Wealth of Nations. …
Dr Clark McGinn
Harrow-on-the-Hill, Middx, UK
Adam Smith resigned his professorship in 1763 order to raise the funds that would enable him to research, and later to write, what became, more than a decade later, The Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. He was no longer a Professor of Moral Philosophy while writing the Wealth of Nations.
The influence of his earler Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), which was written during his Professorship at Glasgow, is evident in his later composition  of ideas in Wealth of Nations, written in his mother’s house in Kirkcaldy. In fact, reading both books is a minimal requirement for an understanding of Adam Smith’s contributions to 18th-century scholarship.
Here, I completely agree with Professor Clark McGinn’s assessment of the somewhat neglected role today of Adam Smith’s earlier Moral Sentiments and its affect on Smith’s Wealth of Nations.
There were also other influences from his university teachings equally neglected in modern scholarship. 
I refer to Adam Smith’s Lectures on Jurisprudence, delivered during his entire Professorial tenure at the University of Glasgow. He delivered Jurisprudence up to his last week of teaching in 1763. Moreover, Smith selectively introduced verbatim multi-page-length extracts from his Jurisprudence lectures direct into his Wealth of Nations long after leaving Glasgow. I welcome Dr Clark McGinn’s contribution.
I am encouraged also by the recent writings of Michael Emmett Brady, California State University, who has published his significant contribution in the Social Science Research Network (SSRN). See his paper: “Who Taught Paul Samuelson the Myth of the “Invisible Hand” at the University of Chicago? The most likely answer is Jacob Viner or fellow student George Stigler”. 

Taking Dr Clark McGinn’s letter in the Financial Times today with yesterday’s news of Michael Brady’s SSRN paper, are these signs that the tide of misinformation about Adam Smith is turning?


Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for your long-term efforts to clarify Smith's use of the invisible hand metaphor.

In particular, thanks for passing along the reference to Michael Emmett Brady's new SSRN paper, “Who Taught Paul Samuelson the Myth of the “Invisible Hand” at the University of Chicago? The most likely answer is Jacob Viner and /or fellow student George Stigler.”

5:55 pm  

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