Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Quoting Joan Robinson

I might as well note that Mark Thoma puts up a long quotation from Joan Robinson.

Gabriel Mihalache, with his confusion of methodological individualism and political individualism, makes the comments, basically, all about him.

Gavin Kennedy cannot seem to handle that a leftist like Joan Robinson is quite aware of the contrast between popular portrayals of Adam Smith and what Smith actually said. He assigns Joan Robinson's words to Mark Thoma.

This should further explode Gavin Kennedy's head:
"I didn't do any research at all on Smith. I just read him. There's no research. Just read it. He's pre-capitalist, a figure of the Enlightment. What we would call capitalism he depised. People read snippets of Adam Smith, the few phrases they teach in school. Everybody reads the first paragraph of The Wealth of Nations where he talks about how wonderful the division of labor is. But not many people get to the point hundreds of pages later, where he says that division of labor will destroy human beings and turn them into creatures as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human being to be. And therefore in any civilized society the government is going to have to take some measures to prevent division of labor from proceedings to its limits...

[A mixture of stuff that I agree is a good interpretation of Smith and stuff I don't think is all that good an interpretation]

The version of him that's given today is just ridiculous. But I didn't have to do any research to find this out. All you have to do is read. If you're literate you'll find it out. I did do a little research in the way it's treated, and that's interesting. For example, the University of Chicago, the great bastion of free market economics, etc., etc., published a bicentennial edition of the hero, a scholarly edition with all the footnotes and the introduction by a Nobel Prize winner, George Stigler, a huge index, a real scholarly edition. That's the one I used. It's the best edition. The scholarly framework was very interesting, including Stigler's introduction. It's likely he never opened The Wealth of Nations. Just about everything he said about the book was completely false. I went through a bunch of examples in writing about it, in Year 501 and elsewhere..." -- Noam Chomsky (1996). Class Warfare: Interviews with David Barsamian, Common Courage Press.


Anonymous said...

The sad thing is that reading The Wealth of Nations will give you a better understanding of how capitalism works that most mainstream economics book. Smith had no illusions about economic power and its impact. As Chomsky says, he was pre-capitalist (anti-capitalist, in many ways).

Economics must be the only "science" which has actually reduced its understanding of the real world in the past two hundred years...

But what to expect, when what it analyses and the outcome of study has such an impact of how we view wealth, private property, economic power and a host of other social issues? The conclusions reached will have a serious impact on class relationships -- which explains why the rich have always sought to ensure that the "correct" economics are spread around.

Has any economist applied supply and demand analysis to their own profession? After all, there is a demand for appropriate economic theories by the wealthy. A demand which seems to be supplied by economists -- or is that just one of those amazing coincidences that so regularly befalls economics?

Gabriel M said...

Today must be pigeonholing day since everyone, including you, wants to put things into neat, standard categories... including here "methodological individualism" and "political individualism".