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All the Perl that's Practical to Extract and Report

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  • One thing that has often struck me as curious about conservatives in the US is their misguided worship of Adam Smith. Adam Smith was undeniably a genius, but modern conservaties have recreated him after a fashion that I suspect he would object to. Adam Smith was not a laissez-faire capitalist who felt their was no role for government as demonstrated by another telling quote on that page:

    The third and last duty of the sovereign or commonwealth is that of erecting and maintaining those public institutions and those public works, which, though they may be in the highest degree advantageous to a great society, are, however, of such a nature that the profit could never repay the expense to any individual or small number of individuals, and which it therefore cannot be expected that any individual or small number of individuals should erect or maintain.

    However, Adam Smith dropped the ball when warning about the collusion of businessmen [stevewunsch.com]:

    People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be enacted, or would be consistent with liberty and justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies, much less to render them necessary.

    In arguing that we should not try to prevent such collusion, he assumed that we would fail and that we should therefore not try (I should let you hurt me if I can't stop it?).

    The real bungling that conservatives make, though, is their failure to pay attention to subsequent economic theory. Can you name a single major field of research where the first prominent researcher is also the last? It's like arguing that there's no need to investigate the work of Einstein, Leibniz, or Freud. There are plenty of brilliant economists after Smith and it's worth paying attention to them. Simply because Smith was the first major economist doesn't mean that he's the only one worth listening to, but Limbaugh and friends would have me believe otherwise.