[personal profile] ndrosen
There is a transcription of a debate on the Reason blog with Mark Skousen propounding and Gene Epstein opposing the resolution that Adam Smith should be honored as the father of modern economics and free market capitalism. The case against comes down to two points: that other people had had similar ideas before Smith; and that Smith was not actually that pure an advocate of free enterprise.

As an example of the second point: "I also remind Mark again that Marx quoted Smith and was impressed by Smith's beginning of an exploitation theory, because Smith thought landowners were predators and deducted against labor."

It's not clear from the Wealth of Nations how far Smith actually thought that, or how far prudence prevented him from fully expressing whatever subversive ideas he held, but the germ of the idea is there. I remember someone (it may have been Mason Gaffney) saying or writing that whatever differences there were between Karl Marx and Henry George, both saw the revolutionary potential of classical political economy; this led the neoclassical economists to change their terminology and avoid talking about land rent.

This did not, by the way, make all the neoclassicals heroes of free enterprise; some of them favored government interference of the right sort. However, they generally opposed radical reform of taxation along Georgist lines, and tried to either confute Georgists or ignore them.

Neither participant in the debate mentioned Henry George.



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