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« Leftists for Hayek -- Ted Burczak's challenge | Main | Dissent, Diversity and the Value of Heterodox Traditions in Economics »


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What is the motivation behind economist who take mainstream views? Are they simply ingnorant of the mainline economics or intentionally wrong for popularity reasons/sense of altruism? A good example would be Jeffrey Sachs and an earlier example Paul Samuleson.

Matt C, maybe you should wonder how it was that the current mainstream became dominant and deviated from the mainline? Before it became popular there must have been a reason other than popularity and ignorance. I am not trying to suggest that the mainstream is right and the mainline is wrong, but I am suggesting that your explanation of motivations is insufficient.

By the way, I think most mainstream economists consider themselves to be following in the mainline, but are simply a step up. The only economists I can think of off the top of my head that dismissed the importance of Adam Smith are Rothbard and Schumpeter (even Marx was a follower of Ricardo and, through him, Smith).

TGGP I was merely posing a question, not suggesting a motive. But it would seem by your explanation that to a certain extent they are simply ignorant, rather than intentionally, of what their theories suggested. Marx is the good example, because he was simply wrong about the surplus value of labor, which led him to all his other conclusions. The question then has to be, was Marx just trying to justify his philosophical belief that capitalist were 'abusing' their workers?

My understanding of Rothbard's dismissal of Smith was more philosophical, where Adam Smith didn't go far enough with his belief in an unfettered market. Please correct me if I am wrong here.

In effect, Rothbard said of Smith that what was original in him was not correct and what was correct in him was not original. Rothbard thought Smith did not contribute but harmed the field of economics. I started a bit of a stir at Mises.org when I linked to a usenet discussion where David Friedman criticized Rothbard's discussion of Smith. Writers at the site continued to back up Rothbard, and in many prior articles they had attacked Smith (David Friedman responds in the comment section here: http://blog.mises.org/archives/005182.asp ). It is the consensus of many that Adam Smith introduced the labor theory of value (not Marx), though some dispute this. It is not in dispute that Marx was not being original in coming up with a labour theory of value. That was common among classical economists. It met its demise with the advent of the marginal revolution brought about by Menger, Jevon and Walras.

I am well of how the value theory of labor was changed with the marginal revolution, of this I am not ignorant.

Thanks for the debate link though.

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