The Adam Smith Myth — Murray N. Rothbard
- [S]mith was scarcely the founder of economic science, a science which existed since the medieval scholastics and, in its modern form, since Richard Cantillon. … The problem is that he originated nothing that was true, and that whatever he originated was wrong; that, even in an age that had fewer citations or footnotes than our own, Adam Smith was a shameless plagiarist, acknowledging little or nothing and stealing large chunks, for example, from Cantillon. … For it is not just that Smith’s Wealth of Nations has had a terribly overblown reputation from his day to ours. The problem is that the Wealth of Nations was somehow able to blind all men, economists and laymen alike, to the very knowledge that other economists, let alone better ones, had existed and written before 1776. The Wealth of Nations exerted such a colossal impact on the world that all knowledge of previous economists was blotted out, hence Smith’s reputation as Founding Father. The historical problem is this: how could this phenomenon have taken place with a book so derivative, so deeply flawed, so much less worthy than its predecessors?
The answer is surely not any lucidity or clarity of style or thought. For the much revered Wealth of Nations is a huge, sprawling, inchoate, confused tome, rife with vagueness, ambiguity and deep inner contradictions. …
That should answer your question. However, Mises is more tempered than Rothbard.
Why Read Adam Smith Today? — Ludwig von Mises
- [A] warning must be given. Nobody should believe that he will find in Smith’s Wealth of Nations information about present-day economics or about present-day problems of economic policy. Reading Smith is no more a substitute for studying economics than reading Euclid is a substitute for the study of mathematics. It is at best an historical introduction into the study of modern ideas and policies. Neither will the reader find in the Wealth of Nations a refutation of the teachings of Marx, Veblen, Keynes, and their followers. It is one of the tricks of the socialists to make people believe that there are no other writings recommending economic freedom than those of 18th-century authors… Socialist professors—not only in the countries behind the Iron Curtain—withheld from their students any knowledge about the existence of contemporary economists who deal with the problems concerned in an unbiased scientific way and who have devastatingly exploded the spurious schemes of all brands of socialism and interventionism. If they are blamed for their partiality, they protest their innocence. “Did we not read in class some chapters of Adam Smith?” they retort. In their pedagogy the reading of Smith serves as a blind for ignoring all sound contemporary economics. … Read the great book of Smith. But don’t think that this may save you the trouble of seriously studying modern economics books. Smith sapped the prestige of 18th-century government controls. He does not say anything about the controls of 1952 or the Communist challenge.
My experience largely mimics Stephan Kinsella’s,
Other purportedly “great” books or authors that I just can’t seem to motivate myself to read or finish include Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations…Hayek’s Road to Serfdom (and other works)…
One of the first books I read was ‘The Road to Serfdom’. I found it terribly dry, not at all clear or rhetorically engaging. I got halfway through and moved on to Albert Jay Nock’s ‘Enemy of The State’ which was much better. The same goes for Adam Smith. The only reason I’d read ‘The Wealth of Nations’ after coming across the above article would be to say that “I had”, and that’s not much of a reason at all.
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- self-ownership said: You’ve read The Wealth of Nations?
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