by Benjamin Marks, Economics.org.au editor-in-chief

Review of Professor Sinclair Davidson’s two CatallaxyFiles.com posts: (1) “Steve Kates, Classical economics and the Austrian school,” January 4, 2012; and (2) “The Adam Smith smear,” January 5, 2012.

Professor Sinclair Davidson, in the second post, when writing Professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s name, approvingly hyperlinks to Dr Oliver Marc Hartwich on Hoppe despite Hartwich’s cheap rhetorical tricks having already been exposed, and the content of Hartwich’s criticism refuted, in, among many other places, this Hartwich interview.

Then, rather than engaging with Hoppe’s criticism of Davidson’s (and Kates’) statism, Davidson chooses, in both posts one and two, to go after one line Hoppe made about Adam Smith. Davidson is wrong here too, but at least he is responding to something by Hoppe.

Davidson emphasises and selects Schumpeter passages tendentiously to accuse Rothbard and Hoppe of misquoting, misinterpreting, or not reading, Schumpeter on Smith. To respond decisively and briefly, I will simply quote this relevant passage (from the same Schumpeter book Davidson quotes from), where Schumpeter himself speculates why people wrongly hold Smith in so much higher regard than Schumpeter himself does:

Though he [Alfred Marshall] was far from attributing to Smith any original ideas, he nevertheless arrives at an estimate of the performance that seems much higher than ours. One reason for this may be that he was speaking of a brother — for as has been and will be emphasized, there are many similarities in the performances and in the historical positions of the two. Another may be that he was speaking of a countryman — for Marshall was very insular. A third one may be that he was speaking of a fellow liberal — for Marshall, too, was a strong free trader. But whatever the reason, the readers should observe that, so far as Marshall’s very brief comments enable us to judge, there is no difference as to the facts of the case except this: Smith may certainly be said, in a sense, to have “developed” existing doctrines of value and price; but whereas Marshall approved unconditionally of the manner of this “development,” I have some fault to find with it … The blame is at [Smith’s] door for much that is unsatisfactory in the economic theory of the subsequent hundred years, and for many controversies that would have been unneccessary had he summed up in a different manner. [Joseph A. Schumpeter, History of Economic Analysis (Taylor & Francis, 2006), p. 293.]

I wonder which of these motives — brotherly collegiality, parochialism, etcetera — explain why Davidson would wrongly call Rothbard on Smith a “hatchet job”?

Davidson also says, in his second post, that Rothbard and Hoppe are ignorant of Ludwig von Mises on Smith. The consistent Davidson is wrong again. Here’s some Misesian criticism of Smith (from the same article by Mises that Davidson selectively quotes from):

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 and that in their, of course unsuccessful, attempts to refute Smith they have done all that is needed to prove the correctness of their own point of view. 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 conclusion, neither Mises nor Schumpeter are as supportive of Smith as Davidson would have us believe, and the same words of criticism that Davidson applies to Rothbard and Hoppe better apply to Davidson himself.

Having cleared up that distraction, it would be good if Dr Steven Kates and his supporters would please respond to this clear criticism of Kates’ negative comments on the Mises Seminar.

(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
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  3. Ron Manners’ Heroic Misadventures
  4. Government Schools Teach Fascism Perfectly
  5. Deport Government to Solve Immigration Problem
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  8. Gittinomics: Economics for Gits
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  11. An Open Letter to the CIS
  12. Principled Foreign Policy Options: Reinvade or Shut Up and Get Out
  13. WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Political Corruption Exposed!
  14. Feedback please: Is this worth doing?
  15. CIS and IPA Defend State Schooling
  16. A Thorough Review Without Spoilers of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
  17. Dead Reckoning and Government: A Proposal for Electoral Reform
  18. Quadrant Defends State Schooling
  19. The MPS 2010 Consensus
  20. Slogans for Property Rights Funeral
  21. Government is Impossible: Introduction
  22. Government is Criminal: Part 1
  23. Exclusive John Howard Interview on Lazarus Rising
  24. Response to Senator Cory Bernardi and the IPA
  25. Earn $$$$$ by Justifying Government Against Anarchocapitalism: Survey
  26. Statism is Secrecy: WikiLeaks vs Economics.org.au
  27. One question the Labor Party, the Liberal Party, the Greens, the CIS, the IPA, Ross Gittins, Ross Garnaut, Ken Henry, Gerard Henderson, John Quiggin, Clive Hamilton, Tim Flannery, Catallaxy Files, Club Troppo, Larvatus Prodeo, Phillip Adams, Robert Manne, Michael Stutchbury, Miranda Devine, Andrew Bolt and Dick Smith are scared to answer
  28. Libertarian Philanthropists Should Exploit Tax Evasion Convictions
  29. Ronald Kitching Obituary
  30. The Minarchist Case for Anarchism
  31. Libertarianism in a 300-word rant
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  33. Libertarianism In An Executive Summary
  34. The Banking Bubble Blow-by-Blow
  35. WARNING: Libertarianism Is NOT ...
  36. Would Anything Possibly Convince You that You Are Living Under a Protection Racket?
  37. An Open Letter to Dick Smith
  38. Economics.org.au at 42
  39. "My boyfriend calls himself a Marxist and votes Labor, what should I do?"
  40. "He says if I leave him due to politics, I should leave the country too."
  41. No Booboisie at Gülçin’s Galt’s Gulch
  42. "Hey, Mr Anarchocapitalist, show me a society without government"
  43. The Three Epoch-Making Events of the Modern Libertarian Movement
  44. Government is Criminal: Part 2 - Methodological Individualism
  45. Government is Criminal: Part 3 - Subjective Utility
  46. Government is Criminal: Part 4 - Praxeological Synonyms
  47. Government is in a State of Anarchy
  48. Limited Government is Absolute Government
  49. Why the 2012 double Nobel laureate is coming to Sydney
  50. Exclusive Oliver Marc Hartwich Interview on Hans-Hermann Hoppe
  51. A Critique of the Opening Two Sentences of the "About CIS" Page on The Centre for Independent Studies' Website, www.cis.org.au
  52. An invitation for ANDEV members to the Mises Seminar
  53. Sell the ABC to Rupert Murdoch: Lid Blown on ABC Funding Disgrace!
  54. www.inCISe.org.au, The Centre for Independent Studies new blog
  55. The Unconstitutionality of Government in Australia (demonstrated in under 300 words)
  56. The Best Libertarian Film Is ...
  57. Launch Southeast Asian Military Operations to Free Australian Drug Dealers and Consumers
  58. Workers Party Reunion Intro
  59. Hoppe's Inarticulate Australian Critics: The Hon Dr Peter Phelps, Dr Steven Kates and James Paterson
  60. Vice Magazine Westralian Secession Interview
  61. Sideshow to Dr Steven Kates' criticism of the Mises Seminar: Davidson vs Hoppe on Adam Smith
  62. The Best Australian Think Tank Is ...
  63. Announcing a new magazine to rival Time and The Economist
  64. The exciting new Australian Taxpayers' Alliance
  65. Neville Kennard Obituary
  66. Contrarian Conformism
  67. An invitation for Dick Smith, the IPA and other Walter Block fans to the 2nd Australian Mises Seminar
  68. Westralian mining legend Ron Manners of Mannkal belongs in The Property and Freedom Society
  69. What would Bert Kelly think of the Mises Seminar and Walter Block?
  70. Bad news about the Mises Seminar
  71. Gina Rinehart Fan Club gives big to Australian political education
  72. Sam Kennard wins North Sydney by-election by unanimous consent
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