Journaltalk - Smith’s Travels on the Ship of State

Smith’s Travels on the Ship of State

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  • Stigler, George J.
Pages 136-45.
Publication year 1971

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About History of Political Economy

Publisher Duke University
Grouping social sciences
Categories Smithian Political Economy, Ethics, Philosophy

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  1. George J. Stigler is criticizing that Adam Smith confine the self-interest analysis to the economic area. Even in Wealth of Nation, many examples testified that interest groups are pursuing self-interest by influencing public policy. It is not enough for Stigler who expect Smith “use self-interest as a general explanation fo legislation”(268).

    Several Chicago economists have wrote about the inconsistency of Adam Smith’s point of views in Theory of Moral Sentiment and Wealth of Nation. Stigler intended to contribute his explanation of it, however, he overlooked the organon build in Theory of Moral Sentiment which has already explained the self-interest comprehensively. In Wealth of Nation, Smith avoid the non-commercial discussion just because he would like to focus on specific section, not that he fail to “consider systemically the role of self-interest in legislation”, as Stigler puts it (269). In Wealth of Nation, Smith merely treat political institutions as those “facilitating commercial society”(Adam Smith 214). Stigler judge him too soon “without recourse to the Theory of Moral Sentiment”(Viner 201). If he refer TMS, he’ll find it accounts for the the question he challenge Smith.

    Beside, According to Stigler, failures are occurred sometimes when self-interest guides people’s behavior (Stigler 275). Stigler also lists several categories of failure. I: facts and anticipate; II: lack of self-serving conduct; III: fail to provide correct amount of goods (Stigler 275-276). He attribute most of the above to incomplete factual information. He frame the economic model of knowledge and information onto the Wealth of Nation but he should have developed further.

    posted 14 Nov 2012 by Zheng

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