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  1. Confirmation That the United States Has Six Times Its Global Share of Public Mass Shooters, Courtesy of Lott and Moody's Data

    • Amazing how everything Lankford claims has so easily been demonstrated to be false. Any academic that refuses to show his data and methodology is already suspect.

    • Posted 24 Mar 2021 by Thomas Cottone
  2. Confirmation That the United States Has Six Times Its Global Share of Public Mass Shooters, Courtesy of Lott and Moody's Data

    • This article as well as his 2016 findings are lies. It has been debunked by multiple sources.

    • Posted 25 Feb 2020 by Blake Spencer
  3. Dissing "The Theory of Moral Sentiments": Twenty-Six Critics, from 1765 to 1949

    • Another TMS disser is J.M. Robertson, A Short History of Morals (London: Watts & Co., 1920): 326-338. Robertson says repeatedly that Smith strings together ideas and claims that do not cohere:

      “Smith, to whom Dugald Stewart ascribed a ‘singular consistency’ in his philosophical principles, fails to sustain that panegyric even in the WEALTH OF NATIONS; and in the THEORY he is still further from earning it” (326).

      “he merely puts his own doctrine in a series of statements which it is hardly possible to co-ordinate..What he really does is to put a series of disparate propositions” (327).

      “The trouble with Smith is that he suffers from the defect (so incident to book-makers) of intellectual myopia. He sees one facet of a problem at a tiime, concentrates on that, and then passes on to another, never reaching a comprehensive view of the whole” (334).

      “Smith’s system remained incomplete and inconsistent” (337).

      Meanwhile, Robertson suggests that underneath the farrago is a system “founded in self-regard” (332):

      After quoting Smith, Robertson remarks: “It would be difficult to reduce sympathy more plainly to a self-regarding foundation, after a parade of a priori altruism” (332).

      “The fact is that, though Smith gives to his ‘system’ the air of being contrary to the so-called ‘selfish theory’ mainly by the use of the word ‘sympathy,’ which carries the general connotation of altruism while really containing for his argument only the idea of <i>consent</i>, he is constantly explaining human actioin in terms of <i>antipathy</i>, to which, in his argument, sympathy is secondary and ancillary. And antiipathy, obviously, is founded in self-regard” (332).

      Robertson writes:

      “Again and again he shows how contracted, how conventional, how often merely customary, is the ethic of sympathy which he is formulating” (333). He suggests that Smith might have simplified his teaching by treating sympathy as “the <i>purification</i> of the current nationalized and racialized moral codes” (335).

      Robertson concludes the discussion of Smith with the following:

      “Decidedly the fabling bee, Mandeville, had left his sting in the optimist. The total result is bizarre. Whereas the professed pessimist puts a quasi-optimistic formula in which private vices work public good, the optimist puts one in which the temper necessary to conserve society is the great source of moral corruption. And it would be hard to show that the second is not the more pessimistic of the two—if there be any fundamental difference” (338).

      Robertson has no appreciation of Smith’s non-foundationalism. Figuring that the charitable way to read Smith is to try to ascribe some kind of ethical foundation to his work, he ascribes a “self-regarding” foundation.

    • Posted 08 Aug 2019 by Daniel Klein
  4. Rent Control: Do Economists Agree?

  5. Dissing "The Theory of Moral Sentiments": Twenty-Six Critics, from 1765 to 1949

    • Glory Liu kindly brought to my attention a review of TMS, on the occasion of an 1817 Boston edition, by Levi Frisbie (1783-1822) in the North-American Review 8(23), 1819: 371-396. The piece is republished in an 1823 volume of Frisbie’s miscellaneous writings, edited by Andrew Norton. The piece too should be quoted in the compilation. For example, Frisbie writes: “And that can never be an ultimate standard, which is itself to be judged by one more so” (382).

    • Posted 23 Jan 2019 by Daniel Klein
  6. Dissing "The Theory of Moral Sentiments": Twenty-Six Critics, from 1765 to 1949

    • I cited Emma Rothschild 2004 for support on Smith as non-foundationalist. I would have done well to cite also her Economic Sentiments (HUP, 2001), 231, 238.

    • Posted 04 Dec 2018 by Daniel Klein
  7. Dissing "The Theory of Moral Sentiments": Twenty-Six Critics, from 1765 to 1949

    • On “Circa 1800,” another two thoughts:

      1. Deirdre McCloskey. 2008. Adam Smith, the Last of the Former Virtue Ethicists. History of Political Economy 40(1): 43-71, maintains that Smith was more or less the last to treat ethics in terms of virtues.

      2. In the decade or so after Smith’s death, natural jurisprudence was no longer taught in the Scottish universities. See pp. 314-316, implicating Dugald Stewart, of James Moore. 2006. Natural Rights in the Scottish Enlightenment. In Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Political Thought, eds M. Goldie and R. Wokler. CUP: 291-316.

    • Posted 24 Nov 2018 by Daniel Klein
  8. Hayek’s Divorce and Move to Chicago

    • Very nice article. It seems Hayek was a rogue who cheated on his wife and wanted to abandon her and his children and have his friend Robbins support them. That does not detract from Hayek’s greatness as a scholar, except perhaps for casting doubt on his judgement about the importance of laws and norms supporting the family, which was surely clouded by wanting to justify his own selfish and agreement-breaking behavior.

    • Posted 07 Oct 2018 by Eric Rasmusen
  9. Dissing "The Theory of Moral Sentiments": Twenty-Six Critics, from 1765 to 1949

    • Addition to previous on Hugh Murray (1808): The four-stage theory appears 157ff.

    • Posted 22 Aug 2018 by Daniel Klein
  10. Dissing "The Theory of Moral Sentiments": Twenty-Six Critics, from 1765 to 1949

    • I discovered something that is a maybe:
      Hugh Murray, Enquiries Historical and Moral, Respecting the Character of Nations, and the Progress of Society (Edinburgh, 1808).

      Of “the science which analyses the faculties of the human mind,” he writes:

      “The progress of this science accordingly, has been still slower than that of physics. It is only recently indeed that it has reached its <i>acme</i> of corruption, and has with difficulty found any sure ground on which to rest its foot.”

      For a couple of reasons, I think he might have Ed. 6 of TMS in mind as the acme of corruption.

      In the next paragraph he looks forward to the sciene’s “establishment on a firm and permanent foundation.”

      In the book he mentions (just once each, I believe) Kames, Hume, Ferguson, and Millar, but never Smith.

      He makes some remarks against conjectural history (167), the drift being that we should seek facts, not make things up.

      Several pages of his description of savages reminds one strongly of Smith, “death song”, etc. pp. 276ff.

    • Posted 21 Aug 2018 by Daniel Klein
  11. Dissing "The Theory of Moral Sentiments": Twenty-Six Critics, from 1765 to 1949

    • I discover another passage from Dugald Stewart (1829) that should be included:

      “…Mr. Smith…has been led to resolve our sense of duty into a regard to the good opinion, and a desire to obtain the <i>sympathy</i> of our fellow creatures. I shall afterwards have occasion to examine the principal arguments he alleges in support of his conclusions. At present I shall only remark, that, although his theory may account for the desire which all men, both good and bad, have to <i>assume the appearance of virture</i>, it never can explain the origin of our notions of duty and moral obligation.” (pp. 37-38)

    • Posted 29 Jul 2018 by Daniel Klein
  12. Dissing "The Theory of Moral Sentiments": Twenty-Six Critics, from 1765 to 1949

    • In the paper, after the ‘dissing’ quotations, I have a section ‘Circa 1800.’ I quote Popock and Melzer.

      I’ve lately read Wayne C. Booth, A Rhetoric of Irony (Chicago, 1974), fabulous. The book contains some passages apropos ‘Circa 1800’:

      “This is mainly a book about how we manage to share ironies and why we often do not; it is only secondarily a book of critical theory. I hope that it does, however, move toward some elementary theoretical clarity about a subject which has been—especially since the Romantic period—the mother of confusions. There is no agreement among critics about what irony is, and many would hold to the romantic claim…that its very spirit and value are violated by the effort to be clear about it.” (Booth 1974, ix)

      “The way irony works in uniting (or dividing) authors and readers has been relatively neglected since the latter part of the eighteenth century…” (ix)

      “It was not until well along into the eighteenth century that theorists were forced, by explosive developments in the use of irony itself, to begin thinking about ironic effects as somehow self-sufficient literary ends. And then of course irony burst its bonds so effectively that men finally dismissed merely functional ironies as not even ironic, or as self-evidently less artistic.” (139-140)

      “Even in the works I have selected to illustrate a functional, stable irony, I have often felt as if I were holding back a very frisky pony, that in fact the heady, threatening pleasures of irony were already trying to drag me ahead of my story—just as they ran away with literary history from the Romantic period on.” (175)

      “Traditionally, the capacity to make original metaphors was generally given much higher status than the ability to use irony; in Aristotle, for example, it is the most important single gift of the poet. But like irony, the device was not content until it had become a concept, an Idea. And with romanticism, it began to expand its domain, until it finally became for some the whole of the poetic art.” (177)

    • Posted 22 Jul 2018 by Daniel Klein
  13. Economics Professors' Favorite Economic Thinkers, Journals, and Blogs (along with Party and Policy Views)

    • I was intrigued by your title, but the first line of the abstract is very disconcerting: “A sample of 299 U.S. economics professors, presumably random, responded to our survey…” In survey research, one can never merely presume that a survey sample is random. The implication in your abstract is that your sample has not been assessed for its representativeness of the population of all economists, either in terms of observable characteristics or selection on unobservables. This left me wondering whether I would learn anything useful about the population of interest, or only your sample of respondents, whatever subset of that population they may be. The abstract suggests the latter, so I decided my scarce time would be best spent reading something else.

    • Posted 14 Jun 2018 by Trudy Ann Cameron
  14. Dissing "The Theory of Moral Sentiments": Twenty-Six Critics, from 1765 to 1949

    • I neglected to give page cite for the Viner quotation (“I will endeavor…”); it is p. 201.

    • Posted 11 Jun 2018 by Daniel Klein
  15. Dissing "The Theory of Moral Sentiments": Twenty-Six Critics, from 1765 to 1949

    • Surely, many more “dissing” comments could have been included. It now occurs to me that I should have included the following from Jacob Viner’s “Adam Smith and Laissez-Faire,” JPE 1927:

      “I will endeavor to show that the Wealth of Nations was a better book because of its partial breach with the Theory of Moral Sentiments, and that it could not have remained, as it has, a living book were it not that in its methods of analysis, its basic assumptions, and its conclusions it abandoned the absolutism, the rigidity, the romanticism which characterize the earlier book.”

      The drift of Viner’s critical remarks are rather different than the dissing themes in the EJW piece. See notably Viner p. 216 (upper part of the page), and then p. 217 on TMS Ed. 6.

    • Posted 11 Jun 2018 by Daniel Klein
  16. Faculty Voter Registration in Economics, History, Journalism, Law, and Psychology

    • John Quiggin: Thanks for your comment on Pew. You have a good point about the importance of baseline numbers. Unfortunately the Pew survey is unclear as to who its survey respondents are. They indicate that they surveyed the membership of the American Assoc. for the Advancement of Science. The AAAS publishes journals, and it includes a large share of academics. Also, its membership includes many outside the hard sciences, specifically in the notorious field of psychology. Hence, the Pew survey isn’t useful as a baseline. I just finished a study in which I actually found a higher rate of D affiliation among hard scientists in elite liberal arts colleges than in the Pew survey, so there is something wrong with it. In fact. some of the past AAAS presidents have been psychologists. A good survey of nonacademic scientists would be a good baseline. When you find one, please let me know. Thanks. ML

    • Posted 17 Oct 2017 by Mitchell_Langbert
  17. The War on Cash: A Review of Kenneth Rogoff's "The Curse of Cash"

    • This article is more evidence that Jeff Hummel is one of America’s greatest living economists. (Too bad he doesn’t do more math so he can be more widely recognized as such!) A point that I wish he had elaborated upon was just how much repression would be necessary to end criminal activity by tamping down on substitutes for cash. Obviously, criminals are going to use the least costly method of payment and that may well vary by level. At the retail level, one can imagine that “dime bags” ($10 worth of weed or some other drug, which fluctuates in quantity/quality with supply and demand, much like the penny loaf used to) are replaced with “Camel bags,” or a sealed, excise stamped pack of Camel smokes. The Camels can then be false invoiced to a front and vended via debit card or whatever and come out clean.

      Better yet, a retail outlet could sell “tickets” to some fictional event with the understanding that certain “tickets” are actually prepayment for drugs, prostitutes, etc., which can then be tendered and destroyed by the seller. That’s what Idris Elba as Stringer Bell would have done (he was a student of Adam Smith fans of The Wire will recall). So now are you going to tamp down on all tickets too? And for those of you not conversant with drug deals (I only know what I’ve seen on The Corner, The Wire, Weeds, Breaking Bad, etc.) there is a moral hazard involved in cash deals too … the cash is tendered to A but B delivers the drugs at some other time and place. So the ticket ruse would not represent more moral hazard than market competition and info. can handle.

      Wholesale payments could be made in gold, esp. if its market price stays up. Yeah, there are added transaction costs here (like assaying the gold) but they’ll soon be minimized by competition. So then you have to tamp down on the precious metals and we’re looking at an authoritarian state, one that will stamp on civil liberties and punish everyone because a few people are breaking laws some of which maybe even shouldn’t be on the books in the first place.

      The government doesn’t have to supply cash but to outlaw it in all forms is a violation of natural rights that would have to lead to Revolution, just at the Financial Money Meter reproduced in my Hamilton Unbound (2002) predicted.

    • Posted 26 Aug 2017 by Robert Wright
  18. The War on Cash: A Review of Kenneth Rogoff's "The Curse of Cash"

    • As one of seven billion spenders, I use cash almost exclusively for daily shopping. I notice how much faster it is for checkout persons in stores to process my cash purchases versus purchases by those inputting various cards, sometimes unsuccessfully. Cash is recognized broadly; coins fit into parking meters, candy machines, and much else. The utility is here, now, and needs no year-long trial and error implementation. I like cash, I want to keep it, and where do I sign up for any coming save-our-cash war?

    • Posted 01 Jun 2017 by Marvin McConoughey
  19. Econ 101 Morality: The Amiable, the Mundane, and the Market

    • Note that an alternative to evolution as a source of innate morality is God. The implications are similar, for purposes of this article.

      You’d find this article interesting—- “Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand,” Helen Joyce, (2001)
    • Posted 01 Feb 2017 by Eric Rasmusen
  20. Economists on the Welfare State and the Regulatory State: Why Don't Any Argue in Favor of One and Against the Other? A Symposium Prologue

    • Peter Schwartz discusses the relationship between the regulatory state and the welfare state in his book “In Defense of Selfishness”. There is an excerpt from the book in this blog article:

    • Posted 19 Nov 2016 by Steven Rogers

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