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The Smith-Hayek Economist: From Character to Identity : Daniel B. Klein
6 paragraphs found.
Political economists are in general quite suspicious of governmental intervention. They see in it inconveniences of all kinds—a diminution of individual liberty, energy, prudence, and experience, which constitute the most precious resources of any society. Hence, it often happens that they oppose this intervention.
Frédéric Bastiat ([1848], p. 207.
Online par. 7.59.)

In the first half of the 19th century, the leading figure of political economy in France was Jean-Bapiste Say, who fit the description offered by Bastiat quoted above. In Britain, too, most leading figures of political economy fit Bastiat's description and venerated Adam Smith. The term "economist" identified characteristics that were essential to Smith and Say. When Bastiat entered debate, he assumed the identity "economist," a character opposed to interventionism.


Perhaps ten percent of economists in the United States share the broad character represented by Smith, Say, and Bastiat. Would it make sense for them to distinguish their character in some way? Would it make sense for them to cultivate a suitable identity? In this essay, I explore the heterogeneity of character types in economics, delineate the "Smith-Hayek" character, and explain why it might be beneficial for that character to establish an identity that functions in both the professional and public cultures.

Smith-Hayek: A Few Characteristics

One of the broad and venerable characters is that of Adam Smith and Friedrich Hayek—and of Hume, Say, de Tracy, Bastiat, de Molinari, Menger, Böhm-Bawerk, Schumpeter (kinda), Mises, Cassel, Wicksell, Heckscher, Leggett, Perry, Cannan, Hutt, Röpke, Hazlitt, Seldon, Rothbard, Simon, Bauer, Friedman, and hundreds of other economists no longer living and still available to readers. That broad character is also alive in thousands of living economists, including Buchanan, Tullock, Coase, Brittan, Becker (kinda), Sowell, Kirzner, McCloskey, V. Smith, North, Gwartney, and Williams.


Moreover, "economist" simpliciter denies one of the primary purposes of the Smith-Hayek economist: making it clear that economist characters are multiple and conflicting. Perhaps in the days of Smith or Bastiat "political economist" worked, but those days are long gone.

Recommended Readings

Bastiat, Frédéric. 1995 [1848]. Selected Essays on Political Economy. Trans. S. Cain., ed. George B. de Huszar. Irvington-on-Hudson, NY: Foundation for Economic Education.