The logic of cancel culture

More details here. Hat tip: Brian Leiter.

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Revised Review of Cowen

FYI: I have posted a revised version of my full-length review of Professor Tyler Cowen’s “Love Letter to Big Business.” Below is a summary of my review, which is available here via SSRN:

“In 1848, two obscure German philosophers, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, published a revolutionary pamphlet called ‘The Manifesto of the Communist Party.’ The Communist Manifesto, destined to become one of the most influential works of political philosophy of all time, began with these famous words: “A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of communism….” Now, almost two centuries later, someone has finally chased down this seductive spectre and attempted to bottle her up for good. That someone is Tyler Cowen. In brief, Cowen has just published a kind of ‘Capitalist Manifesto,’ one that is even more intoxicating and liberating than Marx and Engel’s original screed. Far from the source of all things evil, Cowen explains why privately-owned business firms should be praised.” Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero  (9781250110541): Cowen, Tyler: Books
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Libertad para Denis y para todos los artistas cubanos

Via Civicus: “On 9th November 2020, … rapper Denis Solís González [pictured below], was detained [by the Cuban State Police]. Days earlier, the musician had used his social networks to share a live video of a police officer who had entered his home without a warrant. On 11th November 2020, Solís González was tried and sentenced to eight months in prison on ‘contempt of authority’ charges. According to Amnesty International, he was then transferred to a maximum-security prison.” More details here (in Spanish) and here (in English).

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JFK’s White House Bedroom

Source: Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC)
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Compilation of my most recent Adam Smith blog posts

I am in the process of getting my paper “Adam Smith in Love” ready for publication in an upcoming volume of Econ Journal Watch. In the meantime, below is a convenient compilation of my most recent “Adam Smith in Love” blog posts:

  1. Madame Nicol
  2. Adam Smith and Abbeville (redux)
  3. Adam Smith in Love: 18th-Century Sex in the City of Lights
  4. Adam Smith in Love: A Bayesian Rabbit Hole
  5. Adam Smith in Love Update: A Fourth Conjecture
  6. Adam Smith in Love: The Lost Letters
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How early do you arrive at the airport?

The late great George Stigler once observed something to the effect: “If you’ve never missed a flight, you’re spending way too much time at the airport.” (See also Natasha Geiling’s excellent essay here.) However you answer this question, Justin Wolfers has recently formalized Prof Stigler’s intuition thus (bravo!):

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When was your first time …

… on the Internet!

Hat tip: @markrendl
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What I am most thankful for …

… my children!

Left to right: Kleber Enrique, Aritzia, Baby Adys, Adela
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Merry Christmas?

Since the powers that be, in their infinite and risk-averse and hypocritical wisdom, have decided to cancel the Thanksgiving holiday, we will fast-forward to take this opportunity to wish our readers a Merry Christmas!

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Adam Smith in Love: The Lost Letters

I have blogged on a previous occasion about the potential existence of a travel diary that Adam Smith may or may not have kept during his Grand Tour of France (1764 to 1766), but this lost diary–even assuming it exists–may never be recovered. Here, I shall blog about Adam Smith’s lost letters and papers. The following passages are from the latest draft of my most recent work-in-progress “Adam Smith in Love“:

As the old Bayesian saying goes, “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” (see, e.g., Altman & Bland, 1995, p. 485; see also Sagan, 1997, p. 213), but toward the end of his life, Doctor Smith specifically instructed his literary executors, Joseph Black and James Hutton, to destroy his unpublished manuscripts, correspondence, and other private papers.[1] In fact, Adam Smith insisted on the destruction of his private papers and letters as early as 1773(!), when Smith had made his first will and had appointed his friend David Hume his executor.[2] Among the correspondence destroyed were any letters Adam Smith may have received from any of his lost loves.

So, why did Smith want to destroy his private letters and papers as early as 1773, only a few years after his 18-month sojourn in the South of France (1764 to 1765), his ten-month residency in Paris (1766), and his two-month stay at Dalkeith House (1767)? Did Smith ask his literary executors–first Hume, then Black and Hutton–to burn his manuscripts to hide or cover up any evidence of his lost loves? Nevertheless, despite Doctor Smith’s desire to have his papers and letters destroyed upon his death, a small sample of Smith’s correspondence still survives: 304 letters in all.[3] Among these 304 surviving letters are three addressed to Frances Scott Campbell (Lady Frances): Letter No. 97 dated October 15, 1766; Letter No. 98 dated October 19, 1766; and Letter No. 225 dated March 17, 1783. Why is there such a large gap of time between the first two letters (1766) and the third letter (1783)? Are these the only letters that Adam Smith ever wrote to Lady Frances? In the alternative, are there any additional Adam Smith letters in the possession of any of Lady Frances’ descendants?[4]

One of Smith’s leading biographers, Ian Simpson Ross (2010, p. 405), points to “Smith’s prudence” and “his concern for his literary reputation.”[5] In reality, what if Smith’s main concern was his own moral reputation?[6] After all, in addition to his contributions of jurisprudence, literary studies, and political economy, Doctor Smith was first and foremost a moral philosopher, the author of The Theory of Moral Sentiments, first published in 1759. Any evidence of Smith engaging in “antenuptial fornication” in Scotland or of carrying out secret love affairs in France or in Dalkeith House might tarnish his towering moral reputation.[7] Furthermore, it turns out that Adam Smith, the moral philosopher, had a lot to say to about the passion of romantic love and the problem of licentiousness. ****

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[1] See, e.g., Ross, 2010, pp. 404-405. See also Phillipson, 2010, p. 209. Cf. Alcouffe & Massot-Bordenave, 2020, p. x: Doctor Smith “insisted to his faithful friends that all his paper be burned. Thus only 193 letters written by him and 129 addressed to him remain. The majority of them date from the latter part of his life, after the publication of The Wealth of Nations [in 1776] ….”

[2] See Phillipson, 2010, p. 279. Alas, Hume died on August 25, 1776, a full 14 years before Smith’s death in 1790.

[3] These 304 letters were eventually assembled together into a single volume and reprinted in Mossner & Ross, 1987. Of these 304 letters, 131 are from Smith’s hand, while 98 are addressed to Smith, and the remaining 75 letters contain information about Adam Smith. See ibid., p. 12.

[4] Cf. W. R. Scott, 1940, p. 272: “[T]here is just a possibility that a large body of documents relating to Adam Smith may still be in existence.” Tracking down any new Adam Smith letters addressed to Lady Frances, however, will be a daunting task. Lady Frances, for example, eventually married Archibald Douglas in 1783, and the couple had six children. See Rubenstein, 1985.

[5] Ross, 2010, p. 405.

[6] Cf. Alcouffe & Massot-Bordenave, 2020, p. 133: “… it is important to underline also that the place ascribed to the judgement of posterity is found in the arrangements which he [Smith] to make prior to his death; to make his personal papers disappear and thus to control the image which posterity would later preserve of him.”

[7] Cf. Rashid, 1998, p. 173, who notes that Smith was an “assiduous cultivat[or] of patronage” and knew how “play[] the game.”

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