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The poverty of economics

Economic theory has neither the exactness of science nor the insights of literature. Yet it remains the dominant form of organised knowledge in the modern world. James Buchan regrets the influence and arrogance of the discipline and reveals that Adam Smith himself was a plagiarist

By James Buchan   December 1995

In 1766 the Marquis de Mirabeau, the father of the celebrated revolutionary orator, declared that history was over. “There have been, since the world began,” he wrote, “three great inventions which have principally given stability to political societies. The first is the invention of writing, which alone gives human nature the power of transmitting, without alteration, its laws, its contracts, its annals and its discoveries. The second is the invention of money which binds together all the relations between civilised societies.”

So far so good. But what could be the third invention to match or combine these two? At a…

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