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The Successes and Failures of Professor Smith

George J. Stigler
Journal of Political Economy
Vol. 84, No. 6 (Dec., 1976), pp. 1199-1213
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1831274
Page Count: 15
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The Successes and Failures of Professor Smith
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Abstract

The criterion employed to judge successes and failures has been the acceptance or nonacceptance of Smith's theory by his immediate successors. This judgement has been supplemented with a more personal one of scientific fruitfulness. He had one overwhelming and proper success--the theorem on resource allocation under competition--and several minor successes. He also had one modest success that was improper (i.e., unfortunate)--the distinction between productive and unproductive labor. Smith's most important analytical failure was the hierarchy of employments of capital. Three failures that should have been successes receive special attention: his wage theory, his rent theory, and the analysis of the division of labor. The reasons for the differing fates of these theories are examined.

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