A Conspiracy of Silence

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I do not hold that Bastiat was a bad theorist.

Conspiracy of Silence

I hold that he was no theorist. But what does count for us is the fact that their analysis was methodologically as "reactionary" as was their politics.

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They simply did not care for the purely scientific aspects of our subject. Say and Bastiat, and later on a little diluted marginal utility theory, satisfied their scientific appetite. Surpassing even Schumpeter in haughtiness is Henry William Spiegel who implicitly dismisses the entire Liberal School by proclaiming that "…there was little scientific work that would have continued the tradition of Say.

In , the great subjectivist revolutionary, William Stanley Jevons, wrote in the concluding paragraph of his pathbreaking work, The Theory of Political Economy , There are valuable suggestions towards the improvementb of the science contained in the works of such writers as Senior, Cairnes, Macleod, Cliffe-Leslie, Hearn, Shadwell, not to mention a long series of French economists from Baudeau and Le Trosne down to Bastiat and Courcelle-Seneuil: but they are neglected in England, because the excellence of their works was not comprehended by David Ricardo, the two Mills, Professor Fawcett and others who have made the orthodox Ricardian school what it is.

Jevons expatiated more passionately on the same theme in the Preface to the Second Edition of the same work penned in The true doctrine may be more or less clearly traced through the writings of a succession of great French economists, from Condillac, Baudeau and Le Trosne, through J. The conclusion to which I am ever more clearly coming is that the only hope of attaining a true system of economics is to fling aside, once and for ever, the mazy and preposterous assumptions of the Ricardian school.

Our English economists have been living in a fool's paradise. The truth is with the French school, and the sooner we recognize the fact, the better it will be for all the world, except perhaps the few writers who are too far committed to the old erroneous doctrines to allow of renunciation. It is clear that Jevons's favorable assessment of the Liberal School stems from his clear recognition of the unique tradition in which it was rooted.

But this leaves us with the enigma of Schumpeter whose awareness of the importance of the Cantillon-Turgot-Say tradition did not preclude him from impugning the scientific merit of the French Liberal School.


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The answer to the puzzle lies with Schumpeter's belief that "…in the high heavens, Say's true successor was indeed the great Walras. But surely, as even Schumpeter realized, the Cantillon-Quesnay-Turgot tradition was distinguished by more than the mere recognition of the "circular flow of economic life.

They absorbed a method of approach that was, implicitly at least, subjectivist and individualist. And herein lies the reason for Schumpeter's disparagement of the Liberal School. Say and especially Destutt de Tracy fashioned the loose approach they inherited into an explicitly praxeological methodology. To Destutt, a thoroughgoing praxeologist, political economy is no more and no less than the logical tracing out of the effects of the will, i. My intention is much less to exhaust all the details of the moral sciences, than to see how they are derived from our nature, and from the conditions of our existence, in order to detect with certainty the errors which may have slidden into them by not ascending to this source of all we are and all we know.

Moreover, in this work, Destutt delivered a trenchant praxeological critique of the use of probability theory in the social sciences that embodied the Misesian insight that probabilities can only be calculated for homogeneous classes of events and that this homogeneity is necessarily absent from social phenomena.

In Destutt's words:. Assuredly the degrees of the capacity, of the probity of men, those of the energy and the power of their passions, prejudices and habits, cannot possibly be estimated in numbers. It is the same as to the degrees of influence of certain institutions, or of certain functions, of the degrees of importance of certain establishments, of the degrees of difficulty of certain discoveries, of the degrees of utility of certain inventions, or of certain processes. I know that of these quantities, truly inappreciable and innumerable in all the rigour of the word, we seek and even attain to a certain point, in determining the limits, by means of number, of the frequency and extent of their effects; but I also know that in these effects which we are obliged to sum and number together as things perfectly similar, in order to deduce results, it is almost always and I may say always impossible to unravel the alterations and variations of concurrent causes, of influencing circumstances, and of a thousand essential considerations, so that we are necessitated to arrange together as similar a multitude of things very different, to arrive only at those preparatory results which are afterwards to lead to others which cannot fail to become entirely fantastical.

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Thus, it was not a deficiency of analytical prowess that forever barred the Liberal School from entering the "high heavens" of mutually determined equilibrium systems but keen insight into the methodological underpinnings of the social sciences. For the modern subjectivist, then, Schumpeter's epithet "unscientific" as applied to the French Liberal School translates into the shibboleth "unscientistic". View the discussion thread. Skip to main content.

Of the whole School, Schumpeter wrote: …owing partly to the practical turn of their minds and their too exclusive concentration upon economic policy, they lacked interest in purely scientific questions and were in consequence almost wholly sterile as regards analytic achievement.

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In , the great subjectivist revolutionary, William Stanley Jevons, wrote in the concluding paragraph of his pathbreaking work, The Theory of Political Economy , 15 There are valuable suggestions towards the improvementb of the science contained in the works of such writers as Senior, Cairnes, Macleod, Cliffe-Leslie, Hearn, Shadwell, not to mention a long series of French economists from Baudeau and Le Trosne down to Bastiat and Courcelle-Seneuil: but they are neglected in England, because the excellence of their works was not comprehended by David Ricardo, the two Mills, Professor Fawcett and others who have made the orthodox Ricardian school what it is.

If Amol Palekar can be interrupted in the middle of a sentence and asked to not speak, then this is nothing but a breakdown of public space and support in the arts. NGMA as an institution seems to be in the hands of bureaucrats without vision and no understanding of the art world. Recently, Bangalore NGMA director publicly insulted an audience full of artists for their resistance against the entry fee. This is probably the end of free public space for the arts in India.


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The incident with Mr. Palekar gives us all an opportunity to relook at how our cultural sector is funded and managed. Our cities need arts and culture to thrive. The best state run institutions have administrative and governance bodies that are inclusive, diversely representative and in close conversation with creative practitioners. Ideally they would have senior and emergent artist voices in their boards. Ensuring that the states cultural centers have salaries that are competitive and keep in mind the cost of living today for curators, facilitators, managers and administrators who have been trained or have earned relevant work experience is important to ensure that these spaces are vibrant and constantly strive to empower multiplicity of voices to be heard.

Bottom line is that the state of our democracy is exemplified by our cultural sector. We should nurture and encourage our rising practitioners, value and respect our senior practitioners and ensure that the freedom of creative expression is upheld and remains sacrosanct.

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