Year 12 economics students have once again voted for Adam Smith as the greatest of all economists. In a recent essay, students were asked to discuss the merits of Adam Smith, Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes and Karl Marx in terms of their contribution to what unkind critics have described as the ‘dismal science’ and their impact on the wider world across the generations.
It is always good to see such creativity, critical thinking and historical perspective mingling together to produce work that gets to the heart of the important issues. The result? Adam Smith, 55%; John Maynard Keynes, 39%; Karl Marx, 4%. Freidrich Hayek is in the relegation zone with just 2% of the votes. Students seem very much to like the idea that Smith presents a socio-economic model that extends beyond extolling the virtues of wealth creation, competition, free trade and individual endeavour to discussing much deeper issues. Smith saw economic activity as the basis for a fairer, more ‘moral’ world, where individual citizens and owners of capital could recognise their reciprocal duty to each other. This was to be achieved not through the usual set of oppressive taxes and regulation, but by the state encouraging those who have to give to those with less.
Students also agreed with Smith on the importance of education: not just for individual benefit, but as the cornerstone to a happier and more just society. Education therefore was not only the way to give opportunity to the enterprising and diligent but as the route to allowing everyone the chance to enjoy a more fulfilling and worthwhile private life. Seeing the economy through the eyes of Smith (even if you disagree with his assumptions and prescriptions) we recognise the possibility that intellectual enquiry can allow us to make our world a better place!
There were a large number of top-level essayists on this topic, but amongst a very strong field Djimon, Biranavan, Arsh, Devean and Reyansh stand out as worthy of particular praise.