| Peter Klein |
What are your favorite famous misquotes in social science? E.g., everybody knows Lord Acton’s dictum: “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Except he actually wrote “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Likewise, Adam Smith didn’t say that the merchant is led “as if by an invisible hand” to promote an end not his intention; he said the merchant “is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand. . . .” And, to get to the really deep thinkers, Gordon Gekko didn’t say “greed is good,” but “greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. . . .” I love you, man!
On a related note, David Levy and Sandra Peart explain that Thomas Carlyle’s description of economics as the “dismal science” had nothing to do with Malthusian overpopulation. Carlyle actually despised the economists because they supported the emancipation of slaves and believed, in Levy and Peart’s words, “it was institutions, not race, that explained why some nations were rich and others poor.”