DeLong on Duncan Foley’s Adam’s Fallacy

Brad DeLong takes exception to Duncan Foley’s new book, Adam’s Fallacy: A Guide to Economic Theology.

It must be a theology book, for Duncan Foley has worked a miracle, a dark miracle. He has created in me–me! J. Bradford DeLong!!–something that I thought would never happen: the desire to say something good about Jean-Baptiste Say.

Foley has done this with a book that claims that Adam Smith holds to a:

P. 3: moral fallacy… urges us to accept direct and concrete evil in order that indirect and abstract good may come of it… [while] neither Smith nor any of his successors has been able to demonstrate rigorously and robustly [how]…. Smith’s rationalization… requires… wholesale denial of the real costs of capitalist development…

Let’s get this clear. Foley thinks that it is immoral to weigh “indirect and abstract” goods that come from capitalist development against “direct and concrete costs”: that doing so is “wholesale denial of the real costs of capitalist development.” That is what Foley calls “Adam[ Smith]’s Fallacy.”