3 - Die Vernunft des List. National economy and the critique of cosmopolitan economy  pp. 32-65

<i>Die Vernunft des List</i>. National economy and the critique of cosmopolitan economy

By Keith Tribe

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His object is to transplant economic theory (Staatswirtschaftslehre) from the lecture hall to the office, and in this he succeeds admirably. Such a book, making the most important parts of economics common property and illuminating austere thought processes with striking illustrations in a readable, conversational style, cannot fail also in Germany to find a larger public.

So wrote Friedrich List to the publisher J.G. Cotta in 1822, offering to translate Louis Say's Considerations sur l'industrie et la législation, a book which presented a series of readable summaries of recent economic treatises. Nothing came of this particular proposal to translate Say; but the project of rendering economic principles accessible to a wider popular audience was one which List later made his own. Unlike Louis Say, however, he eschewed straightforward summary of the principles advanced by contemporary economic writers. Instead, he developed a systematic critique of economic orthodoxies, a critique that turned on his contention that the intellectual legacy of Adam Smith was marked by an artificial divorce of politics from economics. As a consequence, he suggested, political distinctions and national interests failed to find a place in a doctrinal system that assumed a world ruled by general, universally valid economic laws. The ‘School’, as he dubbed the heirs of Adam Smith, therefore practised a Cosmopolitical Economy, rather than a true Political Economy which recognised the exigencies of national interests and political forces.