On March 13th, 2007, the Bank of England issued a new series of bank notes. On the £20 note Adam Smith, the Scottish founder of the discipline of economics, replaced the composer Edward Elgar. If portraits on bank notes tell us anything about the spirit of their time, this seems to be a case in point. Smith’s portrait seems appropriate for a period in which the optimism about efficient free markets had reached a peak. But the cliché of who Adam Smith is, and the 18th-century scholar whom one encounters when turning to his writings in their entirety, are at a considerable distance. Of course it would be foolish to deny that Smith was an economist, if only because defining …

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