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Enzo Rossi

Interesting. Necessity may work for explaining something like the division of labour. Now it seems to me that Smith also uses a similar type of explanation for other phenomena, notably the origin of money. But how do you square this notion of necessity with the observation made by David Graeber (among others) that the historical and anthropological record shows that the origin of money was not a solution to the problem of the simultaneity of needs? If nothing else, conjectural history is a better insurance against future empirical work. Or do you mean necessity just as "this state of affairs had to obtain, no matter how, and here's a simple conjecture of how it may or may not have in fact obtained"? Outcome necessity rather than process necessity, if you like. That would seem to square your view with Stewart's.

Just some idle thoughts, jotted down in haste -- I'm no expert on any of this.

Eric Schliesser

A distinction between outcome and process necessity might be useful here. But before I respond, what is process necessity?
In the original post I refer and link to Smith's chapter on the origin of money, so we agree that Smith is using a similar type of explanation.
Graeber's presentation of Smith is subtly misleading (despite the copious quotation) in part by conflating Smith with later text-book views and recent popular self-presentations of economics (in order to create a shared founding myth of the discipline of economics). (Graeber is misleading in other ways, too, about Smith.)
I don't think that Smith's account of the origin of money claims that it is a solution to the (a?) problem of the simultaneity of needs. If it solves a problem in Smith (and Graeber is partially right about this) it is more about solving a problem of exchange.

Enzo Rossi

Sorry for being slow in replying. I guess what I had in mind is, very roughly, something like this.

- Outcome necessity = B at Tx iff A at Tx-n. (And say nothing about events in the interval between Tx-n and Tx).

- Process necessity = D at T4 iff C at T3, B at T2, A at T1. (Where there are no relevant intervals between those integers).

So on this account process necessity includes outcome necessity, though I suppose one could tease them apart if the final step in the process is taken to be random or non causal or something like that. And one could also make the iff an if, etc.

You're probably right about Graeber. He certainly bends the classics he talks about. But his point about economics textbooks stands. The economics profession arguably has bet Smith out of shape.

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