Scottish businessman, economist and popularizer of the Austrian School.
Born into a Glaswegian manufacturing family, William Smart's studies at the University of Glasgow were interrupted at the age of seventeen to take a job in his father's thread-works business. He would attempt to balance his studies and his business responsibilities, finally taking an MA in 1882. It was only in 1884, after his father's death and the sale of the firm, that Smart would have the freedom to concentrate on his intellectual interests.
Perhaps as a result of his first hand experience with the industrial mill system, Smart was early drawn to the Victorian romantic critics Thomas Carlyle and John Ruskin, carrying on a private correspondence with the latter and serving as the founding president of the Ruskin Society of Glasgow. But he was soon drawn to teaching economics, first as an assistant to Edward Caird at Glasgow, and then, in 1886, on his own at University College Dundee and Queen Margaret College, Glasgow.
It was around this time that Smart came across the Austrian economists and set it upon himself to introduce them to the English-speaking world.. His principal contribution was his famous 1891 monograph on the Austrian theory of value, while simultaneously translating Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk Capital and Interest (1890) and Positive Theory of Capital (1891) and supervising the translation of Friedrich von Wieser's Natural Value (1893). Smart's own Studies in Economics (1895) demonstrates his own mastery of the theory, applying Austrian perspective to bear on various economic issues of the day. He would soon move away from strict Austrianism, and in the 1910 edition of his 1891 primer, Smart tacked on an appendix which had a more Marshallian perspective.
Smart had taken up a lectureship at the University of Glasgow in 1892. In 1896, Smart applied and won the newly-created of the Adam Smith Professorship at the University of Glasgow. Although a popular teacher, Smart's chances seemed compromised by his opposition of the then-dominant Marshallian school and his peculiar policy ideas (esp. bimetallism). Nonetheless, Smart prevailed and retained the professorship, which we would retain until his death in 1915.
Outside his Austrian work, Smart's influence was primarily in the classroom and as a popular speaker and writer on policy issues, from free trade to the poor law reform (he served on the 1905 commission). His Economic Annals (1910, 1917) provide an excellent overview of the history of economic policy between 1801 and 1830, the formative years of the Classical school.
Major Works of William Smart
Resources on William Smart
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