A post on the Cobden Centre blog (see below) notes the impending publication of a condensed version of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations by Eamonn Butler. [Update: The PDF version is already online for free, here.]
By Dr Tim Evans, on 4 August 11
Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations is without doubt one of the most important books ever written. For it recognised that economic specialisation and cooperation are the keys to improving living standards. However, in its original form, with its somewhat dense and archaic language, it is often inaccessible to modern readers.
That is why this new condensed version is so important and welcome. Written by Dr. Eamonn Butler and to be formally launched by the Adam Smith Institute at this event, it is a must read for anyone who has not read Smith but is interested in economics, philosophy and the history of ideas. Significantly, the new book also contains a primer on The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith’s other great work that explores the nature of ethics.
While I am about it, I would also suggest that readers consider purchasing three other excellent and recently published introductory books from the ASI. For together, Dr. Madsen Pirie’s ‘Freedom 101‘, Dr. Richard Wellings’s ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Liberty‘, and Dr. Eamonn Butler’s ‘Austrian Economics – A Primer’ make rather sound introductory pack – particularly for young scholars.
I had not heard of the three introductory works mentioned at the end of Evans’s post, but to my pleasant surprise they are all available in free PDF download. From a quick skim of them they seem to be excellent resources.
I was also pleasantly surprised at the Adam Smith Institute’s “open access” policy announced on the copyright page of each of these three works:
The Adam Smith Institute has an open access policy. Copyright remains with the copyright holder, but users may download, save, and distribute this work in any format provided: (1) that the Adam Smith Institute is cited; (2) that the web address adamsmith.org is published together with a prominent copy of this notice; (3) the text is used in full without amendment [extracts may be used for criticism or review]; (4) the work is not re–sold; (5) the link for any online use is sent to email@example.com.
I should perhaps not be too surprised as ASI had a previous post by Jock Coats arguing against patent and copyright. ((Intellectual property: an unnecessary evil.)) I doubt ASI is against copyright but perhaps they are moving a bit in this direction, as evidenced by their allowing the Coats post and their open access policy. I assume the new Wealth of Nations condensation will also be made available in free PDF download per this policy [update: the PDF is available already].
ASI is to be commended for moving towards and open-access position. The Mises Institute has also adopted a very open-access approach, which has been wildly successful. ((See Doug French, “The Intellectual Revolution Is in Process“; Jeffrey Tucker, “A Theory of Open” and “up with iTunes U“; Gary North, “A Free Week-Long Economics Seminar”; and Kinsella, “Fifteen Minutes that Changed Libertarian Publishing“.)) However, the Mises Institute had adopted, for the most part, the Creative Commons Attribution-Only license as the least restrictive, effective license available.
The open access policy of ASI, however, could be improved, as it is not really that open: in clause (3) they effectively prevent remixing and derivative works; and in clause (4) they prohibit commercial use. This is more or less equivalent to a CC-BY-ND-NC license (“BY” means you have to give attribution–say who it’s “by”; ND means no derivative works; NC means no commerical use). What is wrong with people including parts of a publication in their own work, or publishing only an excerpt–or even selling it? How does it harm ASI or getting its message out if someone sells a republished version of the work? Why would especially a pro-fee market group be averse to others making money?
Nina Paley has criticized the “free culture” advocates for having similar limitations. ((See Nina Paley: Culture is Anti-Rivalrousand Nina Paley’s “Rantifesto”: Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?.)) Paley and some others tend to use -SA (share alike; copyleft) instead of merely -BY; which one is preferable is debatable–we are talking second bests here. I prefer -BY but understand why others think -SA is preferable. CC0 would be even better in my mind, but I am not confident it is enforceable. ((I discuss some of this in Copyright is very sticky!))
I would urge ASI, if it wants to have a real free culture (open access) policy, to consider using CC-BY and/or -SA, but not -ND or -NC, or, equivalently, dropping clauses (3) and (4)–as well as items (1), (2), and (5).