I have written my rebuttal of classical and neo-classical economics in the context of sustainability elsewhere.
Reinterpreting Adam Smith
Adam Smith, the father of economics, saw the threat at the Edinburg Customs House, ala India and China, from the London-based imperial hegemon. Smith fiercely favored his native Scotland over the economic aggressor, England. He understood that Scotland had been early absorbed as a colony into the British Empire, as had Wales and Ireland, for the enrichment of the hegemon of his day.
Sure, Smith stood for liberty, but actually from the joint-stock globalized corporations set upon his native land to rich the Other. Smith also saw the Invisible Hand within his village, as the small shop owners provided necessities, face-to-face, within the confines of the comfortable community that Smith cherished.
By the way, Smith had already invented the lasting image of the Invisible Hand, but had done so in The Theory of Moral Sentiment, published more than a decade before The Wealth of Nations. The Invisible Hand, however, was the hand of God guiding the world of men and women.
My interpretation of Adam Smith transforms his appropriation as a champion of unfettered capitalism as an advocate of freedom from external ties. As such, his thought comports to level two, the commerce and community, of my Braudel-Polanyi Synthesis.
Malthus the Eugenicist
Malthus attempted to bring theoretical rigor and empirical content to build a class-based ideology in which the good bourgeois should refrain from supporting the poor, who would simply multiply, lowering the stanards of civilization based on folks like him and his family. Malthus’s model:
d(food) < d(pop) = crash, where d = change, pop = population, and crash, or overshoot, is still with us
Many have attributed the Darwin’s notion of survival of the fittest to Dawwin’s reading of Malthus. So, Malthus was not a Social Darwinist, rather Darwin was, ironically.
Ricardo and Land Rents
Ricardo saw a crisis in land-based capitalism as monetary wealth and land accrued to land owners as this model:
rent ==> marginal land ==> loss of productivity ===> crash w peasants as neutered;
Henry George: Tax Land, not Improvements
Henry George, a mainstay in the US progressive era, took core ideas from Ricardo and adapted them to a policy of taxation of land over improvements that should not be abandoned. Tax land value, not the worth of the improvements. Doing so redistributes wealth at the local level, discourages speculation, and quickens capital investment in communities. Bravo!
Marx absorbed the Ricardian model into industrial capitalism with working class as agent and capital as land and capitalists equivalent to the unproductive land owners ripping off land. Engels and Lenin added to Marx but more aggressively.
Go read Schumpeter, the chamion of contemporary capitalism. Schumpeter, K fails due to its success in wiping out poverty by 1995, such that complacency destroys risk-taking of K. However, creative disruptions to the rescue per oligopoly, taken up by Baumol.
Me: EG slides w productivity + inequality + crony capitalism neglects CCIR, where interest rates soar and SOC crowds out investment, thus growth feedback per consumption and growing reactionary movement.
Marx? I do not enjoy reading Marx, but glean much such as commodification from Marx. I respect his mission and his corpus, much of which I have read. Marxism as a heavy and rigid ideology distracts us.