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Adam Smith

Adam Smith was a Scottish political philosopher and economist, considered one of the forefathers of classical economics and a pioneer of the study of political economy. Smith graduated from Balliol College at Oxford, and later served as the chair of moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow. He departed from his academic position after 12 years to tutor the Duke of Bucchleuch in Switzerland. His two major works, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, and The Theory of Moral Sentiments, were composed after he left the service of the Duke on a lifetime pension.

The former work, considered his magnum opus, is often referred to by its abridged title The Wealth of Nations. It was first published in 1776, the same year as the American Declaration of Independence, and is considered a foundational text in modern economic theory. It is noted for its influence on the American founding fathers James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson, and upon the economic theories of Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes, and Milton Friedman.

The latter work expressed Smith’s deep interest in moral philosophy, and expanded upon the philosophical, juridical and ethical framework of his earlier work. While known primarily as an economist today, Smith’s work and interests lay primarily in the fields of theology, jurisprudence, and moral philosophy.

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Rogge, Adam Smith: 1776-1976

by Benjamin Rogge on Dec 1, 1976

“The man of system…is often so enamoured with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of government, that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from…it.”

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Was Adam Smith a Libertarian?

by Paul Mueller on Mar 25, 2015

Mueller introduces a series of posts about Adam Smith, giving a broad overview of his thought and situating him relative to other thinkers.

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Adam Smith’s Ethics: Sympathy

by Paul Mueller on Aug 25, 2015

Adam Smith’s ethical system is centered around the human capacity to put ourselves in another’s place.

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Adam Smith’s Ethics: Happiness

by Paul Mueller on Oct 20, 2015

While Smith thought the state should be restricted to questions of commutative justice, he didn’t think other aspects of ethics were merely matters of taste.

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The Other Adam Smith, Part 4

by George H. Smith on Oct 15, 2013

George Smith explores Adam Smith’s views on Columbus, smuggling, and education.

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The Other Adam Smith, Part 3

by George H. Smith on Oct 8, 2013

George Smith discusses Adam Smith’s views on sin taxes and slavery.

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The Other Adam Smith, Part 1

by George H. Smith on Sep 24, 2013

Smith explains what Adam Smith meant by the “invisible hand” and how he used this explanatory method throughout his writings.

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The Other Adam Smith, Part 2

by George H. Smith on Oct 1, 2013

George Smith discusses some of Adam Smith’s social, political, and moral objections to governmental interference in the economy, as found in the Wealth of Nations.

Free Thoughts

The Ideas of Adam Smith

featuring Paul Mueller, Aaron Ross Powell, and Trevor Burrus on Apr 29, 2016

Paul D. Mueller joins us for a discussion on the life and ideas of the Scottish Enlightenment philosopher and pioneer of economic theory, Adam Smith.

Around the Web

Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life

featuring James R. Otteson, John Samples, and Nicholas Phillipson on Jan 12, 2011

Phillipson reconstructs Adam Smith’s intellectual ancestry and formation, of which he gives a radically new and convincing account.

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The Other Adam Smith, Part 5

by George H. Smith on Oct 22, 2013

George Smith discusses Adam Smith’s views on a standing army and his arguments for competition in education.

Excursions

The Other Adam Smith, Part 1

featuring George H. Smith on May 25, 2016

George H. Smith explains what Adam Smith meant by the “invisible hand” and how he used this explanatory method throughout his writings.

Excursions

The Other Adam Smith, Part 2

featuring George H. Smith on Jun 1, 2016

George H. Smith discusses Adam Smith’s social, political, and moral objections to governmental interference in the economy as found in the Wealth of Nations.

Excursions

The Other Adam Smith, Part 3

featuring George H. Smith on Jun 8, 2016

George Smith discusses Adam Smith’s views on sin taxes and slavery.

Excursions

The Other Adam Smith, Part 4

featuring George H. Smith on Jun 15, 2016

George Smith explores Adam Smith’s views on Columbus, smuggling, and education.

Excursions

The Other Adam Smith, Part 5

featuring George H. Smith on Jun 22, 2016

George H. Smith discusses Adam Smith’s views on a standing army and his arguments for competition in education.