In this episode of Classics of Liberty, Caleb O. Brown reads two selections from the works of Adam Smith: “The Man of System” from The Theory of Moral Sentiments and “Labor and Commerce” from The Wealth of Nations.
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.
Caleb O. Brown is the director of multimedia at the Cato Institute, where he has hosted the Cato Daily Podcast since 2007 and CatoAudio since 2008.