Adam Smith as Political Economist

A selection of books and journal articles to explore Adam Smith's work in political economy.

December 12, 2019
Adam Smith the Economist: Bibliography
-Jacob Viner, Adam Smith and Laissez-Faire (Journal of Political Economy, 1927). This paper is one of the first systematic explorations of Adam Smith’s contributions to economics, among other fields. Viner highlights how Smith’s vast knowledge of many topics solidified into his economic thinking

-Paul Mahoney, Adam Smith, Prophet of Law and Economics (Journal of Legal Studies, 2017). Mahoney highlights and discusses Smith’s contributions to the modern field of law and economics. In particular, Mahoney discusses several key insights of Smith which would be rediscovered by Gordon Tullock among others

-Vernon Smith, The Two Faces of Adam Smith (Southern Economic Journal, 1998). Vernon Smith discusses the supposed “Adam Smith Problem” (that Wealth of Nations supposes man to be selfish and Theory of Moral Sentiments supposes man to be sympathetic). He argues there is no Adam Smith Problem when one distinguishes between impersonal market exchange and personal exchange. He is supported by experimental evidence.1

-Robert Heilbroner, The Worldly Philosophers (Touchstone, 1999). Heilbroner has a chapter in this book dedicated to Adam Smith, the times that influenced his writings, and how the ideas were dispersed and received in the years following the publication of The Wealth of Nations.

-Todd Buchholz, New Ideas from Dead Economists (Plume, 2007). Buchholz summarizes the main influences on Adam Smith and his writings, both in terms of other Enlightenment thinkers and the scientific revolution going on around him at the time. Further, Buchholz highlights how Adam Smith’s ideas fit into modern economic and political discourse.

-Joseph Schumpeter, History of Economic Analysis (Oxford University Press 1996). Schumpter discusses Smith’s contributions to economic analysis by tying his various writings to later economists’ thoughts. Smith is discussed explicitly in this book and his contributions to other thinkers and fields are discussed throughout.

-Emma Rothschild and Amartya Sen, Adam Smith’s Economics (The Cambridge Companion to Adam Smith, 2006, edited by Knud Haakonssen). Rothschild and Sen highlight the economic reasoning that appears in Smith beyond just the Wealth of Nations. They show how Smith had been thinking about the issues he discusses in Wealth of Nations for years before its publication.

-Ronald Coase Adam Smith’s View of Man (Journal of Law & Economics, 1976). Coase expands on how he sees Smith’s discussion of Man and how that helps us better understand Smith’s economics.

-Samuel-Pierre Dupont de Nemours Some Comments on the Points of Agreement and Disagreement between Smith and Tugrot (Econ Journal Watch, 2011, Frederic Sautet trans.). This is a contemporary’s reaction to Adam Smith and the reception of Smith’s ideas in France. Smith was both influenced by and critical of French thinkers in the Wealth of Nations and Dupont’s discussion helps place Smith in the context of the time. Further, the introduction written by Daniel Klein and Frederic Sautet provides valuable insight into this episode.

  1. This paper has some technical aspects to it, but nothing overwhelming and the reader could ignore them completely and still enjoy the paper.

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