Part 5: The Role of Authority

video political economy jurisprudence justice education cobra effect role of government unintended consequences public works entrepreneurship


Questions for Further Thought and Discussion:

1. What is the “cobra effect?” Economists often refer to this effect simply as unintended consequences. What other examples can you think of that illustrate this effect? How might these effects be mitigated?

2. Jurisprudence is a less common word today. The narrator tells us by jurisprudence, Smith meant “rules by which civil government ought to be directed.” What does it mean to you today?

3. What are the primary roles of government, according to Smith? To what extent do nations abide by these roles today? Explain.

4. What does it mean to think of society as a “mechanism,” as the narrator describes the French Enlightenment thinkers? What’s wrong with thinking of society in this way?

5. What kind of protection do entrepreneurs like Manilla’s train track taxis deserve? How can the governing body ensure enough room for innovation while still offering protection to its people?

6. What are the criteria Smith thought necessary to justify public works? How reasonable do you think these criteria are? 

7. How is an educated public a benefit to society? How much education did Smith think needed to be provided to ensure this? How much do you think is necessary today, and why?

8. What responsibilities do you have to yourself with regard to justice, according to Smith? Do you find this reasonable? Why or why not?