Adam Smith and Jurisprudence

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

December 16, 2019

-Knud Haakonssen, The Science of a Legislator: The Natural Jurisprudence of  David Hume and Adam Smith (Cambridge University Press, 1981). Haakonssen develops Adam Smith’s theory of natural jurisprudence in light of, and in response to, David Hume’s theory of justice. He does this by tying together Smith’s underlying jurisprudence in Wealth of Nations, Theory of Moral Sentiments, and his Lectures on Jurisprudence.

-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.

-Ronald Meek, New Light on Adam Smith’s Glasgow Lectures on Jurisprudence (History of Political Economy, 1976). Published after the discovery of a different edition of Smith’s Lectures on Jurisprudence, this essay details the development of Smith’s jurisprudence thought and its role in his moral and political philosophies

-Daniel Klein, Commutative, Distributive, and Estimative Justice in Adam Smith (Adam Smith Review, Forthcoming). No discussion of jurisprudence can be complete without an understanding of Adam Smith’s conception of justice. Klein’s article is the most in-depth on this matter and links the concept of justice to Smith’s views on the different roles of the jural superior and the jural inferior.

-Barry Weingast, Adam Smith’s Jurisprudence (2017). Weingast links Smith’s Lectures on Jurisprudence to his theory of institutional development in the Wealth of Nations and shows how understanding Smith’s jurisprudence is necessary to understand his economics.

-Douglas Irwin, Adam Smith’s “Tolerable Administration of Justice” and the Wealth of Nations (National Bureau of Economic Research, 2014). Irwin links Smith’s discussion on jurisprudence to his theory of the division of labor and development of nations.

-C. F. Bastable, Adam Smith’s Lectures on “Jurisprudence”, (Hermathena, 1898). Published shortly after Edward Cannan’s 1896 initial publication of the Lectures on Jurisprudence, Bastable details how the discovery of these lecture notes fundamentally changed the understanding of Smith’s economic ideas from borrowing heavily from the French economists to being in conversation with them and potentially influencing them.

-Jeffrey Young, Natural Jurisprudence and the Theory of Value in Adam Smith (History of Political Economy, 1995). Young develops Smith’s jurisprudence in the context of its times, detailing the influence of Hutcheson, Hume, and others on Smith’s thoughts in jurisprudence and economics.

-Jerry Evensky, The Role of Law in Adam Smith’s Moral Philosophy: Natural Jurisprudence and Utility (in The Role of Law in Adam Smith's Moral Philosophy: Natural Jurisprudence and Utility, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1994). Evensky discusses how Smith wrote about both the ideal and the real world in his moral philosophy and the role law and jurisprudence played in the real world in an effort to better approximate the ideal.

-Peter Stein, Adam Smith’s Jurisprudence – Between Morality and Economics (Cornell Law Review, 1979). Stein uses the Lectures on Jurisprudence to bridge the gap between the Theory of Moral Sentiments and Wealth of Nations, solving the so-called “Adam Smith Problem.”