By Jeffrey T. Young
Economics as a Moral Science; The Political Economy of Adam Smith proposes new links between the moral theories and the economics of the first articulator of capitalism, arguing that moral questions lie at the heart of positive and normative economic analysis. Examines the methodology and philosophy of Smith's (1723-90) work, questions whether economics can or should be a value-free science, and shows how economics can be a useful tool in solving moral problems. Considers the concept of self- interest, the formation of moral values by individuals and society, the ethical effects of commercial society on the quality of life, justice, fairness, natural liberty, distributive equity, and the common good. Addressed to economists and philosophers. Much of the material has been previously published.
Clifford A. Bates on Review of Political Economy wrote:
"According to Young, Smith’s concept of economics as a moral science shows that a close relationship existed between his moral philosophy and economics. Furthermore, as Young observes, there was a logical flow to the development of his understanding of political economy: first moral philosophy, then jurisprudence, and finally political economy. The progression is from a higher to a lower level of abstraction, passing from moral philosophy to economics through jurisprudence. In Smith’s view, morals and economics, despite having their own treatises and “moments,” each develop in relation to the other. In fact, Young concedes that his economics took shape in an intellectual climate before the divorce of positive from normative economics. [...] Readers of this journal will profit from Young’s book because it shows how one outstanding thinker understood the relationship between economics and morality."
"While Young makes many interesting and thought-provoking points about the relationship between the two prongs of Smith’s work, his attempt to address the larger question leads him into discussions of philosophical questions, especially the fact-value distinction, and the naturalistic fallacy. But he seems unaware of the vast range of recent scholarship on these issues [...]. Because Young seems to be unaware of the aforementioned scholars and their research, what he says about the nature of the tension between fact and values in the social sciences comes across as rather dated. Young does offer some interesting insights on aspects of Smith’s political economy and moral philosophy. His examination of the ‘natural price’ tradition merits further attention, as does his treatment of Smith’s view of distributive justice. Yet the attempt to bring these dispersed and valuable insights together fails. And it fails from the start of the book because of the way Young frames the questions of what makes a moral science and how economics can be considered one."