Adam Smith: Philosopher and Founding Father of Modern Economics

Adam Smith (1723-1790) was a Scottish economist and philosopher who is by many considered to be the father of modern economics. His main works on ethics (The Theory of Moral Sentiments, 1759) and economics (An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 1776) have become classics. On this page you can find books, articles, videos and online resources to learn more about his work and the relevance of his ideas for contemporary debates about free markets, capitalism, business and economics.

the theory of moral sentiments - cover
cover the wealth of nations

How do these two major works of Adam Smith – published almost two decades apart – relate? In other words: what was his view on the relationship between ethics and economics? This is known as ‘the Adam Smith problem’. In the interview above prof. Johan Graafland, economist and business ethicist, discusses this issue. He also addresses the role that human nature plays in market mechanisms and Smith’s famous concept of the ‘invisible hand‘ that seems to direct the economy.

Introduction Videos

An introduction video to each of the books by Lynne Kiesling, an associate professor in economics and associate director of the Purdue University Research Center in Economics:

Other Online Resources

Articles & Blogs

Hand-picked for you from around the web + original articles published just on the Moral Markets site

Adam Smith in Theological Perspective

“A new turn to religion in Smith studies helps provide a bertter understanding of the great Scottish philosopher and political economist than has traditionally been on offer. […] Rather than providing a close textual reading and explication of a particular passage or a comprehensive survey of religious and theological themes in Smith’s work, this essay sets the stage for a broad theological understanding of Smith.”

The Case for Avoiding Price Controls in Times of Crisis: They Don’t Work

“Price control is an ancient form of regulation. Adam Smith was the first to criticise price regulation from an economics perspective, in his famous book The Wealth of Nations. Smith’s insight – which forms the basis of modern economists’ views of price control – was that attempts to arrest price increases during periods of scarcity (due to war or drought) are not helpful and lead to famine. Freezing price changes – or seeking to reduce prices below market-determined levels – is likely to maintain demand at levels which supply cannot meet.”

How Adam Smith Became a (Surprising) Hero to Conservative Economists

“Whatever your political leanings, one thing is clear: Smith speaks on both sides of a longstanding debate about the fundamental values of modern market-oriented society. But these arguments over Smith’s ideas and identity are not new. His complicated reputation today is the consequence of a long history of fighting to claim his intellectual authority.”

Adam Smith: His Life, Thought, and Legacy (2016) – New on Our Bookshelf

“These short essays range from studying the background of Smith’s works to elaborating his views on economics, politics, ethics, religion, social vision, morality, and philosophy. There are thirty-two separate chapters, each written by a scholar well-acquainted with Smith and his works”, say Paul Mueller in his review for the Economic History Association.

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