Thursday Dec 07, 2023

Adam Smith and Why He Matters Today

Are you a student who believes in free markets, smaller government, and individual liberty? Perhaps you’ve studied the works of Freidrich Hayek, Adam Smith, or Jonathan Haidt. If this sounds like you, the CIS has an exciting opportunity for you to meet and network with other like-minded people from Australia and New Zealand. Click here to learn more. 

Essays on the relevance of Smith after 300 years.

Adam Smith, the Scottish philosopher and economist, is one of the most significant figures to have emerged from what came to be known as ‘the Scottish Enlightenment’. His work across a number of disciplines changed the way people thought about economic theory and the field of what is now known as ‘political science’.

Smith was superbly educated in moral philosophy, ancient philosophy, jurisprudence and natural theology — at a time when science and religion were regarded as complementary rather than antagonistic.

In developing a moral philosophy that informed a deeper understanding of human interaction, Smith laid the foundation for a thorough exposition of the human practices of commerce and government. By encouraging use of our capacity for imagination, Smith argued that every member of a civil society needed to put themselves in the shoes of others and to see matters as others see them. For Smith, imagination — and the fostering of sympathy — was the key to our ability to engage in social and commercial exchange.

Adam Smith is one of the intellectual pillars of the Centre for Independent Studies. Informed by the breadth of Smith’s vision, the CIS has always been committed to investigating the nature of society and has argued that the exercise of civic responsibility by individual citizens is every bit as important to the health of society as the policies delivered by government.

This year marks the 300th anniversary of Smith’s birth, but his ideas and critical insights retain their importance today for contemporary Australia. In this Occasional Paper, Professor Paul Oslington and Dr David Hart, two distinguished Australian scholars, reflect both on the work of Smith and on the lessons he can teach us today.

Paul Oslington introduces Adam Smith and sets his work in the context of the intellectual world in which Smith formulated his ideas; he then looks at the thorny issue of rent seeking in modern Australia through the prism of Smith’s thought. At time when many are disillusioned with the processes of government, David Hart’s evaluation of Smith’s thought concerning the business of politics is especially timely.

I am delighted that Professor Oslington and Dr Hart have contributed these essays to mark the anniversary. In doing so, they allow the CIS to honour the vast intellectual contribution that Smith continues to make to the very fabric of contemporary Western society.

Peter Kurti, Director – Culture, Prosperity & Civil Society program.

Read the essays here

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