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What’s Natural about Adam Smith’s Natural Liberty?

Dan Klein and Erik Matson for AdamSmithWorksThe first essay in our NEW series takes a close look at Adam Smith's language and the implications of those choices for understanding him and the world he is describing. Smith often said simply “liberty” but sometimes “natural liberty.” Why did Smith sometimes say “natural liberty”? Maybe he wanted to highlight its “naturalness.” That prompts the question: What is “natural” about Smith’s “natural liberty”?

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Adam Smith and “Market Failure” Fixers

Jason Briggeman for AdamSmithWorksSmith did not intend for us to view the system of natural liberty as an ideal system; he himself advocated some interventions...Some government actions sacrifice the ordinary laws of justice to an idea of public utility, and some of those actions ought to be taken.February 16, 2022

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Activity: Man of System

Contrast the famous "man of system" passage, in which Smith criticizes a certain type of public thinker, with the "spontaneous order" of markets to spark discussion about the organization of different types of economies.

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Activity: Men of public spirit

Use Adam Smith's discussion of men "whose public spirit is prompted altogether by humanity and benevolence" as a starting point to discuss civil government and how to approach difficult public policy problems.

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