The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Smith, Adam (1723–1790)

  • Andrew S. Skinner
Reference work entry


Smith’s conception of ‘economic man’ was primarily a product of his moral philosophy. While defending the motive of self-interest against Hutcheson’s claim that it could never be virtuous, he emphasized that self-interested actions take place within a social setting and that humanity is generally motivated by a desire for approbation. Far from an advocate of laissez-faire, Smith envisaged a broad, open- ended agenda of government to rectify market failure, including education to offset the atomizing effects of urbanization. His prowess arguably rests on his sophisticated grasp of the economic process as opposed to any outstanding analytical or conceptual competence.


Analogy Barriers to entry Burke, E. Cannan, E. Capital accumulation Carmichael, G. Circular flow Circulating capital City and economic development Civic humanism Civil society Division of labour Economic freedom Economic man Equilibrium Exchange economy Exchange value versus use value Ferguson, A. Fixed capital Human capital Hume, D. Hutcheson, F. Impartial spectator Invisible hand Justice Kames, Lord Labour theory of value Mandeville, B. Market failure Mercantilism Mill, J.S. Millar, J. Money Monopoly Natural price Net advantages Poor Law, old Physiocracy Price determination Productive and unproductive labour Profit Property Public works Pufendorf, S. von Quesnay, F. Quit-rent system Rate of exchange Rate of profit Robertson, W. Rules of behaviour Selfinterest Slavery Smith, A. Special interests Specie-flow mechanism Stages theory of history Stationary state Steuart, Sir J. Stewart, D. Structural unemployment Subsistence wage System of natural liberty Tableau économique Tax farming Turgot, A.R.J. Use value versus exchange value Value Wages fund 

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew S. Skinner
    • 1
  1. 1.