Adam Smith is perhaps the most misunderstood and pigeonholed thinker in the Western tradition.
Recently, Jack Russell Weinstein’s Adam Smith’s Pluralism (see my review here) spurred me to think more carefully about my own personal distortions of Smith’s work. It is not uncommon to boil down the Scottish philosopher’s ideas into a handful of choice labels: laissez-faire, self-interest, the Invisible Hand, and the division of labor. These labels, in turn, are distorted by a haze of politicized connotation, completely blurring Smith’s complexities from our vision.
Part of this epidemic of ignorance stems from a neglect of one of Smith’s books The Theory of Moral Sentiments. I often have wondered what would happen if we banned the reading ofThe Wealth of Nations until a person has read through the Sentiments. Continue reading