On Some Fundamental Issues in 21st Century Political Economy
Chapter 7: Adam Smith on Government and Change
Smith departs from Aristotle on the issues of the role of the government, and social change. Unlike Aristotle, Smith is not a wholehearted proponent of what we would now call the social welfare state. Also, he did not view change in general, or historical change in particular, as essentially circular. Rather, there is evolutionary change and development. These are big differences. 7.1 7.1.1 SMITH ON THE ROLE OF THE GOVERNMENT On Mercantilist Policies Smith’s position on the proper role of the government is complex.1 In the first place, Smith was clearly against many (or most) of the governmental rules and regulations in his time. He claimed these rules constituted a system, which he named the mercantilist system. Obviously, Smith opposed this system. As Warren Samuels and Steven Medema succinctly argued in a recent article, If government and law seem anathema in the Wealth of Nations, it is because of Smith’s opposition to the direction of certain activities of government at the time. The point of the Wealth of Nations is not that government is bad, but that government was doing bad things in promulgating mercantilist policy. This does not negate the centrality of government and law. (2005: 225, emphasis in original) 1 Perhaps somewhat paradoxically, I think the complexity of his argument, both here and elsewhere, is obscured by the clarity of his writing style and the smoothness of his exposition. Schumpeter, for one, was taken in by this, actually arguing that ‘He [Smith] never moved above the heads of...
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
Elgaronline requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals. Please login through your library system or with your personal username and password on the homepage.
Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/ extracts and download selected front matter and introductory chapters for personal use.
Your library may not have purchased all subject areas. If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.