Saving Adam Smith: A Tale of Wealth, Transformation, and Virtue

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"If Adam Smith returned to life, would he admire the global capitalist system that honors him or would he be horrified?" "The Wealth of Nations is Smith's most popular work, but Smith himself revered his theory of Moral Sentiments, an unread classic that searches for the wellsprings of human happiness and virtue. There is virtue in markets, yet Adam Smith would have been appalled by a world that holds wealth above human connections, a world of markets unsupported by an underlying moral fabric ... a world like ours." And so it is in Jonathan B.
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Overview

"If Adam Smith returned to life, would he admire the global capitalist system that honors him or would he be horrified?" "The Wealth of Nations is Smith's most popular work, but Smith himself revered his theory of Moral Sentiments, an unread classic that searches for the wellsprings of human happiness and virtue. There is virtue in markets, yet Adam Smith would have been appalled by a world that holds wealth above human connections, a world of markets unsupported by an underlying moral fabric ... a world like ours." And so it is in Jonathan B. Wight's Saving Adam Smith, a wondrous imagining in which Adam Smith stands before us today - generous, incisive, committed, and unflinchingly honest. As Smith was a revelation to his contemporaries, so he is to us: a man whose true message - obscured by centuries of misinformation and caricature - has never been more vital for sustaining business and society.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781417633234
  • Publisher: San Val
  • Publication date: 10/28/2001
  • Format: Library Binding

Meet the Author

JONATHAN B. WIGHT is Associate Professor of Economics and International Studies in the Robins School of Business, University of Richmond, where he has won Outstanding Teaching and Outstanding Service Awards.

Born in Washington, D.C., he spent his youth in Africa and Latin America. He earned a B.A. from Duke University and a Ph.D. in economics at Vanderbilt University, where he was a Danforth Fellow. His paper, "A Little Adam Smith is a Dangerous Thing," received the 2001 Paxton Award for Outstanding Paper presented by the International Association of Torch Clubs. Other articles on Smith include, "Will the Real Adam Smith Please Stand Up? Teaching Social Economics in the Principles Course," and "The Rise of Adam Smith: Articles and Citations, 1970-97." In other research he co-authored a book on health care financing and numerous articles on international economic development.

Editorial Advisor: Russell Roberts, author of The Choice and The Invisible Heart

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Read an Excerpt

Preface

As one of the greatest minds of the Enlightenment, Adam Smith wrote with sharpness and wit across a spectrum of disciplines—the arts, natural sciences, law, politics, and economics (the latter subject firmly part and parcel of moral philosophy). Smith worked to develop a system of thought that would unify the branches of "human" science, specifically in the realm of markets and morals. This unifying moral vision is a long-neglected area for economists—and has become increasingly important with the intensifying debate about globalization. As emerging market economies throw off old structures, they are discovering they may not have in place the balancing social and institutional structures that developed democracies take for granted. Put simply, Adam Smith would not be pleased if wealth were uncoupled from its moral foundations. What are the practical implications of Smith's ideas, one wonders, for the world of business today?

Saving Adam Smith tackles this issue as a fanciful work of "academic" fiction. In it, the "father" of economics introduces readers to the global economy and to the moral roots that sustain it. International trade and specialization are the cornerstones through which businesses create wealth, but Smith gives a powerful warning: free society and markets are threatened by a disregard for fundamentals—principally, a concern for justice and the cultivation of virtue. These are essential elements if a commercial system is to be made sustainable over the generations with a minimum of government intrusion.

In the midst of plenty there are also those who face profound psychological and spiritual challenges. Smith notes that the unbridled pursuit of riches "corrupts," robbing us of the very things that can provide meaning and ultimate happiness: the development of a moral conscience based on genuine feeling for other human beings. Smith thus anticipates the rise of a values-based business model that in Smith's words unites, "the best head to the best heart." Economic efficiency and virtue are mutually reinforcing.

Adam Smith speaks to us with an urgency that is as real today as it was at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Smith's own words are used throughout this novel, although his sentences are at times shortened or paraphrased to maintain the flow of dialogue. Interested readers will find the sources of Smith's writings in the annotated notes. The Appendices also provide a guide to course instructors, a timeline of Smith's life, and suggestions for further reading.

As to whether the sublime Adam Smith would approve of using his words in a fanciful work of fiction, he has this to say:

It is only the teller of Ridiculous Stories that can be at all tollerable in conversation, as we know his design is harmless so we are readily inclined to grant him some licence (Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Letters, p. 119).

In that spirit, let us listen to the "father"—and perhaps also the wise "mother"—of modern economics and business.

-J.B.W.

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Table of Contents

Preface.
Disclaimer.

WEALTH.

Adam Rising.
Higher and Deeper.
A Dangerous Business.
Will the Real Adam Smith Please Stand Up?
Contraband.
Self Interest Is Not Selfishness.
On the Road with Adam Smith.
Creating Wealth.
The Poor Man's Son.
The Lady Sings.
Wealth and Happiness.

TRANSFORMATION.

The Search for Profit.
Feelings Are Real.
Letter to Julia.
Another Gypsy Tale.
A Full House.
Justice.
Children of the Enlightenment.

VIRTUE.

The Spectator Within.
A Paradox.
A New Paradigm?
Once Again the Invisible Hand
Appeals to Higher Authority.
Saying Goodbye.
WorldChemm.
Postscript.

APPENDICES.

Timeline of Adam Smith's Life.
Source Notes.
PART I: Wealth.
PART II: Transformation.
PART III: Virtue.
Appendices.
A Guide to the Literature.
Adam Smith's Collected Works.
Biographies of Adam Smith.
Selected Scholarship on Adam Smith.
Economics As a “Social,” “Philosophical,” or “Moral” Science.
The NewParadigm Transformation in Business.
The Enlightenment.
A Guide for Instructors.
Acknowledgments.
About the Author.
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Preface

Preface

As one of the greatest minds of the Enlightenment, Adam Smith wrote with sharpness and wit across a spectrum of disciplines—the arts, natural sciences, law, politics, and economics (the latter subject firmly part and parcel of moral philosophy). Smith worked to develop a system of thought that would unify the branches of "human" science, specifically in the realm of markets and morals. This unifying moral vision is a long-neglected area for economists—and has become increasingly important with the intensifying debate about globalization. As emerging market economies throw off old structures, they are discovering they may not have in place the balancing social and institutional structures that developed democracies take for granted. Put simply, Adam Smith would not be pleased if wealth were uncoupled from its moral foundations. What are the practical implications of Smith's ideas, one wonders, for the world of business today?

Saving Adam Smith tackles this issue as a fanciful work of "academic" fiction. In it, the "father" of economics introduces readers to the global economy and to the moral roots that sustain it. International trade and specialization are the cornerstones through which businesses create wealth, but Smith gives a powerful warning: free society and markets are threatened by a disregard for fundamentals—principally, a concern for justice and the cultivation of virtue. These are essential elements if a commercial system is to be made sustainable over the generations with a minimum of government intrusion.

In the midst of plenty there are also those who face profound psychological and spiritual challenges. Smith notesthat the unbridled pursuit of riches "corrupts," robbing us of the very things that can provide meaning and ultimate happiness: the development of a moral conscience based on genuine feeling for other human beings. Smith thus anticipates the rise of a values-based business model that in Smith's words unites, "the best head to the best heart." Economic efficiency and virtue are mutually reinforcing.

Adam Smith speaks to us with an urgency that is as real today as it was at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Smith's own words are used throughout this novel, although his sentences are at times shortened or paraphrased to maintain the flow of dialogue. Interested readers will find the sources of Smith's writings in the annotated notes. The Appendices also provide a guide to course instructors, a timeline of Smith's life, and suggestions for further reading.

As to whether the sublime Adam Smith would approve of using his words in a fanciful work of fiction, he has this to say:

It is only the teller of Ridiculous Stories that can be at all tollerable in conversation, as we know his design is harmless so we are readily inclined to grant him some licence (Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Letters, p. 119).

In that spirit, let us listen to the "father"—and perhaps also the wise "mother"—of modern economics and business.

-J.B.W.

Read More Show Less

Introduction

Preface

As one of the greatest minds of the Enlightenment, Adam Smith wrote with sharpness and wit across a spectrum of disciplines--the arts, natural sciences, law, politics, and economics (the latter subject firmly part and parcel of moral philosophy). Smith worked to develop a system of thought that would unify the branches of "human" science, specifically in the realm of markets and morals. This unifying moral vision is a long-neglected area for economists--and has become increasingly important with the intensifying debate about globalization. As emerging market economies throw off old structures, they are discovering they may not have in place the balancing social and institutional structures that developed democracies take for granted. Put simply, Adam Smith would not be pleased if wealth were uncoupled from its moral foundations. What are the practical implications of Smith's ideas, one wonders, for the world of business today?

Saving Adam Smith tackles this issue as a fanciful work of "academic" fiction. In it, the "father" of economics introduces readers to the global economy and to the moral roots that sustain it. International trade and specialization are the cornerstones through which businesses create wealth, but Smith gives a powerful warning: free society and markets are threatened by a disregard for fundamentals--principally, a concern for justice and the cultivation of virtue. These are essential elements if a commercial system is to be made sustainable over the generations with a minimum of government intrusion.

In the midst of plenty there are also those who face profound psychological and spiritual challenges. Smith notes that theunbridled pursuit of riches "corrupts," robbing us of the very things that can provide meaning and ultimate happiness: the development of a moral conscience based on genuine feeling for other human beings. Smith thus anticipates the rise of a values-based business model that in Smith's words unites, "the best head to the best heart." Economic efficiency and virtue are mutually reinforcing.

Adam Smith speaks to us with an urgency that is as real today as it was at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Smith's own words are used throughout this novel, although his sentences are at times shortened or paraphrased to maintain the flow of dialogue. Interested readers will find the sources of Smith's writings in the annotated notes. The Appendices also provide a guide to course instructors, a timeline of Smith's life, and suggestions for further reading.

As to whether the sublime Adam Smith would approve of using his words in a fanciful work of fiction, he has this to say:

It is only the teller of Ridiculous Stories that can be at all tollerable in conversation, as we know his design is harmless so we are readily inclined to grant him some licence (Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Letters, p. 119).

In that spirit, let us listen to the "father"--and perhaps also the wise "mother"--of modern economics and business.

-J.B.W.

Read More Show Less

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