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What Adam Smith Knew, An Adam Smith Society Reader

Wednesday January 2015


James Otteson Wake Forest University

Each generation in a democratic society must make decisions about the proper boundary between individual choice and collective responsibility. The degree of freedom and equality in a given society will follow from the kind of economic and social model it applies: a free-market capitalism, a socialist system, or a welfare-state hybrid.

If the main promise of capitalism has been that it will lead to increasing material prosperity, in this, at least, it has clearly succeeded. Yet however impressive it might be, the empirical evidence concerning material prosperity does not itself settle
the issue. This generation must once again decide what goals, including moral goals, our system of political economy should serve, be they liberty, equality, social order, virtue, or human motivation.

In a reader published for the Manhattan Institute’s Adam Smith Society—a nationwide, chapter-based association of market-minded MBA students and business leaders—esteemed political economist James Otteson has thoughtfully
edited a collection of classic essays arranged to highlight the ways that capitalism bears this set of fundamental human concerns. Please join us for an enlightened discussion with Professor Otteson on the nature, purpose, and effects of
capitalism—as understood by its most influential expositors and critics, historical and contemporary.

James R. Otteson is Teaching Professor of Political Economy at Wake Forest University and executive director of the university’s BB&T Center for the Study of Capitalism.