New CEI book: Adam Smith’s guide to life, loveliness, and the modern economy

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Adam Smith is 300 years old, and CEI is 40 years old. To celebrate this dual milestone, I edited an essay collection about Adam Smith by CEI’s scholars and friends. It was a joy to put together; the essays span 35 of CEI’s 40 years. The oldest was written by CEI founder Fred Smith in 1989, while the newest were written just for this volume.

In true CEI fashion, the essays cover a wide variety of issues, going well beyond Adam Smith’s familiar economics. CEI and Adam Smith also have common ground in optimism, business ethics, the limits of government, a belief in human progress, and the philosophy behind a life well lived.

Other pieces note Smith’s love of Greek tragedy, his influence on America’s founders, and there are even reviews of a Smith-influenced whodunit and a science fiction novel. We also included a few short comics from the series run by our friends at AdamSmithWorks.

Adam Smith is not the most influential Smith at CEI—that honor goes to Fred Smith. But the competition is closer than one would expect.

Adam Smith also offers something very important for today’s political environment: a calming influence in a world that could use it. Individual life and political life both contain a mix of conflict and cooperation. A common theme in Smith’s liberal project is to reduce conflict and increase cooperation. In our day, as in Smith’s, that balance was tilted too far towards conflict.

Cooperation is why Smith puts so much emphasis on empathy. It is why his ethical system is based on an impartial spectator: would a neutral third party say that I am treating other people fairly?

Cooperation, more than efficiency, is behind Smith’s advocacy of free trade. Cooperation is why he spent at least as much time writing about love and friendship as he did about commerce.

Adam Smith’s calm, tolerant, and curious worldview has a lot to offer today’s world. He has been an influence on CEI’s work for our entire four decades as an organization. If you read through our new essay collection, maybe he’ll have an influence on your worldview, too.

Read the PDF version for free here.