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Adam SmithSystematic Philosopher and Public Thinker$
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Eric Schliesser

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190690120

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190690120.001.0001

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Social Institutions and Consequentialism

Social Institutions and Consequentialism

Chapter:
(p.187) 8 Social Institutions and Consequentialism
Source:
Adam Smith
Author(s):

Eric Schliesser

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190690120.003.0008

This chapter argues that when it comes to evaluating social institutions, Adam Smith is a particular kind of consequentialist, one who favors the welfare of the working poor. This is illustrated by way of first, the so-called real price, Smith’s central measure of welfare in the Wealth of Nations, and, second, Smith’s proposed progressive tax regime. The chapter also argues that Smith’s consequentialism should be distinguished from utilitarianism. The chapter then turns to a consideration of what might explain Smith’s theoretical bias toward the working poor. It closes with a discussion of the principles that, according to Smith, govern the duties of the legislator and an analysis of Smith’s account of liberty.

Keywords:   Adam Smith, working poor, tax, liberty, consequentialism, real price

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