Front Page Titles (by Subject) Smithian Scholarship - Literature of Liberty, April/June 1978, vol. 1, No. 2
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Smithian Scholarship - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, April/June 1978, vol. 1, No. 2 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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“An Adam Smith Renaissance anno 1976? The Bicentenary Output—A Reappraisal of His Scholarship.” Journal of Economic Literature 16, (March 1978): 56–83.
What accounts for the continuing vitality and relevance of Adam Smith's works and ideas? The bicentennial of Smith's Wealth of Nations (1776) is an opportune time for taking stock of the recent vast literature on Smith through a bibliographic essay citing some 175 items of Smithian scholarship.
The new era of Smithian scholarship displays several characteristic demands: (1) We need to interpret Smith's work as an integrated whole, doing justice to its ethics, economics, history, politics, and methodology. Smith, never a narrow economist, can best be appreciated as a far ranging philosopher in the eighteenth century sense. The unified approach to Smith's writings sees no fundamental contradiction between his Wealth of Nations and his Theory of Moral Sentiments. (2) We need to study Smith's social and historical theory as a background for his economics. Both the Theory of Moral Sentiments and the Lectures are required reading to properly interpret The Wealth of Nations. (3) We need to appreciate the logical consistency and realism of Smith's economic theory (such as the circular flow and dynamics of the market). (4) Finally, we need to study again Smith's view of the role of the state and other institutions.
A key area for reassessment is political economy, which Smith described as the “natural system of perfect liberty and justice” or the “liberal plan of equality, liberty, and justice.” Though not a radical advocate of laissez-faire, Smith urged a restricted scope for state functions to achieve his goals of justice and liberty. The state should so restrain itself to enable the people “to provide such a revenue or subsistence for themselves.” From his free market and antimercantilist perspective, Smith appreciated the mechanisms of incentives and disincentives to promote the efficiency of all institutions. The reasons for the state's economic mismanagement, inefficiency, and injustice flow from its in herent lack of such built-in mechanisms.
Linked with such motivations as incentives and disincentives is Smith's concept of self-interest. Unlike Mandeville, he judged self-interest as ethically positive and the engine of economic and social progress. In his own metaphor, self-interest prodded like an “invisible hand” to create a prosperous and amicable society since fellow-feeling and benevolence were weak motives for human action beyond dealings with friends and family.
Probably the best memorial to Adam Smith is the number, range, and variety of scholarly topics that Smith's genius has inspired during the bicentennial. Most noteworthy is the ambitious new series of Glasgow editions of Adam Smith's Works and Correspondence. A brilliant part of the Glasgow series is R.H. Campbell's, Andrew S. Skinner's, and W.B. Todd's new two-volume edition (1976) of The Wealth of Nations. It now replaces Edwin Cannan's 1904 edition as the standard English version.
The overall conclusion of reappraising Adam Smith, the man and author, is that he “was an educated and cultured man, creative and original as a thinker, and unique as an architect of thoughts. The indestructible vitality of his natural system of liberty and justice (i.e, his political economy), rests on his realistic observations and cool assessments of man's nature—the individual's self-interested economic and political activity in society.”