So You Want To Start Reading Adam Smith?

I’m glad to hear that. As a friend and mentor once said, “as famous as he is, Adam Smith is still underrated.”

Where should you begin? Shortly after I finished my PhD I went to the Liberty Fund’s “Adam Smith Boot Camp.” It was there that I read The Theory of Moral Sentiments for the first time. I’ve come to the view that you can’t fully understand and appreciate the Smith of The Wealth of Nations without the Smith of The Theory of Moral Sentiments. The older I get and the more I learn, the more I realize that reading truly great books requires a lot of time and effort—but they’re great books, and the time is well spent and the effort is worth it.

It’s also useful to have a guide or two. There has been an explosion of work on Smith and the Scottish Enlightenment in the last couple of decades, and James Otteson’s Adam Smith’s Marketplace of Life and Russ Roberts’ How Adam Smith can Change Your Life are great starting places.

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