What's Liberal About Adam Smith's Liberal Plan?

Posted: 25 May 2021 Last revised: 16 Sep 2021

See all articles by Erik W. Matson

Erik W. Matson

Mercatus Center at George Mason University

Date Written: May 24, 2021


In addition to its connection with ideas of freedom, the word “liberal” is an apt descriptor of Smith’s plan in politics. Smith’s plan evinces attributes that are liberal in a non-political sense. Salient among these attributes is generosity and charity. The liberal plan, on Smith’s estimation, not only generously provides for the material needs of society; it entails a generous view of the person, a view that recognizes our limited ability to beneficially control the circumstances of others and that dignifies the ordinary, honest activities of normal people.

Keywords: Adam Smith, liberalism, distributive justice, liberty

JEL Classification: B12, B31, P16

Suggested Citation

Matson, Erik W., What's Liberal About Adam Smith's Liberal Plan? (May 24, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3852198 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3852198

Erik W. Matson (Contact Author)

Mercatus Center at George Mason University ( email )

3434 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

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