Adam Smith and a theory of just efficiency

María Alejandra Carrasco, Maria Pia Paganelli

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Adam Smith envisions an economic order which is primarily just, and that happens to be efficient. A commercial society is the most fertile environment to promote freedom and equality, which are the base of human and economic flourishing. A commercial society creates prosperity, increasing life expectancy and decreases hardship. It favors friendly interactions and exchange of sentiments, thus allowing the virtue of humanity to develop. It exposes people to strangers, enlarging their perspectives and thus decreasing their self-centric biases. Furthermore, commercial societies are based on economic exchanges, which intrinsically recognize equal dignity among individuals. On the other hand, pre-commercial societies tend to generate potentially de-humanizing “servile dependency” and poverty that threaten human and economic growth. The hardship of pre-commercial societies is such to make suffering and death common, hardening people and thus inhibiting the expressions of sentiments, and limiting mutual sympathy. Smith, thus condemns policies that retard economic growth because they fail to promote equality by benefiting some at the expense of others. They are unjust and also inefficient.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdam Smith and Modernity
Subtitle of host publication1723-2023
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781000858167
ISBN (Print)9781032293943
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 selection and editorial matter, Alberto Burgio; individual chapters, the contributors.


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