I am on a plane all day today, flying to England for a few days of holiday before proceeding to Stockholm for the Mont Pelerin Society annual meeting. My main activity for the flight is to work on my course prep for my new freshman seminar this fall, entitled “Adam Smith and the Scottish Enlightenment”. I have a pretty good idea of the schedule, now I just have to plan each class … which means I’ll be spending most of the flight with Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments.
2009 is the 250th anniversary of the publication of TOMS, which I count as one of the most influential works in the social science canon. It truly is impossible to think about questions of how individuals live together in civil society without making great use of Smith’s insights in this work. If you haven’t read TOMS yet, now is a good time, particularly in light of what has happened in the past year and the current federal policy debates surrounding climate change legislation and health care legislation. Much of that policy direction does not draw on Smith’s insights in TOMS, to our great detriment.
At The Technology Liberation Front, Adam Thierer has an outstanding post reflecting on the 250th anniversary of TOMS and the great relevance of Smith’s ideas today. He even excerpts the wonderful “man of system” passage from TOMS, which is even more relevant and urgent to consider today than it was when I wrote these earlier KP posts on the “man of system”.