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Is Adam Smith Liberal?

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Smith's theory of authority is nonliberal both in the classical liberal sense of Locke and Buchanan and in the social liberal sense of Bentham and Marx. Smith distinguishes civil contract from political contract: While the state protects rights à la civil contract, its differentia specifica is the political contract, which involves authority and allegiance. Allegiance is neither an involuntary act nor the product of choice à la civil contract. Allegiance characterizes the enlistment of low-rank agents in the service of high-rank agents whose station is desired. For Smith, admiration of the powerful is the origin of political order – which is a nonliberal view.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 December 2002

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  • Founded as Zeitschrift für die gesamte Staatswissenschaft in 1844.

    As one of the oldest journals in the field of political economy, the Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE) deals traditionally with the problems of economics, social policy, and their legal framework. JITE is listed in the Journal of Economic Literature, the Social Science Citation Index, the International Bibliography of the Social Sciences, and COREJ.

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