Edmund Burke, Ideologues, & Subdivisions

By |2019-07-11T10:17:22-05:00September 27th, 2016|Categories: Adam Smith, Bradley J. Birzer, Conservatism, Edmund Burke, Edmund Burke series by Bradley Birzer, History, Revolution, Western Tradition|

When Edmund Burke surveyed the names of those leading the French Revolution in its first half year of existence in 1789, he despaired. Several were certainly good men, he noted, and many were quite accomplished. Yet, not a single man possessing any necessary experience in the world appeared on the list. “The best,” he [...]

John Adams on Nobility and Social Architecture

By |2019-10-24T13:36:14-05:00September 8th, 2016|Categories: Adam Smith, American Founding, American Republic, Civil Society, History, John Adams, Virtue|

Within his general view of man as naturally social, John Adams explored the nature of the passion for distinction. To speak of man as gregarious is merely to identify a human inclination to “go in flocks or herds, like sheep or partridges.”[46] But Adams went beyond that mere assertion and identified the nature of [...]

The End of Socialism

By |2016-06-04T22:09:55-05:00June 4th, 2016|Categories: Adam Smith, Bradley J. Birzer, Economics, Free Markets, Socialism, Wilhelm Roepke|

James R. Otteson, the Thomas W. Smith Presidential Chair in Business Ethics at Wake Forest University, possesses one of the greatest minds in defense of classical liberalism in the modern era. He has authored two definitive works on Adam Smith, a clear rebuttal of the ethics of Peter Singer, and now a crucial attack [...]

Could Adam Smith Have Loved Distributism?

By |2020-07-16T16:51:36-05:00April 24th, 2016|Categories: Adam Smith, Capitalism, Distributism, Economics, Social Order|

There are several areas in which distributists and free-market economists can find common ground, and even common ends. Both share a desire for more widespread ownership of the means of production, and a desire for a less powerful centralized state. With this essay, I am venturing into unfamiliar territory. My previous essays featured in this [...]

Car Repair, Self-Interest, & the Benevolent Investor

By |2016-03-26T13:04:21-05:00February 11th, 2016|Categories: Adam Smith, Alexis de Tocqueville, Christopher B. Nelson, Happiness, Liberal Learning, St. John's College|

I have been reminiscing a lot lately, probably a sign of my age. But I recently came to recall an episode in my earlier life before I returned to St. John’s College as its president more than twenty years ago, when my second son announced: “Dad, I’m willing to talk with you about my [...]

Was Adam Smith a Man of Letters?

By |2015-07-27T10:22:37-05:00July 17th, 2015|Categories: Adam Smith, Capitalism, Economic History, Economics, Featured|Tags: |

In the “Overture” to his grandly symphonic The Enlightenment: An Interpretation, Peter Gay describes the “international type” of the philosophe as a “facile, articulate, doctrinaire, sociable, secular man of letters.” On this definition, was Adam Smith a philosophe? Yes and no. Unlike his French counterparts, and even his bosom friend David Hume, he led [...]

Are the Great Books Still Alive?

By |2018-12-21T15:12:57-06:00June 29th, 2015|Categories: Adam Smith, Featured, Great Books, St. John's College|

I swore never to read again after ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ gave me no useful advice on killing mockingbirds. — Homer J. Simpson I’ve sometimes been surprised by how few ordinary Americans read important books—even texts that underpin widely held beliefs about our economy and society. Then at a cocktail party last year, I got into [...]

Adam Smith: Imaginative Communitarian

By |2020-06-04T18:43:46-05:00June 2nd, 2015|Categories: Adam Smith, Featured, Morality, Philosophy|

Adam Smith is too often positioned as the godfather of “unfettered markets, libertarian governments, interactions solely for the purpose of satisfaction, and atomistic cosmopolitanism.” What has been lost is Smith’s “clarion call for personal relationships” as the basis for human society. Legend has it that at the age of four, Adam Smith was kidnapped [...]

Nit-Picking “Blessed” Adam Smith

By |2020-01-09T10:19:25-06:00February 20th, 2015|Categories: Adam Smith, Books, Edmund Burke, Stephen Masty|

How often can writers pretend to discover some well-known thing for “the first time ever?” With poor Adam Smith it has happened again, but commercial promotion inadvertently raises an important matter that only begins with the great First Economist’s religion or lack thereof. A prominent newspaper starts its book review by insulting its audience: [...]

An Unhealthy Obsession with the Almighty Dollar

By |2019-09-05T10:42:46-05:00October 6th, 2014|Categories: Adam Smith, Christopher B. Nelson, Conservatism, Featured, St. John's College|

A friend of mine in the financial services industry called me the other day to vent about the poor quality of the public discourse concerning the freedom of the marketplace and the obsession with the Almighty Dollar. “Does it make sense,” he asked, “that the pursuit of self-interest is the essence of all human [...]

Liberal Learning in the Marketplace: Thinking About Liberal Education With Adam Smith

By |2019-10-16T13:59:13-05:00April 8th, 2013|Categories: Adam Smith, Liberal Learning|Tags: |

I make no claims to a high level of expertise in the philosophy of Adam Smith. This is the first time I have spoken about Smith outside of a classroom setting. I assign selections from The Theory of Moral Sentiments and The Wealth of Nations in a sophomore-level core course, so the students and [...]

The Celtic Mind: How Adam Smith and Edmund Burke Saved Civilization

By |2016-01-16T12:56:30-06:00October 3rd, 2012|Categories: Adam Smith, Bradley J. Birzer, Conservatism, Edmund Burke, Featured|Tags: |

One contemplates the power, depth, and breadth of the finest 18th-century minds only with some trepidation and humility. Or at least, one should. The favorite study of the great men of that day, famed editor of The Nation E.L. Godkin explained in 1900, was the glorification of the person against political power. In “opposition [...]

Edmund Burke Reviews Adam Smith, Twice

By |2019-05-30T11:11:03-05:00February 21st, 2012|Categories: Adam Smith, Bradley J. Birzer, Economics, Edmund Burke, Political Economy|

Imaginative Conservative Readers, considering how much we revere Burke here, I thought it might be good to reprint the following two pieces from him. While I knew he and Adam Smith were close friends, I did not realize until yesterday (February 19, 2012) that he had briefly reviewed each of Smith’s major works. Burke’s [...]

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