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A System of Social SciencePapers Relating to Adam Smith$
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Andrew Stewart Skinner

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780198233343

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198233343.001.0001

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The Role of the State  

The Role of the State  

(p.183) 8 The Role of the State
A System of Social Science

Andrew Stewart Skinner

Oxford University Press

Adam Smith's contribution to the field of political economy was designed to explain the working of a set of institutional arrangements that he regarded as the last of four stages of economic development, and to elucidate the ‘laws of motion’ that governed its operations. The laws of motion, once stated, were designed to show that the control of resources could be left to the market and to explain the source of their increase. This perspective led directly to the demand that the state ought not to interfere with the economy. The same sentiments appear in the Wealth of Nations, albeit expressed with even greater force. According to Lord Robbins, Smith bequeathed to his successors in the Classical School an opposition to conscious paternalism, a belief that ‘central authority was incompetent to decide on a proper distribution of resources’. This chapter also considers Smith's views on economic liberalism, constraints on the functions of the state, the organization of educational provision, justice, public works and public services, and policy reform.

Keywords:   Adam Smith, state, political economy, economic liberalism, economic development, laws of motion, Wealth of Nations, public works, public services, justice

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