In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith applied Francis Hutcheson’s idea of “natural liberty” in formulating a conception of the meaning of individual freedom and the role and functions of limited government in a free society.
Hume presented a devastating criticism of Mercantilist thinking on trade and commerce, while at the same time, demonstrating the self-regulating and “balancing” forces of the market process.
One of the most cherished misunderstandings, if not delusions, of the social engineer – the individual who would presume to attempt to remake society through conscious and planned design – is the confident belief that he (and those like him) can ever know enough to successfully remold mankind and human institutions.
Society was not created by design to provide safety and security, but, instead, freedom and rights emerged and evolved out of more primitive forms of tribal and collective association as responses to considered injustices and abusive power.
Adam Smith was one of Hutcheson’s students in Glasgow, and his influence on Adam Smith was singularly significant, from everything from the importance of division of labor and the role of private property, to the normative notion of a free society based on a “system of natural liberty.”
The “moral” that Mandeville drew from his tale was that prosperous, wealthy and great societies only arise from men’s self-interested desires, and that is what made for successful civilizations:
In the wilderness of the New World, the Plymouth Pilgrims had progressed from the false dream of communism to the sound realism of capitalism.
When governments find it impossible to continue raising taxes or borrowing funds, they have invariably turned to printing paper money to finance their growing expenditures. The political economy of the French Revolution is a tragic example of this.
The best policy for government to follow is “laisser passer, laisser faire” — let goods pass and leave men alone to their own decisions.
Mercantilism developed in the emerging nation-states under the kings, especially, in France and Spain and in Great Britain, as a set of economic tools to assist in bringing about the centralization of political power and control.
The Catholic Church had a set of fundamental beliefs and principles that set it apart from the Greek and Roman views that had preceded it, and which were to have importance in the future in terms of their economic impact.
Political, social, and economic life in the Middle Ages revolved around two sets of institutions.
The area in which the Ancient Romans did leave a body of thought, and one that has had lasting influence and significance for future generations, especially in the West up until our own time was in the area of law and contract.