Basic Economic Liberties: John Rawls and Adam Smith Reconciled

33 Pages Posted: 4 Jun 2020

See all articles by Nick Cowen

Nick Cowen

School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Lincoln; New York University School of Law

Date Written: May 9, 2020

Abstract

The moral status of economic liberty is a critical point of contention within liberal theory. Classical liberals, including Tomasi, suggest that economic activity is fundamental for exercising personal autonomy and its protection to be to the overall benefit of all persons. By contrast, egalitarian liberals, following Rawls, argue that economic activity is not a sufficiently significant site of moral development. Drawing on contemporary interpretations of Adam Smith, I argue that commercial practices cultivate attitudes of mutual trust and respect in a way that is unique and necessary for developing the moral powers. Although they need not be universally exercised, basic economic liberties must be available to all. While rejecting laissez-faire, this case suggests that well-ordered societies must protect a substantial degree of commercial activity as part of the basic structure.

Keywords: liberalism, markets, Rawls, Adam Smith, moral powers, economic liberty

JEL Classification: B12

Suggested Citation

Cowen, Nick, Basic Economic Liberties: John Rawls and Adam Smith Reconciled (May 9, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3596764 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3596764

Nick Cowen (Contact Author)

School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Lincoln ( email )

Lincoln LN2
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://https://ulincoln.academia.edu/NickCowen

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.nyu.edu/

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
48
Abstract Views
245
PlumX Metrics