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Monday, February 8, 2010

Adam Smith’s Free Market Economics Examined

We just received this press release from the Door Community Auditorium - interesting lecture coming up!


February 8, 2010
Media Contact: Dick Sandretti
Executive Director
Door Community Auditorium
920 868-2728

Adam Smith’s Free Market Economics Examined
In Next St. Norbert Lecture at DCA, Feb. 20

Adam Smith was among the first, and one of the most enthusiastic theorists of capitalism and free trade. His name is frequently invoked by those who would defend some new free trade policy or the aggressive competitiveness of the capitalist system. Dr. Paul Johnson continues the St. Norbert Distinguished Lecture Series at the Door Community Auditorium on Saturday, Feb. 20 at 9 am. His lecture, “ The Moral Ground of the Free Market System in Adam Smith”, will focus on the moral dimension of Smith's thought with the intention of showing how his moral insights might guide and constrain the practice of capitalism and free trade today.

Smith, born in 1723, was a Scottish moral philosopher and a pioneer of political economy. One of the key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, Smith is the author of The Theory of Moral Sentiments and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. The latter, usually abbreviated as The Wealth of Nations, is considered his greatest writing and is widely cited as the father of modern economics.

In his treatise, Smith lays out the mutual benefits of free trade, comparative advantage and competitiveness, but it is a mistake to think that Smith would accept the claim that "greed is good," or endorse the harsher, more exploitative aspects of capitalism in the contemporary world.

In his presentation, Dr. Johnson discusses how Smith is frequently cited in defense of the free market policies today. Many of those policies claim aggregate or long-term benefits for nations and for individual workers even though the immediate effects seem harmful or exploitative and the longer-term effects ambiguous at best.

Smith’s economic theories rest upon a foundation of metaphysical assumptions, widespread and deeply pervasive in the 18th century when he wrote, which underscore his claims about the beneficent effects of the free market. No account of Smith’s advocacy of free markets is complete without a disclosure of his metaphysical assumptions. These assumptions may or may not warrant assent today, and free-market principles may or may not provide our best bet for sustainable global prosperity.

However, Dr. Johnson points out, any appeals to Smith as a defense of free-market solutions today need to take into account the historical and philosophical context in which his theories were developed before the cogency of his proposals can be reliably assessed. The lecture is directed at providing some of that context.

Dr. Johnson, associate professor of philosophy at St. Norbert since 2004, joined the faculty in 1990. He received his bachelor and masters degrees in philosophy from Northern Illinois University, and his Ph.D., in philosophy from the University of Illinois.

The author of numerous publications, Dr. Johnson serves on significant committees at St. Norbert, including as Faculty Chair, faculty personnel committee, criminal justice task force, and as chair of the philosophy discipline search committee.

The lecture requires no tickets and is free and open to the public. It will begin at 9 am and will allow adequate time for the audience to pose questions. Door Community Auditorium is located adjacent to Gibraltar Schools at the north end of Fish Creek.

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