Was Adam Smith a Republican?Posted: November 6, 2012
Cropsey, Joseph. Polity and Economy – An Interpretation of the Principles of Adam Smith. (1957:65)
To obtain full confirmation in possession and full right to exercise the self-preservative powers, what is needed are the institutions of free polity. Examining these, we shall in effect be examining what Smith puts forth as the necessary conditions for the existence of commercial society.
It is therefore not surprising to find considerable evidence of Smith’s preference for “republicanism” above all other regimes. He was as overt in his arguments as a reasonably prudent man might have been, though he never went to the length of making positive proposals in this regard for this own country. Much of his advocacy of “republicanism” is implied by his reiterated praise of those aspects of Dutch life which were supposedly assignable to republican institutions. Thus Holland, one of the “richest and most industrious countries,” continues to prosper from “peculiar circumstances,” which we learn are “republican form of government.” Holland is held up as the standard and they type of the commercial polity. The digression on the Bank of Amsterdam is largely an encomium on Dutch prudence. The burghers of Amsterdam are “attentive and parsimonious ” The republic of Holland is “wise.” Holland approaches nearest in Europe to freedom of trade. And so on.
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