Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Adam Smith's View on Human Nature

Recently, I found an excellent paper from Ronald Coase which summarizes the basic concept of Adam Smith on human nature. I would urge my readers to read the whole paper (first published in The University of Chicago's Journal of Law and Economics) as I think it provides a correct summary and a strong insight on how economists and also lawyers should think about human nature.

The final paragraph of Coase's paper is very important that I will just copy it here for ease of reading. Enjoy!

"It is wrong to believe, as is commonly done, that Adam Smith had as his view of man an abstraction, an “economic man,” rationally pursuing his self-interest in a single-minded way. Adam Smith would not have thought it sensible to treat man as a rational utility-maximizer. He thinks of man as he actually is-dominated, it is true, by self-love but not without some concern for others, able to reason but not necessarily in such a way as to reach the right conclusion, seeing the outcomes of his actions but through a veil of self-delusion. No doubt modern psychologists have added a great deal, some of it correct, to this eighteenth century view of human nature. But if one is willing to accept Adam Smith’s view of man as containing, if not the whole truth, at least a large part of it, realization that his thought has a much broader foundation than is commonly assumed makes his argument for economic freedom more powerful and his conclusions more persuasive"

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