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Adam Smith Unrestrained Greed Analysis

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The common depiction of Adam Smith as an advocate for unrestrained greed and little to no government intervention in markets seems to be accurate only in limited and qualified ways. The following discussion will attempt to show that Adam Smith does not advocate for unrestrained greed and that while he generally opposed government intervention into market affairs, he outlined specific tasks for the government. Adam Smith’s work in political philosophy begins with his Theory of Moral Sentiments. While this work is separate from his famed work on political economy, The Wealth of Nations, it lays the foundation for the rest of his theories (T, 57). In Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith lays out an entire theory of moral nature. Smith notes that we tend to seek the approval of others, forcing us into the accepted norm of society (T, 58). That said, Smith argues that we eventually stop seeking the approval of society, and instead begin to seek the higher approval of a hypothetical disinterested observer, whose standard of judgement is based on our past judgments of others (T, 58). Thus, with practice, we build up a moral system that improves over time because the standard by which we judge our acts is raised by observed acts of empathy. According to Adam Smith, our tendency to admire the rich corrupts the moral sentiments (T, 66-7). This happens in part because our admiration of the rich leads to the desire to pursue more wealth by means of self-interest. Unrestrained greed
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