Much emphasis is placed upon Smith's contribution to the economic field. Underappreciated is his view of religion and morality. In the Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith discussed the role of sympathy in connecting self-interest with virtue. If the free market is allowed to function and people are afluent, they will have time to worry about the plight of the indigent. In a primitive society, people primarily focus upon survival. Also, Smith argued that the market promoted virtues such as responsibility, honesty, frugality, ability, and self-control. In the quest for acquisition of wealth and power, these virtues are needed to succeed. In times past, there was no such channeling mechanism or incentive of the market to harness virtue. The rich and powerful depended upon deception and privilege in the pre-commercial era, Smith wrote.
Besides the market, other institutions such as the church and society would bolster virtue. Smith asserted that religion is an expression of the need for justice and benevolence in the material world and “enforces the natural sense of duty.” However, Smith wrote that church establishment, that is, the funding of religion through taxation, would remove the incentive for proselytization. In society, Smith argued, association with like-minded people would foster like effects. If one chose to affiliate with good people, good results would tend to occur.