Adam Smith role of government

November 16, 2017
Adam Smith Role of government

Lagrangian Republican Association promotes the establishment of independent and sovereign republic, which is based on the principles classical republicanism and classical liberalism. With classical liberalism we mean the tradition in political theory based on the works of Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill. In this post I will discuss Smith’s vision on the proper functions of government.

Adam Smith is most famous for his advocacy of free markets. What’s less known is that Smith saw an important role for government in society, albeit he thought that government should be limited. In his most famous work, The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith explains that there are three legitimate functions which should be performed by the government:

The first duty of the sovereign, that of protecting the society from the violence and invasion of other independent societies, can be performed only by means of a military force. But the expense both of preparing this military force in time of peace, and of employing it in time of war, is very different in the different states of society, in the different periods of improvement. (WN, book V, chap. 1, part 1).

This one is straight forward and save for a bunch of cranky anarchists, most people agree with it.

The second duty of the sovereign, that of protecting, as far as possible, every member of the society from the injustice or oppression of every other member of it, or the duty of establishing an exact administration of justice, requires two very different degrees of expense in the different periods of society. (WN, book V, chap. 1, part 2).

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