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Smith's theory of actions and the moral significance of unintended consequences

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  • Amos Witztum
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    Abstract

    An important clue to the ambiguity in Smith's attitudes towards commercial society may lie in his disaffection with natural distributions; with distributions based on unintended consequences. The absence of proportionality between motives and outcomes dooms the morality of commercial society, not the mere absence of an ethical dimension to human character. Through the analysis of actions, we find correspondence between the three economic states of the Wealth of Nations and the three social states of the Theory of Moral Sentiments. Thus, re-distribution is important in the moral evaluation of commercial systems. Unintended consequences are neither a source of moral strength nor a safeguard against injustice.

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    File URL: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09672560802252297
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought.

    Volume (Year): 15 (2008)
    Issue (Month): 3 ()
    Pages: 401-432

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    Handle: RePEc:taf:eujhet:v:15:y:2008:i:3:p:401-432

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    Related research

    Keywords: Adam Smith; ethics-economics; proportional remuneration; distribution and morality; ethics of actions;

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    Cited by:
    1. Menudo, Jose M., 2011. "Market Stability in Adam Smith: Competitive Process and Institutions," MPRA Paper 15361, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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