Moral Sentiments and Wealth of Nation

Adam Smith was an economist from Scotland considered to have been the father of classical economics. During his late days before his death, he showed a deeper interest in moral philosophy where he expounded on the ethical and juridical and ethical structure of his prior ideologies. Two of his greatest ideologies of all time are the “Theory of Moral Sentiments” and “Wealth of Nations.” Moral Sentiments dealt with the history of ethics while Wealth of Nations was concerned with the history of economic thoughts.

Based on Moral Sentiments Adam was the idea that human beings moral capacity are limited by the shallowness of their comprehension and weakness of their power.  He tried to analyze the process by which virtues are developed in human beings. This theory focuses on how person’s sentimental capacity comes into existence in the first place and how they grow (Smith & Haakonssen, 2002). In this ideology, Smith sought to understand how a person evolves from not having any standards as a child to possessing extensively shared standards of ethical judgment as an adult.  

Out of the increasing interest in political economy, Adam came up with Wealth of Nations, which was not that entirely unconnected to his prior moral system. According to this ideology Smith believed that states could encourage the productiveness of their economies through policies and minimum restrictions on banking practices (Fleischacker, 2013). States should share or redistribute their wealth which would defend both the poor and disadvantaged from being manipulated by the fortunate. In this ideology, Smith demonstrated the power of reasoning over authority by explaining a useful understanding of what makes a nation and its people prosperous.

It is evident that there is general compatibility and consistency in stance between Wealth of Nations and The Moral Sentiments. They are both concerned with ordering and maximizing virtues and economic behavior respectively. In both ideologies, there is no discontinuation in the founder’s way of thinking or attitude. The Wealth of Nations fits perfectly into the moral layout of The Moral Sentiments. As one switches from either of the two doctrines, the flow is logical. Moreover, the concepts of morality and human nature serve as the foundation upon which economic behavior stands. It is, therefore, true to say that in both works Adam solidified an essential and systematic masterpiece in which economic ideas and ethics are synchronized and incorporated. 

The Wealth of Nation is addressed to leaders informing them that the best way to sustain their self-interest is through competition. The theory is of the notion that there is a need for approval from others for affluent commercial society. On the other side in Moral Sentiments more emphasis is put on the wellsprings of personal traits and less on public policies (Hanley and Ryan, 2009). Competition fosters discipline among producers while commercial interaction incorporates prudence and modesty as for the case in Moral Sentiments.

The concept of Moral Sentiment is at least as essential as that of Wealth of Nations. Business ethics can be traced from the development of a person’s moral behavior (Göçmen, 2007). Henceforth a society cannot amount to any value if it lacks ethical code. With also said ethics stands to be very crucial when it comes to the wellbeing of either an individual or a nation. Nations that uphold business ethics will have efficient economic activities and increase productivity.  Similarly, by a person having good morals and being mindful of the environment they create for their neighbors, there is peace and cooperation.


Fleischacker, S. (2013). Adam Smith’s Moral and Political Philosophy.

Göçmen, D. (2007). The Adam Smith problem: Human nature and society in The theory of moral sentiments and the wealth of nations.

Hanley, Ryan, 2009, Adam Smith and the Character of Virtue, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Smith, A., & Haakonssen, K. (2002). The theory of moral sentiments.

Smith, Craig, 2013, “Adam Smith and the New Right,” in The Oxford Handbook of Adam Smith, C. J. Berry, M. Paganelli & C. Smith (eds.), Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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