The Social Economics Blog (the blog of the Association for Social Economics, of which Jonathan B. Wight and I are currently president and president-elect, respectively) is featuring an article from the Forum for Social Economics by Nobel leaurate Vernon L. Smith on Adam Smith, plus comments from three social economics luminaries (including Jonathan himself). The Forum's publisher, Taylor & Francis, has graciously made the Smith-on-Smith article and comments available of free of charge to encourage open and wide discussion.
The abstract to Smith's paper, "Adam Smith: From Propriety and Sentiments to Property and Wealth," follows:
“Why return to Adam Smith?” Because we learn that he had fresh-for-today insights, derived from a modeling perspective that was never part of economic analysis. Smith wrote two classics: The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759; hereafter Sentiments); and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776; hereafter Wealth). In Sentiments it is argued that human sociability in close-knit groups is governed by the “propriety and fitness” of conduct based on sympathy. This non-utilitarian model provides new insights into the results of 2-person experimental “trust” and other games that defied the predictions of traditional game theory in the 1980s and 90s, and offers testable new predictions. Moreover, Smith shows how the civil order of “property” grew naturally out of the rules of propriety. Property together with what I call Smith's Discovery Axiom then enabled his break-through in Wealth that defined the liberal intellectual and practical foundation of two centuries of Western economic growth.