Basic Economic Liberties
John Rawls and Adam Smith Reconciled
By Nick Cowen
The moral status of economic liberty is a critical point of contention within liberal theory. Classical liberals suggest that economic activity is fundamental for exercising personal autonomy and its protection to be to the overall benefit of all persons. By contrast, egalitarian liberals, following John Rawls, argue that economic activity is not a sufficiently significant site of moral development. Drawing on contemporary interpretations of Adam Smith, I argue that commercial practices cultivate attitudes of mutual trust and respect in a way that is unique and necessary for developing the moral powers.