Is Friedrich Hayek rowing Adam Smith’s boat?
Introduction When we think about Adam Smith and Friedrich Hayek, several connections easily come to mind. It is even difficult to refrain from imagining some similarities in their characters. Both were serious, responsible and even austere. Both had intellectually outstanding minds. Although they were separated by almost two centuries, they shared striking commonalities, especially in their perception of society. If Hayek was a great economist, he knew Smith was the father of economics. If Hayek was a great intellectual, he also knew he was inheriting a vision already developed by Smith and some of his contemporaries. And he often made his debt explicit in his writings. Dugald Stewart, in his Account of the Life and Writings of Adam Smith (EPS: 269-352), explains that Smith divided his Moral Philosophy course at Glasgow University into four parts: Ethics, Jurisprudence, Political Economy and Natural Theology (EPS: 274).2 Although in my personal view he did not take theology that seriously,3 he delved into the other three branches of his course. In 1759, based on his lectures, he published The Theory of Moral Sentiments. This book brought Smith intellectual prestige and, because of this, he was offered the opportunity to accompany the Duke of Buccleuch to a grand tour in 1764. It was an invitation he could not decline: the opportunity to meet the great intellectual figures on the Continent, and a considerable salary increase. The tour lasted until 1766, and after their return, due to the death of the duke’s younger brother, Smith remained with a pension for life. This pension allowed him to retire to his birthplace Kirkcaldy. There he spent ten years working on his magnum opus, which was finally published in the emblematic year of 1776. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations was well received,4 but Smith never forgot his original plan of writing a treatise of Jurisprudence. In the advertisement of TMS’s last edition (the sixth edition published posthumously), Smith acknowledges that:
In the last paragraph of the first Edition of the present work, I said, that I should in another discourse endeavour to give an account of the general principles of law and government,5 and of the different revolutions which
they had undergone in the different ages and periods of society; not only in what concerns justice, but in what concerns police, revenue, and arms, and whatever else is the object of law. In the Enquiry concerning the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, I have partly executed this promise; at least so far as concerns police, revenue, and arms. What remains, the theory of jurisprudence, which I have long projected, I have hitherto been hindered from executing, by the same occupations which had till now prevented me from revising the present work. Though my very advanced age leaves me, I acknowledge, very little expectation of ever being able to execute this great work to my own satisfaction; yet, as I have not altogether abandoned the design, and as I wish still to continue under the obligation of doing what I can, I have allowed the paragraph to remain as it was published more than thirty years ago, when I entertained no doubt of being able to execute every thing which it announced.