What Adam Smith really said1

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Written by David Korten

In Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776) Adam Smith articulated the powerful and wonderfully democratic ideal of a self-organizing economy that creates an equitable and socially optimal allocation of society's productive resources through the interaction of small buyers and sellers making decisions based on their individual needs, interests, and abilities.Smith had a substantial antipathy toward corporate monopolies and those who use their wealth and power in ways that harm others.  He believed that people have a natural and appropriate concern for the well-being of others and a duty not to do others harm.  He also believed that government has a responsibility to restrain those who fail in that duty.

David Korten, Agenda for a New Economy, 2d. ed., pp.48-49. 

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