Adam Smith on Liberty and Reputation: Is Reputation Property? Are Defamation Laws Coercive?




Bonica, Mark

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Esteem, admiration, fame, and reputation are powerful motivators of human behavior in Adam Smith's moral philosophy. According to Smith, we are willing to go to great ends to earn the esteem of others and achieve a lasting reputation. Indeed, he asserts men are even willing to attempt acts which will result in certain death if they believe they might achieve a sufficiently great and lasting reputation in the process. Despite the central nature of reputation and its importance to understanding human motivation, Smith is never explicit about how reputation should be treated under the law. We know Smith thinks we will go to great lengths to achieve a good reputation, but we do not know with certainty how the government should treat the reputation of individuals. The focal questions of this dissertation then, are first, whether Smith believed reputation was like property, which men can be said to have a right to defend with violence; and second, if he believed it should be protected by law.



Economics, Economic history, Adam Smith, History of thought, Reputation