Teaching Economics the Adam Smith Way

The economist had to learn moral philosophy before anything else—an underpinning that’s still helpful for today’s students

From the collection: 11 New Economic Thinkers You Should Watch


From the collection 11 New Economic Thinkers You Should Watch

In many ways, Adam Smith had a better economics education than today’s students.
During the Scottish Enlightenment, moral philosophy was the first course taught at university. It grounded everything else, leading to a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between economy, society, and the state, says Emeritus Professor of Economics at the University of Stirling Sheila Dow.
Today’s economics all too often teach students a much narrower view of economics, one that neglects history, political economy, and the nuances of Smith’s own work (it’s not purely “free-market”). Instead, students should be given the chance to have real intellectual exploration. As Dow says, “If you start off respecting students and their capacity to form opinions, then you can start helping them.”

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