Progress by consent: Adam Smith as development economist

William Easterly

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Adam Smith is not sufficiently recognized as a founder of development economics. Smith challenged the longstanding assumption that inferior development outcomes reflected inferior groups, and that superior groups should coerce inferior groups to make development happen. Smith made clear that the positive-sum benefits of markets required respecting the right to consent of all individuals, from whatever group. These ideas led Smith to be a fierce critic of European conquest, enslavement, and colonialism of non-Europeans. The loss of Smith’s insights led to a split in later intellectual history of pro-market and anti-colonial ideas. The importance of the right to consent is still insufficiently appreciated in economic development debates today.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)179-201
    Number of pages23
    JournalReview of Austrian Economics
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Jun 2021


    • Economic development

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Economics, Econometrics and Finance


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