Commercial Republic Project Conference – “Adam Smith and the Moral Economy of Market Society”

The Commercial Republic Project is hosting a two-day conference with scholars from around the country on “Adam Smith and the Moral Economy of Market Society,” May 14-15, UCLA’s Center for Liberal Arts and Free Institutions (CLAFI).

In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith famously argued that commercial societies produce freedom and widespread prosperity.  In The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith held that such societies would unleash and cohere around the moral sentiment of sympathy along with the pursuit of material self-interest.  In the commercial city, all may be strangers, even competitors, but none are foreigners.  At the same time, Smith was acutely aware of the tendencies toward collusion, monopoly, and factionalism that could undermine individual freedom, equality, prosperity, and sympathetic association.

Our speakers from a range of disciplines will explore these tensions within commercial society.  For Smith, does material inequality undermine freedom and the moral imagination’s capacity for sympathy?  Today, have the benefits of a market-oriented society been undercut by socioeconomic segregation and stratification?  Has the ideal of the cosmopolitan commercial city been exposed by the realities of the slum and the gated-community?  Or does the commercial republic itself provide the best solution to these ailments?

Speakers for this event include: JMC Fellow Sandra Peart (University of Richmond); Ryan Hanley (Marquette University); David Lay Williams (DePaul University); JMC Postdoctoral Fellow Michelle Schwarze (University of Wisconsin, Madison); Michael Locke McLendon (CSU, Los Angeles); Herbert Gintis (Santa Fe Institute); Jason Brennan (Georgetown University); Christine McRorie (University of Virginia); Jason Neidleman (University of La Verne); and JMC Fellow Steven Bilakovics (UCLA).

A full schedule can be found here and on the CLAFI website.  For more information, contact Steven Bilakovics, Executive Director of The Commercial Republic Project, at


Funding for this conference is made possible in partnership with the Jack Miller Center and through the support of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.