In the Shadow of the Dutch: Anglophone Political Economy and Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations
This dissertation offers a new interpretation of Adam Smith’s political thought by exploring his engagement with earlier Anglophone debates about the political and economic institutions of the seventeenth century Dutch Republic. Scholars have extensively and productively discussed Smith’s politics by exploring his works alongside contemporaries such as Hume or Rousseau or by reading them within longer traditions of natural jurisprudence and the thought of Pufendorf or Grotius. This dissertation instead centers on Smith’s engagement with earlier political economists who advocated for the adoption of certain Dutch institutions of economic governance, including tax laws, regulations governing interest rates, public banks, and joint-stock companies. By focusing on Smith’s engagement with these political economists and their arguments about the Dutch, this project recovers major debates in Anglophone political economy before Smith and brings to light features of Smith’s political economy, such as his treatment of public finance and tax law, that have received little attention to date. Most importantly, by recovering Smith’s engagement with these Dutch institutions, the project recasts Smith’s political thought as offering a novel constitutional framework for commercial development and political stability.
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