He uses material from his primer on Adam Smith, Adam Smith – A Primer examining not only The Wealth of Nations, with its insights on trade and the division of labour, but also less well known works, such as The Theory of Moral Sentiments, the lectures, and the writings on the history of science. Butler therefore provides a comprehensive, but concise, overview of Adam Smith’s intellectual achievements.
Whilst earlier writers may have studied economic matters, it is clear that the scope of Smith’s enquiries was remarkable. In relating economic progress to human nature and institutional evolution he provided a completely new understanding of how human society works and was very much a precursor of writers such as Hayek and Popper. Indeed, with poor governance, protectionism and social engineering still commonplace, Smith’s arguments are still highly relevant to policymakers today.