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Global economic competition, Adam Smith, and the no‐harm proviso

Norman S. Wright (School of Business, Brigham Young University, Hawaii, USA, and)
David Kirkwood Hart (Marriott School of Management, Brigham Young University, USA)

Journal of Management History (Archive)

ISSN: 1355-252X

Article publication date: 1 December 1998



This paper asks the question, “What is the appropriate management value system for commerce in the increasingly complex global marketplace?” We argue that the current management orthodoxy is deficient in dealing with the challenges brought about by the growing number and increased cultural diversity of economic transactions in this new environment. As the justification for the current system is so frequently based on Adam Smith’s writing in An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, we compare the current ideology of organizational life with that proposed in his The Theory of Moral Sentiments. In so doing, we argue that a form of international commerce based on Smith’s concept of “sympathy”, the innate need for each individual to care for others, is better suited to building the conditions necessary for human flourishing than is the existing value base. We propose an important initial step toward achieving a more sympathetic capitalism, the “No‐Harm Proviso”, and briefly speculate on its implementation.



Wright, N.S. and Kirkwood Hart, D. (1998), "Global economic competition, Adam Smith, and the no‐harm proviso", Journal of Management History (Archive), Vol. 4 No. 4, pp. 318-333.




Copyright © 1998, MCB UP Limited

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