Writings Online

Adam Smith Program





My father and my daughter, 2004.

Daniel Klein




New video: Liberalism 1.0

New video: Politics in School in Sweden

New video: A Plea Regarding "Liberal"

I am Professor of Economics and JIN Chair at the Mercatus Center, George Mason University. I hold degrees from George Mason University and New York University, where in both cases I studied the classical liberal traditions of economics. My teaching focuses on economic principles, public policy issues, and the liberal tradition of Adam Smith and Friedrich Hayek.

I've published research on policy issues including toll roads, urban transit, auto emission, credit reporting, and the Food and Drug Administration. I've also written on spontaneous order, coordinaton, the discovery of opportunity, the demand and supply of assurance, why government officials believe in the goodness of bad policy, why people favor government intervention more than they should, and the relationship between liberty, dignity, and responsibility.

Lately my research dwells on Adam Smith. Here is an interview on Adam Smith (11 min). Russ Roberts and I produced a multipart audio book club on The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Also, here is an introductory lecture on Smith's ethical vision. And here is a podcast on my book Knowledge and Coordination: A Liberal Interpretation. Here is 30 min Youtube on the book. Here is a positive review of the book.

I lead the Adam Smith Program at GMU Econ, including field exam in Smithian Political Economy (SPE) (some sample field questions) and teach the first course in the Smithian course sequence. Also, I lead an Invisible Hand Seminar for graduate students and with Garett Jones an Adam Smith reading group.

I am the chief editor of Econ Journal Watch, an online journal dedicated to economic criticism from a Smith-Hayek viewpoint. I've contributed several papers on the character heterogeneity of economists. I push the point that the cleavages in character run deeper than is usually acknowledged. Like Gunnar Myrdal, I think that deep-seated ideological sensibilities play a role in one's purpose, basic formulations, and judgment throughout, and that candid communication calls for openness about own ideological sensibilities.

My sensibilities are pragmatic libertarian/classical liberal. My "Mere Libertarianism" offers a definition of libertarianism as movement and political persuasion.

I've lately done work on liberalism, including Lost Language, Lost Liberalism, The Origin of 'Liberalism,' Liberalism Unrelinquished, and A Plea Regarding 'Liberal.' Here is a video on the semantic history of liberalism (20 min).

I have published several studies on the ideology of faculty in the social sciences and humanities.

I am the coauthor (with Adrian Moore and Binyam Reja) of Curb Rights: A Foundation for Free Enterprise in Urban Transit, editor of Reputation: Studies in the Voluntary Elicitation of Good Conduct, and editor of What Do Economists Contribute? I co-edited with Fred Foldvary a book The Half-Life of Policy Rationales: How New Technology Affects Old Policy Issues. I have coauthored with Alex Tabarrok an extensive Web site on the Food and Drug Administration (FDAReview.org). My 2012 book is entitled Knowledge and Coordination: A Liberal Interpretation.

I spend several months every year in Stockholm, where I am affiliated with the Ratio Institute.

Here are links to my stuff.



My mother and my younger brother, 1965.

impartial spectator

(Concept DK, production John Stephens)

"[T]he core of all morality, according to Smith, is the relationship between our empirical self of action and the ideal impartial spectator towards whom our conscience is striving" (Haakonssen 1996, 146).