GMU Econ:

Adam Smith Reading Group

Led and organized by Daniel Klein.

The reading group is open to all GMU students and faculty. To get on the email list and to obtain the books, write to Klein at

Spring 2021, online (Zoom). Thanks to Institute for Humane Studies for partial support!

Adam Smith, Essays on Philosophical Subjects, ed. W.P.D. Wightman (Liberty Fund republication of OUP volume).

Five Fridays (11:00 - 12:30pm):

Friday February 5: Pp. 31-105: "The History of Astronomy"

Friday February 19: Pp.: 106 - 129: "The History of the Ancient Physics" & "The History of the Ancient Logics and Metaphysics"

Friday March 12: Pp. 135 - 225: "Of the External Senses," "Of the Immitative Arts," "Affinity between Music, Dancing, and Poetry," "Affinity between certain English and Italian Versus"

Friday April 2: Pp. 232 - 262: "Review of Johnson's Dictionary," letter on literature (Rousseau), Preface to Hamilton

Friday April 30: Pp.: 265 - 351: Dugald Stewart, Account of the Life and Writings of Adam Smith



Fall 2020: Online

Alexis de Tocqueville, The Ancien Regime and the Revolution. Trans. G. Bevan. Penguin Classics. Link

Friday Sept. 4: Pp. 7-35 (Foreword and Book I) and Lerner, Ralph, “Tocqueville’s Burke, or Story as History,” in Lerner’s Naïve Readings: Reveilles Political and Philosophic, University of Chicago Press, 2016: 119-31.

Friday Sept. 18: Pp. 36-102 (Book II, chs. 1-9)

Friday Oct. 2: Pp. 103-157 (Book II, chs. 10-12, Book III, chs. 1-2)

Friday Oct. 23: Pp. 158-207 (Book III, chs. 3-8)

Friday Nov. 20: "Tocquevillian Education for Self-Governance," by Andrew Humphries, discussion led by Humphries

Spring 2020

Larry Siedentop, Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism (2014, Belknap Press paperback 2017)

Friday January 31: Pages 1-78.

Related Ryan Reeves videos: Roman Pagan Life and Worship, Early Christian Persecution, Christian Apologists and Early Heresies, Gnosticism and the Early Church, Arius and Nicea, After Nicea

Friday February 14: Pages 79-150.

Related Ryan Reeves videos: Constantine the Great, Monasticism, Augustine (Part 1), Augustine (Part 2), Ambrose and Jerome, The Merovingians

Friday March 6: Pages 151-221.

Related Ryan Reeves videos: Who Was Charlemagne?, Knights and Chivalry, Bernard of Clairvaux

Friday April 10: Pages 225-292.

Related Ryan Reeves videos: Abelard on the Cross, Abelard on the Trinity, Medieval Overview, Medieval Life, Death, and Marriage, Medieval Life: Estates of the Realm, Byzantine Christian Empire (Part 1), Byzantine Christian Empire (Part 2)

Friday May 1: Pages 293-363.

Related Ryan Reeves videos: Thomas Aquinas (part 1), Thomas Aquinas (part 2), Duns Scotus, William of Ockham, Papal Schism, Avignon Papacy John Wycliffe, Jan Hus, Humanism

Fall 2019

Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790). In Vol. 2 of Selected Works of Edmund Burke. Ed. E.J. Payne (1875). New republication Foreword by Francis Canavan (Liberty Fund, 1999).

Apparatus of the Burke text:

Friday September 13: Burke: 87-129; Levin: ix-xix, 1-41; Levin: Burke and the Nation

Friday October 4: Burke: 129-187; Levin: 43-90
Friday October 25: Burke: 187-223; Levin: 91-175
Friday November 8: Burke: 223-269; Levin: 177-203
Friday December 6: Burke: 269-365; Levin: 205-235

Spring 2019

Friday February 1, Carmichael: Foreword by James Moore ix-xvi, and Carmichael on Pufendorf, pp. 1-123

Friday February 22, Carmichael: Carmichael on Pufendorf, pp. 124-217, and his1707 thesis: 357-376.

Friday March 29, Hutcheson: Intro by Luigi Turco, etc. ix-xxvii, and Hutcheson pp 1-96.

Friday April 12, Hutcheson: Hutcheson 97-179.

Friday May 3, Hutcheson: Hutcheson 180-289.

Fall 2018:

Melzer posted an online appendix to accompany his book, a compendium of testimonial evidence of esotericism, here.

I interviewed Melzer about his book; listening to that podcast is a very good way to ease yourself into reading the book. For a lecture by me on esotericism, liberalism, Smith, and Hume, see here (follow link there to Youtube).

Melzer will be speaking on the topic in Arlington at the Westin Arlington Gateway Hotel on Saturday Nov. 10. That will be part of a conference in Arlington Nov 9-11. The conference is part of a project with JEBO, see here.

Friday August 31: Melzer, xi-xviii (Preface and Acknowledgments), 1-52 (Introduction and Chapter 1), 287-324 (Chapter 9)

Friday September 14: Melzer, 53-124 (Chapters 2-4)

Friday October 5: Melzer, 127-234 (Chapters 5-7)

Friday October 26: Melzer, 235-284 (Chapter 8), 325-366 (Chapter 10)

Friday November 30: Hume, A Concise and Genuine Account of the Dispute between Mr. Hume and Mr. Rousseau (1766)


Spring 2018:

Henry C. Clark, ed., Commerce, Culture, and Liberty: Readings on Capitalism before Adam Smith (Liberty Fund, 2003).

Friday Feb 2, Buchanan Hall D100: Pages ix-xxiii, 1-99  (William Walwyn, Pieter de la Court, Josiah Child, Pierre Nicole, Nicholas Barbon)

Friday Feb 23, Buchanan Hall D100: Pages 100-218  (Dudley North, Andrew Fletcher, Richard Steele, John Law, John Trenchard, Bernard Mandeville)

Friday March 30, Buchanan Hall D100: Pages 219-357  (George Blewhitt, Daniel Defoe, Charles Irenee Castel de Saint-Pierre, Jean-Francois Melon, Voltaire, Noel-Antoine Pluche, Montesquieu, Ferdinando Galiani, Henry Fielding)

Friday April 13, Buchanan Hall D100: Pages 358-501  (David Hume, Jacques-Claude-Marie-Vincent de Gournay, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, William Hazeland, Gabriel Francois Coyer, John Brown, Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot, Jean-Francois Saint-Lambert, William Robertson)

Friday May 4, Buchanan Hall D180: Pages 502-656  (Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot, Samuel Du Pont de Nemours, Ferdinando Galiani, Guillaume-Thomas-Francois Raynal, John Millar, Etienne Bonnot de Condillac)

Fall 2017:

David Hume's History of England, Vols. III, IV, V, and VI (these four volumes cover the Tudors and the Stuarts up through the Glorious Revolution)

Friday Sept. 8: Volume III

Friday Sept. 22: Volume IV

Friday Oct. 6: Volume V

Friday Oct. 27: Volume VI: pp. 1-283

Friday Dec. 1: Volume VI: pp. 284-549.


Spring 2017:

Adam Smith's 1763-1764 Lectures on Jurisprudence, known as LJ (B)

Friday Feb. 3: Adam Smith, LJ (B): 397-437

Friday Feb. 17: Adam Smith, LJ (B): 438-485

Friday Feb 24: Adam Smith, LJ (B): 486-538

Friday April 7: Adam Smith, LJ (B): 539-554 & The Anderson Notes presented by R.L. Meek in HOPE 1976.

Friday April 21: Jonathan Diesel, A Call to Embrace Jural Dualism, a dissertation chapter.


Fall 2016

Focus: Grotius and Pufendorf

Friday Sept. 16: Grotius, The Free Sea. Read David Armitage's 10-page intro, and Grotius's text pp. 5-62.

Friday Sept. 30: Grotius, The Rights of War and Peace, Bk I: Read Grotius's dedication pp. 71-73 and the Preliminary Discourse pp. 75-132.

Friday Oct. 21: Grotius, The Rights of War and Peace, Bk I, Ch. 1 (pp. 133-179); Bk II pp. 951-956 (segments II-III); Bk III pp. 1208-1222 (segments X-XVI).

Friday Nov. 18: Pufendorf, The Whole Duty of Man, According to the Natural Law, Intro by D. Saunders pp. ix-xviii, "To the Reader," "The Author's Preface," and Book I: pp. 1-165. [For guidance on the footnotes, see p. 10, footnotes 11 and 12.]

Friday Dec. 2:Pufendorf, The Whole Duty of Man, According to the Natural Law, Book II: pp. 166-250.

Spring 2016

Focus: Locke's Second Treatise, in the CambridgeUP Peter Laslett edition, as well as some secondary literature.

Friday February 5: (1) Michael P. Zuckert, "Do Natural Rights Derive from Natural Law?," Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy 20(3), 1997: 695-731; (2) Locke, Chapters I-V, pp. 265-302.

Friday February 26: Locke, Chapters VI-XI, pp. 303-363.THIS DATE WE MEET IN MASON HALL D100.

Friday April 1: Locke, Chapters XII-XIX, pp.364-428.

Friday April 15: Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History, pp. 165-166, 202-251, 294-323.

Friday April 29: Articles, other material TBA.

Fall 2015

We will read the entirety of Arthur M. Melzer's Philosophy between the Lines: The Lost History of Esoteric Writing (UChicagoP, 2014). Also, Edmund Burke's A Vindication of Natural Society and the final section (16 pages) of Smith's TMS.

Melzer posted an online appendix to accompany his book, a compendium of testimonial evidence of esotericism, here.

I think Melzer's book will prove to be a landmark work on esotericism. Indeed, it is already proving so. I had the honor and pleasure of interviewing Melzer about his book; listening to that podcast is a very good way to ease yourself into reading the book. Melzer will be speaking on his book in the Public Choice seminar on Wednesday September 16 at 12noon.

Friday September 11: Melzer, xi-xviii (Preface and Acknowledgments), 1-52 (Introduction and Chapter 1), 287-324 (Chapter 9)

Friday September 25: Melzer, 53-124 (Chapters 2-4)

Friday October 9: Melzer, 127-234 (Chapters 5-7)

Friday October 23: Melzer, 235-284 (Chapter 8), 325-366 (Chapter 10)

Friday November 13: Adam Smith, the final section of TMS, pp. 327-342; Burke, A Vindication of Natural Society


Spring 2015

We read from three books:

R1: Rousseau: The Discourses and Other Early Writings, edited by Victor Gourevitch

R2: Rousseau: The Social Contract and Other Later Political Writings, edited by Victor Gourevitch

David Hume, Essays: Moral, Political, and Literary, edited by Eugene F. Miller

Friday January 30 (Enterprise 318):
1. R1: Victor Gourevitch's nice introduction (ix-xxxi)
2. R1: Chronology of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (xxxii-xxxiv)
3. R1: The Discourse on Sciences and Arts (win prize in 1750, published 1751) (1-28).
4. Hume, "Of Refinement in the Arts" (268-280).

Friday February 20 (Enterprise 318): R1: Discourse on Inequality (including Rousseau's notes) (113-222).

Friday March 27 (Carow Hall conf. room): R2: Gourevitch's introduction (ix-xxxi); Discourse on Political Economy (3-38). Hume "Of Commerce" (253-267) and "Of the Jealousy of Trade" (327-331).

Friday April 10 (Enterprise 318): R2: Of the Social Contract, Bks I-II (39-81); Hume "Of the Original Contract" (465-487), "Of Passive Obedience" (488-492, and "Of the Coalition of Parties" (493-501).

Friday April 24 (Carow Hall conf. room): R2: Of the Social Contract, Bks III-IV (82-152); Hume "Idea of a Perfect Commonwealth" (512-529).


Fall 2014

We read two books this term, Smith's Essays on Philosophical Subjects (EPS) (we will read only the EPS proper, not the additional items in the volume) and Daniel Hannan's Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World (2014). If you need a copy of either book, let me know.

Friday Sept 5, 10:30-12:15: Hannan Chs 1, 2, & 3, pp. 1-126.

Friday Sept 26, 10:30-12:15: Smith EPS, pp. 35-105 (Astronomy); Hannan Ch. 4, pp. 127-145.

Friday Oct 3, 10:30-12:15: Smith EPS, pp. 106-129 (Physics, Logics-Metaphysics); Hannan Ch. 5, pp. 147-207.

Friday Oct 17, 10:30-12:15: Smith EPS, pp. 135-168 (External Senses); Hannan Chs 6 & 7, pp. 209-310.

Friday Nov 14, 10:30-12:15: Smith EPS, pp. 176-213, 220-225 (Imitative Arts, English and Italian Verses); Hannan Chs 8, 9 & Conclusion, pp. 311-377.

Spring 2014

We read two books this term, Smith's Correspondence and Arthur Herman's How the Scots Invented the Modern World (2001). If you need a copy of either work, let me know.

Friday February 7: Corr. Eds Preface and pp. 1-60; Herman Preface, Prologue, and Chaps. 1 & 2.

Friday February 28: Corr. pp. 60-155; Herman Chaps. 3, 4, 5, & 6.

Friday March 28: Corr. pp. 155-224 (thru letter 182); Herman Chaps. 7 & 8.

Friday April 11: Corr. pp. 225-311 (thru letter 276); Herman Chaps. 9, 10, 11, & 12.

Friday April 25: Corr. pp. 311-336 (and the English translation of Dupont's letter here), 377-412; Herman Chaps. 13, 14, and Conclusion.


Fall 2013

We read Dugald Stewart's Account of Adam Smith, and Nicholas Phillipson's Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life (Yale University Press, 2010).

Friday Sept 20: Dugald Stewart's Account of the Life and Writings of Adam Smith, first presented in 1793, in Essays on Philosophical Subjects, pp. 265-351 (includes Ian Ross's intro).

Friday October 4: Phillipson, Adam Smith, Prologue and Chaps. 1-5, pp. 1-119.

Friday October 25: Phillipson, Adam Smith, Chaps. 6-10, pp. 120-213.

Friday November 15: Phillipson, Adam Smith, Chaps. 11-13 & Epilogue, pp. 214-284.


Spring 2013

This Spring we read the longer of the two sets of lecture notes from the volume Lectures on Jurisprudence. The set we will read are from the session at University of Glasgow 1762–63. It is called LJ(A). It is the one that comes first in the LJ volume.

(The other set, which comes second in the LJ volume, is called LJ(B), and it is from the session 1763–64. By the way, the header of LJ(B) says “Report dated 1766” because it was in 1766 that whoever wrote the report rewrote the notes from the 1763–64 class. If you think it unhelpful that the LJ editors made “Report dated 1766” the header for LJ(B), I agree with you.)

If you participate, it is important to bring the proper version to the meetings, so we are all on the same page. It is the Glasgow/OUP/Liberty Fund edition. If you need a copy of LJ, let Klein know (

Friday February 1, 11:00–1:00:
1. Editors’ Introduction of LJ, 42 pages, separately paginated
2. LJ(A), pp. 1–49

Friday February 22, 11:00–1:00:
LJ(A), 49–140.

Friday March 22, 11:00–1:00:
LJ(A), 141–240.

Friday April 12, 11:00–1:00:
LJ(A), 240–330.

Friday May 3, 11:00–1:00:
LJ(A), 331–394.

Fall 2012

Friday September 21, 1:30–3:30:
David Hume, Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, Sections I–VI, pp. 1–47.

Friday October 12, 1:30–3:30:
David Hume, Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, Sections VII–IX and Appendix sections I–IV, pp. 47–88.

Friday November 9, 1:30–3:30:
Adam Smith, Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Letters, Lectures I–XX, pp. 1–116.

Friday November 30, 1:30–3:30:
Adam Smith, Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Letters, Lectures XXI–XXX and the 1761 essay on language, pp. 117–226.

In previous years we read:
The Wealth of Nations
History of Astronomy
Hume, Natural History of Religion
The Theory of Moral Sentiments