For a Sustainable Agriculture, We Need More Adam Smith, Not Less
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There are two competing approaches to sustainability in agriculture. One stresses a strict economic approach in which market forces should be allowed to guide the activities of agricultural producers. The other advocates the need to balance economic with environmental and social objectives, even to the point of reducing profitability. This paper shows how the writings of the 18th century moral philosopher Adam Smith could bridge the debate. First, he is recognized by those advocating the economic approach as an architect of modern economics. Second, his writings are consistent with many aspects of sustainable agriculture. Smith argues that people ought to exercise restraint in their pursuit of self-interest. He also recognizes the need to balance economic with environmental and social considerations. One implication is that advocates of sustainable agriculture might be more effective by actively promoting the work of Adam Smith.