Eighteenth century Scottish economist, author of The Wealth of Nations
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  • Adam Smith

    Adam Smith (5 June 1723 O.S. [16 June 1723 N.S.] - 17 July 1790) was a Scottish moral philosopher, pioneer of political economy, and a key figure in the Scottish Enlightenment.

    The Adam Smith Institute


    Smith, Adam (1723-1790) | Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, by Ronald Hamowy, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
    Biographical essay focusing on Adam Smith's two major works
    "Both a philosopher and political economist, Adam Smith was one of the principal thinkers of 18th-century Scotland, whose name is intimately associated with the early history of economic science. ... During his tenure at Glasgow, Smith published his first work, A Theory of Moral Sentiments, which appeared in 1759. ... In 1773, he moved to London, where he completed his monograph on the production and distribution of wealth for which he is now famous. On March 9, 1776, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations was published in two volumes by William Strahan and Thomas Cadell."


    TheAdvocates.org - Adam Smith
    200x254 JPEG, grayscale


    5 Jun 1723, (baptized), in Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland


    17 Jul 1790, in Edinburgh, Scotland


    Adam Smith (1723-1790), The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics
    Includes list of selected works with links to those hosted by the Library of Economics and Liberty
    "With The Wealth of Nations Adam Smith installed himself as the leading expositor of economic thought. Currents of Adam Smith run through the works published by David Ricardo and Karl Marx in the nineteenth century, and by John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman in the twentieth. ... Today Smith's reputation rests on his explanation of how rational self-interest in a free-market economy leads to economic well-being. It may surprise those who would discount Smith as an advocate of ruthless individualism that his first major work concentrates on ethics and charity."
    Laissez Faire Books
    "Very few authors have done as much as the shy Scotsman Smith (1723-1790) to show that society does fine when people are free. While Smith didn't originate many ideas, his big book The Wealth of Nations (1776) was the most impressive and influential presentation. He critiqued Britain's colonial empire and its system of trade restrictions known as mercantilism. He explained how society prospers when private individuals peacefully pursue their self-interest."

    Web Pages

    Adam Smith | Libertarianism.org
    Short profile and links to essays, videos and other resources about Adam Smith
    "Adam Smith was a Scottish political philosopher and economist, considered one of the forefathers of classical economics and a pioneer of the study of political economy. Smith graduated from Balliol College at Oxford, and later served as the chair of moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow. He departed from his academic position after 12 years to tutor the Duke of Bucchleuch in Switzerland. His two major works, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, and The Theory of Moral Sentiments, were composed after he left the service of the Duke on a lifetime pension."
    Adam Smith - Online Library of Liberty
    Includes picture, short biography, links to essays about Smith, a timeline of his life and works, several of his writings, including The Weath of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments, and related quotations
    "Adam Smith (1723-1790) is commonly regarded as the first modern economist with the publication in 1776 of The Wealth of Nations. He wrote in a wide range of disciplines: moral philosophy, jurisprudence, rhetoric and literature, and the history of science. ... He is viewed as the founder of modern economic thought, and his work inspires economists to this day. The economic phrase for which he is most famous, the 'invisible hand' of economic incentives, was only one of his many contributions to the modern-day teaching of economics."
    Advocates for Self-Government - Libertarian Education: Adam Smith - Libertarian
    Biography (from Laissez Faire Books) and picture (of statue of Smith)
    "Smith has inspired friends of liberty around the world for more than 200 years. Smith's book The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) explored human motivations other than self-interest. He delivered thoughtful lectures on jurisprudence. He corresponded with the leading thinkers of his day. Adam Smith offers readers much wisdom and pleasure."


    Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand, by Edmund A. Opitz, The Freeman, Jun 1976
    Explains mercantilism, the rationales for political power, the proper role of government, Adam Smith's metaphor of the "invisible hand", his concept of "equality, liberty and justice" and how a free society allocates economic goods
    "Smith had made a name for himself with an earlier volume entitled Theory of the Moral Sentiments, published in 1759, but he is now remembered mainly for his Wealth of Nations, on which he labored for ten years. The Wealth of Nations sold briskly in the American colonies, some 2,500 copies within five years of publication, even though our people were at war. This is a remarkable fact, for there were only three million people living on these shores two centuries ago, and about one-third of these were Loyalists."
    Related Topics: Limited Government, Politics
    Adam Smith - Hero of the Day, The Daily Objectivist, 2000
    "Adam Smith, a major figure of the Scottish Enlightenment, was a self-taught professor of moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow. His work on a theory of 'moral sentiments' preceded and informed his far more influential thinking on economics. Smith argued that the most productive social system is one in which, with few exceptions, individuals are free to pursue their economic interest."
    Adam Smith Needs a Paper Clip, by Virginia Postrel, Reason, 1 May 2017
    A short history of pins from Adam Smith in the late 18th century to the invention of the paper clip at the turn of the 19th century
    "Adam Smith famously used a pin factory to illustrate the advantages of specialization, choosing this 'very trifling manufacture' because the different tasks were performed under one roof ... By improving workers' skills and encouraging purpose-built machinery, the division of labor leads to miraculous productivity gains. Even a small and ill-equipped manufacturer, Smith wrote in The Wealth of Nations, could boost each worker's output from a handful of pins a day to nearly 5,000."
    Classical Liberalism in Argentina: A Lesson for the World, by Jacob G. Hornberger, Future of Freedom, Jul 1994
    Recounts highlights of Argentine history from the 1810 revolution to the late 20th century, arguing that the period from the ouster of Rosas in 1852 to the military coup of 1930 demonstrated the validity of Adam Smith's writings
    "Two centuries ago, Adam Smith asked a very fundamental question: what are the nature and causes of the wealth of nations? Note that Smith did not ask what most people today ask — that is, what are the causes of poverty? Smith understood that poverty had always been the natural state of mankind. He wanted to know something much more vital — what is it that causes certain nations to be wealthy and prosperous?"
    Full Context, by Sheldon Richman, The Freeman, Apr 2006
    Explains why it is essential to be aware that the existing corporatist economy does not equate to the free market
    "In The Wealth of Nations Adam Smith famously wrote, 'People of the same trade seldom meet ... but the conversation ends ... in some contrivance to raise prices.' It may seem strange that history's best-known advocate of the free market would cast such aspersions on business people. ... Smith's book was a brief against mercantilism, the nationalistic system of business privilege."
    Related Topic: Free Market
    Interview with Adam Smith [via Edwin West], by E. G. West, The Region, The Region, Jun 1994
    Professor Edwin G. West stands in for Adam Smith and answers questions from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis banking and policy issues magazine
    "... you will find in my The Wealth of Nations a wide survey of many forms of societies, including Greek republics, democracies, monarchies, federal governments, governments of mercantile companies, the American colonies and established churches. I was attempting to determine what bearing these institutional differences had upon relative economic success. But what was also new was that such success was measured in terms of per capita, not per monarch, per company or per church success."
    Liberalism, by Friedrich Hayek, New Studies in Philosophy, Politics, Economics and the History of Ideas, 1978
    Chapter 9; originally written in 1973 for the Enciclopedia del Novicento; covers both the history of both strands of liberalism as well as a systematic description of the "classical" or "evolutionary" type
    "Adam Smith's decisive contribution was the account of a self-generating order which formed itself spontaneously if the individuals were restrained by appropriate rules of law. His Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations marks perhaps more than any other single work the beginning of the development of modern liberalism. It made people understand that those restrictions on the powers of government which had originated from sheer distrust of all arbitrary power had become the chief cause of Britain's economic prosperity."
    Module 4: Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations (Part I)
    Fourth module of the Cato Home Study Course, includes link to listen or download audio program (2:33:47), questions and suggested readings
    "Adam Smith (1723-90) was not the first to try to understand the market economy, but he may have been the most influential and eloquent observer of economic life. His observation that a person may be 'led by an invisible hand to promote an end that was no part of his intention' became the guiding star of an investigation of the beneficial unintended consequences of voluntary exchange, an investigation that still continues strong after more than two hundred years."
    Related Topics: Free Market, The Netherlands
    Module 5: Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations (Part II)
    Fifth module of the Cato Home Study Course, includes link to listen or download audio program (2:34:19), questions and suggested readings
    "Adam Smith was both moral philosopher and social scientist. He sought to understand the wellsprings of morality as well as the regulating principles of social life. In seeking to understand the natural laws governing the regularities of economic life, Smith took the time to observe carefully how business enterprises operated, how markets were organized, and how the prices at which goods were exchanged were determined. Working out the relationships of "supply and demand" that determine prices in the market was one of his principal concerns."
    Related Topic: Capitalism
    Murray Rothbard Confronts Adam Smith [PDF], by Paul B. Trescott, The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics, 1998
    Critical review of Rothbard's chapter about Adam Smith in Economic Thought Before Adam Smith: An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought, Volume I, including both positive and unfavorable points missed by Rothbard
    "Rothbard cites Schumpeter as one of the first to mount an authoritative deflation of Smith's exaggerated reputation. But Schumpeter also said that The Wealth of Nations "is a great performance all the same and fully deserved its success" ... Rothbard's treatment of Smith's is unfair and inaccurate. His treatment of Cantillon is distorted in the opposite direction. Ironically, many of Rothbard's specific criticisms of Smith would also apply to Cantillon and Turgot."
    Related Topic: Murray N. Rothbard
    Murray Rothbard's Adam Smith [PDF], by Spencer J. Pack, The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics, 1998
    Supportive review of Rothbard's criticisms of Adam Smith in An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought
    "Again, largely following Hume, Smith basically did not utilize a natural-law or natural-rights framework. His book on The Theory of Moral Sentiments was an elaborate argument for why humans can get along in society and why they do indeed have morals, wrapped around his theory of 'sympathy.' Although a case can be made that Smith's theory of justice was partly grounded in a natural-law position ... Smith for the most part never used natural-rights and natural-law theory."
    Related Topic: Murray N. Rothbard
    Non-Marxist Theories of Imperialism, by Alan Fairgate, Feb 1976
    Examines writings of critics of imperialism that are not based on Marxist analysis
    "While early critiques of England's colonial foreign policy had focused primarily on political and moral objections, Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations presented the first comprehensive economic refutation of the mercantilist doctrines which had been used to justify the acquisition of colonies. Upholding the virtues of division of labor, economic specialization, and freedom of trade, Smith persuasively argued that protectionism and regulation of commerce would hamper, rather than promote, economic growth and welfare."
    Peace and Pacifism, by Robert Higgs, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
    Reviews what prominent classical liberals and libertarians had to say on the subject of peace and war, as well as the history of United States wars from the War of 1812 to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the efforts of those who opposed them
    "Preeminent classical liberals, such as Adam Smith, Richard Cobden, John Bright, William Graham Sumner, and Ludwig von Mises, condemned war as fatal to economic and social progress. Smith famously taught that 'little else is requisite to carry a [society] to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice: all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things.'"
    The Ambitious, Accommodative Adam Smith [PDF], by Salim Rashid, The Independent Review, 1997
    Criticises Adam Smith mostly based on his purported behavior, as evidenced in some of his personal writings and reports of some of his biographers, with minimal discussion of his economics or philosophical writings
    "The approach adopted in The Wealth of Nations attracts many readers because of its close link with natural-rights arguments and political radicalism. ... Many have noted Smith's sympathy for laborers and farm workers and his hostility toward masters and landlords. Combined with the general emphasis on liberty—recall the radical stress on liberty of his old teacher, Francis Hutcheson—the ideas would appear to have been a powerful solvent of traditional ideas, especially in Europe ..."
    The Writings of Adam Smith, by Julio H. Cole, The Freeman, Feb 1990
    Biographical essay, including not only the two major works published during Adam Smith's lifetime, but also the lectures and other writing published posthumously
    "Smith took economics forever beyond the narrow mercantilistic framework which denied the gains from trade between nations, and made of it a study of the spontaneous and largely unintended social order which arises from free exchanges between individuals, exchanges which produce benefits for all parties involved, whether domestic or foreign. For as long as the love of liberty survives in this world, free men will continue to derive inspiration from Adam Smith, author of The Wealth of Nations."


    Of the Rent of Land, The Wealth of Nations, 1776
    Book One, Chapter XI
    "Rent, considered as the price paid for the use of land, is naturally the highest which the tenant can afford to pay in the actual circumstances of the land. In adjusting the terms of the lease, the landlord endeavours to leave him no greater share of the produce than what is sufficient to keep up the stock from which he furnishes the seed, pays the labour, and purchases and maintains the cattle and other instruments of husbandry, together with the ordinary profits of farming stock in the neighbourhood."
    Related Topic: Land
    Of the Wages of Labour, The Wealth of Nations, 1776
    Book One, Chapter VIII
    "The produce of labour constitutes the natural recompence or wages of labour. In that original state of things, which precedes both the appropriation of land and the accumulation of stock, the whole produce of labour belongs to the labourer. He has neither landlord nor master to share with him. Had this state continued, the wages of labour would have augmented with all those improvements in its productive powers, to which the division of labour gives occasion. All things would gradually have become cheaper"
    Related Topic: Wages

    Books Authored

    An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Mar 1776
    Partial contents: Of the Causes of Improvement in the productive... - Of the Nature, Accumulation, and Employment of Stock - Of the different Progress of Opulence in different Nations - Of Systems of political Œconomy - Of the Revenue of the Sovereign...
    Related Topic: Economics
    The Theory of Moral Sentiments, 1759
    Partial contents: Of the Propriety of Action Consisting of Three Sections - Of Merit and Demerit; or of the Objects of Reward and Punishment - Of the Foundation of our Judgments concerning our own Sentiments and Conduct, and of the Sense of Duty
    Related Topic: Ethics


    Adam Smith: The Invisible Hand, by James Otteson, 29 Aug 2011
    Short video, with transcript, with brief explanations of the concepts of the "invisible hand" and the division of labor
    "Adam Smith was one of the principals of an astonishing period of human learning, called the Scottish Enlightenment, during the 18th century. He's the author of two books. In 1759, The Theory of Moral Sentiments was his first book. In 1776, the one he's more famous for now, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Those two books together almost singlehandedly began the discipline of political economy."

    The Real Adam Smith: Ideas That Changed The World, by Johan Norberg, 26 Mar 2016
    Second part of The Real Adam Smith: A Personal Exploration by Johan Norberg, a television documentary produced by Free To Choose Media

    The Real Adam Smith: Morality and Markets, by Johan Norberg, 26 Mar 2016
    First part of The Real Adam Smith: A Personal Exploration by Johan Norberg, a television documentary produced by Free To Choose Media

    The introductory paragraph uses material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.