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  • The Wealth of Nations

    An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, usually known as The Wealth of Nations, is the most influential work of Adam Smith. Published in 1776, it can be considered the first major treatise on economics.

    Events of Interest

    9 Mar 1776, published, in London


    Adam Smith Needs a Paper Clip, by Virginia Postrel, Reason, May 2017
    A short history of pins as fasteners 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 ... because the different tasks were performed under one roof: "... the important business of making a pin is, in this manner, divided into about eighteen distinct operations, which, in some manufactories, are all performed by distinct hands ..." 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.
    Related Topics: Free Trade, Adam Smith
    Classical Liberalism in Argentina: A Lesson for the World, by Jacob Hornberger, Future of Freedom, Jul 1994
    Highlights Argentine history from the 1810 revolution to the late 20th century, arguing that the period from 1852 to 1930 demonstrated the validity of Adam Smith's writings, also discussing 1958 visits by Leonard Read and Ludwig von Mises
    In his great treatise — An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations — Smith asked, what have been the traditional means of combating poverty throughout history? The answer, of course, was government. People had always believed that governmental policies were necessary to ensure that people did not starve to death or suffer lives of impoverishment. Yet, despite the best efforts of governmental officials throughout the ages — such as with the English Poor Laws, the Corn Laws, price controls, and antispeculation laws — people had continued to suffer deep privation.
    The Early History of FEE, by Henry Hazlitt, The Freeman, Mar 1984
    Excerpted from Hazlitt's remarks at the Leonard E. Read Memorial Conference on Freedom, November 1983; reprinted in the May 2006 issue, including photos of early FEE senior staff
    Leonard's first move was to publish an outline of the aims of the Foundation and its proposed activities ... I condense them here: ... books: the abridgment, publica­tion, and distribution of classical works such as, for instance, The Wealth of Nations and The Federalist Papers ... this seems dreadfully disheartening. But it must be acknowledged that the American ideological situation is much better than if FEE had never come into being ... Even Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, let us remember, did not begin to change actual legislation until many years after its original appearance.
    Libertarianism: The Moral and the Practical, by Sheldon Richman, Future of Freedom, May 2014
    Explores whether libertarian policies should distinguish between moral and practical concerns, with insigths from Aristotle, Adam Smith, Tibor Machan, Henry Hazlitt, Roderick Long and others
    Look at this passage from The Wealth of Nations:
    [The] happiness and perfection of a man, considered not only as an individual, but as the member of a family, of a state, and of the great society of mankind, was the object which the ancient moral philosophy proposed to investigate. In that philosophy the duties of human life were treated of as subservient to the happiness and perfection of human life. But when moral, as well as natural philosophy, came to be taught only as subservient to theology, the duties of human life were treated of as chiefly subservient to the happiness of a life to come ...
    The Market Is a Beautiful Thing, by Sheldon Richman, Future of Freedom, Jul 2013
    Explores whether most people's aversion to the market is aesthetic and explains the beauty in the dynamics of the (freed) market, with quotes from Bastiat and Adam Smith
    Indulge me as I quote from The Wealth of Nations (book 1, chapter 7):
    The market price of every particular commodity is regulated by the proportion between the quantity which is actually brought to market, and the demand of those who are willing to pay the natural price of the commodity, or the whole value of the rent, labour, and profit, which must be paid in order to bring it thither ... the interest of all other labourers and dealers will soon prompt them to employ more labour and stock in preparing and bringing it to market. The quantity brought thither will soon be sufficient to supply the effectual demand ...
    National Servitude, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 21 Jun 2013
    Discusses calls for "national service", contrasts them to insights from Frédéric Bastiat and Adam Smith, and counters possible objections
    In the first chapter of The Wealth of Nations, [Adam Smith] wrote,
    In civilized society [the individual] stands at all times in need of the co-operation and assistance of great multitudes, while his whole life is scarce sufficient to gain the friendship of a few persons ... man has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren ... It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.


    The Wealth of Nations, by Adam Smith, Mar 1776
    Full title: An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations
    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