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The Wealth of Nations (Bantam Classics) Mass Market Paperback – March 4, 2003
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--Robert L. Heilbroner
From the Inside Flap
by Adam Smith
It is symbolic that Adam Smith's masterpiece of economic analysis, The Wealth of Nations, was first published in 1776, the same year as the "Declaration of Independence.
In his book, Smith fervently extolled the simple yet enlightened notion that individuals are fully capable of setting and regulating prices for their own goods and services. He argued passionately in favor of free trade, yet stood up for the little guy. The Wealth of Nations provided the first--and still the most eloquent--integrated description of the workings of a market economy.
The result of Smith's efforts is a witty, highly readable work of genius filled with prescient theories that form the basis of a thriving capitalist system. This unabridged edition offers the modern reader a fresh look at a timeless and seminal work that revolutionized the way governments and individuals view the creation and dispersion of wealth--and that continues to influence our economy right up to the present day.
Top Customer Reviews
Now, if you're wondering whether you should undertake such an endeavor, let me just say that Adam Smith was a professor of rhetoric. He explains everything so precisely, yet so comprehensible. Smith's writing is by no means difficult; I actually found it a surprisingly easy read given its antique nature. Once you get through the first chapter, you get quite used to Smith's writing style. If you put adequate time and energy into it, it's not hard at all.
1. Standards of living are determined by the productivity of workers.
2. Productivity of workers is greatly enhanced by specialization (see the famous example of the pin factory in the first chapter!).
3. Greater specialization is possible only if the market size grows. Thus, government laws that prohibit growth of the market hurt specialization, and thereby keep living standards from rising. This is why Smith opposed laws that restricted trade or created monopolies. Smith actively worked to keep Britain from going to war against its American colonies over trade issues. The Wealth of Nations is a political tract designed to sway the British parliament (obviously it failed in that regard).
4. Productivity of workers is enhanced by raising their wages.
5. Productivity of workers is enhanced by publicly funded education.
6. The role of markets is exquisitely analyzed by Smith. Self-interest leads people to carry out private activities that lead to social betterment, as if by an "invisible hand."
7. It is a serious misinterpretation of Smith to assert that greed or selfishness is the same as self-interest. Smith labored hard to avoid any such confusion. Please see his other book which addresses this specific issue: The Theory of Moral Sentiments.
8. Clearly Smith favored limited government. But Smith was NOT a strict advocate of laissez-faire.Read more ›
Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations" is a worthy book for any private library, but purchase an edition other than the one offered by the so-called "Great Minds Series."
The introduction and chapters 2, 3, and 4 of book 3 are simply not there. They are not even listed in the table of contents. There is no discrepency in the page numbers, or any other teletale indication that it is incomplete. It is not written anywhere that it is an abrigement.
I want to point out how careless it is and how misleading to the reader in comprehending the philosophy of Adam Smith to print an incomplete book without any warning.
He starts by exploring the need for specialization of labour once societies advance beyond the hunter gatherer phase. As a result each individual is incapable of sustaining his basic needs and thus must purchase these using his labour which Smith views as the source of all value. As a result demand and supply is created for such labour.
He makes the natural assumption that each individual pursues their best interests.
He foreshadows the concepts of marginal utility and scarcity in determining the shapes of demand curves for commodities. ( He never actually mentions curves ).
Similarly, he describes the three factors determining supply prices for commodities ( rent of land, wages and capital costs ) and the various factors which influence them ( the equivalent of modern supply/demand curves for each factor ).
He puts these together under ideal circumstances to show how supply and demand meet to clear markets ( equilibrium in modern language ).
He then turns to macroeconomics laying the foundations for GDP and shows how capital can be distributed to "unproductive labour" ( that labour used to maintain productive labour ) such as doctors lawyer entertainers etc and "productive labour" ( that labour used in the manufacture and distribution of raw and finished products ). He explores the consequences of various distribution of each from both the micro and macroeconomic perspective.
He concludes by emphasizing the importance of government in providing international and domestic security as well as providing public works and institutions especially education.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellently written book on Great Depression and financial issues, full of facts but written captivating like a good novel.Published 7 days ago by Josip Raulj
One of the greatest books on market economics ever written.Published 12 days ago by Lewis Leibowitz
Extremely challenging read and difficult to follow the archaic writing style. I have multiple advanced degrees and consider myself to be rather intelligent. Read morePublished 12 days ago by Herman Longville
The book is good if you can decipher the language from the 1700's to today's colloquial English. It's a tough read for sure.Published 14 days ago by derek a.
Dang - I didn't know this book qualifies as a fitness weight. My arms hurt.Published 22 days ago by Carla Tartera