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An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations Paperback – Facsimile, February 15, 1977

4.7 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

The Wealth Of Nations was recognized as a landmark of human though upon its publication in 1776. As the first scientific argument for the principles of political economy, it is the point of departure for all subsequent economic thought.

About the Author

Adam Smith was born in a small village in Kirkcaldy, Scotland in 1723. He entered the University of Glasgow at age fourteen, and later attended Balliol College at Oxford. After lecturing for a period, he held several teaching positions at Glasgow University. His greatest achievement was writing The Wealth of Nations (1776), a five-book series that sought to expose the true causes of prosperity, and installed him as the father of contemporary economic thought. He died in Edinburgh on July 19, 1790.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1152 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; Facsimile of 1904 ed edition (February 15, 1977)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226763749
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226763743
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 2.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #191,379 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Adrian Ion on January 30, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am not going to comment on the actual content of the Wealth of Nations, but instead on this particular edition of it. This edition by the University of Chicago Press is one of the few complete editions on the market today (and, its completeness shows, as it is quite hefty). It is essentially a facsimile of the 1904 edition by Edwin Cannan, with Cannan's original introduction. It also includes a new preface by the economist George J. Stigler. Both the preface and the introduction are fairly useful in laying out the main ideas that influenced Adam Smith in the writing of the Wealth of Nations. For its size and completeness, this edition is also quite cheap. It is perfect for anyone wishing to have the Wealth of Nations in its totality. Students (like me!) will also find it quite useful in their studies.
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Forget Krugman. This is a real economist. Adam smith makes a real examination of human behavior rather than a simple statement of spend here cut there. He lays out the fundamental principles behind capitalism, and markets in general. If you don't know Adam Smith you don't know economics.
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Format: Paperback
This is a review of the Edwin Cannan's edition of Wealth of Nations (ISBN: 0226763749).

Before you read Wealth of Nations, ask yourself, "Why am I reading this?" If you want to get an introduction to economics, then I suggest another books. One of the "Dork's Guide to Economics"-type books would be a better choice. I'd recommend Bastiat's "The Law" (ISBN : 0255365098 ), then read Sowell's "Basic Economics" (ISBN: 0465081452) and "Applied Economics" (ISBN: 0465081436).

However, if you want an advanced study of economics, or are an historian, then read this book. It is an essential classic in American History, on par with "The Federalist," "Democracy In America," and "Common Sense." Washington embodies the moral aspect of the American Revolution, Madison the governmental aspect, Jefferson the intellectual aspect, and Smith the economic aspect. After all, it is one thing to have a revolution; it is another thing to be able to pay for it.

Smith's main weakness is that he does not deal with economic theory. The main reason for this is that he had to invent modern economics theory. He is truly the godfather of the Industrial Revolution: we could not have the financing of Carnegie and Morgan without Adam's Smiths keen insights into the nature of economics and the fallacies of mercantilism. In a word, Smith pulled the world out of Middle Ages and laid the foundation for the future world prosperity.

Another perceived weakness is that it is over 200 years old. He uses archaic language, antiquated examples, such as butcher shops, corn trade, tedious histories of government regulation, and so forth.
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What more is there to say about a book that's been around 233 years? That's considered to be the founding text of modern economics? Written by a man who has organizations and lectures named after him, whose name is synonymous with free markets?

Well, the following is a list of things not generally talked about - in my casual exposure to economics - in regards to this work.

Smith, not surprisingly for a man of the Enlightenment, was a blank slate guy. The philosopher, we're told, differs from the porter "not so much from nature, as from habit, custom, and education". Smith's professional progeny, with less justification and an autistic-like inability to model human nature, has largely kept the notion of people as malleable economic units whose value can simply be altered by some inputs of education.

This is a book on the wealth of nations, not an argument for how trade is going to pacify the world and render borders obsolete as is the gospel sometimes preached - for at least a hundred years - by advocates of globalization. While Smith acknowledges that wealthy countries make great trading partners, he also notes their wealth makes them "dangerous in war and politics". (He also makes a not entirely unconvincing argument for standing armies being necessary. Part of it rests on the general efficacy of the specialization of labor.)

He also makes some, on the face of it, surprising digressions into what sort of established church should be supported and if public education is worthwhile - all under the section on how the government should be spending its money.
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All my life I’ve been bombarded with one economist versus another. Each time Adam Smith always showed up. So after hearing snippets of his book and his ideas over and over and over again I thought “Ah, I know Adam Smith.”

Well I might’ve been a tad premature in thinking that I knew Adam Smith. As you will to when you read this book, “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.”

I figured that it was finally time to read Adam Smith for myself instead of taking snippets out of context.

At first I began to think that I had made a big mistake. If you read the Constitution of the United States that you would notice that you are always told the impressive parts as separate statements and they leave out all the boring details and sometimes important minutia. Well it looks like they did the same thing the poor Adam.

On the surface as you start reading this book you start to wonder what makes Adam Smith so important, as it seems so primitive. Reading on you realize that he came from an era that was way before the information age. His samples seem primitive and simple. He repeats and repeats and repeats himself. You start to wonder if this is the same Adam Smith that you studied in school.

You will want to hang in there though as soon you will realize that Adam Smith had to start with the fundamentals of history and primitive economics. After pages of history he will finally get to his time.

Yes this is a book is ancient and the examples are not usually relevant to today.
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