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on June 1, 2014
This text by Adam Smith summarizes capitalism in it's purest sense. How markets move, why they move, and thought experiments on how variables affect the outcomes. It's famous for a reason. It's a bit hard to get through in some parts, but this is a good version of the text for students. Pick it up and let your life be changed.
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on July 12, 2012
Adam Smith's "An Inquiry Into The Nature And Causes Of The Wealth Of Nations" (often called simply "The Wealth Of Nations") is one of two great works from the Scottish economist and philosopher, the other being the lesser known "The Theory of Moral Sentiments". "The Wealth Of Nations" was published on March 9th, of 1776, but there were additional editions in 1778, 1784, 1786, and 1789. I read the free Kindle version of "The Wealth Of Nations", and while I do not recommend that version I do recommend the overall work.

The issues with the Kindle version are that it is poorly formatted, and it is painful to attempt to read the numbers in the tables at the of Book I. You are much better off getting a hard copy so that you can more easily flip to the section of interest, and to read the information in a better format. As for the rest, the content is all there, once you get past the poor formatting.

The work contains five books within. The first is "Of the Causes of Improvement in the productive Powers of Labour". In this book he discusses the benefits of the division of labor, the origin and benefits of using money, a section on the "real" price of commodities (i.e. how much toil it takes to produce them), a discussion of the natural and market prices of commodities (the forces of supply and demand), the effect of controlling a commodity can have on the price, the wages of labor (again a case of supply and demand with the commodity of labor), the profits of stock, a discussion of the ill effects of groups who use their influence to manipulate the government (this would include banking conglomerations, trade unions, etc.), and closes with a section on rent.

The second book is "Of the Nature, Accumulation, and Employment of Stock" which deals with accumulating wealth which lasts a longer period of time. This book starts with how one divides their stock into what they need for personal use, and what they can dispose of in exchange for others available stock. He then moves into a discussion of money as a type of stock, and then how to use their excess money/stock to gain interest.

The third book is "Of the different Progress of Opulence in different Nations", where he talks about the balance between the inhabitants of towns and those of the country areas and goes into how agriculture is discouraged over time, while cities and towns prosper.

The fourth book is "Of Systems of political Economy" in which Smith discusses the commercial system, along with importation which contains a detailed look at the effects of restraints on importation/exportation. Smith also discusses commerce treaties, and the role of colonies. This book also has a brief section on the agricultural system, but here he is referring to a specific system where the produce of land is the sole source of the revenue of a nation

The fifth book is "Of the Revenue of the Sovereign or Commonwealth" in which Smith deals with taxation. This is an important area to read and understand, as it is the one which many ignore when using Smith to try to support other areas. There are hints here of the progressive tax, as well as a discussion of the expenses of the nation, an important acknowledgement that the poor spend the greater part of their income on the fundamentals, such as food, and so he suggests luxury taxes as not unreasonable. Smith then closes the final book with a discussion of the costs of war, both for the actual fighting, and in terms of the loss of trade.
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on December 17, 2016
The Glasgow editions of Adam Smith's works are definitive and their publication by the Liberty Fund make they easily accessible.
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on July 13, 2015
Adam Smith has cuttingly keen skills of observation of the human story and the human condition. Even he does not like much of what he observes about his fellow man and their machinations: commerce, colonialism, mercantilism, government, religion.

I am amazed at how current 'free market' capitalism has so doggedly cherry-picked Smith for parochial, pecuniary corporate whitewashing. While Smith was not altogether pleased about the state of governance, he was crystal clear that government regulation was essential to prevent the inherent incentives of capitalism towards monopoly and profit at all cost. He is abundantly aware of the almost total disconnection between the common good (commonwealth) and private capital/corporate incentives for growth and profit for growth's and profit's sake at the expense of everything else. He clearly sees and reports son the natural incentive of capital to "privatize profits and socialize cost/expense".
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on June 30, 2015
Been reading for a while now and although some parts seem difficult Adam Smith still explains in plain language the importance of a economy. He describes very clearly why we use money and why its the best way, although money and power does corrupt that is not the basis to put an end to it like socialist want. I loved the example he gave on how the baker needs meat from the butcher but all he has to barter with is bread, however the butcher already has all the bread he needs, so there can be no transaction. Now the baker uses money and can trade with the butcher and now the butcher can trade that money for basically anything else he needs or wants. It don't get any more clearer than that.
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on October 24, 2013
Being a retired economist I should have read this book already 50 years ago! But better late than never. And on the other hand, reading this book there is nothing principally new. It is told that president Truman wanted to employ one handed economists, being fed up with this 'on the other hand' favorite phrase of economists rebutting the work of the first hand. On the other hand! - the most important statue of Lenin was him showing with his one hand the way to follow. We all know, where this economic policy ended. When I showed this review to my pal Timo, classmate and best friend since 1944, that is 70 years, he remarked: 'Don't you see, there is another one-handed advisor, A Hitler with his hand in Heil.' Even more disastrous than Lenin. So, perhaps better avoid one-handed advisors.

Our Adam, the first man in economist's paradise, only - already 300+ years ago, created and founded all main corner stones on which we still to day are building. Supply and demand, and pursuing one's own best interest were and are the main clue of Smith's doctrines leading to economic well-being. Nothing has changed. The doctrine of supply and demand still helps to consumer being the king, even if the reign is largely different. Smith speaks of wool combers and barley traders, we of mobile phones and air tickets. The same laws are in power, however.

Even if completely enthusiastic about having read this book, I would not recommend it as an exam reading for students and understand very well why it was not included in my list 50 years ago. Why then? In his magnificent work Smith wanders through such an ocean of detailed information that nobody can comprise it. But never does he lose the clue. The conclusions are clear, firm and persuasive. Deficit production leads to rise in price and surplus to reduction. It is as simple as that. All artificial restrictions are finally harmful. That is the core of Smith's message. Very plausible at that time as well as it is to day.

No amount of stars can sufficiently appreciate this bloc of gold in our Western cultural tradition!
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on June 29, 2017
The manual on why capitalism is the only equitable economic system. If only politicians were incentivized to make policy decisions based on reason...
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on November 29, 2012
Considering that this book is the foundational book on the science of economics, and is 1200 pages long, I have read the first three books of the five in the volume now, and I can say it is surprisingly easy to read. Smith has written much better in 1776 than nearly all economists do today.

The marginal notes are good too. This book is a great book because it argues for some iron-hard economic rules in a way that Centre-left people, such as myself, will listen seriously to. Smith is not a neo-con by any stretch of the imagination. He speaks of employer combinations openly, whereas most economist writers won't talk about them, and he notes that combinations of employees (unions) are, in 1776, banned by the entire world. He also approves of regulations when they improve the safety of working people, something management still has a problem with.

So Smith is more even handed than the right wing voices who cite his economic principles constantly, and deserves reading and citing by Centre-Left people.
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on September 28, 2013
This book is a classic! Hard to read with sentences as long as a paragraph, but one of the first books on local and global economics. It is written from the perspective of Adam Smith in 1776, who was living in England about the time that Scotland became more industrious and competitive with England. At that time, the main economic issues were agriculture, simple manufacturing, landlords and banking. Smith had a vision of the world that involved trading by sea transportation with faraway places like America, China, India and the Middle East. In order to survive, businesses needed a profit and profit came to those who understood costs, pricing and transportation along with supply and demand. Banking was on the gold and silver standard, but had its problems with meeting the needs of the customers. Monarchs played a significant role in regulating banking and commerce. It is interesting to compare that time with the present time. We have not progressed sufficiently today to say that we have the local and world economy under control.
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on June 1, 2013
I read it to see for myself whether or not the assertions so often made about the book and its conclusions are accurate. Mostly they are, but in many important ways they are not. Smith wrote about markets and freedom, but as a man of his class and time he was "a moral philosopher". The economic Darwinists that claim reverence for Smith's economic analysis have stripped Smith's masterpiece of its moral underpinnings and restraints and in their hands and mouths Smith's "free market" philosophy is no longer a product of "moral philosophy" but has been turned into an amoral argument for immoral acquisitiveness.

In this book Smith repeatedly tells his readers that money cannot be the only measure of value and that when money becomes the only measure of value the results are immoral and evil. I recommend that every American immunize themselves from the claptrap so often asserted to be the ideas "on which this nation was founded" by reading for themselves the Bible, The Constitution (with all the Amendments), The Federalist Papers, Common Sense, de Tocqueville's Democracy in America, Lincoln's Cooper Union speech, and Wealth of Nations.
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