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The Wealth of Nations: Books 1-3 (Penguin Classics) (Bks.1-3) Paperback – March 25, 1982
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--Robert L. Heilbroner
About the Author
Adam Smith (1723-90) was born in Glasgow and educated at Glasgow and Oxford. Two years after his return to Scotland, Smith moved to Edinburgh, where he delivered lectures on Rhetoric. In 1751 Smith was appointed Professor of Logic at Glasgow, but was translated to chair of Moral Philosophy in 1752. His The Theory of Moral Sentiments was published in 1759 and The Wealth of Nations in 1776, the same year as the Declaration of Indpendence.
Andrew Skinner teaches at the Adam Smith Institute and is an expert on the author's work.
Top Customer Reviews
Just a heads up.
The introduction in this printing is especially good. Almost a book in itself, it extend for 50 pages and connects the book to other philosophers and economists. Almost, you don't need to read the book after you've read the introduction -- but do it anyway, just to be amazed at Smith's prescience.
Essentially, it is a treatise on the power of individuals to maximise their own wealth and therefor a support for the natural liberty of men and an argument for free-markets. Not as a perfect system in which there will be no misery, but as a system that gives individuals the greatest (and most just) opportunity to gain happiness and which will be the quickest to respond to changes in supply and demand (and therefor decrease the misery which is created when governments ignore gaps between supply and demand).
It is not a book that believes in the pure goodness of companies (but explicitly states that companies have a interest which is directly opposite to that of society as a whole. I.e. the interest of companies is to create a supply shortage so they can ask prices above costprice), but says that the best way to break the power of these companies is the allow free competition. It also reveals that political decisions that at fist glance seems compassionate, might in fact be inhumane, cruel and the cause of much suffering (because on the long run they lead to a supply shortage). The examples given here, are still relevant to view the decisions made by politicians in today's so-called free market countries.
It is unfortunately most used as a classic for those seeking a rationale for exploitation. Smith did not intend it as such and to see it as that is indeed to read it very selectively. The invisible hand is a useful interpretation for demand economics, but it is, like all other things only a description of market forces as they operate. It is not always the best way to organise everything as modern day ideologues would presuppose. It is of course the basis of business --- and it should be --- but Smith also has lots to say about how other economic factors operate in society.
One thing to make clear is this: Smith is not anti-State, as some ideologues in the US would like to think. He is balanced in his view of the state --- it is best left out of economic planning --- but it does clearly have an important role to play. The role of the State is to
1) create the conditions for the smooth flow of capital and its allocation into its most efficient uses and not to erect barriers in the process.Read more ›
First, let us take the "invisible hand" metaphor. When I have studied economy in the University, I was taught that almost the entire book is devoted to the "invisible hand" which means "self-corrective markets", "liberalism", "Laissez-faire" and "state non-intervention". After reading this book, I have found out that Adam Smith did use the term "invisible hand" only once in the entire book, in the discussion of domestic versus foreign trade.
To illustrate the point, let me quote the text where term "invisible hand" is used: "First, every individual endeavours to employ his capital as near home as he can, and consequently as much as he can in the support of domestic industry, provided always that he can thereby obtain the ordinary, or not a great deal less than the ordinary profits of stock. Thus, upon equal, or nearly equal profits, every wholesale merchant naturally prefers the home trade to the foreign trade of consumption, and the foreign trade of consumption to the carrying trade. In the home trade, his capital is never so long out of his sight as it frequently is in the foreign trade of consumption. [...]Secondly, every individual who employs his capital in the support of domestic industry, necessarily endeavours so to direct that industry, that its produce may be of the greatest possible value. [...Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Adam Smith is still one of the most admired or vilified economic philosophers of our time. Liberals and conservatives should stop making blanket statements about him and this book... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Vinton
Your going to need a lot of time and patience to read through this. I confess I had to start skimming. Not an easy read.Published 16 months ago by G. McNabb
Everyone talks about Adam Smith and his invisible hand. It was well worth the time to read. Some of his descriptions of the costs of various items gets bogged down. Read morePublished on February 20, 2014 by Blackwing
Im 15 and wanted to read this book. Its okay in some parts, but almost all of it i have to reread a few times to get what its saying...then i would forget.. Read morePublished on January 23, 2010 by S. Vo
The first three "books" (the term for "chapters" in Smith's age) of the Wealth of Nations are the most important of the book. Read morePublished on September 21, 2007 by Yoda