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An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the…

An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations

by Adam Smith

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Overall, this was an informative read; not for its economic insightfulness but for how its supporters use Smith's theories. There are some basic economic truths and a lot of tedious detail but what is really telling are the outdated ideas and the sweeping generalizations which have carried over to our contemporary economic discussions. ( )
  jimocracy | Apr 18, 2015 |
One of the most influential books ever. I wish more neo-cons and ultra capitalist would read it. Smith espouses some government involvement in regulating business enterprises. No! Really! Why, that sounds like Marxism! Bull. He surveyed the economies of the world, surveyed assembly of products, reviewed the balance of trade, the influence gold has on national debt, the problem of inflation and other standard economic issues. He was very insightful and should be taught in every high school economic class. The foundation for studying any economic activity should begin with Smith. ( )
  JVioland | Jul 14, 2014 |
I'm a libertarian, and I love economics. But I found Smith hard to get through. Aside from some of his more spirited arguments, such as the famous butcher/baker/whatever the third one is analogy, a lot of this book seemed like dead weight to me. As with many possibly great books, though, it may be a case of failing to appreciate its greatness because it has come to dominate subsequent thought and hence is already familiar in its essence to me.
  Audacity88 | Feb 7, 2014 |
First published in 1776 ( )
  GaryWestlund | Dec 8, 2013 |
According to the introduction Adam Smith was the “first modern economist” and “widely credited with laying the theoretical and philosophical foundation for the modern free market system” and “commercial society." He famously wrote that "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." And that by pursuing their own interest in competition with others, entrepreneurs are “led by an invisible hand” by economic forces to create a variety of goods and services that benefit the public. But even Karl Marx used ideas of Smith in arguing for communism--particularly his key idea of the labor theory of value can be traced to Smith--as was Marx's idea of the “alienation” of the worker. As the introduction put it, Smith was concerned about the “deformation of humans due to tedious and repetitive work.” He was also concerned about how business interests would use their potential monopoly power--particularly in how they might use politics against the consumer:

The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this [business] order, ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention.

What struck me from the first about the book was how flowing and lucid it was to read. I’m not saying there aren’t difficult, dry passages--there are. But if you take the time, it is understandable without reading some Adam Smith for Dummies, and believe me, having read several books of philosophy and economics I appreciated that. And actually I found a lot of the reading quite lively. Like Darwin (and unlike Marx), Smith isn’t just erudite and well-read, but speaks of his personal observations, and in that regard his portrait of a pin-making factory and how it illustrates the efficiencies of the division of labor was very memorable. For Smith such specialization and the gains in productivity are key to the wealth of nations. And I found it interesting Smith stresses geography, not race, as the ultimate reason for differences of wealth between nations--particularly its role in access to markets as there ports and navigable rivers are crucial. An explanation not just enlightened for his time, but anticipating much-lauded recent arguments by Landes in The Wealth and Poverty of Nations and Diamond in Guns, Germs and Steel. Smith’s explanation of the formation and role of money still is among the most lucid and still rings true.

All this is to say that Smith is quite readable and enormously influential, and thus well-worth the read. If anything might put a reader off, it’s the sheer length, since complete unabridged editions run to around 600 pages. And as I admit above, I’m not saying some of it isn’t a slog--just that it’s worth it if you want to educate yourself about the basis of modern economics; this is definitely where to start. At the very least, see if you can read an excerpt containing his description of a Pin Factory. It's clear, interesting, short, and influenced both free market and socialist thinkers. ( )
1 vote LisaMaria_C | Sep 2, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (59 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Smith, Adamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Adler, Mortimer J.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bullock, C. J.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cannan, EdwinEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eliot, Charles WilliamEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hutchins, Robert MaynardEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kankaanpää, JaakkoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mises, Ludwig vonIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Todd, William B.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The annual labour of every nation is the fund which originally supplies it with all the necessaries and conveniences of life which it annually consumes, and which consist always either in the immediate produce of that labour, or in what is purchased with that produce from other nations.
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 real price of everything, what everything really costs to the man who wants to acquire it, is the toil and trouble of acquiring it.
Labor...is the only universal, as well as the only accurate measure of value, or the only standard by which we can compare the values of different commodities at all times and at all places.
The property which every man has is his own labor, as it is the original foundation of all other property, so it is the most sacred and inviolable.
The interest of the dealers...in any particular branch of trade or manufactures is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public.
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Complete work. Do not combine with abridged versions or partial editions (e.g. editions that only have books 1-3 instead of all 5).
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553585975, Mass Market Paperback)

The Wealth of Nations
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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:38 -0400)

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Provides a description and analysis of the inner workings of a market economy, presenting the fundamental principles of a capitalist system.

» see all 7 descriptions

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