Adam Smith


Advanced Search

Adam Smith (1723-1790), Scottish philosopher and political economist wrote in his An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776);

"Every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the publick interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it.... He intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention."

Poverty was the acceptable norm for the majority of people in a society based on mercantilism, who had little choice in the destination of their life or their contribution towards society in the latter part of the 18th century. With local guilds dictating the production and distribution of such necessities as wool, textiles, and grains, market competition was non-existent. In his groundbreaking work The Wealth of Nations, published the same year as the American Revolution, Smith soundly examines industry, commerce, and the concept of and benefits of free enterprise. Another oft quoted passage is;

"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."

Adam Smith was born on 5 June, 1723 in Kirkaldy, county Fife, located on the Firth of Forth in Scotland, the son of Adam Smith and Margaret Douglas. His father had died before he was born and he was raised by his widowed mother. He attended Glasgow and Oxford universities before accepting the position as professor of moral philosophy at Glasgow in 1752. He discusses the foundation of society's ethical conduct in Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759);

"That wealth and greatness are often regarded with the respect and admiration which are due only to wisdom and virtue; and that the contempt, of which vice and folly are the only proper objects, is often unjustly bestowed upon poverty and weakness, has been the complaint of moralists in all ages."

A popular lecturer, Smith also wrote many essays and articles on such diverse topics as literature, justice, health, and welfare. In 1764 he left Glasgow to accompany the Duke of Buccleuch on his travels through Europe as his tutor. Upon his return he started work on The Wealth of Nations which would resound for decades to come and affect changes for contemporary economic policy in the Western world. In 1778 he settled in Edinburgh, Scotland as Commissioner of Customs. Five years later he was a founding member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He died on 17 July 1790 and lies buried in the Canongate Churchyard, Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Biography written by C.D. Merriman for Jalic Inc. Copyright Jalic Inc 2006. All Rights Reserved.

The above biography is copyrighted. Do not republish it without permission.

Recent Forum Posts on Adam Smith

Happy 283rd birthday Adam Smith ! ! !

Although nobody knows exactly when he was born, his birth was registered on 5 June 1723, so assuming he was registered a couple of days after the birth, today would be his 283rd birthday ! Shortly before adam smith was born, his father died, leaving just the mother raise him, but throughout Smith's life, he remained committed to his widowed mother, and never married. At around the age of four, he was kidnapped by a band of Gypsies, however he was quickly rescued by his uncle and returned to his mother - other than this, Smith's early life was rather normal! By fourteen, he was studying moral philosophy and mathematics at the University of Glasgow, where he developed a strong passion for liberty, reason and free speech. In 1740, he won a scholarship to go to Oxford, however Smith thought the university quite worthless, and he returned to Glasgow in 1746 to become a teacher. Whilst in Scotland he managed to establish a reputation for himself by writing The Theory of Moral Sentiments, this led to the young Duke of Buccleugh hiring Smith as a tutor to go on the Grand Tour of Europe with him. Visiting Europe was a perfect opportunity for Smith to collect information about different economies and manners, which he later compiled in his magnum opus, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. wealth_nations was a pioneering book on free trade and market economics. His ideas laid the foundation for the free market economies of the 21st Century, and although conceived over 300 years ago, Adam Smith’s ideas are as significant and relevant today as ever.


Post a New Comment/Question on Smith

Quizzes on Adam Smith

No quizzes available to take yet.

Please submit a quiz here.


Related links for Adam Smith

Here is where you find links to related content on this site or other sites, possibly including full books or essays about Adam Smith written by other authors featured on this site.

    Sorry, no links available.






Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Email:
Sonnet-a-Day Newsletter
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.
Email: