Happy Birthday, Adam Smith

Born 16th June, 1743, Adam Smith was one of the greatest minds of the Scottish Enlightenment. He is regarded by many to be the “Father of Economics”, and deservedly so. His book, An Inquiry in the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, published in that miraculous year 1776, set the theoretical foundations of free markets.

Economics is a branch of moral philosophy. Smith’s other book, published in 1759, is The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Here are a few quotes from the two books.

From the Theory of Moral Sentiments:

  • How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.
  • Hatred and anger are the greatest poison to the happiness of a good mind.
  • This disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and powerful, and to despise or, at least, neglect persons of poor and mean conditions, though necessary both to establish and to maintain the distinction of ranks and the order of society, is, at the same time, the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments.

From the Wealth of Nations:

  • What is prudence in the conduct of every private family, can scarce be folly in that of a great kingdom.
  • The violence and injustice of the rulers of mankind is an ancient evil, for which, I am afraid, the nature of human affairs can scarce admit a remedy.
  • To found a great empire for the sole purpose of raising up a people of customers, may at first appear a project fit only for a nation of shopkeepers. It is however, a project altogether unfit for a nation of shopkeepers; but extremely fit for a nation whose government is influenced by shopkeepers.
  • There is no art which one government sooner learns of another than that of draining money from the pockets of the people.

Happy 277th Birthday, Mr Smith.

Author: Atanu Dey


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