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

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by Adam Smith – 1776

Adam Smith founded the science of political economy when he published An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations in 1776. So significant were the effects of this book on the modern world that it has been described as one of the most important ever written. It is referred to in almost every history of the subject.

The basic doctrine of The Wealth of Nations is that a nation’s only source of wealth is its labor. Smith advocated division of labor in the productive process, stressed the importance of individual enterprise and argued the benefits of free trade. Smith argued that the true wealth of a nation lay not in gold it amassed but in the achievement of an abundance of the necessities of life. He warned against unnecessary intervention by the state in this process.

Smith was born in Kirkcaldy, Fife. He was educated at Glasgow and Oxford, and in 1751 was appointed Professor of Logic at Glasgow University. Eight years later he published his Theory of Moral Sentiments, which established his reputation as an author.

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Book 5