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Notes and Reflections on Books and Media

by Hannah Leitheiser


Wealth of Nations

Adam Smith


Finished Wealth of Nations -- Adam Smith's great work of economics. Smith was against what in that time were called bounties, but in our time is called import tax, arguing that rather than promote domestic trade, they increase the cost of doing business. He was generally against the practice in that time of requiring seven year apprenticeships in trades before people were authorized to practice, as being unnecessarily long. He was against monopolies. From his knowledge of the failing East India Company, he was somewhat against large corporations running on public stock. He was against attempts by government to do good. And as I mentioned earlier, against public debt for wartime efforts.

What was he for? Well, the once-mentioned metaphor that everyone caught hold of -- free trade and self-interest that turns out good for everyone. "As every individual, ...endeavours as much as he can, both to employ his capital in the support of domestic industry, and so to direct that industry that its produce maybe of the greatest value; 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 public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, 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."