Recommendations from our site

The Wealth of Nations is, of course, one of the most famous, though certainly not most read or understood, books of all time. It was first published in 1776. In fact, I was once asked on an exam in high school ‘Who invented capitalism in 1776?’”

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“It’s a long book and it covers many things. But it’s particularly important for the history of reading.”

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“If you read it closely it’s not a naive apology for unregulated markets, but he’s quite keenly aware of the problems of financial regulation.”

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“What is amazing about Smith is that he tried to relate economics to morals and ethics, in the sense that economics is only a small part of what society should be thinking about.”

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“Many people know Smith’s arguments in favour of free markets but how many people know his thoughts about the failings of market economics? In the book he argues things like: ‘People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public…’”

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“At the time Adam Smith was writing Britain was a developing economy.”

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Commentary

“Reading of it necessarily requires so much Attention, and the Public is disposed to give so little, that I shall still doubt for some time of its being at first very popular.”

David Hume letter to Adam Smith, April 1st, 1776

“What an excellent work is that with which our common friend Mr. Adam Smith has enriched the public! An extensive science in a single book, and the most profound idea expressed in the most perspicuous language.”

Edward Gibbon, in a letter to Adam Ferguson

“The manufacturing system has been carried among us to an extent unheard of in any former age or country; it has enabled us to raise a revenue which twenty years ago we ourselves should have thought it impossible to support, and it has added even more to the activity of the country than to its ostensible wealth; but in a far greater degree has it diminished its happiness and lessened its security. Adam Smith’s book is the code, or confession of faith, of this system; a tedious and hardhearted book, greatly overvalued even on the score of ability.”

Robert Southey, Essays Moral and Political, 1832

“If your views of political inquiry go further, to the subjects of money & commerce, Smith’s Wealth of Nations is the best book to be read. . . .”

Thomas Jefferson to John Norvell, June 14, 1807.

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