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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ending on a high note, 18 July 2011
This review is from: The Wealth of Nations: IV-V (Paperback)
This is the concluding two 'books' of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, which originally appeared in five 'books' in 1776 and is a classic description of an early capitalist economy where agriculture is still a prominent feature. The original Penguin edition from the 1970s had only the first three books, apparently on the assumption that these were the most relevant to technical economic theory, which at that time was associated with Keynes and highly regarded. Of course back in those days, with the Soviet Union still on the go, the labour theory of value was reckoned a precursor of Marxism and that's in the first three books too.

Nowadays though, Smith's concluding attack on state expenditure in Book five, which is excellently written, grabs most attention. The idea is that, having covered creation of wealth, he now covers taxation and government spending. He argues that a market economy should be allowed to grow with light regulation and limited assistance from public works and education. The application of the idea of self-interest to the design of systems where it works to social advantage is also relevant to modern economic theories of system design. Book four is a review of preceding economic theory.

So the modern reader new to Smith has the choice of looking for a one-volume edition of the whole five books or going for this two-volume version. You would still get something out of the rhetoric of book five on its own, though I'd recommend perhaps reading that first, but still looking at the whole thing to get the most out of it.
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