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The Wealth of Nations: Books I-III Paperback – 25 Feb 1982

4.5 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (25 Feb. 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140432086
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140432084
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 15,894 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Adam Smith's enormous authority resides, in the end, in the same property that we discover in Marx: not in any ideology, but in an effort to see to the bottom of things."
--Robert L. Heilbroner

About the Author

Adam Smith (1723-90) taught both logic and moral philosophy at Glasgow University. His Wealth of Nations revolutionised the economic theories of the time. Andrew Skinner teaches at the Adam Smith Institute and is an expert on the author's work.


Customer Reviews

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Format: Paperback
Undoubtedly the most important work in the study of economics, and perhaps the most misunderstood. Adam Smith has been referred to invariably as "The High Priest of Capitalism" his detractors disparage the perceived reckless laissez faire approach, and the inappropriate claimants to his mantel espouse an unrestrained system that Smith himself did not endorse.
This is first and foremost a study, rather than any political manifesto or handbook for the new right. Drawing from a wide range of sources including ancient history, studies of colonies, of China, Russia, and even systems of slavery, Smith examines the system of economic development and economic competition. His discourse on the division of labor occurs early within the book, and moves toward studies of the nature of employment, of the motivation behind commerce and service, the origin and exchange of money, and the development of towns and countryside, and the interactions of the various economies.
Detractors and false heirs would do well to take note that Smith expresses a reserved attitude toward the nature of business owners, arguing that they will constantly seek to reduce wages. Further on in his study of the origin and exchange of money, he argues strongly against the excessive issuing of paper money and the printing of money, taking a very cautious tone against practices liable to cause devaluation.
His examination of banking is especially relevant for our modern times. He speaks of rationality within lending, but is not dismissive of blinded irresponsible lending, and speaks out against such a system remaining unrestrained.
An important legacy Smith lays out, which the isolationists on both sides of the political spectrum would do well to take note of, is his critique of the Mercantile system.
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At Amazon prices the two volume set containing Smith's Wealth of Nations Books 1 to 5 is hard to beat. Both volumes have critical introductions by Andrew Skinner and each contains both original references and a modern bibliography. Penguin are to be congratulated for making so good an edition available under their Classics imprint.

On the other hand the set of two volumes has an amusingly surreal feature: Each volume contains an index to both volumes - but in Volume 1, references to Volume 2 have italic page numbers and in Volume 2 references to Volume 1 also have italic page numbers. At first this made me think that the index for Volume 1 was in Volume 2 and vice versa (and I've known it to happen ;-). See what you think if you buy it.

Apart from that the only thing I'd add is that if you are serious about reading Smith, then you should also read Marx's Capital and Keynes's General Theory because these works are, even now, the three most significant landmarks in the economic literature.
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Format: Paperback
Granted that at times Smith labours a point. But this remains a classic work that marks a milestone in economic thought. Until Smith, economists tended to be men of commerce (such as Dudley North) or political philosophers (such as Locke). Although Smith undoubtedly falls into the latter camp, the Wealth of Nations is important for being a study of economic theory for its own sake. This was a novelty and in some way marks the foundation of economics as a stand-alone subject. This book is purely about the fundamentals of political economy; how supply and demand interact, how money functions, how divided labour is exponentially productive and much else besides.
A must for every economist's shelf.
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Bought this book for my son in law for Christmas and he loved it. The book arrived in excellent condition and didn't have to wait too long for it. He said he had wanted the book for a while and that it was a very interesting read.
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Format: Paperback
Smith is much under-estimated both amongst philosophers of money (economists) and philosophers of social life (moralists).
And it is true, as the reader from Melbourne says, that the book requires a great deal of dedication in places. At times Smith repeats the same point three, four even five times in short succession, always in the same carefuyl but ponderous prose. yet elsewhere, surprisingly, there are flashes of wit and humanity, alongside the great methodical reasoning and argument that make a philosophical work powerful.
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Format: Paperback
Adam Smith like Marx sees changes in the economic system as a logical, inevitable sequence of events. For example the power of the landed aristocracy declined as a consequence of the increasing importance of the towns. Good government was a result of this decline as people that had worked on the estates in conditions close to slavery moved to cities where they had considerable freedom. The difference between Marx and Smith is that Smith considered all of these changes leading to steady improvements whereas Marx considered the results of capitalism and industrialisation and urbanisation disastrous. Marx lived about one hundred years later than Smith. The system had not produced wealth for all as Smith foresaw. Smith believed that if governments would refrain from interfering in the economy prosperity would increase for all. Marx considered that a revolution whereby the capitalist class would be eliminated and private property is abolished a necessary consequence of the exploitation of the workers. Smith believed the opposite in that private property was the main driving force for progress. Their analysis of the historical development looking at it now shows many serious mistakes. However many more of the ideas of Adam Smith are still valid in hindsight than those of Marx. Somewhat surprising both being persons with interest in morality do not ascribe any importance to that subject. Both are imprisoned by the concept that "mechanical" or systemic changes in society can explain changes in the economic system. Many economists to day still fall in the same trap. They do not believe that moral standards can play an important role in the development of economic system. They therefore typically reject new developments such as "socially responsible investing ".Read more ›
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