Adam Smith

Adam Smith
Adam Smith
  • Born: June 5, 1723
  • Died: July 17, 1790
  • Nationality: Scottish
  • Profession: Economist









Adam Smith FRSA was a Scottish economist, philosopher and author as well as a moral philosopher, a pioneer of political economy and a key figure during the Scottish Enlightenment. Smith wrote two classic works, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776). The latter, often abbreviated as The Wealth of Nations, is considered his magnum opus and the first modern work of economics.

Quote Topics Cited
...mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent... Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
[Beware of] politicians who promise some plausible plan of reformation in order to new-model the Constitution Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
[Politicians and political party] leaders themselves, though they originally may have meant nothing but their own aggrandizement, become many of them in time the dupes of their own sophistry, and are as eager for this great reformation as the weakest and foolishest of their followers. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
…primogeniture was founded upon the most absurd of all suppositions, the supposition that every successive generation of men have not an equal right to the earth, and to all that it possesses; but that the property of the present generation should be restrained and regulated according to the fancy of those who died perhaps five hundred years ago. Families, Children & Parenting
A merchant, it has been said very properly, is not necessarily the citizen of any particular country. Citizenship & Patriotism
All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. Morality, Ethics & Conflict of Interest ;Foreign Aid
All registers which, it is acknowledged, ought to be kept secret, ought certainly never to exist. Secrecy & Transparency
As capital is thus the most essential element in setting industry in motion, so it is by the amount of it, that the productiveness of that industry is chiefly determined. Economics, The Economy & Fiscal Affairs ;Social Sciences
As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex ;Economics, The Economy & Fiscal Affairs ;Social Sciences
But though empires, like all the other works of men, have all hitherto proved mortal, yet every empire aims at immortality. Expansionism, Colonialism & Imperialism
China is a much richer country than any part of Europe. Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Corporate trading is vicious in principle. The directors of such companies, being the managers rather of other people's money than of their own, it cannot well be expected that they should watch over it with the same anxious vigilance with which the partners in a private copartnery frequently watch over their own … Negligence and profusion must always prevail, more or less, in the management of the affairs of such a company Business, Commerce & Finance ;Social Sciences
Every individual is continually exerting himself to find out the most advantageous employment for whatever capital he can command. It is his own advantage, indeed, and not that of the society, which he has in his view. But the study of his own advantage naturally, or rather necessarily leads him to prefer that employment which is most advantageous to the society. Bureaucracy
Every individual necessarily labors 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.... 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. Development & Growth
Every man is, no doubt, by nature, first and principally recommended to his own care; and as he is fitter to take care of himself than of any other person, it is fit and right that it should be so. Miscellaneous
Every man, as long as he does not violate the laws of justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest his own way, and to bring both his industry and capital into competition with those of any other man, or order of men. The sovereign is completely discharged from a duty, in the attempting to perform which he must always be exposed to innumerable delusions, and for the proper performance of which no human wisdom or knowledge could ever be sufficient; the duty of superintending the industry of private people, and of directing it towards the employments most suitable to the interest of the society. Business, Commerce & Finance
Every system which endeavors, either, by extraordinary encouragements, to draw towards a particular species of industry a greater share of the capital of the society than what would naturally go to it; or, by extraordinary restraints, to force from a particular species of industry some share of the capital which would otherwise be employed in it; is in reality subversive of the great purpose which it means to promote. Economics, The Economy & Fiscal Affairs
Every tax ought to be levied at the time, or in the manner, in which it is most likely to be convenient for the contributor to pay it. Taxes
Every tax ought to be so contrived as both to take out and keep out of the pockets of the people as little as possible, over and above what it brings into the public treasury. Taxes
Every tax, however, is to the person who pays it a badge, not of slavery but of liberty. It denotes that he is a subject to government, indeed, but that, as he has some property, he cannot himself be the property of a master. Taxes
Fear is in almost all cases a wretched instrument of government, and ought in particular never to be employed against any order of men who have the smallest pretensions to independency. Management & Managing Government
For in every country of the world, I believe, the avarice and injustice of princes and sovereign states, abusing the confidence of their subjects, have by degrees diminished the real quantity of metal, which had been originally contained in their coins. Money, Coins & Minting
Good roads, canals, and navigable rivers, by diminishing the expense of carriage, put the remote parts of the country more nearly upon a level with those of the neighborhood of the town. They are upon that the greatest of all improvements. Transportation
How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him. Human Nature
If a foreign country can make a good cheaper than we can better buy it from them. Foreign Trade
If a foreign country can supply us with a commodity cheaper than we ourselves can make it, better buy it of them with some part of the produce of our own industry, employed in a way in which we have some advantage. Business, Commerce & Finance
In the long-run the workman may be as necessary to his master as his master is to him, but the necessity is not so immediate. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
It is from his labor alone that man can draw the necessaries, the conveniences, the amusements of human life, from the materials which nature has placed around him Work, Workers & The Labor Force
It is not the multitude of ale-houses . . . that occasions a general disposition to drunkenness among the common people; but that disposition, arising from other causes, necessarily gives employment to a multitude of ale-houses Human Nature
It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion. Taxes
It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion. Taxes
It is the highest impertinence and presumption, therefore, in kings and ministers, to pretend to watch over the economy of private people, and to restrain their expense, either by sumptuary laws, or by prohibiting the importation of foreign luxuries. They are themselves always, and without any exception, the greatest spendthrifts in the society. Let them look well after their own expense, and they may safely trust private people with theirs. If their own extravagance does not ruin the state, that of their subjects never will. Economics, The Economy & Fiscal Affairs
It is unjust that the whole of society should contribute towards an expense of which the benefit is confined to a part of the society. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
It seldom happens, however, that a great proprietor is a great improver. Development & Growth
Lotteries are a tax on ignorance Taxes
Mercantile jealousy is excited, and both inflames, and is itself inflamed, by the violence of national animosity:.. Foreign Trade
Monopoly of one kind or another, indeed, seems to be the sole engine of the mercantile system. Business, Commerce & Finance
No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the greater part of the members are poor and miserable. It is but equity, besides, that they who feed, clothe and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labor as to be themselves tolerably well fed, clothed and lodged. Public Works & Natural Resources
Nobody ever saw a dog make a fair and deliberate exchange of one bone for another with another dog. Human Nature
People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. Bureaucracy
People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty or justice. Business, Commerce & Finance
The commodities of Europe were almost all new to America, and many of those of America were new to Europe. A new set of exchanges, therefore, began and which should naturally have proved as advantageous to the new, as it certainly did to the old continent. The savage injustice of the Europeans rendered an event, which ought to have been beneficial to all, ruinous and destructive to several of those unfortunate countries. Expansionism, Colonialism & Imperialism ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
The competition of the poor takes away from the reward of the rich. Economics, The Economy & Fiscal Affairs
The directors of such companies, being the managers rather of other people's money than of their own, it cannot well be expected that they should watch over it with the same anxious vigilance with which the partners in a private copartnery frequently watch over their own. . . . Negligence and profusion must always prevail, more or less, in the management of the affairs of such a company. Business, Commerce & Finance
The education of the common people requires, perhaps, in a civilized and commercial society, the attention of the public more than that of people of some rank and fortune. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
The government of an exclusive company of merchants is, perhaps, the worst of all governments for any country whatever. Business, Commerce & Finance
The great affair, we always find, is to get money. Miscellaneous
The inland trade is almost perfectly free. This freedom of interior commerce . .. is perhaps one of the principal causes of the prosperity of Great Britain. Business, Commerce & Finance
The most frivolous disaster which could befall himself would occasion a more real disturbance. If he was to lose his little finger to-morrow, he would not sleep to-night; but, provided he never saw them, he will snore with the most profound security over the ruin of a hundred millions of his brethren, and the destruction of that immense multitude seems plainly an object less interesting to him, than this paltry misfortune of his own. Human Nature
The property which every man has in his own labour, as it is the original foundation of all other property, so it is the most sacred and inviolable. The patrimony of a poor man lies in the strength and dexterity of his hands, and to hinder him from employing this strength and dexterity in what manner he thinks proper, without injury to his neighbour, is a plain violation of this most sacred property. Freedom & Liberty
The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities, that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state. Taxes
The tax which each individual is bound to pay ought to be certain, and not arbitrary. Taxes
The tolls for the maintenance of a high road, cannot with any safety be made the property of private persons. Transportation
The trade of insurance gives great security to the fortunes of private people, and by dividing among a great many that loss which would ruin an individual, makes it fall light and easy upon the whole society. Business, Commerce & Finance
There is scarce a poor man in England of forty years of age, I will venture to say who has not in some part of his life felt himself most cruelly oppressed by this ill-contrived law of settlement. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
This disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and powerful, and to despise or, at least, neglect persons of poor and mean conditions, though necessary both to establish and to maintain the distinction of ranks and the order of society, is, at the same time, the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments. Morality, Ethics & Conflict of Interest
Though the principles of the banking trade may appear somewhat abstruse, the practice is capable of being reduced to strict rules. To depart upon any occasion from these rules, in consequence of some flattering speculation of extraordinary gain, is almost always extremely dangerous, and frequently fatal to the banking company which attempts it. Business, Commerce & Finance
To give the monopoly of the home-market to the produce of domestic industry, in any particular art or manufacture, is in some measure to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals, and must, in almost all cases, be either a useless or a hurtful regulation. Business, Commerce & Finance
To hinder, besides, the farmer from selling his goods at all times to the best market, is evidently to sacrifice the ordinary laws of justice to an idea of public utility, to a sort of reasons of state; an act of legislative authority which ought to be exercised only, which can be pardoned only in cases of the most urgent necessity.
Upstart greatness is everywhere less respected than ancient greatness. History
Wages tend to an equality in the same neighborhood and the same occupation. Economics, The Economy & Fiscal Affairs
We suffer more … when we fall from a better to a worse situation, than we ever enjoy when we rise from a worse to a better. Security, therefore, is the first and the principal object of prudence. Reform, Change, Transformation & Reformers
Were the expense of war to be defrayed always by a revenue raised within the year . . . wars would in general be more speedily concluded, and less wantonly undertaken Economics, The Economy & Fiscal Affairs
What is prudence in the conduct of every private family, can scarcely be folly in that of a great kingdom. Economics, The Economy & Fiscal Affairs
When national debts have once been accumulated to a certain degree, there is scarce, I believe, a single instance of their having been fairly and completely paid. The liberation of the public revenue, if it has ever been brought about at all, has always been brought about by bankruptcy; sometimes by an avowed one, but always by a real one, though frequently by a pretend payment. Budgets & Budgeting
Whenever the legislature attempts to regulate the differences between masters [employers] and their workmen, its counselors [members of the legislature] are always the masters. When the regulation, therefore, is in favor of the workmen, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favor of the masters. Regulation & Deregulation
Wherever there is great property, there is great inequality. Equality & Equal Opportunity
Adventure upon all the tickets in the lottery, and you lose for certain; and the greater the number of your tickets the nearer your approach to this certainty. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
All money is a matter of belief. Business, Commerce & Finance ;Money, Coins & Minting
Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the interest of the producer ought to be attended to, only so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer.
Defense is superior to opulence.
Great ambition, the desire of real superiority, of leading and directing, seems to be altogether peculiar to man, and speech is the great instrument of ambition.
Happiness never lays its finger on its pulse. Happiness & Unhappiness
Humanity is the virtue of a woman, generosity that of a man.
I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.
It is not by augmenting the capital of the country, but by rendering a greater part of that capital active and productive than would otherwise be so, that the most judicious operations of banking can increase the industry of the country.
It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. Business, Commerce & Finance
Labour was the first price, the original purchase - money that was paid for all things. It was not by gold or by silver, but by labour, that all wealth of the world was originally purchased. Money, Coins & Minting
Man is an animal that makes bargains: no other animal does this - no dog exchanges bones with another.
No complaint... is more common than that of a scarcity of money. Money, Coins & Minting
No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable. Society
On the road from the City of Skepticism, I had to pass through the Valley of Ambiguity.
Poor David Hume is dying fast, but with more real cheerfulness and good humor and with more real resignation to the necessary course of things, than any whining Christian ever dyed with pretended resignation to the will of God. Religion & God ;Humor
Resentment seems to have been given us by nature for a defense, and for a defense only! It is the safeguard of justice and the security of innocence. Nature
Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
The propensity to truck, barter and exchange one thing for another is common to all men, and to be found in no other race of animals. Business, Commerce & Finance
The real and effectual discipline which is exercised over a workman is that of his customers. It is the fear of losing their employment which restrains his frauds and corrects his negligence.
The real tragedy of the poor is the poverty of their aspirations.
The theory that can absorb the greatest number of facts, and persist in doing so, generation after generation, through all changes of opinion and detail, is the one that must rule all observation.
This is one of those cases in which the imagination is baffled by the facts.
To feel much for others and little for ourselves; to restrain our selfishness and exercise our benevolent affections, constitute the perfection of human nature. Nature
Virtue is more to be feared than vice, because its excesses are not subject to the regulation of conscience.
What can be added to the happiness of a man who is in health, out of debt, and has a clear conscience? Health, Healthcare & Medicine ;Happiness & Unhappiness
With the greater part of rich people, the chief enjoyment of riches consists in the parade of riches.