Summary of The Wealth of Nations – Adam Smith

As a preamble, we recommend this book:

Research into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations: The Great Themes – Adam Smith

Or get the original text starting with Book 1 and Book 2.

However, you will find here a Summary and explanations on this very famous book which is: Investigations on the nature and causes of the wealth of nations

We have abbreviated this long title, as is sometimes customary, into the shorter expression of The Wealth of Nations, which certainly has the defect of being less humbling than the original title.

You will find in this large summary the most complete possible coverage of the ideas proposed by Adam Smith.

However, the original text is spread over several hundred pages (around 1500 pages). It is inevitable that this summary will lose some of the original splendor that established Adam Smith as the father of political economy, and the greatest representative of what is usually called a posteriori the classical school of economics.

If you are short of time, we advise you to click directly on the title of the part you are interested in from this summary that we have arbitrarily established.

The most famous passage, for those who have never studied Adam Smith, is undoubtedly the’Invisible hand.’

Summary and explanations of BOOK I – The Wealth of Nations

  1. The division of labor
  2. The origin and use of money, price of goods
  3. Wages, profits and rents

Summary and explanations of BOOK II – The Wealth of Nations

  1. 3 branches of capital
  2. Productive and non-productive labor
  3. 4 different ways of using capital

Summary and explanations of BOOK III – The Wealth of Nations

  1. Progress of opulence and the economy of cities in the service of the countryside

Summary and explanations of BOOK IV – The Wealth of Nations

  1. The mercantile system
  2. “Adam Smith’s “invisible hand
  3. Trade between countries
  4. Colonization and the harm it caused
  5. Conclusion of the mercantilist system
  6. Agricultural systems

Summary and explanations of BOOK V – The Wealth of Nations

  1. The expenses of the State
  2. The revenues of the State
  3. The public debts

Summary and explanations of BOOK I – The Wealth of Nations

The division of labor

From the outset, Adam Smith sees the division of Labor as an essential asset.

The greatest improvements in the productive power of labor, and the greatest part of the skill, address, and intelligence with which it is directed or applied, are due, it seems, to the division of Labor.

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book I, Chapter I.

Adam Smith uses the example of a pin factory to justify his point.

The manufacturing process is divided into 18 operations.

the important work of making a pin is divided into eighteen or so distinct operations, which in some factories are performed by as many different hands, though in others the same worker performs two or three

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book I, Chapter I.

The work of 10 workers who perform two or three of the 18 actions is much more efficient than a worker who makes the pin from beginning to end.

Each worker, making one tenth of this product, can be considered as making in his day four thousand eight hundred pins. But if they had all worked separately and independently of each other, and if they had not been trained for this particular task, each of them would certainly not have made twenty pins, perhaps not a single one.

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book I, Chapter I.

This result is the result of three factors of productivity:

  1. first, to an increase of skill in each individual worker;
  2. secondly, to the saving of time, which is usually lost when one passes from one kind of work to another,
  3. and thirdly, to the invention of a large number of machines which facilitate and shorten the work

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book I, Chapter I.

The origin and use of money, price of goods

In his demonstration, Adam Smith begins by establishing the necessity of trade, of a ‘trading society’.

Once the division of labor is generally established, each man produces by his own labor only enough to satisfy a very small part of his needs. The greater part can only be satisfied by the exchange of the surplus of this product, which exceeds his consumption, against a similar surplus of the work of others. Thus each man subsists on exchanges or becomes a kind of merchant, and society itself is properly a trading society.

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book I, Chapter IV.

Thus was born barter, that is, the exchange of goods.

What is the problem with barter?

Adam Smith takes the example of a butcher and a baker (and a brewer).

A butcher has more meat than he needs.

He would therefore trade for bread with the baker.

But it turns out that he already has enough bread at home.

So he has no interest in trading with the butcher.

It is a failed exchange.

So man thought of using a commodity that would be desirable to everyone. This was cattle, shellfish, dried cod, tobacco, in different parts of the world.

But ‘irresistible reasons seem, in all countries, to have determined men to adopt metals for this purpose, in preference to any other commodity’.

Metals were practical in that they could be divided, and were not perishable.

How did we get to coins?

The difficulty and embarrassment of weighing these metals with accuracy gave rise to the institution of the coin, whose imprint, covering entirely the two sides of the coin and sometimes also the edge, is supposed to certify, not only the title, but also the weight of the metal. Then these coins were received by account, as today, without taking the trouble to weigh them.

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book I, Chapter IV.

This is the occasion for Adam Smith to establish a distinction between use value and exchange value.

Sometimes [the word ‘value’] signifies the usefulness of a particular object, and sometimes it signifies the power which the possession of that object gives to purchase other goods. One may call the one, Value in Use, and the other, Value in Exchange.

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book I, Chapter IV.

To understand the validity of this distinction, Adam Smith takes two very easy examples:

There is nothing more useful than water, but it can buy almost nothing; there is hardly any way to get anything in exchange. A diamond, on the other hand, has almost no value as far as use is concerned, but one will frequently find it possible to exchange it for a very large quantity of other goods.

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book I, Chapter IV.

What is a rich or poor man?

A man is rich or poor, according to the means he has of procuring the necessities, conveniences, and pleasures of life. But once the division is established in all the branches of labor, there is only an extremely small part of all these things that a man can obtain directly by his own labor; it is from the labor of others that he must expect the greater part of all these enjoyments; thus he will be rich or poor, according to the quantity of labor that he can command or that he is able to buy.

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book I, Chapter V

How much a commodity is worth is the same as saying how much labor is needed for a commodity.

Labor is therefore the real measure of the exchangeable value of any commodity.

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book I, Chapter V

Since money can change in value (when a gold mine is discovered, gold is worth less than before): work remains the ”real price“while money is only the “nominal price”.

Wages, profits and rents

Adam Smith distinguishes between three primitive sources of income:

  1. Wages
  2. Profit
  3. Annuity

Wage, profit and rent are the three primitive sources of all income, as well as of all exchangeable value. All other income derives, in the final analysis, from one or other of these three sources.

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book I, Chapter V

Let us first examine wages.

What constitutes the natural reward or wage of labor is the product of labor.

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book I, Chapter VI.

The balance of power between workers and masters is in favor of the masters.

But there is a “living wage” that is necessary, and below which one cannot go.

But although the masters almost always necessarily have the advantage in their quarrels with their workers, yet there is a certain rate below which it is impossible to reduce, for any considerable time, the ordinary wages of even the lowest kind of work.

A man must of necessity live by his work, and his wages must at least suffice for his subsistence

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book I, Chapter VIII

The wage will nevertheless always be a little higher than this subsistence wage:

“The scarcity of arms causes competition among masters

—“When a landlord, a rentier, a capitalist has a greater income than he deems necessary for the maintenance of his family”

“An abundant subsistence increases the physical strength of the worker.” Clearly, the better one is paid, the more one makes efforts, and it is what the masters realize

Let us look at the profit next.

Adam Smith explains the variations of profit as follows:

When the capital of many rich merchants is poured into one kind of trade, their mutual competition naturally tends to lower the profits, and when the capital has grown equally large in all the different trades established in society, the same competition must produce the same effect on all.

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book I, Chapter IX.

And again:

This profit is affected, not only by every variation which occurs in the price of the goods which are the object of this trade, but also by the good or bad fortune of the competitors and the practices of the trader, and by a thousand other accidents to which the goods are exposed.

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book I, Chapter IX.

Let us finally examine the rent.

Rent, considered as the price paid for the use of land, is naturally the highest price that the farmer is able to pay, under the circumstances in which the land is at the moment.

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book I, Chapter XI.

In the power struggle between the landowner and the farmer, the landowner is the one who wins. The rent is “a monopoly price”.

The more economy develops, the more the rent increases.

Summary and explanations of BOOK II – The Wealth of Nations

3 branches of capital

In Chapter I, of Book II, of the Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith distinguishes between three branches of capital:

  1. “The first is that portion reserved for immediate use in consumption
  2. “The second of the three branches into which the general fund of a society is divided, is FIXED CAPITAL, the distinctive character of which is to yield an income or profit without changing its master
    It consists of:
    1.“All useful machines and instruments of industry
    2.“All buildings intended for a useful object, and which are means of income“.
    3.“Improvements to land
    4.“Useful Talents acquired by the inhabitants or members of the society
  3. “The third and last of the three branches into which the general fund possessed by a, society is naturally divided. Is its CIRCULATING CAPITAL, the distinctive character of which is to yield income only by circulating or changing masters. “
    It is about:
    2.“This fund of food which is in the possession of the” different professions.
    3.“The materials
    4.“Finally, the Work done and perfected, but which is still in the hands of the merchant or manufacturer“.

Productive and non-productive work

Non-productive labor:

The labor of some of the more respectable classes of society, as well as that of the servants, produces no value, it does not settle or realize itself in any object or thing that can be sold, that subsists after the cessation of labor, and that can serve to procure thereafter a like quantity of labor.

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book II, Chapter III.

Adam Smith “attacks” in particular the sovereign head-on:

“The sovereign, for example, together with all the other civil and military magistrates who serve under him, the whole army, the whole fleet, are so many unproductive workers.”

before conceding:

“Their service, however honorable, however useful, however necessary, produces nothing with which one can afterwards procure such a quantity of service.”

But what do non-productive workers live on?

Land rent and capital profits are therefore everywhere the main sources from which non-productive wage earners draw their subsistence

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book II, Chapter III.

As for productive workers, it is, of course, the reverse mechanism. In this sense, productive labor is the“kind of labor that adds to the value of the object on which it is done.

Adam Smith praises saving.

Follow his reasoning in three steps:

1.“wherever capital prevails, industry prevails; wherever income prevails, idleness prevails.”

2.“Capital increases by thrift; it decreases by prodigality and misconduct.

3. So the saving that increases capital also leads to occupying productive workers.

Adam Smith does not hold back his words against profligate people, that is, those who spend more:

If the prodigality of some were not compensated by the frugality of others, every prodigal, by thus feeding laziness with the bread of industry, would tend, by his conduct, to impoverish his country.

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book II, Chapter III.

However, a“great nation” will almost always come out ahead, because the good conduct of those who save compensates for the profligacy of others.

But once again, this is an opportunity for Adam Smith to attack the powers that be:

They are always, and without exception, the greatest dissipators of society.

4 different ways of using capital

Capital can be exploited in many ways. Adam Smith identifies four of them.

  1. to provide society with the raw product it needs for its annual use and consumption; or
  2. to manufacture and prepare this raw product, so that it can immediately serve for the use and consumption of society; or,
  3. to transport either the raw product or the manufactured product from places where they abound to those where they are lacking;
  4. finally, to divide portions of both products into small enough parcels to meet the daily needs of the consumers.

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book II, Chapter V

The most valuable capital is that which supplies the gross product.

It is thus the agricultural development which it is necessary to privilege.

Summary and explanations of BOOK III – The Wealth of Nations

Progress of opulence and the economy of the cities in the service of the countryside

For Adam Smith in the first chapter of the new book,“The great trade of any civilized society is that which is established between the inhabitants of the city and those of the country.“.

As a reminder, we are at a time when the rate of urbanization is much lower, naturally, and always from the point of view that agriculture must be privileged.

According to Adam Smith’s analysis in Chapter IV, the wealth of the cities allowed three avenues of improvement for the countryside:

  1. “By furnishing a large and near market for the gross product of the country, they encouraged its cultivation and engaged in making further improvements.”
  2. “the wealth that the inhabitants of the cities earned was often employed to buy land that was for sale, much of which would often have remained uncultivated
  3. finally, commerce and manufactures introduced by degrees a regular government and good order, and with them liberty and individual security, among the inhabitants of the countryside

Summary and explanations of BOOK IV – The Wealth of Nations

The mercantile system

In Chapter I, of Book IV, Adam Smith cuts through a misconception:

“That popular idea, that Money makes wealth, or that wealth consists in the abundance of gold and silver.”

To put it more simply,“in a word, in ordinary language, Wealth and Money are regarded as absolutely synonymous.”

This is why many states have sought to acquire silver in ever-increasing proportions, and sometimes even to prohibit its removal from the nation (Scotland).

This is where Adam Smith’s reframing comes in:

It would really be too ridiculous to attempt seriously to prove that wealth does not consist in money or in the quantity of precious metals, but in the things which money buys and from which it borrows all its value, by the faculty it has of buying them.

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book IV, Chapter I.

It is not, therefore, the money that is important, but the things it buys.

Adam Smith comes to talk about protectionism, a term he does not use, but which he describes by the long formula“. By hindering, by strong duties or by an absolute prohibition, the importation of those kinds of goods which can be produced in the country“.

Certainly, protectionism has its advantages: to create a monopoly on the national territory.

But is this monopoly really advantageous for the nation?

This is the question posed by Adam Smith in these words:

There is no doubt that this monopoly in the home market often gives great encouragement to the particular species of industry which enjoys it, and that it often turns to that kind of employment a greater portion of the labor and capital of the country than would otherwise have been employed in it. – But what is perhaps not quite so obvious is whether it tends to increase the general industry of the society, or to give it the most advantageous direction.

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book IV, Chapter II.

To answer this question, Adam Smith goes through some explanations, which give rise to the most famous passage of his work. The one about the invisible hand.

“Adam Smith’s“invisible hand

He does not use this expression here yet, but it is indeed this theory that he summarizes in an iconic phrase:

Each individual puts all his efforts into seeking, for all the capital at his disposal, the most advantageous employment :
it is true that it is his own benefit that he has in view, and not that of society; but the care he takes to find his personal advantage naturally, or rather necessarily, leads him to prefer precisely that kind of employment which happens to be the most advantageous to society.

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book IV, Chapter II.

Summarized simply, this means that each individual works towards his own satisfaction.

But the sum of these individual works, in a necessary way, that is to say, which cannot be, leads to the good of society in general.

He said in a different way, and it is then that Adam Smith finally uses the term invisible hand that he used in other works he wrote:

since each individual try, as much as he can, lº to employ his capital to make the national industry worthwhile, and – 2º to direct this industry in such a way as to make it produce the greatest possible value, each individual necessarily works to make the annual income of society as great as possible


The person thinks only of his own gain; in this, as in many other cases, the person is led by an invisible hand to fulfill an end which does not correspond to their intentions at all; it is not always the worst thing for society that this is not intentionally. While seeking only his own interest, he often works in a much more efficient way for the interest of society, than if his aim were really to work for it.

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book IV, Chapter II.

Another reminder from Adam Smith before finally answering the question he asked himself at the beginning of this Book IV.

The state should not intervene in this question:

it is evident that each individual, in his particular position, is much better able to judge it than any statesman or legislator will be able to do for him

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book IV, Chapter II.

With this principle in view, Adam Smith can finally resolve the original question:

To grant to the products of national industry, in a particular art or kind of manufacture, the monopoly of the home market, is in a manner to direct individuals in the course they have to take in the employment of their capital, and in such cases to prescribe a rule of conduct is almost always useless or harmful. If the product of domestic industry can be brought to market as cheaply as that of foreign industry, the precept is useless; if it cannot be brought to market as cheaply, the precept will generally be harmful.

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book IV, Chapter II.

Trade between countries

Thus, Adam Smith advocated trade between countries (he was taken up in this by Ricardo, considered to be one of the greatest authors of the classical school, a group to which Adam Smith obviously belonged).

The quintessence of his argument can be found in one sentence:

If a foreign country can supply us with a commodity more cheaply than we are able to produce it ourselves, it is much better that we buy it from it with some part of the product of our own industry, employed in the kind in which we have some advantage.

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book IV, Chapter II.

He gives a rather telling example:

By means of hot greenhouses, layers, and glass frames, very good grapes can be grown in Scotland


Would it be reasonable to prohibit the importation of all foreign wines, only to encourage the production of Bordeaux and Burgundy wines in Scotland?

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book IV, Chapter II.

In short, each country must be able to exchange the result of the work which it knows how to do best and which is therefore often the most adapted to its country.

Colonization and the harm it has caused

The motivations for colonization were bad from the start, for Adam Smith, who writes in Chapter VII, Book IV:

Extravagance and injustice are, as it seems, the principles which conceived and directed the first project of establishing these colonies.”

Even if Adam Smith concedes “other more reasonable and laudable motives”, these new motives do no more“honor to the policy of Europe”.

The colonies did, however, derive some benefits from colonization:“The colonies owe to the policy of Europe the education of their active and enterprising founders, and the great views which directed them.

And Europe too:

  1. “increase of enjoyment
  2. “increase of industry

Except that the countries that never sent anyone to the colonies have reaped the benefits just as much:

Colonization helped“encourage the industry of countries that perhaps never sent a single article of their products to America, such as Hungary and Poland.”

Moreover, these benefits of colonization were very poorly shared: exclusive companies, such as the famous East India Company, benefited from the monopoly of trade without passing on the benefits to the wider population.

Adam Smith was careful not to criticize the good intentions of the East India Company:“They acted according to the natural inclination of their particular situation.

However, his sentence is without appeal:“Such Exclusive Companies are therefore a published evil, in every respect“.

Conclusion of the mercantilist system

The mercantilist system is condemnable for this main reason:

“one sees the interest of the national consumer sacrificed to that of the producer

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book IV, Chapter VIII

For it is the interest of the consumer that must be privileged

Consumption is the sole aim, the sole end of all production, and the interest of the producer should never be attended to, except so far as is necessary to promote the interest of the consumer.

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book IV, Chapter VIII

Agricultural Systems

What is an agricultural system? It is a system that“represents the produce of the land as the sole source of the income and wealth of a country”, defines Adam Smith in his Chapter IX, Book IV.

Adam Smith immediately disqualifies this system:

[It] Has never, so far as I know, been adopted by any nation, and exists at present only in the speculations of a small number of men in France, of great learning and distinguished talent. – It is surely not worth discussing at length the errors of a theory which has never done and probably never will do any harm anywhere in the world.

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book IV, Chapter IX.

The main error of the agricultural system is to have forgotten a whole part of the economy:

“It represents the class of artisans, manufacturers, and merchants, as wholly sterile and unproductive,” writes Adam Smith again.

Summary and explanations of BOOK V – The Wealth of Nations

The expenses of the State

The State, or the sovereign, has three main functions, described in Chapter I of this Book V:

  1. “The first of the Sovereign’s duties, that of protecting society against violence and invasion by other independent societies.”
  2. “The second duty of the sovereign, that of protecting, as far as possible, every member of society against injustice or oppression by any other member of that society, that is, the duty of establishing an administration of justice
  3. The third and last of the duties of the sovereign or of the republic is that of raising and maintaining those public works and establishments from which a great society derives immense benefits.

Each of these functions requires expenses on the part of the State.

(There are thus three sources of expenditure, and another one which is dealt with later in the book)

They are variable and evolving: for example and respectively for each of these three functions:

  1. according to whether we are in peacetime or wartime,
  2. according to the social period,
  3. or according to the degree of advancement of the society

An important part of the third function, namely public works and institutions, concerns education.

Adam Smith then slips in a little sociological criticism with these words:“though in no civilized society can the common people ever be as well brought up as those born in ease“.

For Adam Smith, wealth favors good education and instruction.

Adam Smith is still not politically correct when he speaks of the“lowest trades”:“most even of those who are destined for the lowest trades have time to acquire this knowledge before they begin their labors.

A system of merit and testing should provide this necessary education for everyone:

  1. “by giving small prizes or some small marks of distinction to the children of the people who would excel in it
  2. “may impose upon almost the whole mass of the people the obligation of acquiring these most essential parts of education, by requiring every man to take an examination or test on these articles before he can obtain mastery in a corporation

Adam Smith thus describes exactly by these two factors favoring education in the educational system that has been adopted in the majority of the countries of the world.

Adam Smith argues that the state has a vested interest in the education of its citizens. He takes advantage of this to criticize the disorder that could occur within nations:

The more enlightened they are, the less likely they will be to be led astray by superstition and enthusiasm, which are in ignorant nations the ordinary sources of the most dreadful disorders. Besides, an educated and intelligent people are always more decent in its conduct and more disposed to order than an ignorant and stupid people.

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book V, Chapter I.

Finally, there is a fourth source of expenditure. It is the necessary one of “support of his dignity”.

This last expense is commensurate with the stature of the sovereign.

Naturally, we expect to find more splendor in the court of a king than in the house of a doge or a burgomaster.

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book V, Chapter I.

The Revenues of the State

Two sources of revenue are identified by Adam Smith in Chapter II of Book V:

  1. “From some funds which belong particularly to the sovereign or republic, and which are independent of the revenue of the people.”
  2. “or, in the second place, from the revenue of the people

The second is probably the most important.

This second source of revenue can be divided into four kinds of taxes:

  1. taxes on annuities
  2. taxes on profits
  3. taxes on salaries
  4. taxes that“relate to all three of these different sources of individual income

But beware of this shorthand formulation: indeed, Adam Smith states that some of“these taxes are not ultimately borne by the fund or source of the income on which they were intended to be borne

Taxes must obey four maxims, as Adam Smith always specifies in this Chapter II of Book V:

  1. The exam questions of a State must contribute to the support of the government, each, as far as possible, in proportion to his faculties, that is, in proportion to the income he enjoys under the protection of the State”: it is equality or inequality before the tax that is at stake.
  2. “The tax or portion of the tax that each individual is required to pay must be certain, and not arbitrary
  3. “All taxes must be collected at the time and in the manner that can be presumed to be the most convenient for the taxpayer
  4. Every tax must be so designed that it takes out of the hands of the people as little money as possible beyond that which enters the Treasury of the State, and at the same time holds that money out of the hands of the people as little as possible before it enters that Treasury.

For Adam Smith, the most efficient and just taxes are those on land rent and house rent.

They are less arbitrary (cf. maxim no. 2) because it is easy to see what land an individual occupies, rather than knowing his capital.

Moreover, there is no risk of flight “from the land to abroad”, which would be absurd, but there is a risk of flight of capital abroad.“Land is something that cannot be taken away, while capital can be taken away very easily“.

Another acceptable tax is the one on luxury consumer goods, even if it is difficult to implement.

The last tax that would be judicious for Adam Smith is that which consists of tolls for the use of public works (see the third duty of the sovereign).

On the other hand, taxes on wages should be banned, because wages are subsistence wages, and this would increase prices.

There should be no tax on wealth, because this would be a source of inequality (maxim n°1) and arbitrariness (maxim n°2).

Public debts

The problem arises in times of war, when the state has not hoarded enough:“an income three or four times as great as the peacetime income becomes indispensably necessary”, warns Adam Smith in Chapter III of Book V.

In a well-regulated state, in which the possession of property is guaranteed, and which generally inspires confidence, citizens will be inclined to lend money to the state. This is the result if we turn Adam Smith’s following assertion into a positive sentence:“In a word, trade and manufactures will seldom flourish in a state where the justice of the government does not inspire a certain degree of confidence.

The merchant or capitalist makes money by lending to the government, and instead of diminishing the capital of his trade, it is an opportunity for him to increase it. Thus, in general, he considers it a grace of the government to be admitted for a portion in the first subscription opened for a new loan: hence the goodwill or the desire that the exam questions of a commercial State have to lend to it.

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book V, Chapter III.

This is what tells states that they can dispense with saving. Conversely, states that do not inspire confidence must be absolutely safe.

Adam Smith notes with regret that the countries of Europe in his time (which is perhaps even more true in our time) are crushed by debt.

The progress of the enormous debts which now crush all the great nations of Europe, and which will probably ruin them all in the long run, has had a fairly uniform course.

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book V, Chapter III.

The only solution which presents itself to the States is to devalue money in relation to gold. This must be avoided. The State must increase its taxes and decrease its expenses.

And Adam Smith advises abandoning the colonies, as in the case of Great Britain:

the effects of the monopoly of the colonies’ trade are a real loss instead of a profit for the body of the nation

Adam Smith – The Wealth of Nations, Book V, Chapter III.


In conclusion, what about the father of political economy, or economic policy, Adam Smith?

Would you classify him as right or left wing?

If you have read even a few lines of this summary, and our explanations, you will have no trouble classifying him on the right, or even on the extreme right in economic matters.

All the same, Adam Smith does not deny a certain role to the State, especially in the field of education. Nor did he deny the role of taxation, which he considered necessary but limited to strict functions. It is all a matter of nuance.

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