All About Adam Smith: Father of Modern Economics » (2023)

Adam Smith was an 18th-century philosopher who is recognized as the father of modern economics and a leading proponent of laissez-faire economic policy. In his first book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith proposed the idea of ​​the invisible hand: the tendency of free markets to self-regulate through competition, supply and demand, and self-interest. Smith is also known for his theory of compensating for wage differentials, meaning that dangerous or unwanted jobs are given higher wages to lure workers into those jobs.

But he is best known for his 1776 book: "Inquiries into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations". Read on to find out how this Scottish philosopher argued against mercantilism to become the father of modern free trade and the founder of the concept now known as GDP.

Early life

The recorded history of Smith's life begins on June 5, 1723, with his baptism in Scotland; however, his exact date of birth is undocumented. Smith entered the University of Glasgow at the age of 14 and later attended the prestigious Balliol College of the University of Oxford. After returning from Oxford studies, Smith began a series of public lectures in Edinburgh. The success of the lecture proved to be a springboard for a professorship at his alma mater. He started with logic, but later taught moral philosophy at the university. Those years of teaching and tutoring culminated in the publication of some of Smith's lectures in his 1759 book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

The foundation for the canvas of Smith's work was laid in this year and was the result of his interactions with notable figures from a variety of fields. He was friends with James Watt, the inventor of the steam engine, but also with the philosopher David Hume. Smith moved to France in 1763 because he was offered a better paying job as personal tutor to his stepson Charles Townshend, an amateur economist and future Treasury Secretary. While in France, Smith wrote "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations", which would finally cement his place in history.

Theory of moral feelings

Smith is best known for his 1776 work, The Wealth of Nations, but his first major treatise, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, was published in 1759 and many of his ideas are still applied today.

Some may be surprised to learn that Smith, who is also known as the "Father of Capitalism," goes into great detail about charity and human ethics in this book. While much of the philosophy behind Smith's work is based on self-interest and maximizing output, "The Theory of Moral Sentiments" was a discussion of how human communication is based on compassion. The book elaborated on ideas such as morality and human sympathy. Smith argued in the book that people are selfish, but they naturally like to help others. He introduced the concept of the "inner man" and the "impartial observer" responsible for guiding human action. Both help to reconcile passion with reason, which is the foundation of economic systems and the foundation of institution building within human society. In addition to our instinct for self-preservation, the book also contains elements from social psychology. The first is mainly expressed through common morality and a sense of justice. An excess of emotions can be harmful to both; thus the human instinct to control emotions in a socially acceptable way.

The "impartial spectator" is in our mind when we communicate with others. As human beings, we have a similar natural affinity for justice, as it promotes the preservation and expansion of society.

While this seems to contradict his economic views of individuals working to better themselves without regard to the public interest, the idea of ​​an invisible hand helping everyone through the work of self-centered individuals compensates for this apparent contradiction.

Wealth of the people

Smith's 1776 work, "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations", also abbreviated as "The Wealth of Nations", appeared at the dawn of industrial development in Europe. While critics point out that Smith did not invent many of the ideas he wrote about, he was the first person to collect and publish them in a format designed to explain them to the average reader of the time. As a result, he is responsible for popularizing many of the ideas behind the school of thought that has come to be known as classical economics.

Other economists drew on Smith's work to solidify classical economic theory, which would become the dominant school of economic thought during the Great Depression.

In this book, Smith discussed the stages of society's evolution, from the hunter-gatherer phase with no property rights or fixed abode to nomadic agriculture with itinerant abodes. Feudal society is the next stage. In this phase, laws and property rights are created to protect the privileged classes. Laissez-faire or free markets characterize modern society in which new institutions are created to carry out market transactions.

Laissez-faire philosophies, such as minimizing the role of government intervention and taxation in free markets, and the idea that an "invisible hand" directs supply and demand, are among the main ideas promoted by Smith's writings. These ideas reflect the concept that by taking care of themselves each person inadvertently helps create the best outcome for all. "We cannot look forward to our dinner because of the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, but because of the consideration of their own interests," Smith wrote.

By selling products that people want to buy, the butcher, brewer and baker hopes to earn money. If they are effective in meeting their customers' needs, they will receive financial rewards. While they are involved in their business to make money, they also deliver products that people want. Such a system, Smith argued, creates wealth not just for the butcher, the brewer, and the baker, but for the nation as a whole when that nation is populated by citizens who work productively to improve and meet their financial needs. Similarly, Smith noted that a man would invest his wealth in a company that would likely help him get the highest return for a given level of risk. Today, the invisible hand theory is often presented in terms of a natural phenomenon that directs free markets and capitalism toward efficiency through supply and demand and competition for resources. meager, rather than something that results in the well-being of the people. individuals

"The Wealth of Nations" is a comprehensive work consisting of two parts divided into five books. It differs from the Theory of Moral Sentiments in one important respect. Together with the "inner man" that was supposed to control and regulate human passion, it relies on an institutional framework that directs people towards productive activities that benefit society. The basis of that framework is competition, which Smith defined as "a desire that comes with us from the womb and never leaves us until we go to the grave." The framework consists of institutions such as the judiciary that are designed to protect and promote free and fair competition.

The ideas promoted by the book attracted international attention and helped shift from land-based wealth to wealth created by assembly-line production methods driven by division of labor. An example Smith gave involved the labor required to make a pin. One man going through the 18 steps required to complete the tasks might only make a few pins per week, but if ten men completed all 18 tasks on the assembly line, production would increase to thousands of pins per week.

In short, Smith argues that division of labor and specialization produce wealth. "The great multiplication of the productions of all the various arts, owing to the division of labor, produces in a well-governed society that universal wealth which extends to the lowest classes of people," asserts Smith. In "The Welfare of Nations ."

Adam Smith created the concept of GDP

Eventually, despite the ideas presented in The Wealth of Nations, Smith changed import and export business, created the concept of what is now known as gross domestic product (GDP), and advocated free trade.

Before the publication of the Wealth of Nations, countries declared their wealth based on the value of their gold and silver reserves. However, Smith's work was highly critical of mercantilism; he argued that countries should instead be judged by their levels of production and trade. This sentiment formed the basis for measuring a country's wealth based on a metric called GDP.

Before Smith's book, countries were reluctant to trade with other countries unless it benefited them. However, Smith argued that free exchange should be created as both sides promote trade. This led to more imports and exports, and countries rated their value accordingly. Smith also advocated limited government. He wanted a hands-off government and legislation that would lead to free and open markets. Smith, however, held the government responsible for some sectors, including education and defence.

it comes down to

Smith's ideas became the basis of the classical school of economics and gave him a place in history as the father of economics. Concepts introduced by Smith, such as the invisible hand and the division of labor, are now essential economic theories. Smith died on July 19, 1790 at the age of 67, but the ideas he promoted live on in the form of contemporary economic research and institutions such as the Adam Smith Institute. In 2007, the Bank of England placed his image on the £20 note.



Why Adam Smith is known as the father of modern economic? ›

Why Is Adam Smith Called the Father of Economics? Adam Smith is called the "father of economics" because of his theories on capitalism, free markets, and supply and demand.

Who was Adam Smith and why is he so important to modern economics? ›

Adam Smith was a philosopher and economic theorist born in Scotland in 1723. He's known primarily for his groundbreaking 1776 book on economics called An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Smith introduced the concept that free trade would benefit individuals and society as a whole.

What is the explanation of economics by Adam Smith? ›

Adam Smith

According to this definition, economics is a science of the study of wealth only. It deals with production, distribution, and consumption. This wealth-centred definition deals with the causes behind the creation of wealth.

What are the main points of Adam Smith's theory of moral sentiments? ›

It proposes that the way humans relate socially is a better guide than reason to understanding how morals develop; from this it considers how justice and prudence are social values, as are altruism and charity.

How did Adam Smith impact the world? ›

Smith was the first to realise that economics should not only be concerned with the production of wealth but the distribution of it too. In large part because of his ideas, England overturned the Corn Laws and went on to become the dominant economic power in Europe during the Industrial Revolution.

How is the father of modern economics? ›

Adam Smith: The father of modern economics.

What are the principles of Adam Smith? ›

In The Wealth of Nations (1776), Adam Smith argued that taxation should follow the four principles of fairness, certainty, convenience and efficiency.

Who did Adam Smith influence? ›

Did Adam Smith believe in capitalism? ›

Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, 1776. Adam Smith was the 'forefather' of capitalist thinking. His assumption was that humans were self serving by nature but that as long as every individual were to seek the fulfillment of her/his own self interest, the material needs of the whole society would be met.

What does Adam Smith say about self-interest? ›

Adam Smith's self-interest economic theory proposes that capitalism fueled by self-interest is ultimately the best way to a thriving economy. Because of human desire for money, success, or fame, they will be motivated to improve their quality of work, products, and compete with others.

What were Adam Smith's 3 laws of economics? ›

Smith's 3 natural laws of economics: Law of self-interest – people work for their own good. Law of competition – competition forces people to make a better product for lower price. Law of supply and demand – enough goods would be produced at the lowest price to meet the demand in a market economy.

What inspired Adam Smith? ›

He was particularly influenced by the French philosophers Francois Quesnay and Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, whose theories Smith later adapted in part to form a basis for his own. From 1766 to 1776, he lived in Kirkcaldy, preparing The Wealth of Nations (1776).

How did Adam Smith change the economy? ›

Smith attacked government intervention in the economy and provided a blueprint for free markets and free trade. These two principles eventually would become the hallmarks of modern capitalism.

What are the most important things about Adam Smith? ›

He was the first Scotsman to appear on English money. There is an asteroid named after him. His personal library consisted of nearly 1,500 books. Many of Adam Smith's famous economic catchphrases, like “the invisible hand”, were taken from Shakespeare.

What are some important things about Adam Smith? ›

Its foundational ideas of free markets, division of labour and gross domestic product provided the basis for modern economic theory, leading many to consider Smith the 'Father of Modern Economics'. A central figure in the Scottish Enlightenment, Smith was also a social philosopher and academic.

What is the origin of modern economics? ›

When Did the Economic History Start? Modern economics is attributed to Adam Smith, who published The Wealth of Nations in 1776. However, the practices and ideas that led to Smith's paper were developed over centuries of discussions and ideas around the globe.

What is the political economy of Adam Smith? ›

`Political Economy belongs to no nation; it is of no country: it is the science of the rules for the production, the accumulation, the distribution, and the consumption of wealth. It will assert itself whether you wish it or not. It is founded on the attributes of the human mind, and no power can change it.

What is the general moral theory of Smith? ›

With this initial comment, Smith outlines the central themes of his moral philosophy: human beings are social, we care about others and their circumstances bring us pleasure or pain. It is only through our senses, through “seeing,” that we acquire knowledge of their sentiments.

What are the natural laws of Adam Smith? ›

Natural Law:

If every individual member of society is left to peruse his economic activity, he will maximize the output to the best of his ability. Freedom of action brings out the best of an individual which increases society wealth and progress. Adam Smith opposed any government intervention in industry and commerce.

Did Adam Smith believe in economic freedom? ›

Clearly, as Adam Smith recognized more than 230 years ago, economic freedom and the economic prosperity it brings work to the advantage of the poor.

Did Adam Smith believe in socialism? ›

Answer and Explanation: Adam Smith was not a socialist. Smith argued that the free market system would produce more moral and virtuous outcomes than one controlled by the state or society.

What were Adam Smith's 4 key ideas of capitalism? ›

The basic tenets of capitalism as we know them today were spelled out pretty clearly: supply and demand, division of labor, pursuit of self-interest. And if you strain a little more, you might just remember the man behind the theories: Adam Smith.

What did Adam Smith mean by invisible hand? ›

The term "invisible hand" first appeared in Adam Smith's famous work, The Wealth of Nations, to describe how free markets can incentivize individuals, acting in their own self-interest, to produce what is societally necessary.

Why is Adam Smith called the father of capitalism? ›

Adam Smith was the 'forefather' of capitalist thinking. His assumption was that humans were self serving by nature but that as long as every individual were to seek the fulfillment of her/his own self interest, the material needs of the whole society would be met.

Who founded modern economic and is considered the father of economics? ›

Adam Smith: Father of Economics.

Why Adam Smith's definition of economics is called the wealth definition of economics? ›

It is defined by Adam Smith as economics is a science which enquires into the nature and causes of wealth of a nation. It is the study of wealth only, the main objective of economics is to examine how people earn wealth and spend it. Was this answer helpful?

What is Adam Smith known as the father of quizlet? ›

Adam Smith. author of The Wealth of Nations, is often called the "father of economics."

What was the main idea of Adam Smith? ›

Adam Smith was among the first philosophers of his time to declare that wealth is created through productive labor, and that self-interest motivates people to put their resources to the best use. He argued that profits flowed from capital investments, and that capital gets directed to where the most profit can be made.

What were the basic ideas of Adam Smith? ›

What where Adam Smith's basic ideas? self-interest, competition, supply and demand.

What government did Adam Smith believe in? ›

Adam Smith advocated a limited role for government. But he recognized significant areas where only it could act effectively. Smith saw the first duty of government was to protect the nation from invasion.

What are the 4 definitions of economics? ›

These are – production, consumption, and distribution of goods and services. Ans. Adam Smith defined economics as the “science of wealth.” The definition implies that the economy is determined by the wealth generated when people produce valuable commodities that are consumed. Ans.

What are the 3 definitions of economics? ›

Economy is the art of making most of life. - George Bernard Shaw. Economics is the study of mankind in the ordinary business of life. - Alfred Marshall. Economics is the science which studies human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses.

Who invented capitalism? ›

Who invented capitalism? Modern capitalist theory is traditionally traced to the 18th-century treatise An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations by Scottish political economist Adam Smith, and the origins of capitalism as an economic system can be placed in the 16th century.


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