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Glasgow University Student of Francis Hutcheson Friendship with David Hume Chair of Logic (1751),Moral Philosophy (1752) Theory of Moral Sentiments , 1759 Tutor of Townsend’s stepson  Continental travel, 1764 – 1766  Acquaintance with French Physiocrats  Generous pension

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adam smith 1723 1790
Glasgow University

Student of Francis Hutcheson

Friendship with David Hume

Chair of Logic (1751),Moral Philosophy (1752)

Theory of Moral Sentiments, 1759

Tutor of Townsend’s stepson

 Continental travel, 1764 – 1766

 Acquaintance with French Physiocrats

 Generous pension

Kirkcaldy, 1766 – 1776

The Wealth of Nations, 1776

Scotland Commissioner of Customs

Scottish Enlightenment

Adam Smith, 1723 – 1790
the wisdom of adam smith

The Wisdom of Adam Smith

  • From The Theory of Moral Sentiments, 1759
  • 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, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.
  • Lets edit the rest
  • It hurts to be the object of hatred and indignation; and there is satisfaction in being beloved [and respected]. This is more important to happiness than all the [material] advantage a person expects to get from it.
Theory of Moral Sentiments
  • Because others sympathize more with our joy than with our sorrow, we show off our riches and conceal our poverty … it is from this regard to the sentiments of mankind that we pursue riches and avoid poverty.
  • We want to be respectable and respected…To deserve, to acquire, and to enjoy the respect and admiration of mankind, are the great objects of ambition.
      • There are two different roads leading to the attainment of this desire;
          • the one, by the study of wisdom and the practice of virtue;
          • the other, by the acquisition of wealth and greatness.
Saving hundreds of millions in China at the cost of our little finger:
  • … what is it which prompts the generous upon all occasions and the mean upon many to sacrifice their own interests to the greater interests of others, …counteracting the strongest impulses of self-love?. . . It is a stronger love, a more powerful affection, the love of what is honorable and noble …

An affection more powerful than self – love!

themes in an inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations 1776
Themes in An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 1776

Division of labor

Self Interest and Cooperation in Markets

Role of government

Foreign trade

Labor theory of value

Theory of distribution

Accumulation and progress

adam smith problems
Adam Smith Problems?
  • Inconsistency between Moral Sentiments and Wealth of Nations
  • Skepticism of tradesmen
  • Important roles of government
  • Plagiarism
From An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations

…the division of labor is limited by the extent of the market

  • To take an example, the trade of the pin-maker; a workman not educated to this business could scarce, perhaps, with his utmost industry, make one pin in a day, and certainly could not make twenty. But in the way in which this business is now carried on, not only the whole work is a peculiar trade, but it is divided into a number of branches, of which the greater part are likewise peculiar trades. One man draws out the wire, another straights it, a third cuts it, a fourth points it, a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head; to make the head requires two or three distinct operations; to put it on, is a peculiar business, to whiten the pins is another; it is even a trade by itself to put them into the paper; and the important business of making a pin is, in this manner, divided into about eighteen distinct operations, which, in some manufactories, are all performed by distinct hands…I have seen a small manufactory of this kind where ten men only were employed, and where some of them consequently performed two or three distinct operations. But though they were very poor, and therefore but indifferently accommodated with the necessary machinery, they could, when they exerted themselves, make among them about twelve pounds of pins in a day. There are in a pound upwards of four thousand pins of a middling size. Those ten persons, therefore, could make among them upwards of forty-eight thousand pins in a day. Each person, therefore, making a tenth part of forty-eight thousand pins, might be considered as making four thousand eight hundred pins in a day. But if they had all wrought separately and independently, and without any of them having been educated to this peculiar business, they certainly could not each of them have made twenty, perhaps not one pin in a day…
Economic Man: Self – interest and exchange
  • This division of labor, from which so many advantages are derived, is not originally the effect of any human wisdom, which foresees and intends the general opulence to which it gives occasion. It is the necessary … consequence of a propensity in human nature …to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another.
  • In civilized society [man] stands at all times in need of cooperation and assistance of great multitudes, while his whole life is scarce sufficient to gain the friendship of a few persons.... [M]an has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is in vain for him to expect it from their benevolence only. He will be more likely to prevail if he can interest their self-love...
  • 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. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages...
  • [Value] is adjusted... by the higgling and bargaining of the market, according to that sort of rough equality which, though not exact, is sufficient for carrying on the business of common life.
Evils of monopoly
  • a great enemy to good management.
  • 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…[T]he law … ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary.
  • As soon as the land of any country has all become private property the landlords, like other men, love to reap where they never sowed and demand a rent even for its natural produce.

Virtues of competition

  • In every profession, effort is always in proportion to necessity... [W]here competition is free, the rivalry of competitors, who are all trying to jostle one another out of employment, obliges each to work with a certain degree of exactness...
  • The natural price, or the price of free competition ... is the lowest which can be taken, not on every occasion, but for any considerable time ...[It] is the lowest price which sellers can commonly afford to take and stay in business.
The Role of Government and Laissez – Faire
  • According to the system of natural liberty, the sovereign has only three duties to attend to ... first, the duty of protecting the society from the violence and invasion of other independent societies; secondly, the duty of protecting, so far as possible, every member of the society from the injustice or oppression of every other member of it, or the duty of establishing an exact administration of justice, and thirdly, the duty of erecting and maintaining certain public works and certain public institutions, which it can never be for the interest of any individual, or small number of individuals, to erect and maintain...
  • Great nations are never impoverished by private, though they sometimes are by public prodigality and misconduct … [A]lmost the whole public revenue is in most countries employed in maintaining unproductive hands...
  • Every individual... neither intends to promote the public interest nor knows how much he is promoting it...[B]y directing [his] industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this … led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.

Social Physics: Newton in the Economic Universe

The Role of Government and Laissez – Faire
  • protecting societyfrom invasion
  • administration of justice
  • public worksandpublic institutions
  • Every individual... neither intends to promote the public interest nor knows how much he is promoting it...[B]y directing [his] industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this … led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.

Social Physics: Newton in the Economic Universe

Free trade
  • … never make at home what it costs more to make than to buy... If a foreign country can supply a commodity cheaper than we can make it, buy from them with goods where we have an advantage.
    • By means of glasses, hotbeds, and hotwalls, very good grapes can be raised in Scotland, and very good wine can be made of them at about thirty times the expense for which at least equally good can be brought from foreign countries. Would it be a reasonable law to prohibit the importation of all foreign wines, merely to encourage the making of claret and burgundy in Scotland?
    • A great empire [America] has been established for the sole purpose of raising up a nation of customers who are obliged to buy from our shops and producers all the goods we can supply. For the sake of that little enhancement of price which this monopoly might afford our producers, the home-consumers have been burdened with the whole expense of maintaining and defending that empire…The interest on the debt incurred is not only greater than the whole extraordinary profit made by the monopoly of the colony trade, but greater than the whole value of that trade...
Smith’s Theory of Value
  • Value in use – Value in exchange
      • Water – diamond “paradox”
          • Consumer surplus to our rescue
  • Labor Theory of Value

Labor cost theory / Labor command theory

  • The real price of every thing, what every thing really costs to the man who wants to acquire it, is the toilandtrouble of acquiring it … What is bought with money or with goods is purchased by labor, as much as what we acquire by the toil of our own body. That money or those goods indeed save us this toil. They contain the value of a certain quantity of labor which we exchange for what is supposed at the time to contain the value of an equal quantity. Labor was the first price, the original purchase-money that was paid for all things … and its value to those … who want to exchange it for some new productions is precisely equal to the quantity of labor which it can enable them to purchase or command.
smith s labor theory of value
Smith’s Labor Theory of Value
  • At all times and places that is dear which it is difficult to come at, or which it costs much labor to acquire; and that cheap which is to be had easily, or with very little labor. Labor alone, therefore, never varying in its own value, is alone the ultimate and real standard by which the value of all commodities can at all times and places be estimated and compared. It is their real price; money is their nominal price only.
      • Smith’s theory of money: just a convenience
          • Gold and silver’s values depend on the toil and trouble (labor) of mining them.

Deer and beavers: 2 Deer = 1 Beaver

  • In that early and rude state of society which precedes both the accumulation of stock and the appropriation of land, the proportion between the quantities of labor necessary for acquiring different objects seems to be the only circumstance which can afford any rule for exchanging them for one another. If among a nation of hunters, for example, it usually costs twice the labor to kill a beaver which it does to kill a deer,one beaver should naturally exchange for or be worth two deer.
          • No return to capital?
          • Later, once land is appropriated, what about rent?
smith s theory of distribution
Smith’s Theory of Distribution
  • … the three great social classes
    • Labor  wage
    • Capital  profit
    • Landlord  rent
  • But if all value comes from labor, wherefrom come profit & rent?

… Rent makes the first deduction from the produce of labor employed upon the land … and the produce of almost all other labor is liable to the like deduction of profit.

          • Exploitation? … Smith doesn’t go there

Profit rate: a multiple of the interest rate on money

… wherever a great deal can be made by the use of money, a great deal will be given for the use of it … The progress of interest therefore may lead us to form some notion of the progress of profit.

Net Profit = Gross Profit – Interest

{Both interest and profit fluctuate with investment opportunities}

  • Rent: … High and low wages and profits are causes of high or low prices; high or low rent is the effect of it (high or low prices).

Progress  Increased Demand  Higher Prices  Higher Rent

accumulation wages and profits accumulation saving and investment by capitalists
Accumulation, Wages, and Profits(Accumulation: Saving and Investment by Capitalists)


Wage fund


(Iron Law of Wages)




smith s theory of progress
Smith’s Theory of Progress

The division of labor is limited by the extent of the market

  • What extends the market and increases division of labor?

Spatial factors:

      • Urbanization  agglomeration economies
      • Location on seashores and rivers
      • Improvements in transportation

Colonial settlement … imperialism

Foreign trade

Free competition

Increased domestic income

      • Higher wage
      • Increased population

Extent of the market  Division of Labor  Productivity  Output



smith s spiral of growth
Smith’s Spiral of Growth

National Wealth II

National Wealth I

Employment with increased

Division of Labor

Opportunity for division

of labor

Profit Expectations

Increased Labor Supply

(Reduced Mortality)

Demand for Investment

Higher Wage

Increased interest rate

Increased Demand for


Increased Saving


more adam smith problems
More Adam Smith Problems
  • Division of labor  Alienation

… The man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations … has no occasion to exert his understanding or to exercise his invention … [He] becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become. His dexterity at his own trade [is] acquired at the expense of his intellectual, social, and martial virtues.

… It is otherwise in the barbarous societies … every man is a warrior.

  • Division of labor = Increasing Returns  Monopoly

Industrial Age  concentration

Globalization and information age  Agglomeration

and networking, not concentration

    • Microsoft?
    • Google?
Spiraling progress … or stationary state?

It is in the progressive state, while society is advancing toward further acquisition, rather than when it has acquired its full complement of riches, that the condition of the great body of people seems to be happiest and most comfortable. It is hard in the stationary state and miserable in the declining state.

…that full complement of riches which the nature of its soil and climate and its situation with respect to other countries allows it to acquire.

In a country fully peopled in proportion to what either its territory could maintain or its stock employ … In a country fully stocked in proportion to all the business it had to transact … the competition would be great and the ordinary profit as low as possible.

An extinguished Sun … in the very long-run

But until then, Smith prophesies progress:

Don’t worry! Be happy!

adam smith a summation
Adam Smith: A Summation
  • Moral sentiments a first principle.
  • Market coordination of self – interested individuals

“Economic man” led by an “invisible hand”

Competition  Efficiency and Equity

          • Guard against monopoly
  • Laissez – faire!

Restricted government trumps government restrictions

  • Labor theory of value
  • Progress through specialization and exchange

The division of labor is limited by the extent of the market.

Spiraling progress

Stagnation and decline in the distant future