Revised: July 10, 2016

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“Virtue is more to be feared than vice, because its excesses are not subject to the regulation of conscience.”
Adam Smith
Philosopher, 1723 - 1790

Adam Smith was born in Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland. The exact date of his birth is unknown, however, he was baptized on June 5, 1723. Smith was the Scottish philosopher who became famous for his book, “The Wealth of Nations” written in 1776, which had a profound influence on modern economics and concepts of individual freedom.

In 1751, Smith was appointed professor of logic at Glasgow university, transferring in 1752 to the chair of moral philosophy. His lectures covered the field of ethics, rhetoric, jurisprudence and political economy, or “police and revenue.” In 1759 he published his Theory of Moral Sentiments, embodying some of his Glasgow lectures. This work was about those standards of ethical conduct that hold society together, with emphasis on the general harmony of human motives and activities under a beneficent Providence.

Smith moved to London in 1776, where he published An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, which examined in detail the consequences of economic freedom. It covered such concepts as the role of self-interest, the division of labor, the function of markets, and the international implications of a laissez-faire economy. “Wealth of Nations” established economics as an autonomous subject and launched the economic doctrine of free enterprise.

Smith laid the intellectual framework that explained the free market and still holds true today. He is most often recognized for the expression “the invisible hand,” which he used to demonstrate how self-interest guides the most efficient use of resources in a nation's economy, with public welfare coming as a by-product. To underscore his laissez-faire convictions, Smith argued that state and personal efforts, to promote social good are ineffectual compared to unbridled market forces.

In 1778, he was appointed to a post of commissioner of customs in Edinburgh, Scotland. He died there on July 17, 1790, after an illness. At the end it was discovered that Smith had devoted a considerable part of his income to numerous secret acts of charity.

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Resource Menu
Books By/About Adam Smith

The Wealth of Nations The Wealth of Nations: An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes
by Adam Smith

The Wealth of Nations, first published in 1776, is Smith's classic treaties on economic liberalism.

Purchase this hardcover edition of The Wealth of Nations

Essential Adam Smith Essential Adam Smith
by Adam Smith, Robert L. Heilbroner (Editor), Laurence J. Malone (Contributor)

The essential parts of Wealth of Nations, plus a sampling of some of his other works.

Purchase this hardcover edition of Essential Adam Smith

Adam Smith and the Origins of American Enterprise Adam Smith and the Origins of American Enterprise
by Roy C. Smith

The United States founding fathers, particularly Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin, turned to the ideas of Adam Smith to create an economic system for America with both immediate and long-sustained results. This little-known part of U.S. history is revealed in this fascinating book.

Purchase this hardcover edition of Adam Smith and the Origins of American Enterprise

On Adam Smith On Adam Smith
by Jack Russell Weinstein

A great little primer on Adam Smith's philosophy and thinking for students of Smith or basic ecomomics.

Purchase this paperback edition of On Adam Smith

DVDs About Adam Smith/Economics

The Future of Capitalism The Future of Capitalism

2007 Milken Institute Global Conference Nobel Laureates in Economics Address “The Future of Capitalism”.

Purchase this DVD edition of The Future of Capitalism

Commanding Heights Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy

The Battle for the World Economy confronts head-on Americans' critical concerns about the new interconnected world. Based on the best-selling book by Pulitzer Prize-winner Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw, this groundbreaking series explores our changing world—the great debate over globalization and the future of our society.

Purchase this DVD edition of Commanding Heights

Online Videos About Economics

1976 Nobel Prize winning Economist Dr. Milton Friedman's “Free to Choose” in 10 parts:
PART 1 - PART 2 - PART 3 - PART 4 - PART 5 - PART 6 (unavailable) - PART 7 - PART 8 - PART 9 - PART 10

Adam Smith eTexts

The Wealth of Nations
An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Related Websites

The Adam Smith Institute

Biographical Sketch
Written by James Anson Farrer published in 1881

Account of the Life and Writings of Adam Smith
Written by Dugald Stewart published in 1793

The Political Economy of Adam Smith
Written by T. E. Cliffe Leslie published 1870

Adam Smith's Recommendations on Taxation
Written by Nadia Weiner, Director of the Adam Smith Club of Sydney, Australia

Adam Smith

Other Philosophers in the Lucidcafé Library

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