Arrogant Men & Women 'Of System'; Adam Smith Is Best Known for His 1776 Book Familiarly Known as "The Wealth of Nations." I Prefer the Less-Familiar Full Title: "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations." It Highlights an Important, Largely Overlooked Fact: The Economic Condition That Has Causes Is Wealth, Not Poverty. [Derived Headline]

By Boudreaux, Donald J. | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, July 12, 2017 | Go to article overview

Arrogant Men & Women 'Of System'; Adam Smith Is Best Known for His 1776 Book Familiarly Known as "The Wealth of Nations." I Prefer the Less-Familiar Full Title: "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations." It Highlights an Important, Largely Overlooked Fact: The Economic Condition That Has Causes Is Wealth, Not Poverty. [Derived Headline]


Boudreaux, Donald J., Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Adam Smith is best known for his 1776 book familiarly known as "The Wealth of Nations." I prefer the less-familiar full title: "An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations." It highlights an important, largely overlooked fact: The economic condition that has causes is wealth, not poverty.

Poverty is humankind's default mode. If we mindlessly do nothing, we'll be mired in it. Poverty requires no effort. But to escape poverty -- to achieve wealth -- requires creativity, reasoning, risk-taking and productive effort. Wealth, not poverty, has causes.

Even less well-known than the full title of Smith's 1776 book is that 17 years earlier, he published another, equally brilliant book: "The Theory of Moral Sentiments." Perhaps its most profound passage is Smith's criticism of "the man of system":

"The man of system ... is often so enamoured with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of government, that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from any part of it. He goes on to establish it completely and in all its parts, without any regard either to the great interests, or to the strong prejudices which may oppose it. He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board. He does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might chuse to impress upon it."

In short, the "man of system" forgets that ordinary people are active, reasoning, creative individuals. …

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Arrogant Men & Women 'Of System'; Adam Smith Is Best Known for His 1776 Book Familiarly Known as "The Wealth of Nations." I Prefer the Less-Familiar Full Title: "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations." It Highlights an Important, Largely Overlooked Fact: The Economic Condition That Has Causes Is Wealth, Not Poverty. [Derived Headline]
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