Smith Adam 1723 90

Smith Adam 1723 90

Smith, Adam (1723-90), Scottish economist. His father, a judge advocate and comptroller of customs, died just before he was born and he was brought up by his mother in Kircaldy. At the age of fourteen he became a student at the University of Glasgow, where he came into contact with Francis Hutcheson, who had also been the teacher of David Hume. Hutcheson had much influence on Smith, and was largely responsible for his ideas on political liberty. In 1740 Smith won a scholarship to Oxford and spent the next few years at Balliol College. Oxford was in decline, but though he received little formal education he made good use of his time and read widely.

In 1747 he returned to Kiicaldy and soon afterwards began to lecture at the University of Edinburgh. A few years later he was appointed to the Chair of Logic at the University of Glasgow, moving to the Chair of Moral Philosophy when it became vacant in 1752. His lectures at Glasgow gave rise to his first major work The Theory of Moral Sentimess, which appeared in 179. The was highly successful and came into the hands of Charles Townshend, the statesman, who was so impressed with it that he offered Smith the position of tutor to the young Duke of Buecleuch Smith accepted the offer, resigned his chair and in 1764 began the Grand Tour of Europe with the duke. At Toulouse he expanded part of his lecture course at Glasgow: this was the beginning of his great work An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.

He returned to Britain in 1766, retired to Kircaldy and set about revising and finishing his work. It was finally published in 1776, and brought him considerable fame. The was essentially a study of the creation of wealth. In itself this was not new, for it had been the concern of the Mercantilists and the Physiocrats, but whereas the former believed that wealth derived from a favourable balance of trade, and the latter from land, Smith argued that wealth arose out of labour. He began with the celebrated description of the division of labour which increases wealth because it increases the dexterity of the labour force, saves time and permits the use of mechanical devices. The limits to the division of labour are set by the size of the market and the 'stock of capital'.

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Since then his writings have in turn been increasingly reinterpreted as a special case both by some followers and by some economists who had not wholly accepted his writings. The content of economics is in a state of change, and this site is therefore not a final statement of economic doctrine.

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