Chapter

Euge! Belle! Dear Mr Smith

Ian Simpson Ross

in The Life of Adam Smith

Published in print October 1995 | ISBN: 9780198288213
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191596827 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0198288212.003.0016
 Euge! Belle! Dear Mr Smith

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Terminally ill in 1776, Hume was relieved from anxieties over Smith's masterwork when it finally reached him on 1 April, and he gave it unstinted praise, though not without offering cogent criticism. The two‐part structure of WN is discussed in context. Books I and II are analytical and identify the principles, chiefly division of labour, which naturally lead to economic growth where the free‐market system, or something close to it, is adopted. Books III to V are historical and evaluative, focused on what legislators, to whom the book is addressed, have done and should do to promote growth. This second part of WN assesses alternatives to the free‐market system, denouncing mercantilism's injudicious restraints and incentives, and Physiocracy's blindness to the benefits of industry and trade. Smith settles for some restrictions on individual economic freedom, to provide resources for society's chief needs identified as defence, justice, public works, and education, and he manifests grave concern about the mental torpor found in workers subjected to extensive division of labour.

Keywords: defence; division of labour; legislators; mental torpor; mercantilism

Chapter.  9767 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Economic Thought

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