Adam Smith

Adam Smith FRSA (baptized 16 June [O.S. 5 June] 1723[1] – 17 July 1790) was a Scottish[lower-alpha 1] economist and philosopher who was a pioneer in the thinking of political economy and key figure during the Scottish Enlightenment.[7] Seen by some as "The Father of Economics"[8] or "The Father of Capitalism",[9] he wrote two classic works, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776). The latter, often abbreviated as The Wealth of Nations, is considered his magnum opus and the first modern work that treats economics as a comprehensive system and as an academic discipline. Smith refuses to explain the distribution of wealth and power in terms of God's will and instead appeals to natural, political, social, economic and technological factors and the interactions between them. Among other economic theories, the work introduced Smith's idea of absolute advantage.[10]

Adam Smith

The posthumous c.1800 Muir portrait at the Scottish National Gallery
Bornc. 16 June [O.S. c. 5 June] 1723[1]
Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland
Died17 July 1790(1790-07-17) (aged 67)
Edinburgh, Scotland
Alma mater
Notable work
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolClassical liberalism
Main interests
Political philosophy, ethics, economics
Notable ideas
Classical economics
Free market
Economic liberalism
Division of labour
Absolute advantage
Invisible hand
Influences
Signature

Smith studied social philosophy at the University of Glasgow and at Balliol College, Oxford, where he was one of the first students to benefit from scholarships set up by fellow Scot John Snell. After graduating, he delivered a successful series of public lectures at the University of Edinburgh,[11] leading him to collaborate with David Hume during the Scottish Enlightenment. Smith obtained a professorship at Glasgow, teaching moral philosophy and during this time, wrote and published The Theory of Moral Sentiments. In his later life, he took a tutoring position that allowed him to travel throughout Europe, where he met other intellectual leaders of his day.

As a reaction to the common policy of protecting national markets and merchants, what came to be known as mercantilism—nowadays often referred to as "cronyism" or "crony capitalism"[12]—Smith laid the foundations of classical free market economic theory. The Wealth of Nations was a precursor to the modern academic discipline of economics. In this and other works, he developed the concept of division of labour and expounded upon how rational self-interest and competition can lead to economic prosperity. Smith was controversial in his own day and his general approach and writing style were often satirised by writers such as Horace Walpole.[13]


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