Literature Study GuidesThe Wealth Of Nations

The Wealth of Nations | Study Guide

Adam Smith

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Adam Smith

Year Published






At a Glance

First published in 1776, The Wealth of Nations is widely regarded as the foundational work of classical economics. In it Smith sets out to challenge the predominant economic philosophy of mercantilism, advocating a largely laissez-faire system in its place. In the process, he also offers a sustained exploration of value, price, demand, and other fundamental concepts. The leading economic thinkers of subsequent generations, including British economist David Ricardo, English philosopher John Stuart Mill, and American economist Milton Friedman, were influenced by Smith's ideas on trade, taxation, and the free market.

Perspective and Narrator

The Wealth of Nations is written in the present tense.

About the Title

Throughout An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Smith argues that the nature and origins of wealth have been grossly misunderstood. Most people, he contends—and most governments—think of money as the main, or only, kind of wealth, but this is a dangerous oversimplification. A broader definition of wealth, Smith suggests, will lead nations to adopt economic policies that truly serve their interests.


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