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The Wealth of Nations | Chapter Summaries

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Chapter Summaries Chart

Chapter Summary
Introduction: and Plan of the Work Smith first sets out to explain the relationship between labor and wealth. A nation's wealth, he says, depends both on t... Read More
Volume 1, Book 1, Chapter 1 "The greatest improvement in the productive powers of labor," Smith announces, is the result of the division of labor. T... Read More
Volume 1, Book 1, Chapter 2 In this short chapter, Smith identifies the human "propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another" as t... Read More
Volume 1, Book 1, Chapter 3 This chapter sets forth a basic but important point: the more people a person can sell their wares to, the more speciali... Read More
Volume 1, Book 1, Chapter 4 Smith now turns his attention to money, a topic that will occupy much of the remainder of The Wealth of Nations. Without... Read More
Volume 1, Book 1, Chapter 5 Here, Smith lays out his central definitions of wealth and value, arguing that "the real price of every thing ... is the... Read More
Volume 1, Book 1, Chapter 6 Smith proposes a three-part model for discussing the price of any commodity. The money paid for any good, he says, can b... Read More
Volume 1, Book 1, Chapter 7 Smith now draws a further distinction between a commodity's natural price and its market price, terms that complement th... Read More
Volume 1, Book 1, Chapter 8 Building on the three-part model developed in Chapter 6, Smith offers an analysis of wages, the first and most basic com... Read More
Volume 1, Book 1, Chapter 9 Smith now moves on to profit, the second of his three major components of price. He first offers a caveat: profit is eve... Read More
Volume 1, Book 1, Chapter 10 This chapter explores why some people—including both employees and investors—make more money than others who perform the... Read More
Volume 1, Book 1, Chapter 11 Despite its concise title, this chapter embraces a sweeping variety of topics. Smith begins by describing the factors th... Read More
Volume 1, Book 2, Introduction The topic of the next book, Smith announces, will be "stock," a term he uses to mean all sorts of assets used either for... Read More
Volume 1, Book 2, Chapter 1 This chapter sets forth some basic definitions, then supplies a few examples of each. A person's stock—the total assets ... Read More
Volume 1, Book 2, Chapter 2 Smith begins by extending his discussion of wages, profit, and rent to society as a whole, arguing that the three catego... Read More
Volume 1, Book 2, Chapter 3 Smith now returns to the conceptual framework developed in Chapter 1, where he divided assets into those used for "immed... Read More
Volume 1, Book 2, Chapter 4 Smith next takes up the topic of interest. He first explains, in basic terms, how interest works and how lenders choose ... Read More
Volume 1, Book 2, Chapter 5 Smith concludes his book on capital with a breakdown of the different ways in which capital can be invested. In earlier ... Read More
Volume 1, Book 3, Chapter 1 Smith begins Book 3 by suggesting a "natural" pattern of economic growth and industrial development, one that would aris... Read More
Volume 1, Book 3, Chapter 2 Smith has just argued that it is both "natural" and profitable for a nation's wealth to be invested in agriculture to th... Read More
Volume 1, Book 3, Chapter 3 Smith now examines the flip side of the coin: Why did cities become such economic powerhouses during the Middle Ages? Th... Read More
Volume 1, Book 3, Chapter 4 Having established the factors that helped towns prosper while rural areas lagged behind, Smith now sets out to show how... Read More
Volume 1, Book 4, Introduction In two short paragraphs, Smith explains the very basics of political economy, a branch of policy and planning whose goal... Read More
Volume 1, Book 4, Chapter 1 Here, Smith reviews the main axioms of mercantilism and the main arguments advanced in its favor. According to the merca... Read More
Volume 1, Book 4, Chapter 2 Smith begins his breakdown of mercantilism by exploring the effects of a relatively simple mercantilist practice: taxing... Read More
Volume 1, Book 4, Chapter 3 Smith now explores the practice of imposing import restraints against specific countries in order to achieve a favorable... Read More
Volume 2, Book 4, Chapter 4 This short chapter deals with a slightly more complicated tool of economic policy: the drawback. Drawbacks are essential... Read More
Volume 2, Book 4, Chapter 5 Smith now turns his attentions to bounties, fees paid to exporters for shipping certain types of goods. In general he re... Read More
Volume 2, Book 4, Chapter 6 The next mercantilist practice on Smith's chopping block is the treaty of commerce, meaning any treaty designed to estab... Read More
Volume 2, Book 4, Chapter 7 In this hefty chapter, Smith lays out his theories concerning the economics of colonialism. He begins by exploring the r... Read More
Volume 2, Book 4, Chapter 8 Here, Smith reviews his major objections against the mercantile system, as laid out more extensively in the previous sev... Read More
Volume 2, Book 4, Chapter 9 Smith wraps up his book on mercantilism by offering a glimpse of an alternate system of political economy, which he call... Read More
Volume 2, Book 5, Chapter 1 Smith begins his book on the national budget by analyzing the cost of defense. At each stage of the advancement of civil... Read More
Volume 2, Book 5, Chapter 2 In the previous chapter, Smith described the various sorts of public expenditures. Running a country, he pointed out, is... Read More
Volume 2, Book 5, Chapter 3 In this rather anticlimactic final chapter, Smith describes the history of Great Britain's national debt and offers some... Read More
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