The Wealth Of Nations

Sunday, 2007-February-11 at 18:59

I’ve once again started to read the great Adam Smith work The Wealth of Nations. I previously read excerpts and summaries of it while taking economics classes. Last Summer, I purchased the book and started to read it. As so often happens, I was unable to complete it because of interruptions and distractions. This year, I decided, will be a year of finishing things. Already, I have found several projects that I once began, which I have decided to admit that I will never complete them. Other projects are now in the midst of being revived.

This is normal in the past few years. I think I have finished exactly eight books since 2001, three of which were part of the Harry Potter series, two were Dick Francis’ excellent murder mysteries, and the other three were Kinsey Milhone murder mysteries. (Note: I have R Is For Ricochet, but have not started it yet. If it is like the others in the series, I seriously cannot stop reading it until the end.)

I generally find that many of the concepts he is attempting to describe are intuitive to me. For example, all you have to do is work for a living, and you will begin to rate things by how much of your labor it costs to get them. Doing it that way, there are a lot of things that I think I might want, until I say, “that takes X number of hours to earn and I do not think it is worth that.”

During my economics classes, I developed a generally (but not entirely) laissez faire belief in economics. I did find that once I started the intermediate level courses, I was confronted by more and more examples of what I would consider market failures. I was a business major, so I couldn’t take too many extra classes that were only tangiental to my major.

Although he does speak of the individual’s self interest, which, pooled together, acts as though the economy as a whole were being guided by “an invisible hand,” I think he does allow for areas where firm guidance by ruling authorities may be necessary. I’ll report back as I near the end of the book.

With that, let me recommend this book as a beginning point for anyone who intends to contribute to our national dialogue about government and economics.  This was written in 1776, the same time period as the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, Federalist Papers, and Constitution.  Read them all and you will build yourself a foundation for thinking about national policies.  (That’s about as close as I’m getting to politics.  Now I have to take a shower.  I feel contaminated.)

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