Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on August 3, 2013

in Adam Smith, Debt and Deficits, Seen and Unseen

… is from Book V, Chapter 3 – on page 924, Vol. 2, of the 1981 Liberty Fund edition – of Adam Smith’s 1776 An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations:

The publick funds of the different indebted nations of Europe, particularly those of England, have by one author been represented as the accumulation of a great capital superadded to the other capital of the country, by means of which its trade is extended, its manufactures multiplied, and its lands cultivated and improved much beyond what they could have been by means of that other capital only.  He does not consider that the capital which the first creditors of the publick advanced to government was, from the moment in which they advanced it, a certain portion of the annual produce turned away from serving in the function of a capital to serve in that of a revenue; from maintaining productive labourers to maintain unproductive ones, and to be spent and wasted, generally in the course of the year, without even the hope of any future reproduction….  This new capital, however, which they in this manner either bought or borrowed of other people, must have existed in the country before, and must have been employed, as all capitals are, in maintaining productive labour.  When it came into the hands of those who had advanced their money to government, though it was in some respects a new capital to them, it was not so to the country, but was only a capital withdrawn from certain employments in or to be turned towards others.  Though it replaced to them what they had advanced to government, it did not replace it to the country.  Had they not advanced this capital to government, there would have been in the country two capitals, two portions of the annual produce, instead of one, employed in maintaining productive labour.

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