Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on May 14, 2015

in Adam Smith, Complexity & Emergence, Hubris and humility, Man of System

… is from a 1755 paper written by Adam Smith and quoted on page 58 (in chapter 5) of a recent printing [n.d.] of John Rae’s 1895 Life of Adam Smith; this paper by Smith is one of the few of his personal documents not to have been burned by Smith before his death, although it is suspected that Smith’s first biographer, Dugald Stewart (who quoted this paper in his 1793 biography of Smith), had it burned upon his (Stewart’s) death; much of this quotation made its way into The Wealth of Nations, but it is sufficiently unique to quote here:

Man is generally considered by statesmen and projectors as the materials of a sort of political mechanics.  Projectors disturb nature in the course of her operations on human affairs, and it requires no more than to leave her alone and give her fair play in the pursuit of her ends that she may establish her own designs….  Little else is required to carry a state to the highest degree of affluence from the lowest barbarism but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice; all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things.  All governments which thwart this natural course, which force things into another channel, or which endeavour to arrest the progress of society at a particular point, are unnatural, and, to support themselves, are obliged to be oppressive and tyrannical.


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