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Quotation of the Day…

is from pages 36-37 of the 5th edition (2020) of Douglas Irwin’s superb book Free Trade Under Fire:

Adam Smith, whose timeless book The Wealth of Nations was first published in 1776, set out a case for free trade with a persuasive flair that still resonates today. Smith advocated the “obvious and simple system of natural liberty” in which individuals would be free to pursue their own interests while the government provided the legal framework within which commerce would take place. With the government enforcing a system of justice and providing certain public goods (such as roads, in Smith’s view), the private interests of individuals could be turned toward productive activities – namely, meeting the demands of the public as expressed in the marketplace. Smith envisioned a system that would give people the incentive to better themselves through economic activities, where they would create wealth by serving others through market exchange rather than through political activities, where they might seek to redistribute existing wealth through brute force or legal restraints on competition. Under such a system, the powerful motivating force of self-interest could be channeled toward socially beneficial activities that would serve the general interest rather than toward socially unproductive activities that might advance the interests of a select few but would come at the expense of society as a whole.

DBx: According to his gravestone, Adam Smith was born on this date – June 5th – in 1723. Happy Birthday, Sir! Your words still teach and your wisdom still inspires.