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The Life of Adam Smith$
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Ian Simpson Ross

Print publication date: 1995

Print ISBN-13: 9780198288213

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198288212.001.0001

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Euge! Belle! Dear Mr Smith

Euge! Belle! Dear Mr Smith

Chapter:
(p.270) 16 Euge! Belle! Dear Mr Smith
Source:
The Life of Adam Smith
Author(s):

Ian Simpson Ross

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0198288212.003.0016

Terminally ill in 1776, Hume was relieved from anxieties over Smith's masterwork when it finally reached him on 1 April, and he gave it unstinted praise, though not without offering cogent criticism. The two‐part structure of WN is discussed in context. Books I and II are analytical and identify the principles, chiefly division of labour, which naturally lead to economic growth where the free‐market system, or something close to it, is adopted. Books III to V are historical and evaluative, focused on what legislators, to whom the book is addressed, have done and should do to promote growth. This second part of WN assesses alternatives to the free‐market system, denouncing mercantilism's injudicious restraints and incentives, and Physiocracy's blindness to the benefits of industry and trade. Smith settles for some restrictions on individual economic freedom, to provide resources for society's chief needs identified as defence, justice, public works, and education, and he manifests grave concern about the mental torpor found in workers subjected to extensive division of labour.

Keywords:   defence, division of labour, legislators, mental torpor, mercantilism

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