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The Wealth of Nations: A book review by Bob Morris

The Wealth of Nations: The Economics Classic
Adam Smith with an Introduction by Tom Butler-Bowdon
Captstone Publishing Ltd./A Wiley Company (2010)

How and Why The Wealth of Nations is “one of the most important and influential books ever written.”

The title of this review is from the Foreword to this volume, written by Eamonn Butler (Director of the Adam Smith Institute), and continues as follows: The Wealth of Nations “transformed how we think about the nature of economic life, turning it from an ancient to a recognizably modern form.” Razeen Sally is Senior Lecturer in International Political Economy at London School of Economics and Co-Director of European Centre for Political Economy (ECIPE). In the Preface, he observes, ” The governing principles of the Smithian economic system is ‘natural liberty’ (or non-intervention), which allows ‘every man to pursue his own interest his own way, upon the liberal plan of equality, liberty and justice.’ And as Smith goes on to say, ‘All systems of preference or restraint, therefore, being thus completely taken away, the obvious and simple system natural liberty establishes itself of its own accord.'”

Those who have read one or more of the volumes that comprise Tom Butler-Bowdon’s 50 Classics series already know that he possesses superior reasoning and writing skills as well as a relentless curiosity when conducting research on history’s greatest thinkers and their major works. For these and other reasons, I cannot think of another person better qualified to provide the introductions to the volumes that comprise a new series, Capstone Classics.

Unlike so many others, he provides more, much more than a flimsy “briefing” to the given work. In his 32-page Introduction to this edition of The Wealth of Nations, Butler-Bowdon discusses subjects and issues such as these in order to create a context, a frame-of-reference, for Smith’s insights:

o   Adam Smith and the world in which he lived
o  The Wealth of Nations (TWON): Its origins and influences
o  The major political and economic issues that it addresses
o  The meaning and significance of two terms, “wealth” and “nations,” in the book’s title
o  Contemporary works with which it was compared and contrasted
o  Adam Smith’s views on social relations
o  How a strong market “works”
o  Why specialization is “the key to prosperity”
o  Smith’s views on enlightened self-interest as opposed to society’s best interests
o  The crucial role of capital
o  How and why Smith differentiates (in TWON) a nation’s productivity and its system of currency
o  The respective roles of price and demand in a market economy
o  TWON‘s “agrarian bias”
o  Smith’s views on government’s proper role
o  Correlations between personal wealth and natural wealth
o  Smith’s views on human rights

There are dozens of others, of course, but hopefully these will provide at least some indication of the scope of Butler-Bowdon’s coverage in the 32-page Introduction. As indicated earlier, is to create a context, a frame-of-reference, for Adam Smith’s insights. He does so brilliantly and also in each of the other volumes in the Capstone Classics series that have been published thus far.

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