1776: A Year for Political and Economic Ideas

Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations

On this day, June 5, 1723, a man is born who wrote an economics book that would have more influence than the Napoleonic wars. Here’s the story:

The colonies declared their political independence from England in 1776. The very same year the Declaration Independence was published a world-changing book was released espousing the principles of economic freedom, a book which greatly influenced the Founding Fathers. It is no coincidence that 1776 was the year in which both political and economic principles of freedom were gaining popularity; freedom was the trend of that era.

“According to the system of natural liberty,” wrote Smith, “the sovereign has only three duties to attend to; three duties of great importance, indeed, but plain and intelligible to common understandings: first, the duty of protecting the society from the violence and invasion of other independent societies; secondly, the duty of protecting, as far as possible, every member of the society from the injustice or oppression of every other member of it…; and thirdly, the duty of erecting and maintaining certain public works and certain public institutions, which it can never be for the interest of any individual, or small number of individuals, to erect and maintain; because the profit could never repay the expense to any individual or small number of individuals, though it may frequently do much more than repay it to a great society.”

Have you read The Wealth of Nations?