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Often called the founder of modern economics Adam Smith born in Kirkcaldy Scotland June 5 1723 was a wide-ranging social philosopher and economist whose masterwork An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations 1776 is one of the most influential studies of Western civilization Smiths intellectual interests were extensive He wrote an important philosophical treatise The Theory of Moral Sentiments 1759 and was well versed in science and history He studied at Glasgow and Oxford universities lectured at the University of Edinburgh and in 1751 became a professor at Glasgow University In 1764 he made a grand tour of the Continent as tutor to the young duke of Buccleuch Wealth of Nations Thesis Smiths major thesis in the Wealth of Nations was that except for limited functions defense justice certain public works the state refrained from interfering with the economic life of a nation Smith did not view favorably the motives of merchants and businessmen People of the same trade he wrote seldom meet together even for merriment and diversion but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public or in some contrivance to raise prices He suggested however that businessmen seeking their own interest are led as if by an invisible hand to promote the well-being of society Smiths Analysis of Economic Systems This position is supported in the Wealth of Nations by an elaborate analysis of how economic systems function and develop over time Smith sought to show how competition in the market- place would lead businessmen to supply the goods consumers want to produce these goods efficiently and to charge only what they are worth He saw monopoly whether private or state-imposed as the evil to be combated and competition as promoting the best interests of society He further argued that economic growth which depends upon capital accumulation and an increased division of labor would be promoted best by private rather than public efforts
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