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Wealth means well-being Smiths book is in fact about material well-being The Wealth of Nations is an influentialstatement of the case for laissez-faire the thesis that government should not attempt to control or direct economic activity Hisarguments are in terms of both economic efficiency and justice Keep an eye out for his references to justice and rights Asyou read these extracts ask what functions he thinks governments do and do not have and why The Wealth of Nations is also a philosophy of history Smith distinguishes several stages of social development culminating incommercial civilisation a state of considerable and growing national wealth well-being The wealth of a nation consists inthe well-being of the mass of ordinary citizens in commercial nations wealth is well-diffused according to Smith However hedoes not see everything in commercial civilisation in rose colour keep an eye out for his critical comments The underlying causeof the development of human society from the hunting to the commercial stage is one of the propensities of human nature thepropensity to truck exchange This leads to division of labour which leads to increased productivity The best contributiongovernments can make to the wealth of nations and to the progress of human society is to leave individuals free to follow theirnatural propensity to make exchanges The edition used in the Readings is edited by RH Campbell AS Skinner and WB Todd Oxford Clarendon Press 1976 READ INTRODUCTION paras 1-5 pp 10-11 In paragraph 3 those who are not so employed in useful labour means not the unemployed in the modern sense but thehigher social classes who dont work but many of whom according to the last sentence of paragraph 4 consume theproduce of 10 times frequently of 100 times more labour than those who do work How did it come about that modernnations are wealthy enough to support such a higher class How is it that the productivity of those who do labour is so great thatthey can
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