Adam Smith was an eloquent man of considerable philosophical and historical learning. His most incisive and enduring observations are collected here on subjects ranging from political and economic history to morals, art, education, war, and the American colonies. Throughout, notes an admirer in the introduction, "his writing is blessedly free of that use of jargon (and mathematics) that characterizes most of the modern materials in economics. His ideas are expressed in a lucid, straightforward manner that makes them accessible to all.
"Every individual...generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention."
Adam Smith (1723-1790) is commonly regarded as the first modern economist with the publication in 1776 of The Wealth of Nations. He wrote in a wide range of disciplines: moral philosophy, jurisprudence, rhetoric and literature, and the history of science. He was one of the leading figures in the Scottish Enlightenment. Smith also studied the social forces giving rise to competition, trade, and markets. While professor of logic, and later professor of moral philosophy at Glasgow University, he also had the opportunity to travel to France, where he met François Quesnay and the physiocrats; he had friends in business and the government, and drew broadly on his observations of life as well as careful statistical work summarizing his findings in tabular form. He is viewed as the founder of modern economic thought, and his work inspires economists to this day. The economic phrase for which he is most famous, the “invisible hand” of economic incentives, was only one of his many contributions to the modern-day teaching of economics.