The Wealth of Nations

Liberty Quotation: Adam Smith on the Invisible Hand

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Adam Smith

“[E]very individual [who tries to maximize the value of his own capital and labour] necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can.  He 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.  Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it.  By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.”

Adam Smith, The Wealth Of Nations [1776].

Liberty Quotation of the Day: Adam Smith on the Three Duties of Government

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Adam Smith“According to the system of natural liberty, 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, or the duty of establishing an exact administration of justice; 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 expence to any individual or small number of individuals, though it may frequently do much more than repay it to a great society.”

Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations [1776]

Liberty Quotation of the Day: Adam Smith on Benevolence and Self-Interest

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Adam Smith“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.  We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.”

Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations [1776]