H OF NATIONS. AN INQUIRY INTO THE NATURE AND CAUSES OFTHE WEALTH OF NATIONS.
by Adam SmithINTRODUCTION AND PLAN OF THE WORK. The annual labour of every nation is the fund which originallysupplies it with all the necessaries and conveniencies of life whichit annually consumes, and which consist always either in the immediateproduce of that labour, or in what is purchased with that produce fromother nations. According, therefore, as this produce, or what is purchased with it,bears a greater or smaller proportion to the number of those who areto consume it, the nation will be better or worse supplied with allthe necessaries and conveniencies for which it has occasion. But this proportion must in every nation be regulated by two differentcircumstances: first, by the skill, dexterity, and judgment with whichits labour is generally applied; and, secondly, by the proportionbetween the number of those who are employed in useful labour, andthat of those who are not so employed.Order now
Whatever be the soil, climate,or extent of territory of any particular nation, the abundance orscantiness of its annual supply must, in that particular situation,depend upon those two circumstances. The abundance or scantiness of this supply, too, seems to depend moreupon the former of those two circumstances than upon the latter. Amongthe savage nations of hunters and fishers, every individual who isable to work is more or less employed in useful labour, and endeavoursto provide, as well as he can, the necessaries and conveniencies oflife, for himself, and such of his family or tribe as are either tooold, or too young, or too infirm, to go a-hunting and fishing. Suchnations, however, are so miserably poor, that, from mere want, theyare frequently reduced, or at least think themselves reduced, to thenecessity sometimes of directly destroying, and sometimes ofabandoning their infants, their old people, and those afflicted withlingering diseases, to perish with hunger, or to be devoured by wildbeasts. Among civilized and thriving nations, on the contrary, thougha great number of people do not labour at all, many of whom consumethe produce of ten times, frequently of a hundred times, more labourthan the greater part of those who work; yet the produce of the wholelabour of the society is so great, that all are often abundantlysupplied; and a workman, even of the lowest and poorest order, if heis frugal and industrious, may enjoy a greater share of thenecessaries and conveniencies of life than it is possible for anysavage to acquire. The causes of this improvement in the productive powers of labour, andthe order according to which its produce is naturally distributedamong the different ranks and conditions of men in the society, makethe subject of the first book of this Inquiry.
Whatever be the actual state of the skill, dexterity, and judgment,with which labour is applied in any nation, the abundance orscantiness of its annual supply must depend, during the continuance ofthat state, upon the proportion between the number of those who areannually employed in useful labour, and that of those who are not soemployed. The number of useful and productive labourers, it willhereafter appear, is everywhere in proportion to the quantity ofcapital stock which is employed in setting them to work, and to theparticular way in which it is so employed. The second book, therefore,treats of the nature of capital stock, of the manner in which it isgradually accumulated, and of the different quantities of labour whichit puts into motion, according to the different ways in which it isemployed. Nations tolerably well advanced as to skill, dexterity, and judgment,in the application of labour, have followed very different plans inthe general conduct or direction of it; and those plans have not allbeen equally favourable to the greatness of its produce. The policy ofsome nations has given extraordinary encouragement to the industry ofthe country; that of others to the industry of towns. Scarce anynation has dealt equally and impartially with every sort of industry.
Since the down-fall of the Roman empire, the policy of Europe has beenmore favourable to arts, manufactures, and commerce, the industry oftowns, than to agriculture, the Industry of the country. Thecircumstances which seem to have introduced and established thispolicy are explained in the third book.Though those different plans were, perhaps, first introduced by theprivate interests .