H OF NATIONS.
AN INQUIRY INTO THE NATURE AND CAUSES OF
THE WEALTH OF NATIONS.
by Adam SmithOrder now
INTRODUCTION AND PLAN OF THE WORK.
The annual labour of every nation is the fund which originally
supplies it with all the necessaries and conveniencies of life which
it annually consumes, and which consist always either in the immediate
produce of that labour, or in what is purchased with that produce from
According, therefore, as this produce, or what is purchased with it,
bears a greater or smaller proportion to the number of those who are
to consume it, the nation will be better or worse supplied with all
the necessaries and conveniencies for which it has occasion.
But this proportion must in every nation be regulated by two different
circumstances: first, by the skill, dexterity, and judgment with which
its labour is generally applied; and, secondly, by the proportion
between the number of those who are employed in useful labour, and
that of those who are not so employed. Whatever be the soil, climate,
or extent of territory of any particular nation, the abundance or
scantiness 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 more
upon the former of those two circumstances than upon the latter. Among
the savage nations of hunters and fishers, every individual who is
able to work is more or less employed in useful labour, and endeavours
to provide, as well as he can, the necessaries and conveniencies of
life, for himself, and such of his family or tribe as are either too
old, or too young, or too infirm, to go a-hunting and fishing. Such
nations, however, are so miserably poor, that, from mere want, they
are frequently reduced, or at least think themselves reduced, to the
necessity sometimes of directly destroying, and sometimes of
abandoning their infants, their old people, and those afflicted with
lingering diseases, to perish with hunger, or to be devoured by wild
beasts. Among civilized and thriving nations, on the contrary, though
a great number of people do not labour at all, many of whom consume
the produce of ten times, frequently of a hundred times, more labour
than the greater part of those who work; yet the produce of the whole
labour of the society is so great, that all are often abundantly
supplied; and a workman, even of the lowest and poorest order, if he
is frugal and industrious, may enjoy a greater share of the
necessaries and conveniencies of life than it is possible for any
savage to acquire.
The causes of this improvement in the productive powers of labour, and
the order according to which its produce is naturally distributed
among the different ranks and conditions of men in the society, make
the 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 or
scantiness of its annual supply must depend, during the continuance of
that state, upon the proportion between the number of those who are
annually employed in useful labour, and that of those who are not so
employed. The number of useful and productive labourers, it will
hereafter appear, is everywhere in proportion to the quantity of
capital stock which is employed in setting them to work, and to the
particular way in which it is so employed. The second book, therefore,
treats of the nature of capital stock, of the manner in which it is
gradually accumulated, and of the different quantities of labour which
it puts into motion, according to the different ways in which it is
Nations tolerably well advanced as to skill, dexterity, and judgment,
in the application of labour, have followed very different plans in
the general conduct or direction of it; and those plans have not all
been equally favourable to the greatness of its produce. The policy of
some nations has given extraordinary encouragement to the industry of
the country; that of others to the industry of towns.
nation has dealt equally and impartially with every sort of industry.
Since the down-fall of the Roman empire, the policy of Europe has been
more favourable to arts, manufactures, and commerce, the industry of
towns, than to agriculture, the Industry of the country. The
circumstances which seem to have introduced and established this
policy are explained in the third book.
Though those different plans were, perhaps, first introduced by the
private interests .