The Wealth of Nations
Adam Smith published his famous treatise on economics, The Wealth of Nations, in 1776. Because this book was the first to demonstrate the ways in which an economy worked as a unified system, he became widely recognized as the father of modern economics. Although Smith was writing from an eighteenth century perspective in which mercantilism was dominant, many of his ideas are still apparent in society today. This paper will examine a selection of Smith's writings to demonstrate the role of self-interest in The Wealth of Nations. This discussion will demonstrate that many of Smith's ideas regarding self-interest are relevant in today's daily economy.
Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations in Great Britain during the age of mercantilism, in which the government intervention in economic matters resulted in widespread corruption, monopolies, and inefficiency. According to Wealth of Nations research papers, a great deal of the book addresses these issues and attacks government for its role in this failed economy. Wealth of Nations research papers report Ginzberg as saying, "Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations for many reasons, among them to record his disgust with the chicanery which the merchants and manufacturers practiced". Unlike mercantilism, Smith believed markets should based on the free expression of individual self-interests.
Smith's belief in free competitive markets is at the heart of his economic philosophy, just as it is at the heart of many economic policies today. He believed that economic growth followed from competition, and that competition was typically dependent upon people and their self-interests. In fact, Smith contends that it is this self-interest that motivates the economic process of buying and selling.