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The Wealth of Nations – Adam Smith

12th September 2019
Wealth of Nations book cover


If you are interested in economics, I bet you must have heard of the The Wealth of Nations. I am also attracted by its prominence and began to read this book when I had the chance. This book was written in the 18th century.


Adam Smith was a Scottish economist, philosopher and author. With this book, he is known as “The Father of Economics”. He is a major proponent of laissez-faire economic policies. He died in Edinburgh in 1790.


The Wealth of Nations is divided into 5 books. It starts with Introduction and Plan of Work which serves to introduce the layout and the objects of each book.

Book One is Of the Causes of Improvements in the Productive Powers of Labour, and of the Order according to which its Produce is naturally distributed among the different Ranks of People. There are 11 chapters and a conclusion in this book.

Book Two is Of the Nature, Accumulation, and Employment of Stock. It contains an introduction and 5 chapters. This section talks about capital stock.

Book Three is Of the different Progress of Opulence in different Nations. This book only has 4 chapters. It mainly discusses the circumstances establishing the policy of Europe which favours the industry of towns than to agriculture.

Book Four is Of Systems of Political Economy. There are an introduction and 9 chapters. The author aims to explain the different theories of political economy and the principal effects which they have produced in different ages and nations.

Book Five is Of the Revenue of the Sovereign or Commonwealth. It consists of 3 chapters. It discusses the sources and uses of revenues of the nation.


What can I say about this book? I spent around 8 months to finish this book. Why did it take so long? It was because I lost interest not long after started this book. So it was an on and off effort to read this book.

As The Wealth of Nations was written in the 18th century, the language is archaic. The meaning of some terms have changed at the present time. So, you might need to keep a dictionary handy when reading this book.

Some concepts in the book may be outdated. After all, more than 200 years have passed since the book was published. Examples are some of the governments, the gold standard and the existence of slaves. But, it also provides a glimpse into the period in which the author lived. At that time, the child mortality rate was high, so people tend to give birth to more children. This was also encouraged by the requirement for manpower.

Nonetheless, there are a few ideas that are still applicable in the current age. Otherwise, it would not be known as the classical book of economics. For instance, the author’s call to restrict monopoly as it tends to hurt the economy by enriching a particular order of men. Besides that, he had correctly predicted urbanization and described the dangers of speculation by banking companies.

The author mentions his view on religions in the book and he seemed to disapprove of them. He thought that science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition.

Honestly, I really have to force myself to finish the book. And I kind of regret starting this book in the first place. The author was very long-winded and used a lot of texts to explain his ideas, which I would prefer it to be more concise. I am glad that it is over now. So, unless you are really interested in classical economics, avoid this book at all costs.


  1. The real price of every thing, what every thing really costs to the man who wants to acquire it, is the toil and trouble of acquiring it.
  2. In general, if any branch of trade, or any division of labour, be advantageous to the public, the freer and more general the competition, it will always be the more so.
  3. Capitals are increased by parsimony, and diminished by prodigality and misconduct.
  4. The natural effort of every individual to better his own condition, when suffered to exert itself with freedom and security, is so powerful a principle, that it is alone, and without any assistance, not only capable of carrying on the society to wealth and prosperity, but of surmounting a hundred impertinent obstructions, with which the folly of human laws too often encumbers its operation.
  5. Civil governments, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is, in reality, instituted for the defence of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.


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