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90+ Adam Smith Quotes

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Why Adam Smith quotes?

The renowned economist Adam Smith was born in 1723 in Kirkcaldy in Fife, Scotland. As a pioneer of political economy, Smith is often considered the Father of Economics. He is best known for his theory, ‘The Invisible Hand’, which later gave way to capitalism. Smith's most notable contributions to economics and the world were the concepts of - GDP (Gross Domestic Product), assembly-line production methods, and free markets. The collection of Adam Smith quotes listed below can help you understand how the economic models of the world work and the importance of the study of economics. Adam Smith was also a philosopher, and some of his sayings can help you unravel some secrets of human nature. 

What parents should know

  • ‘An Enquiry Into The Nature And Causes Of The Wealth Of Nations’ by Adam Smith introduced economics as an academic subject.
  • He also laid the groundwork for the classical economic theory of free markets.
  • Smith’s economic theories acted as a catalyst for the successful Industrial Revolution in Britain. 

What to discuss with kids

  • Adam Smith’s personal life is a mystery since he requested that his papers be burned down upon death. 
  • His contemporaries remember him to be absent-minded, often talking to himself and having impaired speech.
  • When he was three, Smith was abducted by a nomadic group known as Romani.   

Famous Adam Smith Quotes

1. “What is prudence in the conduct of every private family can scarce be folly in that of a great kingdom.” - Chapter Two, Book Four, 'The Wealth Of Nations', 1776

2. “What improves the circumstances of the greater part can never be regarded as an inconveniency to the whole.” - Chapter Eight, Book One, 'The Wealth Of Nations', 1776

3. “Every individual... neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it... he intends only his own security.” - Chapter Two, Book Four, 'The Wealth Of Nations', 1776

3. "In the time of Servius Tullius, who first coined money at Rome, the Roman as or pondo contained a Roman pound of good copper."

4. "But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject."

5. "No society can flourish of which the greater part is poor and miserable."

6. "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."

7. "On the road from the City of Skepticism, I had to pass through the Valley of Ambiguity."

8. “The greater part of his occasional wants are supplied in the same manner as those of other people, by treaty, by barter, and by purchase.” - 'The Wealth Of Nations', 1776

8. “There is a great deal of ruin in a nation.” - 'Correspondence Of Adam Smith', 1977

9. “He will be more likely to prevail if he can interest their self-love in his favour, and show them that it is for their own advantage to do for him what he requires of them. Whoever offers to another a bargain of any kind, proposes to do this.” - 'The Wealth Of Nations', 1776

10. "It was not by gold or by silver, but by labour, that all the wealth of the world was originally purchased."

11. “The world neither ever saw, nor ever will see, a perfectly fair lottery.” - 'The Wealth Of Nations', William Playfair, 1811

12. "I am always willing to run some hazard of being tedious, in order to be sure that I am perspicuous."

13. "The learned ignore the evidence of their senses to preserve the coherence of the ideas of their imagination."

14. "The most sacred laws of justice are the laws which guard the life and person of our neighbor."

15. “Great nations are never impoverished by private, though they sometimes are by public prodigality and misconduct.” - 'An Inquiry Into The Nature And Causes Of The Wealth Of Nations', 2010

16. "But the law ought always to trust people with the care of their own interest"

17. “When our passive feelings are almost always so sordid and so selfish, how comes it that our active principles should often be so generous and so noble?” - 'The Theory Of Moral Sentiments', 1759

18. "Society may subsist, though not in the most comfortable state, without beneficence; but the prevalence of injustice must utterly destroy it."

19. "In the common degree of the moral, there is no virtue. Virtue is excellence."2

20. “The first thing you have to know is yourself. A man who knows himself can step outside himself and watch his own reactions like an observer.” - 'The Money Game', George Goodman, 1968

21. "Virtue is more to be feared than vice, because its excesses are not subject to the regulation of conscience."

22. "Never complain of that of which it is at all times in your power to rid yourself."

23. “The division of labour, however, so far as it can be introduced, occasions, in every art, a proportionable increase of the productive powers of labour.” - 'The Wealth Of Nations', 1776

24. "Problems worthy of attacks, prove their worth by hitting back."

25. “But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies, much less to render them necessary.” - Chapter Eight, Book Four, 'The Wealth Of Nations', 1776

26. “It seldom happens, however, that a great proprietor is a great improver.” - Chapter Four, Book Three, 'The Wealth Of Nations', 1776

27. “Corn is a necessary, silver is only a superfluity.” - Chapter Nine, Book One, 'The Wealth Of Nations', 1776

28. “What is the species of domestic industry which his capital can employ, and of which the produce is likely to be of the greatest value, every individual, it is evident, can, in his local situation, judge much better than any statesman or lawgiver can do for him.” - 'The Wealth Of Nations', 1776

29. "There is no art which one government sooner learns of another than that of draining money from the pockets of the people."

30. "But one half the children born, it is computed, die before the age of manhood."

31. "Mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent."

32. "All money is a matter of belief."

33. "If there is any society among robbers and murderers, they must at least . . . abstain from robbing and murdering one another."

34. "No complaint… is more common than that of a scarcity of money."

35. “Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition.” - 'The Wealth Of Nations', 1776

36. "The first duty of the sovereign [is] that of protecting the society from the violence and invasion of other independent societies."

37. "Lawyers and attorneys, at least, must always be paid by the parties."

38. "The real tragedy of the poor is the poverty of their aspirations."

39. "Nothing is more graceful than habitual cheerfulness."

40. "Individual ambition serves the common good."

41. "I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good."

Adam Smith Quotes About Human Nature 

42. “The violence and injustice of the rulers of mankind is an ancient evil, for which, I am afraid, the nature of human affairs can scarce admit a remedy.” - 'The Wealth Of Nations' (OUP Oxford), 2008

43. “In the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might choose to impress upon it. If those two principles coincide and act in the same direction, the game of human society will go on easily and harmoniously” - 'The Theory Of Moral Sentiments', 1759

44. "Every faculty in one man is the measure by which he judges of the like faculty in another."

45. "Hatred and anger are the greatest poison to the happiness of a good mind."

46. “The natural effort of every individual to better his own condition...is so powerful, 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 operations.” - Chapter Five, Book Four, 'The Wealth Of Nation', 1776

47. "To superficial minds, the vices of the great seem at all times agreeable."

48. “Nothing but the most exemplary morals can give dignity to a man of small fortune.” - Chapter One, Book Five, 1776

49. "Happiness never lays its finger on its pulse."

50. "Humanity is the virtue of a woman, generosity that of a man."

51. "Every man lives by exchanging."

52. “The man of system, on the contrary, is apt to be very wise in his own conceit; and is often so enamoured with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of government, that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from any part of it.” - 'The Theory Of Moral Sentiments', 1759

53. "It is not for its own sake that men desire money, but for the sake of what they can purchase with it."

54. "We are but one of the multitude, in no respect better than any other in it."

55. "The furious behaviour of an angry man is more likely to exasperate us against himself than against his enemies."

56. “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” - Chapter Eight, Book Four, 'The Wealth Of Nations', 1776

57. "The great affair, we always find, is to get money."

58. “A merchant, it has been said very properly, is not necessarily the citizen of any particular country.”

59. “Man naturally desires, not only to be loved, but to be lovely.”

60. “And when all this fine philosophy was over, when all these humane sentiments had been once fairly expressed, he would pursue his business or his pleasure, take his repose or his diversion, with the same ease and tranquillity, as if no such accident had happened.” - Chapter One, Part Three, 'The Theory Of Moral Sentiments', 1759

61. "The desire of being believed, the desire of persuading, of leading, and directing other people, seems to be one of the strongest of all our natural desires."

62. “The great source of both the misery and disorders of human life, seems to arise from over-rating the difference between one permanent situation and another.” - 'The Theory Of Moral Sentiments', 1759

63. “The slightest observation, however, might satisfy him, that, in all the ordinary situations of human life, a well-disposed mind may be equally calm, equally cheerful, and equally contented.”

64. "Man is an animal that makes bargains: no other animal does this — no dog exchanges bones with another."

65. "All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind."

66. "To restrain our selfishness and exercise our benevolent affections, constitute the perfection of human nature."

Adam Smith Quotes About Economics

67. “The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities.” - 'The Wealth Of Nations', 1776

68. "The increase of revenue and stock is the increase of national wealth."

69. “Every tax ought to be levied at the time, or in the manner, in which it is most likely to be convenient for the contributor to pay...” - Chapter Two, Book Five, 'The Wealth Of Nations', 1776

70. “The tolls for the maintenance of a high road, cannot with any safety be made the property of private persons.” - Chapter One, Book Five, 'The Wealth Of Nations', 1776

71. “Where wages are not regulated by law, all that we can pretend to determine is what are the most usual; and experience seems to show that law can never regulate them properly, though it has often pretended to do so.” - 'The Wealth Of Nation', 1776

72. "The things which have the greatest value in use have frequently little or no value in exchange"

73. "Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production."

74. "It is the industry which is carried on for the benefit of the rich and powerful, that is principally encouraged by our mercantile system."

75. “Public services are never better performed than when their reward comes in consequence of their being performed, and is proportioned to the diligence employed in performing them.” - Chapter One, Book Five, 'The Wealth Of Nations', 1776

76. "what is the work of one man, in a rude state of society, being generally that of several in an improved one."

77. "The tax which each individual is bound to pay ought to be certain, and not arbitrary."

78. "The real price of everything, what everything really costs to the man who wants to acquire it, is the toil and trouble of acquiring it."

79. "[Governments are] …without exception, the greatest spendthrifts in the society."

80. “The profusion of government … [has] retarded the natural progress.” - 'An Inquiry Into The Nature And Causes Of The Wealth of Nations', John Ramsay McCulloh, 1828

81. “Monopoly of one kind or another, indeed, seems to be the sole engine of the mercantile system.” - Chapter Seven, Book Four, 'The Wealth Of Nations', 1776

82. “Wherever there is great property, there is great inequality.”

83. “Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice: all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things.” - 'Account Of The Life And Writings Of Adam Smith LL. D.', Dugald Stewart

84. "The privileges of the clergy in those ancient times (which to us, who live in the present times, appear the most absurd), their total exemption from the secular jurisdiction, for example, or what in England was called the benefit of clergy, were the natural, or rather the necessary, consequences of this state of things." -'The Wealth Of Nations', 1776

85. "The revenues of the ancient Saxon kings of England are said to have been paid, not in money, but in kind, that is, in victuals and provisions of all sorts."

86. "In regards to the price of commodities, the rise of wages operates as simple interest does, the rise of profit operates like compound interest." -'The Wealth Of Nations', 1776

87. “No fixed capital can yield any revenue but by means of a circulating capital.” - Chapter One, Book Two, 'The Wealth Of Nations', 1776

88. "In all the different employments of stock, the ordinary rate of profit varies more or less with the certainty or uncertainty of the returns."

89. "A nation is not made wealthy by the childish accumulation of shiny metals, but it is enriched by the economic prosperity of its people."

Adam Smith Quotes About Education

90. "The education of the common people requires, perhaps, in a civilized and commercial society, the attention of the public more than that of people of some rank and fortune."

91. "The great secret of education is to direct vanity to proper objects."

92. “The discipline of colleges and universities is in general contrived, not for the benefit of the students, but for the interest, or more properly speaking, for the ease of the masters.” - Chapter One, Book Five, 'The Wealth Of Nations', 1776

93. “Education in the ingenious arts and in the liberal professions is still more tedious and expensive.”

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