Talk:The Wealth of Nations

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immigration control[edit]

Can someone shed some light on how Nations deals with this subject?
On general principle of non-interference/free-markets I agree.
But does Smith make a specific case regarding immigration control? -- Anon

Yes, he does. In Book I Chapter 10 Part 2, Smith devotes a fair amount of discussion to the Poor law of the time and its effect on the free movement of labour between parishes within England. Basically people couldn't move from the parish in which they were settled to another without owning a set amount of property, unless they had the permission of the receiving parishioners since parishioners were directly responsible for supporting the destitute of their parishes. This led to labour shortages in specific trades in specific parishes as well as wide variations in the price of labour between neighbouring parishes since parishioners didn't want to receive an immigrant whose family they might have to support with their taxes when he was out of work. The parallel between this parochial immigration control and modern national immigration control is exact and the consequences identical although on a larger scale. -- Derek Ross | Talk 14:28, 13 Jun 2004 (UTC)

restructuring two sentences in introduction[edit]

  • Asymmetry: Left-wing writer / right-wing politician - because that is more reflective of common occurance - though less symmetrical.
  • re-arangement: merely for flow and clarity
  • "pro-business" within quotes - because it is essentially a quote
  • italics to emphasize A = B

Removal of material - uncited material from das Kapital[edit]

I have removed this from the article:

Karl Marx critiqued Smith's ideas in Das Kapital and decried what he called capitalism on the grounds that powerful men seeking their own good will inevitably victimize the working class.

Ed, where in Kapital does Marx say this? Please provide a citation or even a quote!

To the best of my knowledge, Marx's engagement with Smith is much more specific and subtle. In the preface to the second German edition he describes Kapital as a necessary sequal to Smith's book!

Sometimes Marx's view of Smith is mixed: he praises Smith for calliong attention to labor-power as the source of value of commodities, but faults Smith for not seeing labor as a normal activity. Elsewhere he praises Smith for recognizing that the value of currency is determined byt the relationshi between the currency in circulation and the commodities in circulation, but faults Smith for viewing money (really, gold and silver coin) as any other commodity.

I know of two more basic criticisms of Smith. Marx criticizes Smith (and Ricardo) for assuming that average prices equal the average value of commodities. He also criticizes Smith's theory of primitive accumulation, and suggests that primitive accumulation really comes from the separation of producers from the means of production. This really is a profound criticism (whehter you agree with it or not) but it is not really the same as what you said. And even in this "criticism" (which is NOT a criticism of Smith's claims about the morality of capitalism but rather a criticism of Smith's analysis of capitalist accumulation and economic growth in the 18th century), marx approvingly quotes Smith, who wrote "Whenever the legislature attempts to regulate the differnces between masters and their workmen, its counsellors are always the masters."

Anyway, Ed, please provide the citation and a brief quote if possible of Marx making the criticism of Smith you call attention to, SR

Lighten up, SR. It was just a stub, intended to stimulate a more-knowledgable writer to finish the article. Since you know so much about it, please incorporate your talk into the article while I stand back spellbound with admiration (no sarcasm intended, honest). --Ed
Ed, no sarcasm taken! :-) BUT, the reason I didn't put this in the article is, frankly, I think it is too tangential; it's good to have a stuf on Smith and I bet there could be a very good, and very long, article on Smith without going into the details of Marx's work -- details that I just think are more appropriate to an artricle on Marx. In any event, I wasn't trying to be bitchy in asking for a citation for your characterization of Marx's critique. I assume that if you feel that you can refer to something Marx wrote in Capital in an encyclopedia article, then that is because you read it in Capital. All I am asking for is the citation.
Now, I do not want to presume -- and I apologize if what I am about to say offends you, because what I wreote above was on the assumption that you have read Capital and remember having read this critique. But if you haven't -- if you haven't read Capital -- i simply do not see how you could include a discussion of it, even a very brief on, in an encyclopedia article. I take it for granted that Wikipedians should make contributions on what they know about, and not on what they do not know about. Since you have made this stubb, I assume you have read The Wealth of Nations. Since you cite Marx's Capital, I asume you have read it. If you haven't, I just do not understand how you can risk misrepresenting something (and yourself).
So now I will apologize once more if I am suggesting something wrong and insulting about you. As I said, I do assume you have read these books, and if you remember something I do not, you would be doing many people, and me most of all, a favor if you would find the quote or page citations -- SR

Without anybody noticing, The Wealth of Nations became a collection of quotes selected to prove that Smith was against corporations.--AN

Yes, I just noticed that. However when I read the Wealth of Nations, I got the impression that Smith really *was* against corporations, cartels, etc, so I'm not too bothered about that. The real problem is that it unbalances the article since it isn't really about the Wealth of Nations now. It's about Smith's attitude to employers instead. -- Derek Ross

I got the same impression from the book. Isn't Smith's book, in great part, about his attitude to employers? That should be reflected through quotes.Lir 10:36 Oct 23, 2002 (UTC)

I think that it should be reflected but Smith's book was about so much more. Its discussion of how a real day to day economy works is still one of the most readable ones about. At the least this article should contain a summary of the chapters discussed in the book. The discussions of what gives money value, why division of labour is economically efficient, why chambers of commerce are bad and how rents work should be much more widely known and each deserve some discussion in the article. -- Derek Ross

Also the influence this book had on everyone from Marx to Milton Friedmann needs to be mentioned. This was a very influential book -- Derek Ross

I removed the folowing from the article until it can be reworked. My reasons are the following:

1) an encyclopedia should present an account of current debates not an author's own views. The following reads as if it is the author's own views. If I am wrong at it really reflects a current and well-known scholarly interpretation of Smith, it should be identified with its proponoents.

2) the passage is mostly a string of quotes from Smith (with no page numbers). This is inappropriate to an encyclopedia article. The article should summarize the work and contribution of Smith, and if there are debates, summarize the debates. It should not itself be argumentative, and it should not just be a colection of quotes. Slrubenstein

As is true with every work that is considered of importance, many interpretations can be made, specially by selecting isolated paragraphs.

The following is one of such interpretations.

The Famous "Invisible Hand Quote"[edit]

The previous version of the article cited the invisible hand and the butcher, baker, and brewer as all coming from Book 1 Chapter 2, when, in fact, the invisible hand quote comes from Book 4 Chapter 2. I inserted the quote so readers would not hunt in Book 1 Chapter 2 and never find it. I hope that is ok with everyone.

Diamond-Water Paradox: out of place, inaccurate/misleading.[edit]

  • The diamond-water paradox adds more to the diamond-water paradox than to the article.
  • it's a little pov: "brilliant" solution - if I know my left from my right, is that "brilliant" and does it even matter if it is?
  • Too mathematical a mindset: Smith was none at all confused by the 'paradox'. On the contrary, the book is rhetorically "brilliant" in choosing obvious examples that the average reader will instinctively sympathize with. Water and diamonds along with everything else are priced according to supply and demand along with several other factors. The supply of water far exceeds the demand and visa versa for diamonds. To see this as a 'paradox' rather than recognizing its use as a vivid illustration is a lot like receiving a diatribe from a drill sergeant about your left and your right and deciding he's talking about chirality and its role in astrophysics. It is more likely that astrophysics never crossed the drill sergeants mind, that he doesn't know what 'chirality' means, and that he does think it's obvious to distinguish left from right.

The diamond-water paradox adds more to the diamond-water paradox than to the article.
The paradox is an important, if brief, part of Wealth of Nations. Wealth of Nations is one of the few major contemporary works of economics to address it directly. I think it deserves to be here.
it's a little pov: "brilliant" solution - if I know my left from my right, is that "brilliant" and does it even matter if it is?
The only time the word "brilliant" occurs is in the N.B. section. If that's what you're referring to, I hope you're not equating the formulation of the subjective theory of value and/or marginal utility theory with "knowing left from right." The importance of these discoveries to the field of economics cannot possibly be overstated -- the manner in which people value things is at the root of all economic decisions. You might as well say that Newton's formulation of the theory of gravity, or Darwin's formulation of the theory of evolution were as simple as "knowing left from right." However, the word brilliant can be removed, if you feel it's POV.
Smith was none at all confused by the 'paradox'.
He does not solve the problem and employs an erroneous theory of value in an attempt to resolve it. Perhaps he did not state explicitly that he was "confused", but he nevertheless was unable to adequately figure it out... Also, the article does not state anywhere that he was confused by it, only that he addressed it.
the book is rhetorically "brilliant" in choosing obvious examples that the average reader will instinctively sympathize with.
The diamond-water paradox had been laid out before Smith's time. It was already a well-known example when he wrote Wealth of Nations. He purposely chose it because it was well-known. He did not make any "rhetorical" decisions about "obvious" things. It was not his original invention.
Water and diamonds along with everything else are priced according to supply and demand along with several other factors. The supply of water far exceeds the demand and visa versa for diamonds. To see this as a 'paradox' rather than recognizing its use as a vivid illustration is a lot like receiving a diatribe from a drill sergeant about your left and your right and deciding he's talking about chirality and its role in astrophysics. It is more likely that astrophysics never crossed the drill sergeants mind, that he doesn't know what 'chirality' means, and that he does think it's obvious to distinguish left from right.
I don't understand the above. From what I can tell, you're saying that diamonds and water are priced according to their rarity or commonality, which is explicitly refuted not only by the accepted subjective value theory, but also by Wealth of Nations itself! As the article states, if that were the case, why are diamonds worth more than emeralds which are in less supply than diamonds? You're falling back on the labor theory of value, which has been largely discounted for more than 100 years. You're also again disparaging the achievements of Turgot and the Austrians as merely finding "right from left," which strikes me as unfair and more than a little arrogant. As for the example about drill sergeants, I'll admit you lost me. I don't see the relationship.

RiseAbove 4 July 2005 23:36 (UTC)

Before this turns into one of those flame wars, let's clarify the point: that some things are directly relevant to Nations, others are not. You have a great deal of emotion invested in

this diamond-water thing, and maybe that has motivated you to include it where it doesn't necesarily fit well. P.S. I said rarity, demand and several other factors. Here is a quote from nations: (is this the one you are saying explicitly refutes the idea that scarcity plays a role in price?)

"Their highest price, however, seems not to be necessarily determined by any thing but the actual scarcity or plenty of these metals themselves. It is not determined by that of any other commodity, in the same manner as the price of coals is by that of wood, beyond which no scarcity can ever raise it. Increase the scarcity of gold to a certain degree, and the smallest bit of it may become more precious than a diamond, and exchange for a greater quantity of other goods."

In fact the book is repleat with examples of scarcity increasing the prices. For example, protectionism artificially raises the price of services and commodities by reducing the ready supply of the necesary labor and raw materials. This is central to the work, it's why he wrote it. The Diamond-Water 'paradox' is a wonderful thing in its own right. But why not put it somewhere more flattering to it?

All right, you make some good points. However, while the Diamond-Water paradox appears already in the article on Marginalism, I don't think it's misplaced here. It is after all, a feature in TWON. We've edited it down quite a bit, and now it's only a small portion of the article, as it is in the book. I vote for it to stay as is.
Incidentally, I didn't get "emotional" as you put it, because of my investment in the Diamond-Water paradox, but because you accused some of the most important discoveries in the history of economics as nothing more than finding left from right. This, I think, belittles not only the discoveries themselves, but also the men who discovered it; men whom I think deserve respect.

You misunderstand: "obvious examples the the reader will instinctively understand" - like left from right. Smith did not present any paradox here; a paradox implies an unresolved contradiction. He knows why diamonds cost more and he's using this as an extreme example of utility differing form price. He's putting forth something that makes perfect sense not only to him but to the average reader. This is important because the point he's making is that artificial manipulation of supply artificially raise prices. This is not saying that solving some paradox is trivial, this is saying that there is no paradox to solve.

Two of the many ways to increase the price of something; make it more useful or make it more rare. Inventing a better mouse trap or working harder are ethical approaches to improving utility; on the other hand smashing looms or throwing shoes into to machinery increases price in an unethical way. Same with protectionism (domestic and foreign): if some one must get permission from an authority to enter a trade and the conditions of entering are disliked yet irrelevant to the trade, then the number of people entering that trade (like making wagon wheels) ...bla bla bla... apprenticeships are depicted by smith as institutions that reduce the supply of skilled laborers increasing the price and lowering the quality. Greedy, dishonest manipulations/limitations of supply is a major theme of the book. Smith says the consumer is a better judge than the granting authority and that the free market is a better mechanism than an apprenticeship. Smith establishes as a general phenomenon that manipulations in supply affect the price, then uses this as a foundation for undermining protectionist arguments. His message is, look past the rhetoric and ask yourself if what the speaker is advocating artificially constricts supply and if he stands to gain from it; what is the real agenda? Unless the diamond-water paradox is all about the games that people play in "conspiracy to raise prices" ( - Smith), I don't see it's relevance. It seems to me that it is fundamentally different, and of a fundamentally different mindset from Nations. I havn't removed or edited the diamond-water paradox; you've made a case for things outside of Nations but I still don't see the direct and significant relevance. Forget about the merits of the diamond-water paradox by itself, I'm asking is it really in Nations? If you think it is, make a case. P.S. why do you keep accusing me of falling back on or relying on philisophical ad-nasea? I'm falling back on having read the book. Not on interpretations of interpretations, nor of incorporating Nations into a modern framework or any of that. It's a historical text, and I'm relyin on having read the book.

Smith wrong?[edit]

I seem to recall Smith writing that his ideas not be implemented too quickly. He gave several reasons, the final one being that he may have been wrong. But now I can't find this example of modesty. Anyone?

Richard Cobden passage[edit]

There's a sentence fragment in this passage: "The Radical MP Richard Cobden as a young man studied The Wealth of Nations; his copy is still in the library of his home at Dunford House and there are lively marginal notes on the places where Smith condemns British colonial policy. There are none on the passage about the invisible hand.[36] campaigned for free trade in his agitation against the Corn Laws."

Somebody with a better notion of what this passage is intended to say should probably clean it up.

Summary of Weath of Nations[edit]

I came here looking for a concise, encyclopedic entry on what Adam Smith said, the key concepts.

To my utter surprise, this wikipedia article, for all intents an purposes, completely void of that.

So went to a study guide in as a reference. There can be no question a study guide is hard to beat as a reference on what is taught about this work in public and private education in this country. The gold standard.

Still I was perplexed as to how this got this way. Then I looked at the edits and it appears one "Notque" has reverted dozens or many edits, frequently charging some bias or another, and making Bold Reverts and even claiming that with this reversion of a synopsis, the "Article stands up find [sic]" as it was.

Well I disagree. An encyclopeidia entry that doesn't even have a summary of the Wealth of Nations central ideas is worthless.

The article that's there right now is a compendium on who argued what subtlety in his work. Which is far more suited to the back pages of some scholarly journal than an encyclopedia.

When a study guide does that better in one paragraph than wikipedia did with the rest, then it's time to delete the article and start over. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2601:647:301:E3F0:2564:7CBE:AE6:7AC2 (talk) 05:34, 3 October 2016 (UTC)