Adam Smith

Adam Smith [smɪθ] (* 1723 in Kirkcaldy (county Fife, Scotland); † 17. In addition, July 1790 in Edinburgh) was a Scottish moral philosopher, is considered as a founder of the classical political economy. It was more importantRepresentative of the Scottish clearing-up and the philosophical current of the Empirismus.

Adam Smith

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over Smiths life's work is clearly more well-known than over his life. His father of the same name, a customs officer in Kirkcaldy died before his birth; its nut/mother, Margret Douglas,the daughter rich of a land owner was. Adam Smith and its nut/mother develop a very intimate relationship. It was it also, which promoted its son in its later training.

Exact date of birth Adam Smiths is unknown, it became however to 5. June 1723 in Kirkcaldy baptized.

In the age of four years Smith is to have been lost to its kidnappers from by-pulling gypsies kidnapped, however with the pursuit, so that he could be brought after short time again home.

Deliveredit is further that he completed the primary school in Kirkcaldy.


Adam Smith studied starting from its 14. Lebensjahr from 1737 to 1740 to the Glasgow University and visited lectures of Francis Hutcheson, it both in itsphilosophical and economic considerations affected. Glasgow was characterised at this time by an economic upswing and served Smith later also than object of its economic observations. Its good conclusion in the year 1740 brought in a scholarship for it, itfurther study made possible.

From 1740 to 1746 it studied philosophy at the Balliol college, Oxford. It did not feel very well in at that time quite contemplative Oxford however. It felt the atmosphere compared with Glasgow as backward. Under its fellow studentsit had hardly friends. Additionally to the anti-Scottish prejudices already existing the Jakobitenaufstand 1745 intensified the situation. He suffered again and again from health problems. Thus it reports in a letter to its nut/mother of „a persistent scurvy with tremblingthe head “.

training activity

1746 returned Smith to Kirkcaldy. He strove for an employment, found however no suitable. Due to the good relations of the family mütterlicherseits and he received lord Kames to the Fürsprache of the lawyer and philosopherfinally 1748/49 the possibility of holding a series of public lectures in Edinburgh which was considered at that time as a condition for an activity as a university lecturer. Its topics were comprehensive: Of English literature and Rhetorik over philosophy up to jurisprudence. In academicCircles could win Smith large trailer shank. Its contemporaries report on enormous crush of the studying, although these lectures did not belong to the official didactic program. Unfortunately is hardly somewhat delivered over contents of the lectures, it could only over Mitschriften of the studentsare reconstructed.

In the year 1751 (other source: 1750) it became at the age of only 27 years professor for logic at the University of Glasgow and 1752 professor for moral philosophy, for which it was better paid and to Hutchesons chair thus took over.Moral philosophy covered a far spectrum of theology over political economics up to ethics, whereby Smiths instruction level was classified as high. Its students were 14 to 16 years old. Instruction language was latin, Smith informed soon however asone first on English.

In this time its friendship with the philosopher David Hume developed.

Its first large work, theory of the ethical feelings (1759, English. „The theory OF moral sentiments “), became a success and made itrapidly admits. It was concerned with human nature and their relationship to the society. Not a higher instance, but humans sets itself the barriers. Smith had therefore a rather positive picture of the human behavior and standsthus in the contradiction for instance to Thomas Hobbes ' Leviathan.

education journey

1763 it laid down its Professur and accepted the financially lucrative post of the Tutors of the young Henry Scott, 3rd Duke OF Buccleuch. This was stepsonby Charles Townshends, which was very impressed by Smith, and by Smith of at the beginning of of 1764 to at the end of of 1766 with its education journey on the European continent (France, Switzerland) one accompanied. This three-year activity brought a lifelong pension of 300 to SmithPound annually.

From this time its friendship with the political economist Turgot and François Quesnay, the prominent heads of the Physiokratismus originated. This acquaintance surely represented a key experience. Further stations of the journey were attendance with Voltaire in Genevaand with David Hume in of Paris the salons.

During this education journey he spent a whole year in Toulouse. Since its French was rather bad and was not very languagetalented it, it felt this time as very boring. It begantherefore in the year 1764 a book to write (the prosperity of the nations). The journey had to be abruptly broken off 1766, since the younger brother of the duke, who participated in this journey, got sick suddenly and died shortly thereafter.

Work on []

Last years

after its return to Great Britain the prosperity of the nations (1776) appeared and became an overwhelming success. Already soon translations followed approximately into German. Smith again describes the effects of self-interest on the society. ThatHumans slope to trade and exchange and would like to improve its life situation. Wealth arises as a result of human work. Of importance for Smith is the division of labor.

Smith spent the next eleven years most time in its birth city Kirkcaldy. With itsin the year 1778 it drew taking place appointment to the customs inspector of Scotland into neighbouring Edinburgh. In the fight against militant dte and Branntweinschmuggler Smith was radical as a customs inspector. In letters, like he is delivered the military to assistance called andtogether with his colleagues to station left old hulls at the coast as troop bases. Within two years the reorganization of the heavily maroden Scottish monetary system succeeded to it. In this time its friendships developed to the chemist Joseph Black and thatNatural scientist and geologist James hat clay/tone.

Smith did not experience the triumphant advance of the steam engine of the friendly inventor James Watt any longer. Smith died 1790. After death after Smiths testamentary desire numerous private recordings were destroyed.

Smith must the picture „of the absent-minded professor “corresponded. It exists a multiplicity of anecdotes, which describe that it led a predominantly mental existence. So it is to have been led time life self discussions and have been found also once in the morning skirt on the road. On the other hand is Smith extremely politelybeen its. His friend David Hume described it in a letter:„You will find a trueful deserving man in it, although his established, withdrawn way of life clouded his occurrence and appearance as a man of world. “Smith made several proposals, thosehowever all were rejected. It developed a substantial private library.



Smiths working in the economics was versatile. Thus it was concerned with division of labor, the principle of the free market, the distribution theory, the foreign trade theory and the role of the State of (S. down).

Smiths lectures in moral philosophy formed for 1759 the basis for the publication of its philosophical Hauptwerkes the theory of the ethical feelings (original title The Theory OF moral Sentiments), into which it thoseSympathy with our fellow men as basis of the moral and as mainspring of the human work subordinated somewhat later, its work on the origin OF LANGUAGEs and OF the difference genius OF those which acres original and compounded.

1776 appeared its famouseconomic Hauptwerk prosperity of the nations - an investigation of its nature and its causes (original titles: At Inquiry into the Nature and Causes OF the Wealth OF nation), on which he had worked ten years long withdrawn into Kirkcaldy. The appearancethis book as birth of the political economy one regards. Between both works a contradiction is often seen, which is brought up for discussion as Adam Smith problem in the economic technical literature.

In prosperity of the nations it designates the work (industria, industry, therefore the designation of the smithschenSystem as structure of industry) as source and yardstick of the value. Contrary to the opinion of the mercantilists and Physiokraten it each useful work is productive. With the latters it marks the free competition not prevented by state interventions as basis of a correct division of labor.Free internal and international traffic causes an appropriate local and temporal distribution of forces and means as well as the reconciliation of prices and profits, but also the best promotion of the public interest after it not alone.

To Smiths times gaveit the economics as science in the today's sense not yet. Like that it is not amazing that Smith worked as a moral philosopher from today's viewpoint in a specializedstrange area, when he wrote his work to the economics. The central issues of the ethics thatSmith as a moral philosopher also dedicated itself reads: „Which is more important: the general, social luck or the personal, individual luck? “. Smith worked on it in the prosperity of the nations as it with empirical conclusions works. Its consequence: The general, social luck is maximized,as each individual tries in the context of his ethical feelings to increase its personal luck. By the invisible hand also the general, social luck one increase at the same time. This conclusion is in the sense of the ethics throughout „practical “and meets in sosome view also too (for example a functioning, free market). Their Verallgemeinerung on a universal guidance principle is however disputed until today. Gladly however both proponents and critic Smiths forget the delimitation of the personal luck striving by the ethical feelings.

Particularlybecame popular the term of the invisible hand coined/shaped by Adam Smith: Self-interested striving of humans contributes to well-being of the entire society.

To consider is here however, which understands Smith by „public interest “. In „the prosperity of the nations “definesit the wealth of a state over „the sum of the yield of soil and work “. The prosperity of a state rises thus with (able to work) the number of inhabitants. In order to increase the factor work, the demand for work must (and thus the Lohnhöhe)so far it rises that the lower layers more children can draw up. If the wages rise over the height necessary for the raising of sufficient workers, then the excessive Vermehrung will press it down soon the necessary height. This functions also in reverse: Increased„the species humans “too strongly, then sets itself for it by food scarceness a border. This takes place by means of the fact that most of the children born in the fruitful families of the lower layers die. To reread in chapter 8: The wages of the work. Thoseinvisible hand ensures thus for the fact that the lower layers reproduce always exactly the correct quantity of worker.

Further publications of Adam Smith are under other A Dictionary OF the English LANGUAGE by Samuel Johnson, which it published 1755 anonymous andseveral essays under the title essay on Philosopical Subjects, which 1795 after its death publish became.

Smith burned all notes and manuscripts in the presence of its friends. It wanted to prevent in such a way to leave to the world something incomplete.

state theory

Smith saw the social prosperity in a system of the natural liberty best carried out. It assumes as basic principle by the pursuit of private interests always at the same time also public interests are fulfilled.

Logical consequence is a civil constitutional state, thatno own interest notices, but only social basic conditions makes available. Tasks come to the state after Smith three central:

  1. Organization of the national defense.
  2. Protection of each member of the society from unfairness and/or suppression.
  3. Establishment and maintenance of public institutes, their establishmentor would not be possible for preservation by private ones, but are important for the public nevertheless. For example are instruction and the transportation.

The general education by the state to secure, was for Smith a very important topic, there it very probablythe dangers of the division of labor publicised by it saw. Thus stupefying of workers is meant, who implement only few handles. The state is to make “education „for the simple people accessible and it even, after its words, in addition to force. That was alsoSmiths answer to the Grundproblem of the economics, the social question. An ascent from its situation given by birth is made possible by this required education for the simple man, which it can reach by own diligence.

The central function of the stateremains however to protect the private property against encroachments. From above reasons it results that Smith was not a representative of a pure night watchman state.

Smith lived in the age of the British mercantilism and could therefore for political reasons some its conceptions to the state notout-formulate clear. He was probably a proponent of a parliamentary-republican state contrary to the dominant monarchy.

The writings of Smith formed the theoretical foundation of the later Manchester liberalism beside others.


the majority of the found criticismat Smiths is based to theories on a fundamental misunderstanding of Smiths works. If one wants to criticize Smiths theories fairly, then one must regard its works in their whole. That is, the prosperity of the nations stands not for itself alone, but is underto regard other one together with Smiths first Hauptwerk the theory of the ethical feelings. Only by a careful view a criticism can be brought in, which becomes also fair Smith.


of works

secondary literature

  • Thomas Rommel, Helen winters: Adam Smith: The prosperitythe nations. DTV, Munich 2. Edition 2003, ISBN 3-423-30708-0
  • Karl clenching rem: Adam Smith. Beck v publishing house, Frankfurt/Main 2003 ISBN 3-593-37293-2
  • Peter Bendixen: The dream of the prosperity of the nations. Criticism of the economic reason. WUV university University of, Vienna 2005 ISBN 3-85114-887-8
  • Gerhard Streminger: AdamSmith - with self certifications and picture documents. Reinbek: Rowohlt 1989 (2. Edition 1999, 158 sides)
  • Gerhard Streminger: The natural run of the things. Essay to Adam Smith and David Hume. Marburg: Metropolis 1995 (256 sides)

see also

Web on the left of

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