Adam Smith was born in Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland in 1723. It isn’t known the exact day he was born. Adam’s father died before he was born. Smith attended school in Kirkcaldy where teachers noticed that he had an extremely good memory and loved to read books (Stewart). When he was 14, Adam went to the University of Glasgow where one of his teachers was Dr. Hutcheson, who has been called the “father of speculative philosophy in Scotland in modern times” (Chew). In 1740, when Smith was 17, he got a scholarship at Oxford where he learned the Greek language and in 1748 Smith moved to Edinburgh.
In 1751, Smith was named the professor of logic at Glasgow University, and then in 1752 he took the chair of moral philosophy. He remained in this chair for 13 years. His course of lectures consisted of four different parts. The four parts were, natural theology, ethics, the branch of morality which relates to justice, and the fourth part in which he examined “those political regulations which are founded, not upon the principle of justice, but that of expediency, and which are calculated to increase the riches, the power, and the prosperity of a State” (Stewart). While he was working there he published his first work, “The Theory of Moral Sentiments,” which spread to Germany and France. Smith kept revising this work throughout his whole life (Griswold).
In 1764 Smith resigned at Glasgow and went with the Duke of Buccleuch to the continent of Europe. They first went to Paris and then on to Thoulouse where they stayed for 18 months. Smith had an opportunity to learn about how the French economic system worked because he lived with some members of the parliament. They then went to Geneva where they stayed for two months. Next they returned to Paris where they stayed for about a year. Finally, in 1766 they returned to London.
Smith retired once they returned to London and remained retired while he worked on his most widely know work, “An Inquiry Into the Nature of Causes of the Wealth of Nations,” which was first published in 1776. This work examined in detail the consequences of economic freedom (Chew). Smith wanted fewer government restrictions on trade. This book was important because nothing had been published like this before. In the following passage from the Wealth of Nations, Smith talks about government.
“All systems either of preference or of restraint, therefore, being thus completely taken away, the obvious and simple system of natural liberty establishes itself on its own accord. Every man, as long as he does not violate the laws of justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest his own way, and to bring both his industry and capital into competition with those of any other man or order of men. The sovereign is completely discharged from a duty, in the attempting to perform which he must always be exposed to innumerable delusions, and for the proper performance of which no human wisdom or knowledge could ever be sufficient: the duty of superintending the industry of private people” (Smith).
What the passage is saying that if there were no laws governing economics, it would not matter as long as people were ethical.
Another passage from the Wealth of Nations talks about a company gaining a monopoly.
“A monopoly granted either to an individual or to a trading company has the same effect as a secret in trade of manufactures.