Adam Smith FRSA was a Scottish economist, philosopher and author as well as a moral philosopher, a pioneer of political economy and a key figure during the Scottish Enlightenment, also known as ”The Father of Economics” or ”The Father of Capitalism”. Profoundly inspirational Adam Smith quotes will encourage you to think a little deeper than you usually would and broaden your perspective.
Famous Adam Smith Quotes
Surely we should not look as happy and prosperous as a society whose members are reduced to more poverty and misery. The only equity, moreover, requires that those who feed, clothe and house all body of the nation, have in the product of their own work, enough to be themselves tolerably fed, clothed and housed
No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable. Adam Smith
The Birth and fortune are evidently the two circumstances which contribute most to place a man above another. These are the two major sources of personal distinction, and are, therefore, that establish major causes natural authority and subordination among men
When by an increase in the effectual demand, the market price of some particular commodity happens to rise a good deal above the natural price, those who employ their stocks in supplying that market are generally careful to conceal this change. Adam Smith
All for ourselves and nothing for others is the vile maxim seems to have been in all ages, the masters of mankind
Labour was the first price, the original purchase money that was paid for all things. It was not by gold or by silver, but by labour, that all the wealth of the world was originally purchased; and its value, to those who possess it, and who want to exchange it for some new productions, is precisely equal to the quantity of labour which it can enable them to purchase or command. Adam Smith
Members of an industry rarely meet for pleasure or for entertainment, but their conversation invariably leads to a conspiracy against the public interest or on an agreement to increase their prices
It is the industry which is carried on for the benefit of the rich and powerful, that is principally encouraged by our mercantile system. That which is carried on for the benefit of the poor and the indigent, is too often, either neglected, or oppressed. Adam Smith
Equal amounts of work must be, in all times and in all places, with a value equal to the worker. Thus, the work, never varying in its own value, is the only real measure and that final can serve in all weathers and in all places, to assess and compare the value of all goods. It is their real price, the money is their nominal price
Society may subsist, though not in the most comfortable state, without beneficence; but the prevalence of injustice must utterly destroy it. Adam Smith
What every thing really costs to those who want to get it is work and the pain he must win to get it
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. Adam Smith
But the principle that impels us to save is the desire to improve our lot, who generally desire, indeed, is calm and dispassionate, but born with us and leaves us at the tomb
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 operations. Adam Smith
However selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.
Lawyers and attorneys, at least, must always be paid by the parties; and if they were not, they would perform their duty still worse than they actually perform it. Adam Smith
Never complain of that of which it is at all times within your power to rid.
Though those different plans were, perhaps, first introduced by the private interests and prejudices of particular orders of men, without any regard to, or foresight of, their consequences upon the general welfare of the society;. Adam Smith
The disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and powerful, and to despise, or, at least, neglect persons of poor or mean conditions is the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments.
When the landlord, annuitant, or monied man, has a greater revenue than what he judges sufficient to maintain his own family, he employs either the whole or a part of the surplus in maintaining one or more menial servants. Increase this surplus, and he will naturally increase the number of those servants. Adam Smith
No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the greater part of the members are poor and miserable. It is but equity, besides, that they who feed, cloth and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labour as to be themselves tolerably well fed, clothed and lodged.
Hatred and anger are the greatest poison to the happiness of a good mind. There is, in the very feeling of those passions, something harsh, jarring, and convulsive, something that tears and distracts the breast, and is altogether destructive of that composure and tranquillity of mind which is so necessary to happiness, and which is best promoted by the contrary passions of gratitude and love. Adam Smith
Wherever there is great property, there is great inequality.
Society and conversation, therefore, are the most powerful remedies for restoring the mind to its tranquillity, if, at any time, it has unfortunately lost it; as well as the best preservatives of that equal and happy temper, which is so necessary to self satisfaction and enjoyment. Adam Smith
It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect to eat our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.
The interest of the dealers, however, in any particular branch of trade or manufactures, is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public. To widen the market and to narrow the competition, is always the interest of the dealers. Adam Smith
There is no art which one government sooner learns of another than that of draining money from the pockets of the people.
A sketch of a man facing to the right. Adam Smith
Upon the whole, I have always considered him, both in his lifetime and since his death, as approaching as nearly to the idea of a perfectly wise and virtuous man, as perhaps the nature of human frailty will permit.
Ask any rich man of common prudence to which of the two sorts of people he has lent the greater part of his stock, to those who, he thinks, will employ it profitably, or to those who will spend it idly, and he will laugh at you for proposing the question. Adam Smith
Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the interest of the producer ought to be attended to, only so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer.
A great stock, though with small profits, generally increases faster than a small stock with great profits. Money, says the proverb, makes money. When you have a little, it is often easier to get more. The great difficulty is to get that little.
Humanity is the virtue of a woman, generosity that of a man.
The ancient Egyptians had a superstitious antipathy to the sea; a superstition nearly of the same kind prevails among the Indians; and the Chinese have never excelled in foreign commerce. Adam Smith
Labor was the first price, the original purchase-money that was paid for all things.
But one half the children born, it is computed, die before the age of manhood. Adam Smith
Man is an animal that makes bargains: no other animal does this no dog exchanges bones with another
It must always be remembered, however, that it is the luxuries, and not the necessary expense of the inferior ranks of people, that ought ever to be taxed. Adam Smith
No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable
The annual produce of the land and labour of any nation can be increased in its value by no other means, but by increasing either the number of its productive labourers, or the productive powers of those labourers who had before been employed. Adam Smith
On the road from the City of Skepticism, I had to pass through the Valley of Ambiguity
Upon the whole, I have always considered him, both in his lifetime and since his death, as approaching as nearly to the idea of a perfectly wise and virtuous man, as perhaps the nature of human frailty will permit. Adam Smith
The real tragedy of the poor is the poverty of their aspirations
The prudent man always studies seriously and earnestly to understand whatever he professes to understand, and not merely to persuade other people that he understands it; and though his talents may not always be very brilliant, they are always perfectly genuine. Adam Smith
This is one of those cases in which the imagination is baffled by the facts
Whatever be the actual state of the skill, dexterity, and judgment, with which labour is applied in any nation, the abundance or scantiness of its annual supply must depend, during the continuance of that state, upon the proportion between the number of those who are annually employed. Adam Smith
Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.
The most sacred laws of justice are the laws which guard the life and person of our neighbor. Adam Smith
Every man lives by exchanging.
The extent of the market, therefore, must for a long time be in proportion to the riches and populousness of that country, and consequently their improvement must always be posterior to the improvement of that country. Adam Smith
How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it.
Men desire to have some share in the management of public affairs chiefly on account of the importance which it gives them. Adam Smith
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 real price of everything is the toil and trouble of acquiring it. Adam Smith
Individual Ambition Serves the Common Good.
History may not repeat itself, in Mark Twain’s wise formulation, but it rhymes. Adam Smith
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.
Men are much more likely to discover easier and readier methods of attaining any object, when the whole attention of their minds is directed towards that single object, than when it is dissipated among a great variety of things. Adam Smith
It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion.
The emotions of the spectator will still be very apt to fall short of the violence of what is felt by the sufferer. Mankind, though naturally sympathetic, never conceive, for what has befallen another, that degree of passion which naturally animates the person principally concerned. Adam Smith
Man is an animal that makes bargains: no other animal does this no dog exchanges bones with another.
Every species of animals naturally multiplies in proportion to the means of their subsistence, and no species can ever multiply beyond it. But in civilised society it is only among the inferior ranks of people that the scantiness of subsistence can set limits to the further multiplication of the human species; and it can do so in no other way than by destroying a great part of the children which their fruitful marriages produce. Adam Smith
Mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent.
To expect, indeed, that the freedom of trade should ever be entirely restored in Great Britain, is as absurd as to expect that an Oceana or Utopia should never be established in it. Adam Smith
Never complain of that of which it is at all times in your power to rid yourself.
The retinue of a grandee in China or Indostan accordingly is, by all accounts, much more numerous and splendid than that of the richest subjects of Europe. Adam Smith
No society can surely be flourishing and happy of which by far the greater part of the numbers are poor and miserable.
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. Adam Smith
Nobody ever saw a dog make a fair and deliberate exchange of one bone for another with another dog. Nobody ever saw one animal by its gestures and natural cries signify to another, this is mine, that yours.
We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters, though frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. Adam Smith
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.
The natural price, therefore, is, as it were, the central price, to which the prices of all commodities are continually gravitating. Adam Smith
Problems worthy of attacks, prove their worth by hitting back.
Though the profusion of Government must undoubtedly have retarded the natural progress of England to wealth and improvement, it has not been able to stop it. Adam Smith
Resentment seems to have been given us by nature for a defense, and for a defense only! It is the safeguard of justice and the security of innocence.
Every tax ought to be so contrived as both to take out and to keep out of the pockets of the people as little as possible, over and above what it brings into the public treasury of the State. Adam Smith
Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition.
It is the natural effect of improvement, however, to diminish gradually the real price of almost all manufactures. Adam Smith
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.
Now many such things may be done without intitling the people to rise in arms. A gross, flagrant, and palpable abuse no doubt will do it, as if they should be required to pay a tax equal to half or third of their substance. Adam Smith
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.
It is unjust that the whole of society should contribute towards an expence of which the benefit is confined to a part of the society. Adam Smith
The learned ignore the evidence of their senses to preserve the coherence of the ideas of their imagination.
The world neither ever saw, nor ever will see, a perfectly fair lottery. Adam Smith
The real tragedy of the poor is the poverty of their aspirations.
Great nations are never impoverished by private, though they sometimes are by public prodigality and misconduct. Adam Smith
Virtue is more to be feared than vice, because its excesses are not subject to the regulation of conscience.
It appears, accordingly, from the experience of all ages and nations, I believe, that the work done by freemen comes cheaper in the end than that performed by slaves. Adam Smith
What can be added to the happiness of a man who is in health, out of debt, and has a clear conscience?
The great source of both the misery and disorders of human life seems to arise from overrating the difference between one permanent situation and another. Avarice overrates the difference between poverty and riches: ambition, that between a private and a public station: vain-glory, that between obscurity an extensive reputation. The person under the influence of any of those extravagant passions is not only miserable in his actual situation, but is often disposed to disturb the peace of society in order to arrive at that which he so foolishly admires.
What is prudence in the conduct of every private family can scarce be folly in that of a great kingdom.
Examine the records of history, recollect what has happened within the circle of your own experience, consider with attention what has been the conduct of almost all the greatly unfortunate, either in private or public life, whom you may have read of, or heard of, or remember, and you will find that the misfortunes of by far the greater part of them have arisen from their now knowing when they were well, when it was proper for them to sit still and to be contented.”
Wherever there is great property, there is great inequality for one very rich man, there must be at least five hundred poor.
And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.
With the greater part of rich people, the chief enjoyment of riches consists in the parade of riches.
Are you in adversity? Do not mourn in the darkness of solitude, do not regulate your sorrow according to the indulgent sympathy of your intimate friends; return, as soon as possible, to the daylight of the world and of society. Live with strangers, with those who know nothing, or care nothing, about your misfortune; do not even shun the company of enemies; but give yourself the pleasure of mortifying their malignant joy, by making them feel how little you are affected by your calamity, and how much you are above it.