Conservatism: Adam Smith and Edmund Burke

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A2 Government & Politics Conservatism
Adam Smith and Edmund Burke
Adam Smith (1723-1790)
He studied at Glasgow and Oxford Universities. He started at Glasgow University at the age
of 14 before transferring to Oxford.
1751 ­ Appointed professor of logic as Glasgow University
1752 ­ Appointed professor of philosophy at Glasgow University
1759 ­ Published `The Theory of Moral Sentiments'
1776 ­ Published 'Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations', the first
major work of political economy
o Documented industrial development in Europe
o Popularised many of the ideas now known as classical economics
o Idea that the "invisible hand" guides supply and demand
1783 ­ He became a founding member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh
Often touted as the world's first free-market economist
He was a major proponent of laissez-faire economic policy
Smith argued against regulation of commerce and trade, believing if people were set free
to better themselves, it would produce economic prosperity for all
He didn't invent these ideas but he was the first to document them and compile them into a
published works
He is now found on £20 notes
Quotes from `The Wealth of Nations'
Division of labour "It is the great multiplication of the productions of all the different arts,
inconsequence of the division of labour, which occasions, in a well-governed
society, that universal opulence which extends itself to the lowest ranks of
people."
Competition "In general, if any branch of trade, or any division of labour, be
advantageous to the public, the freer and more general the competition, it
will always be the more so."
"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."
Distortion of trade "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 ... But though law cannot hinder people of
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A2 Government & Politics Conservatism
the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing
to facilitate assemblies, much less to render them necessary."
Government "It is the highest impertinence and presumption ... in kinds and ministers, to
pretend to watch over the economy of the private people, and to restrain
their expense ... They are themselves always, and without exception, the
greatest spreadthrifts in the society.…read more

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