An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations [1776]

Adam Smith, 2 vols. (R. H. Campbell and A. S. Skinner, eds., Liberty Fund, 1982)

In this classic work, Smith builds upon Hobbes’s appeal to enlightened self-interest as the basis of social order, arguing that “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.  We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.”  Smith argues here that a commercial society can achieve the goals of stability, peace, and order, while allowing for significant individual liberty and avoiding the disadvantages accompanying the Hobbesian absolute sovereign.  Several lesser-known passages toward the end of The Wealth of Nations also echo Hobbes’s critique of religion.

Library of Economics and Liberty