Adam Smith
Economist Adam Smith
Adam Smith (39)
Adam Smith is best known for his influential work, The Wealth of Nations, in which he argues for a free market economy. Published in 1776, this work endorsed an anti-slavery perspective based on economic principles. Smith thought that slavery was not economically viable:
From the experience of all ages and nations, I believe, that the work done by free men comes cheaper in the end than the work performed by slaves. Whatever work he does, beyond what is sufficient to purchase his own maintenance, can be squeezed out of him by violence only, and not by any interest of his own. (36)
Smith believed that the best economy was one in which each individuals act freely with no government interference. The idea was that having complete freedom created competition, which would then keep prices down while product quality remained high. Slavery created an inefficient market in that slave owners were forced to purchase and maintain slaves year after year since slaves had a very high mortality rate. The cost of purchasing slaves was then passed on to the common consumer. This cost could be avoided by switching to a wage-labor economy and providing decent working conditions for blacks. For example, it would be cheaper to pay blacks a low wage and not provide them with food, housing, or clothing than to continually buy new slaves and provide for them.
Return to the economics debate
Return to the economics debate.