The Simplified Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith -- Book 3, Chapter 4b: Dynasties and Natural Development

Chapter 4b: Dynasties and Natural Development

16 Very old families are very rare in commercial countries.

The Arabian histories seem to be all full of genealogies.

In countries where a rich man can only spend his revenue in maintaining many people, he is not apt to run out

In commercial countries, riches very seldom remain long in the same family, despite the most violent laws to prevent their dissipation.

17 In this way, the greatest revolution to the public happiness was brought about by two orders of people who did not intend to serve the public.

18 Thus through most of Europe, the commerce and manufactures of cities caused the improvement and cultivation of the country, instead of being its effect.

19 This order was contrary to the natural course of things

Compare the slow progress of those European countries with the rapid advances of our North American colonies.

A small proprietor is generally the most industrious, intelligent, and successful of all improvers if:

A man of profession too, whose revenue is derived from another source, often secures his savings in the same way.

The small quantity of land brought to market at a high price prevents capitals from being employed in its cultivation and improvement.

In North America, such land can be had for almost nothing or at a price much below the value of the natural produce

20 England is perhaps as well fitted by nature as any large European country to be the seat of foreign commerce, manufactures for distant sale, and all improvements because of:

From the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth, the English legislature has been peculiarly attentive to the interests of commerce and manufactures

The law of England, however, favours agriculture indirectly by the protection of commerce and directly through encouragements.

Those who cultivate the land have a monopoly against their countrymen for bread and meat.

No country can give more encouragement to agriculture than England if that country:

Despite these, England's cultivation is better.

21 France had a considerable share of foreign commerce a century before England was a distinguished commercial country. 22 The foreign commerce of Spain and Portugal to the other parts of Europe, carried on in foreign ships, is very considerable. 23 Italy is the only great European country which seems to have been cultivated and improved in every part by means of foreign commerce and manufactures for distant sale.

24 The capital by commerce and manufactures is all a very precarious and uncertain until some part of it has been secured and realized in the cultivation and improvement of its lands.

The ordinary revolutions of war and government easily dry up the sources of commercial wealth.


Next: Book 4: Economic Systems