The Simplified Wealth of Nations of Adam Smith, Book 5, Chapter 1c: Government Expenses -- Armies

Chapter 1c: Armies

Superiority of Armies vs Militia

27 History shows the superiority of a well-regulated standing army over a militia.

28 The army of Philip of Macedon is one of the first standing armies documented. 29 The fall of Carthage and the elevation of Rome is the second great revolution in human affairs. 30 From the end of the first to the beginning of the second Carthaginian war, the armies of Carthage were continually in the field.
31 The standing army which Hannibal left in Spain were superior to the militia the Romans sent to oppose it. 32 Hannibal was ill-supplied from home. 33 When Hasdrubal left Spain, the great Scipio was opposed only by a militia inferior to his own. 34 From the end of the second Carthaginian war until the fall of the Roman republic, the Roman armies were standing armies.
  • The conquest would probably have been more difficult if not for the cowardice of its last king, Perseus.
  • The militias of all the ancient civilized nations made but a feeble resistance to the Roman armies.
  • The Parthian and German militias were always respectable.
  • The ancient Parthians (Iran) were a nation of Scythian or Tartar extraction.
  • The ancient Germans were like the Scythians or Tartars.
  • 35 Many causes contributed to relax the Roman armies' discipline.
  • Under the Roman emperors, the Roman armies, particularly those which guarded the German and Pannonian frontiers, became dangerous to their masters.
  • The emperors were able to defend themselves for some time by hiring foreign militias to fight other foreign militias.
  • The fall of the western empire is the third great revolution in human affairs recorded in ancient history.

    36 The German and Scythian nations established themselves on the ruins of the western empire.
  • As arts and industry advanced, the authority of the chieftains gradually decayed.
  • The discipline and the exercise of the feudal militia went gradually to ruin.
  • Standing armies were gradually introduced to replace it.
  • When a standing army has been adopted by a civilized nation, it became necessary for its neighbours to follow their example. 37 The soldiers of a standing army can possess the courage of veteran troops even if they may never have seen an enemy.
  • The Russian empire enjoyed a profound peace 20 years before.
  • When the Spanish war broke out in 1739, England enjoyed a profound peace for 28 years.
  • In a long peace, perhaps the generals may sometimes forget their skills.
  • 38 A civilized nation is always exposed to be conquered by any nearby barbarous nation when it depends on a militia for its defence.
  • Only a well-regulated standing army can:
  • 39 Only through a well-regulated standing army can:

    A standing army establishes the sovereign's law through the remotest provinces with an irresistible force.

    40 Men of republican principles have been jealous of a standing army as dangerous to liberty.
  • The military is commanded by those who have the greatest interest in supporting the civil authority.
  • In some cases, a standing army may be favourable to liberty.
  • The government's whole authority must suppress and punish every murmur and complaint against it when:
  • The rudest, most groundless, and most licentious remonstrances cannot much disturb a sovereign who feels supported by:
  • His consciousness of his own superiority naturally disposes him to safely pardon or neglect them.
  • Licentious liberty can only be tolerated only in countries where the sovereign is secured by a well-regulated standing army.
  • 41 The sovereign's first duty of defending society gradually grows more expensive as society advances in civilization. 42 The great change introduced into the art of war by firearms further enhanced the cost of:

    Their arms and ammunition become more expensive.

  • The powder spent in a modern battle is lost irrecoverably.
  • The javelins and arrows thrown or shot in an ancient battle:
  • The cannon and the mortar are much dearer and heavier than the balista or catapult.
  • The superiority of the modern artillery over ancient artillery is very great.
  • In modern times, society's defence is more expensive because of many different causes.
  • 43 In modern war, the great cost of firearms gives an advantage to the opulent and civilized nation over a poor and barbarous nation.

    Next: Chapter 1d: Expenses on Justice