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Once upon a time there was a man who read the Wealth of Nations', not a summary, nor a volume of selected passages, but the Wealth of Nations itself. He began with the Introduction, he read the famous first chapter on the division of labour, the chapters on the origin and use of money, the prices of commodities, the wages of Adam Smith labour, the profits of stock, the rent of land, and all the other well-known economic portions of the first book, not omitting the long digression on the fluctuation in the value of silver during the last four centuries, and the statistical tables at the end.
Having completed the first book he went on to the second, not deterred by the fact that it is supposed to contain an erroneous theory of capital and an untenable distinction between productive and unproductive labour. In Book III he found an account of the economic development of Europe since the fall of the Roman Empire, with digressions upon the various phases of mediaeval life and civilisation. In the fourth book he came upon extended analyses and criticisms of the commercial and colonial policies of European nations, and a whole battery of free trade arguments. Finally, he attacked the long concluding book on the revenue of the sovereign. Here he found even more varied and unexpected matters: an account of the different methods of defence and of administering justice in primitive societies, and of the origin and growth of standing armies in Europe; a history of education in the Middle Ages and a criticism of eighteenth-century universities; a history of the temporal power of the church, of the growth of public debts in modern nations, of the mode of electing bishops in the ancient church; reflections as to the disadvantages of the division of labour, and - what is the main purpose of the book - an examination of principles of taxation and of systems of public revenue.
Time is too short to enumerate all that he found here before he finally came to the concluding paragraphs, written during the opening events of the American Revolution, concerning the duty of colonies to contribute towards the expenses of the mother country
Now, of course I may have exaggerated somewhat. There probably never was any such man.
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