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By Albion Woodbury Small
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Extra info for Adam Smith and Modern Sociology a Study in the Methodology of the Social Sciences
The economic criterion of an action is: will it benefit me, will it be profitable, will it increase my income? Smith built his theory of industrial and commercial life upon the assumption that wage-earners and profit makers are generally actuated by the desire to get as high wages and profits as possible. If this is not the general and predominant motive in one great sphere of activity, the production and distribution of wealth, The Wealth of Nations is a vain feat of the imagination, and political economy is not a dismal science but a dismal fiction.
Considered as a syllabus, or prospectus, or first draft, as it was in effect, the course of lectures is of value in proof that The Wealth of Nations is not a detached monograph. It is rather of the very texture of Smith’s moral philosophy. 33 The view on which the present study is based has never been expressed more forcibly than by Bagehot:34 Lord Bacon says of some one that he was “like Saul” who went in search of his father’s asses and found a “kingdom;” and that is exactly what happened to Adam Smith.
Yet, in fact, the “Utopia” of Free Trade was introduced into England by the exertions of the “master manufacturers ;” and those who advocated it, and who were “thought to understand trade,” said that they had learned the doctrines they were inculcating from The Wealth of Nations, above and beyond every other book. Mr. Bagehot’s own account thus aids the closer inspection which shows that he and Mill were both right. In the first passages compared they were not referring to the same factors of Smith’s method.
Adam Smith and Modern Sociology a Study in the Methodology of the Social Sciences by Albion Woodbury Small