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Adam Smith

Notes on Economic History (10)

The Value of Labour-power

Adam Smith wavers in his analysis of commodities and there is confusion regarding the determination of exchange value. He determines the value of a commodity by the labour time contained in it, but then relegates the principle to older or more simpler times. What seems to him to be true about a simple commodity does not apply to the more complex forms of capital—wage labour, and rent. The value of commodities, he says, used to be measured by labour time.

Notes on Economic History (9)

What is Economic Life?

Adam Smith's ideas on the development of economic life led him to make a clean sweep of all feudal ties and servitudes. The abolition of serfdom, the introduction of freedom of occupation and industry, freedom of movement, political autonomy; these were the inevitable corollaries of the new doctrine.

A demand heavy with consequences, the demand for free trade, formed a logical and essential part of the demand for the abolition of all restrictions upon production and distribution. Smith's theory of free trade was as follows:—

Notes on Economic History (8)

Adam Smith's theories of Income

Adam Smith establishes an elaborate theory of the formation of value and of price, arguing that under primitive conditions, when there is little capital and when rent has not yet come into existence, the value of goods is determined solely by the amount of labour embodied in them. Things, like water, which a have a great use-value, have no exchange-value; and conversely, things with very little use-value, like diamonds, have a very high exchange-value. It follows that as the measure of the exchange-value of goods it is their "natural price" that matters. Not the utility of an article, but the amount of labour that has been expended in producing it.

Notes on Economic History (7)

Wealth of Nations

Since England was the first country in which modern large-scale industry developed, it was only to be expected that capitalist political economy would appear and flourish here. The introduction of spinning machinery (Wyatt 1783, Lewis Paul 1741, Arkwright 1769); the steam engine (Watt 1765 and 1770); and later of the power loom (Cartwright 1785, Jacquard 1802); and similar transformations in the methods of industrial production, indicated changes that led to an enormously accelerated growth of large scale industry.

Adam Smith was the man, who, under these conditions, established a new system of economic doctrine. Smith spent three years in France, where he became known personally to the Physiocrats, and was greatly influenced by them. For ten years after his return from France, he devoted himself to economic study and to writing his book Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations published in 1776.

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