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NATURE AND CAUSES
WEALTH OF NATIONS.
INTRODUCTION AND PLAN OF THE WORK.
HE annual labour of every nation, is the Introduct. fund which originally supplies it with all the neceffaries and conveniences of life which it annually confumes, and which confift always either in the immediate produce of that labour, or in what is purchased with that produce from other nations.
According therefore, as this produce, or what is purchased with it, bears a greater or smaller proportion to the number of those who are to confume it, the nation will be better or worfe fupplied with all the neceffaries and conve niencies for which it has occafion.
But this proportion must in every nation be regulated by two different circumstances; first, by the skill, dexterity, and judgment with which
Introduct. its labour is generally applied; and, fecondly, by the proportion between the number of thofe who are employed in useful labour, and that of those who are not fo employed. Whatever be the foil, climate, or extent of territory of any particular nation, the abundance or fcantinefs of its annual fupply muft, in that particular fituation, depend upon those two circumftances.
The abundance or fcantinefs of this fupply too feems to depend more upon the former of those two circumstances than upon the latter. Among the favage nations of hunters and fishers, every individual who is able to work, is more or lefs employed in ufeful labour, and endeavours to provide, as well as he can, the neceffaries and conveniences of life, for himself, or fuch of his family or tribe as are either too old, or too young, or too infirm to go a hunting and fishing. Such nations, however, are fo miferably poor, that from mere want, they are frequently reduced, or, at least, think themselves reduced, to the neceflity fometimes of directly deftroying, and fometimes of abandoning their infants, their old people, and thofe afflicted with lingering diseases, to perifh with hunger, or to be devoured by wild beafts. Among civilized and thriving nations, on the contrary, though a great number of people do not labour at all, many of whom confume the produce of ten times, frequently of a hundred times more labour than the greater part of those who work; yet the produce of the whole labour of the fociety is fo great, that all are often abundantly fupplied, and a workman,
even of the loweft and pooreft order, if he is Introduct. frugal and induftrious, may enjoy a greater share of the neceffaries and conveniences of life than it is poffible for any favage to acquire.
The caufes of this improvement, in the productive powers of labour, and the order, according to which its produce is naturally distributed among the different ranks and conditions of men in the fociety, make the subject of the First Book of this Inquiry.
Whatever be the actual ftate of the fkill, dexterity, and judgment with which labour is applied in any nation, the abundance or fcantinefs of its annual fupply must depend, during the continuance of that ftate, upon the proportion between the number of thofe who are annually employed in useful labour, and that of those who are not fo employed. The number of useful and productive labourers, it will hereafter appear, is every where in proportion to the quantity of capital ftock which is employed in setting them to work, and to the particular way in which it is fo employed. The Second Book, therefore, treats of the nature of capital ftock, of the manner in which it is gradually accumulated, and of the different quantities of labour which it puts into motion, according to the different ways in which it is employed.
Nations tolerably well advanced as to skill, dexterity, and judgment, in the application of labour, have followed very different plans in the general conduct or direction of it; and thofe plans have not all been equally favourable to the greatnefs
Introduct. greatness of its produce. The policy of some nations has given extraordinary encouragement to the industry of the country; that of others to the industry of towns. Scarce any nation has dealt equally and impartially with every fort of industry. Since the downfal of the Roman empire, the policy of Europe has been more favourable to arts, manufactures, and commerce, the industry of towns; than to agriculture, the induftry of the country. The circumftances which seem to have introduced and established this policy are explained in the Third Book.
Though those different plans were, perhaps, firft introduced by the private interests and prejudices of particular orders of men, without any regard to, or forefight of, their confequences upon the general welfare of the fociety; yet they have given occafion to very different theories of political œconomy; of which fome magnify the importance of that industry which is carried on in towns, others of that which is carried on in the country. Thofe theories have had a confiderable influence, not only upon the opinions of men of learning, but upon the public conduct of princes and fovereign ftates. I have endeavoured in the Fourth Book, to explain, as fully and diftinctly as I can, thofe different theories, and the principal effects which they have produced in different ages and nations.
To explain in what has confifted the revenue of the great body of the people, or what has been the nature of thofe funds, which, in different ages and nations, have fupplied their an
nual confumption, is the object of thefe Four Introduct. firft Books. The Fifth and laft Book treats of
the revenue of the fovereign, or commonwealth. In this book I have endeavoured to fhow; first, what are the neceffary expences of the fovereign, or commonwealth; which of thofe expences ought to be defrayed by the general contribution of the whole fociety; and which of them, by that of fome particular part only, or of fome particular members of it: fecondly, what are the different methods in which the whole fociety may be made to contribute towards defraying the expences incumbent on the whole fociety, and what are the principal advantages and inconveniences of each of thofe methods: and, thirdly and laftly, what are the reafons and causes which have induced almost all modern governments to mortgage fome part of this revenue, or to contract debts, and what have been the effects of thofe debts upon the real wealth, the annual produce of the land and labour of the fociety.