Study Guide

The Wealth of Nations Quotes

  • Wealth

    And yet it may be true, perhaps, that the accommodation of an European prince does not always so much exceed that of an industrious and frugal peasant, as the accommodation of the latter exceeds that of many an African king, the master of the lives and liberties of ten thousand naked savages. (1.1.11)

    For Adam Smith, free markets create more wealth for everybody, not just the richest people in society. He backs up this argument by saying that even the worst workers in England are often better off than the richest people in undeveloped countries.

    He supplies the far greater part of them [his wants] by exchanging that surplus part of the produce of his own labour, which is over and above his own consumption, for such part of the produce of other men's labour as he has occasion for. (1.4.1)

    So how do people create individual wealth? By producing more stuff than they need for themselves. So if a coat maker only needs one or two coats for himself, he'll sell hundreds of others in order to make money to buy other stuff (like groceries and a TV).

    Salt is said to be the common instrument of commerce and exchanges in Abyssinia; a species of shells in some parts of the coast of India; dried cod at Newfoundland; tobacco in Virginia. (1.4.3)

    Smith points out how different things have counted as money in different cultures. Metal coins are common, but in some places they even use salt cod as a form of money.

    The value of any commodity, therefore, to the person who possesses it, and who means not to use or consume it himself, but to exchange it for other commodities, is equal to the quantity of labour which it enables him to purchase or command. (1.5.1)

    We might think of things as having a price in terms of money. But when it comes to determining the actual value of something, Smith says that value is connected to how much labor or work we have to do to get something. So let's say you need to work two full days to get enough money for a new TV. For Smith, that means that the real value of the TV is two days' work.

    Wealth, as Mr. Hobbes says, is power. But the person who either acquires, or succeeds to a great fortune, does not necessarily acquire or succeed to any political power, either civil or military. (1.5.3)

    A lot of people will tell you that money is power. But Smith reminds us that this isn't necessarily the case. In a democratic country, any regular person can get elected to a political position. And even if that person is poor, they can still hold power over a rich person. Then again, having money sure doesn't hurt when someone wants to get elected as a politician.

    But this original state of things, in which the labourer enjoyed the whole produce of his own labour, could not last beyond the first introduction of the appropriation of land and the accumulation of stock. (1.8.5)

    There was once a situation where everyone worked on the land and kept everything they produced. But over time, people started to own private property and build up stockpiles of extra stuff. These people would become the rich folks, which means that poor people also started existing.

    Sudden fortunes, indeed, are sometimes made in such places by what is called the trade of speculation. (1.10.41)

    Smith admits that people sometimes get rich overnight by gambling on the stock market. But he doesn't recommend this as a safe way of making money. He's worried that people like this can ruin the economy if they make too many bad bets.

    By such maxims as these, however, nations have been taught that their interest consisted in beggaring all their neighbours. (4.3.6)

    The traditional wisdom of economics is that your country can only get richer by making other countries poorer. But Smith believes that everyone can get richer at the same time if they open the doors of free trade.

    Whatever part of his stock a man employs as a capital, he always expects is to be replaced to him with a profit. (2.3.6)

    Whenever a dude with equipment or a stockpile of wealth uses his stuff, he always expects a profit. He won't let someone operate his sock-making machine unless he can make some money off those socks.

    Capitals are increased by parsimony, and diminished by prodigality and misconduct. (2.3.14)

    Adam Smith is a big fan of being good with your money. In his mind, there are clear rules of making money. If you're careful about spending money and you work hard, you'll do just fine. If you spend money without thinking, things won't go so well.

  • Family

    Labour is so well rewarded that a numerous family of children, instead of being a burthen is a source of opulence and prosperity to the parents. (1.8.23)

    In some countries, regular workers make such good wages that people have as many kids as possible to bring more money into their household. No wonder you read these old books about families with twenty children.

    A young widow with four or five young children, who, among the middling or inferior ranks of people in Europe, would have so little chance for a second husband, is there frequently courted as a sort of fortune. (1.8.23)

    Smith is so confident in the wages of regular workers that he believes women with lots of children should be prized by single men because the children will one day bring in lots of money as workers.

    We cannot, therefore, wonder that the people in North America should generally marry very young. (1.8.23)

    With wages so good in America, it's little wonder that people get married young and start having babies as early as possible. It's when wages and work conditions get bad that people start thinking twice about having kids.

    Marriage is encouraged in China, not by the profitableness of children, but by the liberty of destroying them. (1.8.24)

    Adam Smith shows some of his cultural bias when he talks about how people in China have kids just to kill them. It's unclear what his source is for this information, which leads us to think that he's probably just drawing on cultural stereotypes.

    It might then not be worth any man's while to educate his son to either of those professions at his own expence. (1.10.91)

    There are some jobs that just don't pay well enough for fathers to spend their money on. Smith believes that these fathers should just put their sons into jobs that'll make money. Clearly he's not a fan of the whole "Do what you love" mentality.

    As a military officer submits without reluctance to the authority of a superior by whom he has always been commanded, but cannot bear that his inferior should be set over his head; so men easily submit to a family to whom they and their ancestors have always submitted. (5.1.40)

    It's likely that a family will happily acknowledge the superiority of another family if that family has been elite for centuries. But if someone wins the lotto and starts acting all uppity, it's a lot harder to accept the idea that they are above you in society.

    [But] they are fired with indignation when another family, in whom they had never acknowledged any such superiority, assumes a dominion over them. (5.1.40)

    Like he said earlier, Smith repeats this idea that your family will probably be cheesed off if one of the neighboring families suddenly gets rich and acts like they're all better than you. That's because we're most likely to envy those who are most like us.

    Among brothers and among sisters, the eldest always takes place; and in the succession of the paternal estate everything which cannot be divided, but must go entire to one person, such as a title of honour, is in most cases given to the eldest. (5.1.38)

    In a family, the oldest brother has traditionally been the one who's gotten the family property when the parents die. Smith says that this has been the case because otherwise, the family's money would get scattered and diluted across too many people.

    Among them, father is the appellation of a superior; brother, of an equal; and son, of an inferior. (5.1.38)

    In many societies, the concept of father is so connected to leadership that people use the word "father" to refer to anyone who is above them in rank. They also use "brother" for an equal and "son" for someone beneath them. Haven't you ever been on the basketball court and heard someone say, "I'm about to make you my son"?

    We should not call a marriage barren or unproductive, though it produced only a son and a daughter, to replace the father and mother. (4.9.18)

    Smith says that one of the most important things for economies is constant growth, which means that two parents have to have at least two kids to replace them. Otherwise, the population might start going down and there won't be enough young people to take care of the old.

  • Warfare

    The number of those who can go to war, in proportion to the whole number of the people, is necessarily much smaller in a civilized, than in a rude state of society. (5.1.11)

    In a civilized society, there are fewer people who can go to war compared to an uncivilized society. That's because people need to stay behind to run farms and make sure the production of the country doesn't crash and burn because everyone is off busy fighting. In a small tribe, the whole group can pick up and travel to another place, so there isn't the same demand for people to stay and work a specific piece of land.

    In the agrarian states of antient Greece, a fourth or a fifth part of the whole body of the people considered themselves as soldier, and would sometimes, it is said, take the field. (5.1.11)

    In the old days, a large part of the society would consider themselves soldiers. That's because the standards for being a soldier weren't as high. Soldiers nowadays spend their entire adult lives training just for the possibility of going into combat. Back then, it was more like, "Hey, you look pretty tough. Come with us to war."

    The experience of preparing the army for the field seems not to have become considerable in any nation, till long after that of maintaining it in the field had devolved entirely upon the sovereign or commonwealth. (5.1.12)

    It wasn't until governments created huge military budgets that the modern army was born. This is what allowed people to become soldiers for their entire careers. And naturally, this led to much more skilled soldiers.

    In all the different republicks of antient Greece, to learn his military exercises, was a necessary part of education imposed by the state upon every free citizen. (5.1.12)

    Back in the old days, people had to be in the army whether they wanted to or not. You'll still see this nowadays when a country does something called conscription, which means that they randomly draw names from a pool of people living in the country and force them to fight in a war.

    The art of war, however, as it is certainly the noblest of all arts, so in the progress of improvement it necessarily becomes one of the most complicated among them. (5.1.14)

    The farther history goes, the more complicated war seems to get. Back in the old days, it was a pretty clear-cut affair, where two sides with swords and horses ran at each other. Nowadays, there's a remote control drone on the other side of the world.

    Or, secondly, by maintaining and employing a certain number of citizens in the constant practice of military exercises, it may render the trade of a soldier a particular trade, separate and distinct from all others. (5.1.18)

    Smith suggests that one reason military combat has become so advanced in the modern age is because "soldier" has become an official career. In the old days, all soldiers were amateurs who spent most of their time working a day job like miner or carpenter. In modern times though, people become soldiers for their whole careers and get a lot better at warfare.

    The practice of military exercises is only the occasional occupation of the soldiers of a militia, and they derive the principal and ordinary fund of their subsistence from some other occupation. (5.1.19)

    In some countries, it's a militia instead of an army that does most of the actual fighting in wars. But militias are much more disorganized than armies. Most of the people who fight in militias have day jobs. The militia is more of a part-time gig.

    They all go to war together, therefore, and every one does as well as he can. (5.1.3)

    Smith mentions that in some societies, everyone goes off to war at the same time. This is usually the case with nomads, who travel together anyway. So everyone just grabs a weapon and fights as well as they can.

    Among the Tartars, even the women have been frequently known to engage in battle. (5.1.3)

    Smith is amazed by the idea that in some societies, women have joined men as warriors. This just goes to show how different some cultures can be from one another. The folks from these other cultures would probably look at an English army and think, "Where are all the women? They're only using fifty percent of their people."

    The first duty of the sovereign, that of protecting the society from the violence and invasion of other independent societies, can be performed only by means of a military force. (5.1.1)

    Smith believes that the only way a society can protect itself is through military force. Free trade is all well and good, but Smith knows that every now and then you're going to get violent conflict.

  • Education

    Such teachers, though very well paid by their students, might be as much disposed to neglect them, as those who are not paid by them at all, or who have no other recompence but their salary. (5.1.71)

    Again, Smith says that teachers would perform better if they had more financial incentive. That's why he thinks they should lose their salaries and be paid based on how many students they attract to their classes.

    Force and restraint may, no doubt, be in some degree requisite in order to oblige children, or very young boys, to attend to those parts of education which it is thought necessary for them to acquire during that early period of life. (5.1.73)

    Smith is willing to admit that some really young children should be forced to go to school because they're not yet capable of knowing what's good for them. But once they hit thirteen, he's cool with letting them do whatever.

    Those parts of education, it is to be observed, for the teaching of which there are no publick institutions, are generally the best taught. (5.1.74)

    Smith believes that the things that are best taught in society are the things that are taught outside the public school system. That's because these things are taught in direct connection with how badly people want to learn about them. This way, people learn more useful stuff.

    In modern times, the diligence of publick teachers is more or less corrupted by circumstances, which render them more or less independent of their success and reputation in their particular professions. (5.1.77)

    Adam Smith thinks that schoolteachers would perform much better if their salaries were directly connected to the demand for their services. But public teachers are paid a salary and students are forced to be in their class, so there's no incentive for the teacher to improve the way she or he does things.

    Were there no publick institutions for education, no system, no science would be taught for which there was not some demand. (5.1.78)

    Adam Smith isn't sure what to think of public education. On the one hand, he's a fan of publicly accessible education. But on the other hand, he believes that education should be governed by supply and demand and that teachers should only teach what people want to learn about.

    A private teacher could never find his account in teaching, either an exploded and antiquated system of a science acknowledged to be useful, or a science universally believed to be a mere useless and pedantic heap of sophistry and non-sense. (5.1.78)

    If education were governed according to supply and demand, the world would have a lot fewer Latin teachers. That's because people would get to choose what they wanted to learn about instead of having the government tell them what to learn.

    Every part of their [women's] education tends evidently to some useful purpose; either to improve the natural attractions of their person, or to form their mind to reserve, to modesty, to chastity, and to economy. (5.1.79)

    Smith is a big fan of women's education during his time because he thinks that women are only taught things that are useful for their lives. In other words, women are taught how to sew, run a household, and resist sex until marriage.

    An instructed and intelligent people besides are always more decent and orderly than an ignorant and stupid one. (5.1.93)

    There are many reasons to make sure that the people in your country have a good education. One of the main ones is that educated people tend to behave better than uneducated ones.

    They are more disposed to examine, and more capable of seeing through, the interested complaints of faction and sedition, and they are, upon that account, less apt to be misled into any wanton or unnecessary opposition to the measures of government. (5.1.93)

    Smith believes that if people in a country are more educated, they'll be less likely to be taken in by fads and by radical politics. That's because they'll have the skills necessary to think for themselves and to see errors in other people's reasoning.

    In free countries, where the safety of government depends very much upon the favourable judgment which the people may form of its conduct, it must surely be of the highest importance that they should not be disposed to judge rashly or capriciously concerning it. (5.1.93)

    It's very important for people to be educated if a government is going to do its job properly. After all, these people need to be able to understand the government's decisions even when these decisions are unpopular.

  • Competition

    The exclusive privilege of an incorporated trade necessarily restrains the competition, in the town where it is established, to those who are free of the trade. (1.10.60)

    All government regulations do in Smith's mind is prevent good competition. As a result, people get monopolies and don't feel the same pressure to make better, cheaper products. The whole society suffers as a result because it stops building wealth.

    Were the Americans […] to stop the importation of European manufactures, and, by thus giving a monopoly to such of their countrymen as could manufacture the like goods […] they would retard instead of accelerating the further increase in the value of their annual produce. (2.5.21)

    One of the reasons America has done so well (in Smith's mind) is that it has left its borders completely open to importing foreign goods. That means that they can have the best products from all over the world at the cheapest possible prices. So hooray for that.

    This free competition obliges all bankers to be more liberal in their dealings with their customers, lest their rivals should carry them away. (2.2.52)

    When there's lots of competition, people have to do their best to satisfy their customers. That means that the public gets the best possible deal on every type of product and service. This means that their money will buy them much nicer things for cheaper prices, and everyone will apparently be much happier.

    In general, if any branch of trade, or any division of labour, be advantageous to the publick, the freer and more general the competition, it will always be the more so. (2.2.52)

    Smith makes no bones about it. More competition equals a better world and a wealthier nation. Period. He's told you why, and now it's time for you to nod and smile.

    [By] directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. (4.2.9)

    When everyone acts according to their self-interest, they'll produce whatever stuff the public wants the most. And if they do this, then the public's demands are always being addressed and satisfied to the best possible extent. That's why Smith believes there's an "invisible hand" that makes the market good for both buyers and sellers.

    By discouraging improvement, the monopoly necessarily retards the natural increase of another great original source of revenue, the rent of land. (4.7.37)

    Smith is worried that if some people control too much of a country's land, they won't be motivated to improve the land and make it more productive. That's why he wants there to be a lot of competition in the marketplace. People need to feel pressured to make their land more productive and profitable if the nation is going to become wealthier.

    But as [the monopoly] obstructs the natural increase of capital, it tends rather to diminish than to increase the sum total of the revenue which the inhabitants of the country derive from the profits of stock. (4.7.38)

    One of the greatest threats to a productive and competitive market is a monopoly. The problem is that sometimes monopolies happen even if the government keeps its hand off the economy. So what then? Do you just let the monopoly ruin the economy or do you intervene and provide support to competitors?

    It is unnecessary, I imagine, to observe, how contrary such regulations are to the boasted liberty of the subject, of which we affect to be so very jealous; but which, in this case, is so plainly sacrificed to the futile interests of our merchants and manufacturers. (4.8.6)

    Smith believes that government interference with the economy usually benefits a small group of private people while messing things up for everyone else.

    It is altogether for the benefit of the producer that bounties are granted upon the exportation of some of his productions. (4.8.10)

    It is the surplus produce of the land, or what remains after deducting the maintenance, first, of the cultivators, and afterwards, of the proprietors, that maintains and employs the unproductive class. (4.9.15)

    In any given country, there will always be a class of productive people that has to support the unproductive people. One of the biggest differences between civilization and the jungle is that people in a civilization aren't left to die on the street even if they can't fend for themselves. It's assumed that the society will take care of them whether they're productive or not.

  • Pride

    Such sacrifices, though they might frequently be agreeable to the interest, are always mortifying to the pride of every nation. (4.7.45)

    Adam Smith knows that his country would be better off if it let go of its colonies and gave them the power to engage in free trade. But he knows that the pride of weak people will always prevent this from happening.

    The pride of man makes him love to domineer, and nothing mortifies him so much as to be obliged to condescend to persuade his inferiors. (3.2.9)

    The evidence clearly shows that people with paid workers do better than people with slave laborers. But Smith knows that people will keep buying slaves because their pride makes them want to have total control over other people.

    Wherever the law allows it, and the nature of the work can afford it, therefore, he will generally prefer the service of slaves to that of freemen. (3.2.9)

    Again, Smith dwells on the stupidity of people who choose to buy slaves instead of having paid workers. On the surface, it might seem like this is better for the bottom line. But again, this is a case of people being blinded by pride and wanting to have control over other people for its own sake.

    By such maxims as these, however, nations have been taught that their interest consisted in beggaring all their neighbours. (4.3.6)

    The dominant thinking of Smith's time said that countries could only get richer if other ones got poorer. But for Smith this kind of thinking has been clouded by pride. The truth is that it's possible for everyone to get richer at the same time.

    In consequence of the representations of Columbus, the council of Castile determined to take possession of countries of which the inhabitants were plainly incapable of defending themselves. (4.7.6).

    People who have a lot of pride tend to do whatever they want no matter how much their actions hurt other people. And that's exactly what the Spanish did when they colonized America, at least in Adam Smith's mind.

    To the expectation of finding gold and silver mines, those first settlers too joined that of discovering a north-west passage to the East Indies. They have hitherto been disappointed in both. (4.7.10)

    Smith has very little patience for the people who first travelled to America and killed all the native peoples to steal the land. He actually takes pleasure in the fact that these people have been disappointed in some of their larger schemes. To him, there is no sin greater than pride.

    The high rate of profit seems every where to destroy that parsimony which in other circumstances is natural to the character of the merchant. (4.7.40)

    Smith hates it when merchants get a monopoly over a certain part of the economy because they have no incentive to behave smartly. They lose their competitive edge because they have no competitors and their pride causes them to get lazy and sloppy.

    The most visionary enthusiast would scarce be capable of proposing such a measure, with any serious hopes at least of its ever being adopted. (4.7.45)

    No matter how much evidence piles up, it seems like the people of Smith's time are doomed to be blinded by their pride. Smith has shown in many different ways how having colonies is bad for the economy of the mother country. But hey, people like to have colonies because it makes them feel all big and powerful… so it's unlikely that they'll give up those colonies without a fight.

    If it was adopted, however, Great Britain would not only be immediately freed from the whole annual expence of the peace establishment of the colonies, but might settle with them such a treaty of commerce as would effectually secure her a free trade. (4.7.45)

    If only it could see through its foolish pride and do the right thing, England would let go of its colonies and avoid spending so much of its money in keeping them under control.

    They feel themselves, each individually, more respectable, and more likely to obtain the respect of their lawful superiors. (5.1.93)

    It's important to educate the public because the more educated they are, the prouder they'll be. And in Smith's mind, people who are proud are less likely to cause a disturbance because they'll want other people to think they're respectable.

  • Society and Class

    A collier working by the piece is supposed, at Newcastle, to earn commonly about double, and in many parts of Scotland about three times the wages of common labour. (1.10.18)

    In many cases, people's social class will depend on how much skill or education they have. For example, a collier (a dude who makes charcoal) with a special set of skills is more likely to make a good living than someone who can be easily swapped out for the next worker who comes along.

    Fourthly, The wages of labour vary according to the small or great trust which must be reposed in the workmen. (1.10.19)

    The amount that a person gets paid for a job will always be connected to how much responsibility that person has. If you're the one who controls the main buttons to a nuclear reactor, chances are you'll be paid more money than someone who guards the peanut butter in the break room.

    This inequality is upon the whole, perhaps, rather advantageous than hurtful to the publick. It may somewhat degrade the profession of a publick teacher; but the cheapness of literary education is surely an advantage which greatly over-balances this trifling inconveniency. (1.10.95)

    In Smith's mind, public schoolteachers probably deserve to make more money based on their skills and hard work. But he thinks that it's worthy to sacrifice their comfort for the sake of making education as affordable as possible to many young students. In this case, he's willing to sacrifice an entire class of workers to the public good.

    But, among the ancient Romans, the lands of the rich were all cultivated by slaves, who wrought under an overseer, who was likewise a slave. (4.7.3)

    Adam Smith is no fan of slavery, and he's glad he lives in an England where the practice is all but gone. In the old days of Rome, people used to have entire classes of slaves, where some slaves were in charge of other slaves.

    The greater part of the citizens had no land, and without it the manners and customs of those times rendered it difficult for a freeman to maintain his independency. (4.7.3)

    In the old days of England, very few people owned farmland, which meant that a few landowners pretty much controlled the society and farmers worked for them like slaves. In modern times, Smith looks forward to a world where there is more competition and you have more people owning land and trying to make it productive.

    [So] the labour of farmers and country labourers is certainly more productive than that of merchants, artificers and manufacturers. (4.9.18)

    Even though business people tend to be more respected, Adam Smith is convinced that there is no one in society more productive than a farmer. That's because these folks produce the food that people need to survive. And better yet, they grow the stuff out of dirt, which seems like they're producing something out of nothing.

    Among brothers and among sisters, the eldest always take place; and in the succession of the paternal estate every thing which cannot be divided, but must go entire to one person, such as a title of honour, is in most cases given to the eldest. (5.1.38)

    In Smith's time, it was common for all of a family's property to get handed down to the eldest son. That was mostly because people were prejudiced in favor of men over women and because older was always considered better than younger.

    All families are equally ancient; and the ancestors of the prince, though they may be better known, cannot well be more numerous than those of the beggar. (5.1.40)

    Adam Smith thinks it's silly that some families in England are respected just based on the idea that they have a long bloodline. The blunt fact is that if you go back far enough, we all come from the same families. So the idea that some families are better than others is dumb.

    They [birth and fortune] are the two great sources of personal distinction, and are therefore the principal causes which naturally establish authority and subordination among men. (5.1.43)

    There are no two things that put a person in the upper classes more than their money and the family they were born into. Nowadays, we care more about money than family. But back in Smith's day, you could be totally poor and still be respected if you were from a good family.

    They feel themselves, each individually, more respectable, and more likely to obtain the respect of their lawful superiors, and they are therefore more disposed to respect those superiors. (5.1.93)

    Adam Smith is in favor of educating people from all classes because he thinks educated people will try to act like the upper classes. In other words, they'll stop making a fuss about workers' rights.

  • Primitivity

    Among the savage nations of hunters and fishers, every individual who is able to work, is more or less employed in useful labour. (I.4)

    There are tons of people in modern countries who do nothing but sit around all day and collect money from the properties and businesses they own. But in other societies, almost everyone makes a contribution to the community and has a productive job.

    [And] a workman, even of the lowest and poorest order, if he is frugal and industrious, may enjoy a greater share of the necessaries and conveniences of life than it is possible for any savage to acquire. (I.5)

    One of the greatest things about free markets in Smith's mind is that they create so much wealth that even the lowest in society are better off than the highest in other societies. At least that's how the theory goes.

    And yet it may be true, perhaps, that the accommodation of an European prince does not always so much exceed that of an industrious and frugal peasant, as the accommodation of the latter exceeds that of many an African king, the master of the lives and liberties of ten thousand naked savages. (1.1.11)

    In Smith's mind, the great thing about advanced countries is that even the poorest people in them are still better off than the wealthiest people in primitive societies. This is one of his biggest arguments for allowing free trade and open competition.

    In that original state of things, which precedes both the appropriation of land and the accumulation of stock, the whole produce of labour belongs to the labourer. (1.8.2)

    At one point, Adam Smith looks back to an earlier Europe where there were no landowners and everyone who farmed the land kept whatever they produced. But whether we like it or not, private property started existing at one point and it's unlikely we'll go back to that earlier way of doing things.

    Had this state continued, the wages of labour would have augmented with all those improvements in its productive powers, to which the division of labour gives occasion. (1.8.3)

    Smith thinks that society has progressed because of the division of labor, where every person does a specific job and trades all of their extra product for something they want from someone else. This system ends up creating more wealth for everyone, and it doesn't rely on social inequality the way many people think it does.

    The labour of an able-bodied slave, the same author adds, is computed to be worth double his maintenance; and that of the meanest labourer, he thinks, cannot be worth less than that of an able-bodied slave. (1.8.15)

    Smith insists that there is no point in enslaving the so-called "primitive" people of the world because it's actually cheaper to pay a regular worker than it is to buy a slave. But people just don't listen because they love the feeling of power they get from owning other people.

    Marriage is encouraged in China, not by the profitableness of children, but by the liberty of destroying them. (1.8.24)

    Smith plays into the cultural prejudice of his day when he talks about how much the people of China like to murder their babies for fun. It's clear that he's probably getting this opinion from the general racism of his day.

    China, however, though it may perhaps stand still, does not seem to go backwards. (1.8.25)

    For Smith, China is a poor country with a huge population that doesn't seem to be advancing at all. Talk about China like that today, though, and you'll get laughed out of the room.

    In consequence of the representations of Columbus, the council of Castile determined to take possession of countries of which the inhabitants were plainly incapable of defending themselves. (4.7.6)

    Once Columbus came back from his first trip to America, he had little trouble convincing the king and queen of Spain to kill the native peoples and take the land over for themselves. That's because people at the time felt that Europe had a natural right to conquer anything that was less advanced than it.

    As long as the whole or the far greater part of the gold, which the first adventurers imported into Europe, was got by so very easy a method as the plundering of the defenceless natives, it was not perhaps very difficult to pay even this heavy tax. (4.7.7)

    Again, Smith wants to remind his readers that it was morally horrible for the Europeans to colonize America. The fact that they killed off and conquered the native peoples is nothing short of a violation of natural freedom that Smith thinks is more important than anything else.