In modern capitalism, the family becomes a massively important institution. You might think that everyone is just out for themselves in a competitive economy, but family is an important exception to this competition. Families tend to stick together and parents tend to do whatever is best for their kids.
Smith also finds family to be important because it helps wealth and property travel from older generations to younger ones. In The Wealth of Nations, Smith is worried that without a strong family structure, money and property would flow all over society in total chaos.
Questions About Family
Do you agree with Adam Smith's view of the family as an economic institution? Does this come across as cold to you? Why or why not?
According to Smith, why did families traditionally pass property on to the oldest son?
Do you agree that there is a fundamental connection between capitalism and the family? Why or why not?
Chew on This
In The Wealth of Nations, Smith shows us that capitalism can't survive unless it convinces people to believe in a strong family unit.
The Wealth of Nations reminds us that at the end of the day, capitalism is about every man for himself. You can't rely on anyone—not even family.