Study Guide

The Wealth of Nations Society and Class

By Adam Smith

Society and Class

Adam Smith is pretty much the opposite of a socialist insofar as he thinks the government should never touch the economy—or at least meddle as little as possible. That means that there are going to be different classes in society.

But The Wealth of Nations says that it's totally moral for different people to have different levels of wealth based on their talent and hard work. That means that some people will always be at the bottom of society. But in Smith's view, even these people at the bottom of a free-trade society will be better off than some of the top people in a non-free-trade society. You'll still hear a lot of argument about these ideas today, so you might want to pay close attention to Smith's arguments if you want to be ready to join in.

Questions About Society and Class

  1. Do you agree with the idea that even the lowest people in a free trade society are better off than they'd be in a more government-controlled one? Why or why not?
  2. Do you think Smith is being too simplistic in his ideas of class? If so, what is he leaving out?
  3. What do you think would happen to the different levels of social class if a country followed every single one of Adam Smith's recommendations? Why?

Chew on This

In The Wealth of Nations, we learn that having poor people and rich people is the price we have to pay for living in a free society.

The Wealth of Nations shows us that in the end, a free market will create extreme inequality because the people at the top will get a monopoly on wealth.