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Biography of Adam Smith | Laid the foundations of economics as a science..


In his famous Research explained the mechanisms of incipient capitalism and laid the foundations of economics as a science.
Adam Smith came to the world in Kirkcaldy, small Scottish fishing village, near Edinburgh, on a spring day of unknown date from the year 1723 and was baptized on June 5 of the same year. Only son of the second marriage of Adam Smith, inspector of customs, and Margaret Douglas, was orphaned of father three months under the tutelage of his mother, daughter of a rich landlord of the region, who always remained very attached.
Four years lived what appears to have been the only adventure of his life: was kidnapped by some Gypsies. After a desperate search by the family, the child was found in a forest where he had been abandoned by their kidnappers. Then, without any trauma, continued to be a good boy, though weak and sickly, sweet-natured, prodigious memory and love of study, excellent student of the elementary school of Kirkcaldy.

Adam Smith
Fourteen left his hometown to enter at the University of Glasgow. In this center you impassioned by the mathematics and was influenced by Francis Autcheson, famous Professor of moral philosophy and man with a strong personality, whose economic and philosophical ideas were decisive in the formation of Smith, if only for its posterior and deep discrepancy with respect to them. Three years later is it graduating, earning a scholarship to study at Balliol College, Oxford. At the age of twenty-three brightly concluded studies demonstrating a strong grasp of classical philosophy and of the time. Then he returned to Kirkcaldy with his mother to start looking for work.
In 1748, thanks to a friend of his family, the philosopher and jurist Henry lord Kames, presented him the opportunity to give a series of lectures in Edinburgh. Far from waste it, during the following two years he lectured on various subjects, from rhetoric to the economics and history, and became known as a writer with the publication of an article in the Edimburgh Review successfully. At this time he met the philosopher David Hume, who was to become his most intimate friend.
With conferences such a success that she was offered a post of Professor of logic at the University of Glasgow in 1751 it harvested. After a year at this post, changed the kinds of logic by the moral philosophy, which in addition to be most interesting were better paid. For Adam Smith, it was a period of great creativity he would then define as the happiest period of his life; It seemed determined to continue the teaching career and even in 1758 he was appointed Dean of the faculty, is revealed as an excellent teacher whose fame transferred the borders, and it was said that Voltaire, from France, sent him pupils wanting to attend their classes and embed in your wisdom.
In Glasgow he was part of a select circle composed by intellectuals, scientists and, above all, featured merchants engaged in colonial trade since in 1707, as a result of their union with England, it shall be open for Scotland. Their ideas and views on business and trade represented a first hand information for the future economist and in contact with the circle, formed the thesis that cristalizarían later in his work.

Morality and Economics

The first book of Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiment (theory of moral sentiments), his masterpiece from the philosophical point of view, was published in 1759. It exposed the principles of human nature that guided the social behavior of man, and spoke for the first time in 'the invisible hand' who unknowingly and unintentionally was oriented towards the good of society human selfishness.
In 1763, received a new offer of work that had to be much more lucrative than any of the tasks that had been done so far: tutor of the young Duke of Buccleuch. He resigned from teaching and in 1764 left for France in the company of his pupil. In Toulouse, it took eighteen months, during which Smith fought provincial boredom with the drafting of a new work.
Travelers then went to Geneva, city in which he spent two months; Smith took advantage of the stay to personally meet with Voltaire, who always felt a great admiration. Then followed a brief but fruitful stay in Paris; his friend Hume, Secretary of the British Embassy, introduced you in the finest rooms of the capital; among others, he met François Quesnay, doctor and Economist, founder of the physiocratic school, which was the first consistently nature attributed the origin of the wealth. The physiocrats were staunch followers of the maxim of Le Mercier de la Rivière, "Laissez faire, laissez passer, monde le va de lui même», which endorsed. It seems that enough influenced Adam Smith so he thought to devote to Quesnay the book he was writing, but the death of the French until it was published did you change your mind. The sudden death of the younger brother of the Duke of Buccleuch, who had met with them in Toulouse, forced les a hasty return to London in 1767.

Bust of Adam Smith
In the spring of that same year, Smith settled in Kirkcaldy, where, without losing touch with their friends from Glasgow, was delivered in body and soul to the drafting of the work begun in Toulouse, An Inquiry into the Nature of the Wealth of Nations (essay on the wealth of Nations), which he would occupy him still six years and finally published in London in 1776.
The work, original synthesis of large number of pre-existing elements in the previous economic thought, was a pioneer in many fields and soon became his most popular work. It represented the first great work of classical and liberal political economy. It applied to the economy, for the first time, the principles of scientific research, in an attempt to build an independent science. Continuation of the theme started in his philosophical work, and based on the same, showed how spontaneous human selfishness game would be sufficient to increase the wealth of Nations, if Governments were to make and not intervene with measures reflective.
The book immediately achieved an extraordinary success, and since then, as if I had put an end to a nearly perfect work, in 1778 retired to Edinburgh, where just came out of, except for some occasional travel to London or Glasgow, his only contact with the world. He wore a placid and peaceful life while reviewing and correcting its two capital works. In 1784 the loss of his mother, ninety years of age, was a hit so hard that his own health began to decline, so when three years later he was appointed rector of the University of Glasgow, could not even pronounce the opening speech.
Henceforth his life passed in a solitude assisted by disease, and despite being subject of honours and general recognition, it was no more than a long wait of the inexorable end. July 17, 1790, at the age of seventy-seven, he died in Edinburgh, was buried in the graveyard of Canongate.

Chronology of Adam Smith

1723Born in Kirkcaldy, Scotland.
1737He studied at the University of Glasgow.
1748He lectured as Assistant Professor of rhetoric and literature in Edinburgh. He met the philosopher David Hume, which will retain a lasting friendship.
1751Professor of logic and later moral philosophy in the University of Glasgow.
1759He published the theory of moral sentiments.
1763Gives up his university post to become tutor of Henry Scott, third Duke of Buccleuch, who accompanies on a trip through Europe. During the journey he meets Voltaire and some French physiocrats.
1766He began the writing of the essay on the wealth of Nations. He resides alternately in Kirkcaldy and London
1776He published essay on the wealth of Nations, work economics understood as science pioneer.
1784His mother died. He begins to suffer serious health problems.
1787He was appointed honorary rector of the University of Glasgow.
1790Died in Edinburgh.

Works of Adam Smith

Philosopher and British Economist Adam Smith drove considerably the development of economics as a modern science. His research into the nature and causes of the wealth of Nations, in five volumes, one of the peaks of modern economic thought, were published in London in 1776. Previously, however, had published a philosophical work: the theory of moral sentiments, which has a clear relation with the development of their economic ideas.

Philosophical work

The theory of moral sentiments, published in 1759, is deeply influenced by the utilitarianism of Bentham and Mill where Adam Smith describes the formation of moral judgments in the context of a "natural order" of social sphere, and on whose principles will base its subsequent economic liberalism. Smith saw the presence of a duality between reason and passion impulses in human behavior. The individualistic and rational human nature at the same time, pushes the man the confrontation as well as institution-building aimed at the achievement of the common good.
In this field of moral philosophy it has special importance to Smith the concept of sympathy, which is the principle that explains the formation of moral judgments, but it is also a method: through it the individual expresses a favourable judgment of the behavior of others and expects others to do the same. This set of reciprocal expectations makes society a system of exchange of services among individuals. In this way individual selfishness converges towards the general interest to achieve coexistence and social benefits.

The economists Adam Smith and David Ricardo
in a caricature of the time
In this system the freedom is an essential condition for any progress, and the injustices that arise from economic freedom would not justify any renunciation of that freedom. Also exposed the belief in an invisible hand harmonisation of individual interests within the framework of the collective activity.

His economic theories

The fundamental work of Adam Smith, the investigations into the nature and causes of the wealth of Nations, is considered the landmark indicator of the elevation of the political economy to the category of science. Its five volumes appeared in 1776; translated into the main languages, provided immediately to its author a great fame.
In the Research, Smith collects and coordinates critical economic theories elaborated until then developing them widely and mostly trying to pick them up around a unitary criterion: the autonomy of economic activity (which is the individual utility) concerning morality (which is the sympathy). "The man almost always need the help of peers, but would expect in vain only relied on his benevolence." "The butcher, the brewer or the Baker benevolence is not what we hope our food, but consideration of its own interests". Here is the first statement of the theory of the economic relationship with the moral fact, unless this arises between any form of opposition.
With this premise, passes Smith to build your system. Decisively overcoming the physiocratic position, ensures that it is not nature, but the work, the source where a nation gets the products it consumes annually. The higher productivity of labor depends on its division, consisting of the division of the productive process necessary to create a thing in different phases, each assigned to an operator. It is clear that system of division of Labor (ones manufactured hats, other shoes, other bread), change is the indispensable for whose so-called generalization is necessary the monetary instrument, thanks to which can one afford what you need in Exchange for currency.

An edition of 1870 of the Research
Here the problem of the "value", in which Smith, still clearly distinguishing between "value in use" (the utility of a thing for its owner) and the "exchange value" (power of a thing to buy her another), confuses the abstract utility with the concrete usefulness of the things, and does depend on the "real price" ora of the work required to produce a thing , ora work this thing saving who possesses it, ora work allowing you to impose on others.
For Smith, however, only "work" which enjoys certain unchanging value is real and last measurement upon which the value of all things in all times and places is compared and estimated. This is precisely the theory of the value to acquired great importance in the parallel development of doctrines liberal and Socialist. The constituent elements of the actual price of the things are, for Smith, wage labour, capital interest and performance of Earth. Around this "natural price" swings the market price that often fluctuate according to supply and demand.
Antimercantilista, Smith criticized severely the identification of wealth with the currency, refuting the "bulionismo", the modern of the trade balance, the belief in the superiority of the domestic trade in defense of freedom of trade. It cannot be said that Smith is strictly a physiocrat, because it exceeded this position, although it defended the theory of the "let do, let go" in the general interest.
Mind critical and robust, Smith was the first to make a science in itself, distinct from morality, without creating that antithesis between both economic science. The work of Smith radically transformed the economy theory in the 18th century, to defend the idea that a nation's wealth came from the work of villagers and not of its reserves of money, as claimed the mercantilists, or their agricultural production, as claimed the physiocrats. In the same way, he asserted that the division of labour could increase the productivity of this and defended the idea that the prices were the regulatory mechanism that ensured the balance between supply and demand. With these theories, Smith laid the foundations of the capitalist economic thought.
Extracted from the website: Biografías y Vidas
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