Adam Smith is considered the father of modern economics, but these Adam Smith quotes offer more than his philosophy on poverty and wealth. Adam Smith was also a writer, lecturer, and social philosopher whose observations of society are still relevant today.
He is best known as the author of The Wealth of Nations, in which Smith introduced the world to the idea of free-market economics.
Though considered controversial in his day, Smith’s ideas on wealth, society, and government helped shape an age of enlightenment during the 18th century.
Much of how modern society has been influenced by Adam Smith and his economic philosophy. Below is a curated list of Adam Smith quotes about economy, wealth, society, and government that are still relevant today.
Don’t forget to also check out these money quotes celebrating financial literacy and independence.
Adam Smith quotes about economy
1. “Man is an animal that makes bargains: no other animal does this — no dog exchanges bones with another.” — Adam Smith
2. “Every man lives by exchanging.” — Adam Smith
3. “In regards to the price of commodities, the rise of wages operates as simple interest does, the rise of profit operates like compound interest. Our merchants and masters complain much of the bad effects of high wages in raising the price and lessening the sale of goods. They say nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits. They are silent with regard to the pernicious effects of their own gains. They complain only of those of other people.” — Adam Smith
4. “I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.” — Adam Smith
5. “All money is a matter of belief.” — Adam Smith
6. “As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce.” — Adam Smith
7. “Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the interest of the producer ought to be attended to, only so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer.” — Adam Smith
8. “Labour was the first price, the original purchase-money that was paid for all things. It was not by gold or by silver, but by labor, that all wealth of the world was originally purchased.” — Adam Smith
9. “It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue but something more than in that proportion.” — Adam Smith
10. “Wherever there is great property, there is great inequality.” — Adam Smith
11. “What everything really costs to those who want to get it is work and the pain he must win to get it” — Adam Smith
12. “What can be added to the happiness of a man who is in health, out of debt, and has a clear conscience?” — Adam Smith
13. “The real tragedy of the poor is the poverty of their aspirations.” — Adam Smith
14. “But the principle that impels us to save is the desire to improve our lot, who generally desire, indeed, is calm and dispassionate, but born with us and leaves us at the tomb.” — Adam Smith
15. “No complaint… is more common than that of a scarcity of money.” — Adam Smith
16. “Adventure upon all the tickets in the lottery, and you lose for certain; and the greater the number of your tickets the nearer your approach to this certainty.” — Adam Smith
Adam Smith quotes from his observations of society
17. “We are but one of the multitude, in no respect better than any other in it.” — Adam Smith
18. “The great source of both the misery and disorders of human life seems to arise from over-rating the difference between one permanent situation and another…” — Adam Smith
19. “All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.” — Adam Smith
20. “Resentment seems to have been given us by nature for a defense, and for a defense only! It is the safeguard of justice and the security of innocence.” — Adam Smith
21. “The first thing you have to know is yourself. A man who knows himself can step outside himself and watch his own reactions like an observer.” — Adam Smith
22. “How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it.” — Adam Smith
23. “The learned ignore the evidence of their senses to preserve the coherence of the ideas of their imagination.” — Adam Smith
24. “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.” — Adam Smith
25. “Every man, as long as he does not violate the laws of justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest in his own way and to bring both his industry and capital into competition with those of any other man.” — Adam Smith
26. “The furious behaviour of an angry man is more likely to exasperate us against himself than against his enemies.” — Adam Smith
27. “The poor man’s son, whom heaven has in its anger visited with ambition, goes beyond admiration of palaces to envy. He labours all his life to outdo his competitors, only to find the end that the rich are no happier than the poor in the things that really matter.” — Adam Smith
28. “Man naturally desires, not only to be loved but to be lovely.” — Adam Smith
29. “No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.” — Adam Smith
Adam Smith quotes about government
30. “Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.” — Adam Smith
31. “Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice: all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things.” — Adam Smith
32. “[Governments are] …without exception, the greatest spendthrifts in the society.” — Adam Smith
33. “The agents of [government] regard the wealth of their master as inexhaustible; are careless at what price they buy … at what price they sell.” — Adam Smith
34. “The profusion of government … [has] retarded the natural progress.” — Adam Smith
35. “After all the proper subjects of taxation have been exhausted, if the exigencies of the state still continue to require new taxes, they must be imposed upon improper ones.” — Adam Smith
36. “There is no art which one government sooner learns of another than that of draining money from the pockets of the people.” — Adam Smith
37. “In the midst of all the exactions of government … It is this effort, protected by law and allowed by liberty to exert itself in the manner that is most advantageous, which has maintained the progress.”— Adam Smith
38. “The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities.” — Adam Smith
39. “There is a great deal of ruin in a nation.” — Adam Smith
40. “A nation is not made wealthy by the childish accumulation of shiny metals, but it enriched by the economic prosperity of its people.” — Adam Smith
Thought-provoking Adam Smith quotes
41. “Virtue is excellence, something uncommonly great and beautiful, which rises far above what is vulgar and ordinary.” — Adam Smith
42. “Problems worthy of attacks, prove their worth by hitting back” — Adam Smith
43. “Individual Ambition Serves the Common Good.” — Adam Smith
44. “Mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent.” — Adam Smith
45. “Never complain of that of which it is at all times in your power to rid yourself.” — Adam Smith
46. “On the road from the City of Skepticism, I had to pass through the Valley of Ambiguity.” — Adam Smith
47. “Virtue is more to be feared than vice because its excesses are not subject to the regulation of conscience.” — Adam Smith
48. “What is prudence in the conduct of every private family can scarce be folly in that of a great kingdom.” — Adam Smith
49. “Happiness never lays its finger on its pulse.” — Adam Smith
50. “Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition.” — Adam Smith
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More Adam Smith quotes
51. “A nation is not made wealthy by the childish accumulation of shiny metals but is enriched by the economic prosperity of its people.” – Adam Smith
52. “The great secret of education is to direct vanity to proper objects.” – Adam Smith
53. “In the common degree of the moral, there is no virtue. Virtue is excellence.” – Adam Smith
54. “No society can flourish of which the greater part is poor and miserable.” – Adam Smith
55. “Labour alone, therefore, never varying in its own value, is alone the ultimate and real standard by which the value of all commodities can at all times and places be estimated and compared. It is their real price; money is their nominal price only.” – Adam Smith
56. “What is the work of one man, in a rude state of society, being generally that of several in an improved one.” – Adam Smith
57. “Labour, therefore, is the real measure of the exchangeable value of all commodities. The real price of everything, what everything really costs to the man who wants to acquire it, is the toil and trouble of acquiring it.” – Adam Smith
58. “It is not for its own sake that men desire money, but for the sake of what they can purchase with it.” – Adam Smith
59. “Every man is rich or poor according to the degree in which he can afford to enjoy the necessities, conveniences, and amusements of human life.” – Adam Smith
Which of these Adam Smith quotes was your favorite?
Adam Smith left behind a legacy that heavily influenced the idea of modern economics. Smith introduced the metaphor of the invisible hand – the habit of free markets to manage themselves through competition, supply and demand, and self-interest.
Though Smith never used the word “capitalism”, he believed that we live in a commercial society and that commercialism was a part of the human condition. This philosophy would later influence capitalist philosophy in the nineteenth century.
Adam Smith was an economic philosopher whose radical ideas not only impacted modern-day economics, but many of these Adam Smith quotes are still relevant today.
Did you enjoy these Adam Smith quotes and sayings? Which quote did you like the most? Let us know in the comment section below
February 25, 2021 6:00 AM EST