Sunday, September 21, 2014

Source for researchers: Wealth of Nations

Adam Smith's An Inquiry Into the Nature and the Causes of the Wealth of Nations, generally known simply as Wealth of Nations is said to be the cornerstone of capitalism, with Smith being cited as the "father of economics."  As such, it is an excellent source for economics researchers.

Wealth of Nations examines the means by which economies work most efficiently.  It is based on enlightenment thought, which generally assumes properly-designed entities work best when left to do as they will with little interference.  Enlightenment philosophers are less concerned with morality than with logic because morality is not necessarily logical. 

As we move forward through the units in our course, it becomes apparent that the study of social science is not the study of silos; that is, each discipline is intertwined with the others, and each can be better understood by studying the rest.  Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations  introduces the researcher to ideas in history, politics, geography, as well as philosophy and culture.  It is a study of values, with which we may agree or disagree, dependent upon our political beliefs. However, again, those same beliefs are built upon our own sense of right and wrong; Smith is unconcerned with these. Consequently, Wealth of Nations argues against allowing emotion to rule economics by simply not taking up the argument.

The text is divided into sections, with each section discussing a means by which a nation builds wealth. Due to its influence, it continues to be reprinted today, and is easily available at libraries, as well as online. Project Gutenberg has made the entire text of Wealth of Nations available, free of charge. A search of the OhioLINK catalog returns 194 results, either for the text itself or related titles. These related titles are useful, in fact; again, we cannot study economics without understanding other areas of the social sciences. Titles relating to enlightenment thought, and to other important texts on economics, history, and philosophy will help us to understand our current climate and economic system.

Also of interest: a search of the OhioLINK Electronic Journal Center returns 66 results for journal articles relating to Wealth of Nations and the theories it espouses when limited to titles published between 2010 and 2014, indicating that Smith's magnum opus continues to be of high relevance in the study of economics through history and to modern day. As a librarian, I might point researchers to these titles, as well as the related titles in the OhioLINK catalog, should they prove to be useful to understanding Wealth of Nations itself.

Wealth of Nations is a classic text, one not necessarily read unless assigned; I, for one, have never read it, despite it coming up again and again in classroom discussion when I was an undergraduate student in history. As an 18th-century text, it is not as accessible as those written and published today. However, as previously discussed, it encompasses much more than just a blueprint for capitalism, and remains highly relevant. It is certainly a resources that deserves examination for those studying a variety of disciplines, and certainly for those studying economics.

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