Biography of Adam Smith, father of economic liberalism

Biography of Adam Smith, father of economic liberalism

Adam Smith was an economist and philosopher Scottish eighteenth century. Born in Kirkcaldy (Scotland) on June 5, 1723. He is one of the main authors of what is called classical economics.

Because his family was quite wealthy, he was able to access the University of Glasgow in 1737. There he was influenced by Francis Hutcheson, a renowned professor of moral philosophy.

In 1740 he obtained a scholarship to study at Balliol College. His time at both universities had a great influence on his work as an economist.

After completing his studies, he returned to his native land in 1746. There he tried to work as an adjunct professor until in 1751 the University of Glasgow offered him the chair of Moral Philosophy.

He remained in office for 12 years, in which he published his first book called “The theory of moral sentiments”. It was a success that increased his reputation and that would serve as the basis for his second and best known work.

In 1763 he was hired by Charles Townshend to guard his stepson. The three years that he remained in charge of his ward, provided him with a considerable extension of his knowledge.

On the one hand, he met many French physiocrats, which would explain why his theories emanate from the Physiocracy (and they catch the motto of "Laissez faire, laissez passer").

On the other hand, he established relationships with many philosophers and enlightened thinkers (Diderot, D’Alembert, David Hume) that decisively influenced their understanding of society and the world around him.

Economic theory of Adam Smith

After his tour of Europe, Smith returned to Kirkcaldy and began to develop his own economic theory. It was based on the ideas of Quesnay and Turgot, two of the greatest exponents of the Physiocracy.

It took him ten years to finish his most important work: “Research on the nature and causes of the wealth of nations”. It was published in 1776 and is the basic pillar of the doctrine of economic liberalism.

In said work defends the work and activity of man as the sources of all wealth. Both concepts are enhanced by the division of labor, according to Smith. The mechanism of regulation of the economy attributed it to personal interest, as well as to the free operation of supply and demand.

He fiercely defended capitalism in its most liberal form and raised the basic principles of taxes.

However, the optimism that Smith defended about the social welfare It does not appear in regard to the distribution of wealth, since income and profit reduced wages and the upper classes oppressed the lower ones.

This caused that after a few years they appeared alternative currents to the classical capitalist economy of liberal doctrine, for example socialism or communism.

From 1778, he served as director of customs in Edinburgh. As a token of appreciation for a lifetime of teaching, he was appointed honorary rector of the University of Glasgow in 1787.

He died on July 17, 1790 in Edinburgh, being considered one of the best economists of his time and enjoying academic support and respect.

Passionate about History, he has a degree in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication. Since he was a child he loved history and ended up exploring the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries above all.


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