and Plan of the Work
annual labour of every nation is the fund which originally supplies
it with all the necessaries and conveniences of life which it
annually consumes, and which consist always either in the immediate
produce of that labour, or in what is purchased with that produce
from other nations.
therefore as this produce, or what is purchased with it, bears
a greater or smaller proportion to the number of those who are
to consume it, the nation will be better or worse supplied with
all the necessaries and conveniences for which it has occasion.
this proportion must in every nation be regulated by two different
circumstances; first, by the skill, dexterity, and judgment
with which its labour is generally applied; and, secondly, by
the proportion between the number of those who are employed
in useful labour, and that of those who are not so employed.
Whatever be the soil, climate, or extent of territory of any
particular nation, the abundance or scantiness of its annual
supply must, in that particular situation, depend upon those
abundance or scantiness of this supply, too, seems to depend
more upon the former of those two circumstances than upon the
latter. Among the savage nations of hunters and fishers, every
individual who is able to work, is more or less employed in
useful labour, and endeavours to provide, as well as he can,
the necessaries and conveniences of life, for himself, or such
of his family or tribe as are either too old, or too young,
or too infirm to go a hunting and fishing. Such nations, however,
are so miserably poor that, from mere want, they are frequently
reduced, or, at least, think themselves reduced, to the necessity
sometimes of directly destroying, and sometimes of abandoning
their infants, their old people, and those afflicted with lingering
diseases, to perish with hunger, or to be devoured by wild beasts.
Among civilised and thriving nations, on the contrary, though
a great number of people do not labour at all, many of whom
consume the produce of ten times, frequently of a hundred times
more labour than the greater part of those who work; yet the
produce of the whole labour of the society is so great that
all are often abundantly supplied, and a workman, even of the
lowest and poorest order, if he is frugal and industrious, may
enjoy a greater share of the necessaries and conveniences of
life than it is possible for any savage to acquire.
causes of this improvement, in the productive powers of labour,
and the order, according to which its produce is naturally distributed
among the different ranks and conditions of men in the society,
make the subject of the first book of this Inquiry.
be the actual state of the skill, dexterity, and judgment with
which labour is applied in any nation, the abundance or scantiness
of its annual supply must depend, during the continuance of
that state, upon the proportion between the number of those
who are annually employed in useful labour, and that of those
who are not so employed. The number of useful and productive
labourers, it will hereafter appear, is everywhere in proportion
to the quantity of capital stock which is employed in setting
them to work, and to the particular way in which it is so employed.
The second book, therefore, treats of the nature of capital
stock, of the manner in which it is gradually accumulated, and
of the different quantities of labour which it puts into motion,
according to the different ways in which it is employed.
tolerably well advanced as to skill, dexterity, and judgment,
in the application of labour, have followed very different plans
in the general conduct or direction of it; those plans have
not all been equally favourable to the greatness of its produce.
The policy of some nations has given extraordinary encouragement
to the industry of the country; that of others to the industry
of towns. Scarce any nation has dealt equally and impartially
with every sort of industry. Since the downfall of the Roman
empire, the policy of Europe has been more favourable to arts,
manufactures, and commerce, the industry of towns, than to agriculture,
the industry of the country. The circumstances which seem to
have introduced and established this policy are explained in
the third book.
those different plans were, perhaps, first introduced by the
private interests and prejudices of particular orders of men,
without any regard to, or foresight of, their consequences upon
the general welfare of the society; yet they have given occasion
to very different theories of political economy; of which some
magnify the importance of that industry which is carried on
in towns, others of that which is carried on in the country.
Those theories have had a considerable influence, not only upon
the opinions of men of learning, but upon the public conduct
of princes and sovereign states. I have endeavoured, in the
fourth book, to explain, as fully and distinctly as I can, those
different theories, and the principal effects which they have
produced in different ages and nations.
explain in what has consisted the revenue of the great body
of the people, or what has been the nature of those funds which,
in different ages and nations, have supplied their annual consumption,
is the object of these four first books. The fifth and last
book treats of the revenue of the sovereign, or commonwealth.
In this book I have endeavoured to show, first, what are the
necessary expenses of the sovereign, or commonwealth; which
of those expenses ought to be defrayed by the general contribution
of the whole society; and which of them by that of some particular
part only, or of some particular members of it: secondly, what
are the different methods in which the whole society may be
made to contribute towards defraying the expenses incumbent
on the whole society, and what are the principal advantages
and inconveniences of each of those methods: and, thirdly and
lastly, what are the reasons and causes which have induced almost
all modern governments to mortgage some part of this revenue,
or to contract debts, and what have been the effects of those
debts upon the real wealth, the annual produce of the land and
labour of the society.