233 Years Old and Still Fresh

Yesterday I finished reading Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, and I have to say, wow. Just wow. That book feels like it could have been written yesterday (except for the clunky Victorian prose). There are economic and political observations there that are nearly shocking in their similarities to what we see in our own politics and economy. Never have I so felt the true weight of the maxim “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” Everyone needs to read this book. Politicians and policy makers should be forcedto read it. It covers everything from the fallacy of trade deficits (Mercantilism didn’t work back then and it still doesn’t today) up to the ultimately ruinous cycle governments can put themselves into by taking on debt for what Smith calls “extraordinary expenses” such as wars (Smith makes the case that if we had to pay for wars directly out of our taxes we would likely be far more judicious about which wars we were willing to enter, and unlikely to drag those wars out over long periods of time).
There’s a lot there, and I could keep going, but I urge you to pick up the book and read it for yourself. It will change the way you look at the world.

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