I’m going to need to take notes as I read this, so I figured I may as well do it here as anywhere else–especially because doing it here gives Smart People a chance to point out where I’m being stupid.
I’m using the Bantom Dell paperback edition, March 2003, edited and annotated by Doug Fraser, ISBM 0-553-58597-5
Introduction: The title is The Wealth of Nations. Later, I may have some thoughts about wealth, but what intrigues me right away is that in the very title he makes reference to nations–that is, to a very specific organization of the State, and one closely associated with the economy of commodity-exchange, as opposed to, for example, the Kingdom, the City-State, the Tribe, &c. I wonder, therefore, to what degree his intention is to talk about general economic laws, and to what extent he intends to limit his discussion to the specifics of a market economy.
In the introuction itself, the first sentence reads as follows: “The annual labor of every nation is the fund which originally supplies with all the necessaries and conveniences of life.” So then, what would later come to be called the Labor Theory of Value, appears here as a given. Is he going to establish this later, or is it merely assumed?
In the second paragraph, he is already entering into a discussion of the productivity of labor–in other words, he is setting aside (at least for the moment) the material wealth with which a given region is endowed, and instead concentrating on the degree to which labor can multiply that wealth. To my mind, this seems perfectly reasonable.
He returns to this with more force on page 3, although I’ve now run into the term “capital stock” in the sentence, “The number of useful and productive labourers, it will hereafter appear, is every where in propotion 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.” I think I’m going to have a real problem if I can’t figure out what he means by “capital stock.” Raw material? Capital in the sense of wealth for investment? Hope I figure it out.
Later on page 3 he makes the interesting point that Europe has concentrated (since the fall of the Roman Empire) on industry of the town as opposed to industry of the country. Here he refers to it as a matter of “policy,” which seems arbitrary absent discussion of the material causes of that policy, but I trust he’ll expand on that later.
On to Book One