#WealthofTweets: Book 3.1

karl marx country-city debate agriculture #wealthoftweets #smithtweets progress of opulence foreign commerce maslow

Of the Natural Progress of Opulence

2 Feb • 20 tweets • adamsmithworks/status/1356609198931529728

It's Book Three of #AdamSmith's #WealthOfNations! Magic!

#WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets

(The Progress of Opulence would be a great band name. Didn’t they open for Porcupine Tree?) Admit it. After Book II (on stock) this sounds AMAZING. (III.i.) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets

Oh man, we love this chapter. And we love it because when Smith talks about how intimately the wealth of the town and the country are intertwined, it’s such a great example of how trade is about cooperation. (III.i.1) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets

The country sends raw materials to the town. The town sends manufactured goods back to the country. Everybody wins! (III.i.1)

https://www.youtube.com/embed/EQHWDZBHp_8 #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets

Because you have to have subsistence before you have either convenience or luxury (Hey, Maslow! Love your hierarchy, dude!), you have to have agriculture before you have towns. (III.i.2) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets

(Almost all of us take the "agriculture before towns" argument for granted now. But Smith didn't, and maybe we shouldn't! Check out Jane Jacobs' The Economy of Cities for an argument to the contrary.) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets

If humans had always followed their natural inclinations, they’d have always cultivated the available land before dedicating capital to manufacturing or trade. You wouldn’t see towns without fully cultivated countryside around them.(III.i.3)#WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets

That’s because we love the countryside! It’s beautiful, peaceful, and the “original destination of man.” (III.i.4) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets

But if you’re going to have a beautiful and peaceful life in the countryside, it turns out you need “artificers” and tradespeople. Smith lists a ton, including “Smiths” which is fun. Because he’s a Smith, writing about smiths? Never mind. (III.i.4)# WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets

What it comes down to, though, is that inhabitants of the town and of the country are “mutually the servants of one another.” We think that’s kind of beautiful. (III.i.4) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets

“In our North American colonies” HEY! Oh, right. It’s only 1776. There’s a whole war we still have to fight over this. (III.i.5) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets

(Ahem. The Canadian SmithTweeting contingent notes that not every British American colony felt the need to start a war.)#AwkwardMomentsForTheSmithTweeters #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets

Anyhoo...😬 “In our North American colonies” trade isn’t developing yet because there’s still so much farmable land up for grabs. People who make stuff just trade it for land. (III.i.5) # WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets

Where the farmable land has all been taken up, though, you get lots of trade and over longer distances. That increases the division of labor, and we know what that means...everyone gets richer! (III.i.6) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets

In the same way that we like to cultivate land because we can see it and understand it, we prefer “manufactures” to foreign commerce. Foreign commerce is tricky to wrap your head around. (III.i.7) # WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets

This same progress of opulence is always and everywhere true, says Smith. (We aren’t too sure that’s still thought to be true, but EVERYONE thought so in the 18thC.) (III.i.8) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets

(Smith may have thought so first. Or Kames. Or maybe Goujet, Helvetius or...Anyway, a lot of people at the same time were certain that this was The Way It All Worked.) #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets

(Marx sometimes gets credit/blame for claiming that history has a natural economic progression, but BEHOLD! This is WAY before Marx.) #WealthOfTweets # SmithTweets

But just because things 𝘣𝘦𝘨𝘢𝘯 this way doesn’t mean they stay this way. They’ve been inverted "now" (by 1776). Foreign commerce and trade drive agriculture. This does not make Smith happy. It’s “unnatural and retrograde.” (III.i.9) #WealthOfTweets# SmithTweets

That doesn’t bode too well for tomorrow being a very cheery read, now does it? See you then! #WealthOfTweets #SmithTweets

See also the AdamAmithWorks Reading Guide for this chapter.