Portrait of Adam Smith

Adam Smith on the dangers of faction and privilege seeking (1759)

Found in: Theory of Moral Sentiments and Essays on Philosophical Subjects (1869)

Smith argues that “hostile factions” are constantly struggling to gain new government privileges and protect the ones they already have:


Every independent state is divided into many different orders and societies, each of which has its own particular powers, privileges, and immunities. Every individual is naturally more attached to his own particular order or society, than to any other. His own interest, his own vanity, the interest and vanity of many of his friends and companions, are commonly a good deal connected with it. He is ambitious to extend its privileges and immunities. He is zealous to defend them against the encroachments of every other order of society.