Portrait of Adam Smith

Adam Smith on the need for “peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice” (1755)

Found in: An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (Cannan ed.), vol. 1

Dugald Stewart had in his possession some notes of lectures Adam Smith gave in 1755, some 21 years before the appearance of the Wealth of Nations (1776). Here Smith gives a pithy description of what he thought the government should do to encourage economic development:


Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice; all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things. All governments which thwart this natural course, which force things into another channel, or which endeavour to arrest the progress of society at a particular point, are unnatural, and to support themselves are obliged to be oppressive and tyrannical.