Each week, Mr. Reed will relate the stories of people whose choices and actions make them heroes. See the table of contents for previous installments.
Adam Smith entered a world that his reason and eloquence would later transform. He was baptized on June 5, 1723, in Kirkcaldy, Scotland. It’s presumed that he was either born on that day or a day or two before. He would become the Father of Economics as well as one of history’s most eloquent defenders of free markets.
The late British economist Kenneth E. Boulding paid this tribute to his intellectual predecessor: “Adam Smith, who has strong claim to being both the Adam and the Smith of systematic economics, was a professor of moral philosophy and it was at that forge that economics was made.”
Economics in the late 18th century was not yet a focused subject of its own, but rather a poorly organized compartment of what was known as “moral philosophy.” Smith’s first of two books, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, was published in 1759 when he held the chair of moral philosophy at Glasgow University. He was the first moral philosopher to recognize that the business of enterprise — and all the motives and actions in the marketplace that give rise to it — was deserving of careful, full-time study as a modern discipline of social science.
Wealth to the world’s first economist was plainly this: goods and services.
The culmination of his thoughts in this regard came in 1776. As American colonists were declaring their independence from Britain, Smith was publishing his own shot heard round the world, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, better known ever since as…