The Wealth of Nations

Book 3, Chapter 1

The Natural Progress of Opulence

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Chapter 1 Summary


Commerce, in any civilized society, consists of the exchange of crude produce for manufactured goods. The countryside supplies the town with crude materials for manufacture; in turn, inhabitants of the countryside purchase manufactured goods from the town.


The capital of every growing society is primarily employed in agriculture, then in manufacturing businesses, and lastly in foreign trade. Men choose to invest their capital in the cultivation of land rather than manufacturing or foreign trade. Investments in land offer more security than investments in trade.


Cultivating land requires skilled tradesmen. Town and country inhabitants are mutually beneficial to each other, with the town providing a market for the country folk to sell their produce in exchange for the town’s manufactured goods. The quantity of manufactured goods a town sells to the country regulates the quantity of raw materials they buy.


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