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The Spirit of the Age, Part 3 to the Life & Works of
Adam Smith

Adam Smith's approach to his work was first to do a historical study of his subject, and then to advance the area, often building on the work of his contemporaries: he was well aware of the work done by Montesquieu and the French Physiocrats. Adam Smith, indeed was a friend of David Hume and watched over his friend's death in 1776, the same year Adam Smith's classic came out, The Wealth of Nations. After Hume's death Smith edited Hume's noncontroversial papers.

On travelling to Paris with his charge, a young Duke from an influential English family which had chosen him as a tutor, Smith met, among others, Quesnay and the French Ministers, Anne Robert Jacques Turgot (1727-81) and Jacques Necker (1732-1804). In Geneva, Adam Smith met Voltaire. Overall Smith was of the view that the French physiocrats had the best answer up to his time: "[The Physiocratic system] with all its imperfections is, perhaps, the nearest approximation to the truth that has yet been published upon the subject of political economy."

"They [the French Économistes] delighted in proving that the whole structure of the French laws upon industry was utterly wrong; that the prohibitions ought not to be imposed on the import of foreign manufacturers; that bounties ought not to be given to native ones; that the exportation of corn ought to be free; that the whole country ought to be a fiscal unit; that there should be no duty between any province; and so on in other cases. No one could state the abstract doctrines on which they rested everything more clearly. "Acheter, c'est vendre,' said Quesnay, the founder of the school, 'vendre, c'est acheter.' You cannot better express the doctrine of modern political economy that 'trade is barter.' 'Do not attempt,' Quesnay continues, 'to fix the price of your products, goods, or services; they will escape your rules. Competition alone can regulate prices with equity; it alone restricts them to a moderation which varies little; it alone attracts with certainty provisions where they are wanted or labour where it is required.' 'That which we call dearness is the only remedy of dearness: dearness causes plenty.'"8
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Peter Landry

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2011