"By pursuing his own interest [every individual] frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good."
Adam Smith
(1723-1790) Scottish philosopher and economist
An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), Book IV, Chap. 2 (New York: Random House, 1937, p. 423)
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Reader comments about this quote:
 -- Anonymous      
By being an effective, responsible, motivated and independent human being, we are not a drain on society, but a contributor to society's overall well being. It's the only moral existence one can have. And imagine how well we'd all be doing if we weren't being extorted for up to 70% of our earnings...only to have that money poured down a black hole...
 -- J Carlton, Calgary     
  • 2
     -- cd, pc      
    I know this is only a vague generality but I find it to be very accurate (-; there are always exceptions ;-) Even the politician, if he were in pursuit of protecting his own rights by promoting natural law, the public good would be indeed benefited. But alas, almost all that exist are statist theologians trading off freedom for their socialist dogmas (all for the public good of course)
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
  • 2
    This is a simple concept about power. Once power is distributed or the ability to exercise one's own power freely is possible, we see incredible leaps in innovation and productivity. A good example is the invention of the personal computer and now even smart phones -- previously computing power was centralized into mainframes that took years to program, overloaded with users and a backlog of processing. Now with literally billions of computers distributed across the globe controlled by the personal interests of their owners, we are seeing an awakening never before witnessed in the history of the humankind. The goal of the ruling class is to control the masses, to control what they believe, influence their decision-making to further their 'tradition' of being our masters. Indeed the downfall of a nation is due to the centralization of power into fewer and fewer hands. Statism, imperialism, and plain old despotism must reign in the power of the individual, for once the cattle realize they can trample their 'owners' they usually do. The public good is best furthered by the good of the individuals that comprise it -- once a nation is dependent upon their government for getting their food and shelter, starvation and poverty flourish. Independence is and always has been the impetus for productivity.
     -- E Archer, NYC     
  • 3
     -- jim k, Austin      
    Common sense, brilliantly imparted by the brightly illumined mind of a being whose ideation was sovereign in character.

    1776 was, indeed, an Anno Mirabilis.
     -- Patrick Henry, Red Hill     
  • 1
    Public good as an unintentional byproduct of individual self interest. The tone of the quote is almost apologetic in its nod to the counter intuitive nature of its message. It is about power and totally ignores the power invested in social stratification and privilege by the self interested owners of capital. The ownership of a mobile phone will not begin to address that imbalance.
     -- Mick, Manchester     
  • 2
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