The Work of Nations (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
In An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), Adam Smith argued that if a nation encourages a laissez-faire economic environment, individual self- interest will necessarily promote the common welfare. An eighteenth century materialist much influenced by the skepticism of Scottish philosopher David Hume, Smith developed the theory of division of labor and stipulated that value is an outgrowth of the labor expended in producing goods.
According to this economic scheme, productivity was emphasized, and those involved in the routine production of goods were significant actors in fulfilling that scheme. Smith’s resistance to free trade favored national economies at a time when transportation and communication were not highly enough developed to permit the sort of a global economy that has emerged in the age of supersonic aircraft and computerized communication.
Robert B. Reich’s The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for 21st-Century Capitalism takes into account the economic implications of utopian technological advances that Smith could never have imagined. Reich uses the analogy of a boat to represent the way many people look at nations. The boat, one would assume, has a captain (in the United States, the president), a purser (in the United States, the chairperson of the Federal Reserve), an entrenched hierarchy of those who keep it afloat (in the United States, career bureaucrats), and all its...
(The entire section is 1939 words.)
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