At the time when Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations, government in Britain was largely in the hands of the aristocracy. The upper classes in general had something of a snobbish disdain for commerce and trade. Most aristocrats subscribed to an ancient moral code whereby the ownership of land was seen as the most stable and most appropriate source of wealth for a respectable family.
These, then, were the people in charge of Britain's economic policy. It's no wonder that Smith wanted to keep their involvement in the running of the economy to an absolute minimum. Britain's growing commercial wealth and prosperity were much too important to be jeopardized by gentleman amateurs with no real understanding of how a modern economy actually works. Far better, then, to allow the spontaneous decisions of individual economic actors, freely interacting with each other in the marketplace, to determine questions of production and the allocation of resources.
Smith's defense of free-market...
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