Not really a rant or extreme opinion of any sort, but I just finished reading An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, the Father of Economics. No, I did not read the book just for the fun of it. I'm not that much of a nerd. I read it for a directed study class.
I had no idea what to expect going into the course, because I really didn't know anything about economics beyond what I "learned " in AP Macroeconomics (I didn't really learn much in that class. I would have failed if not for a few grade-booster tests at the end of the semester so that half of the class wouldn't fail). To be honest, I didn't even know who Adam Smith was going into the course. Economics never really interested me before.
I am interested now. I imagine after reading Wealth of Nations one will either be turned on to the study of economics (either to prove Smith wrong or to delve deeper into the new ideas Smith put forth to see how much they have held true over the past 200+ years), or be completely turned off by the study of economics.
The most surprising thing about his book (once I learned a bit about who Adam Smith was) is that he is not a supporter of laissez faire economics. There are quite a few sections in the book where Smith supports government regulation of business for this, that or the other reason. From what I understand, the general assumption is that Adam Smith is a 100% capitalist that would not approve of any regulations on business at all. That is not what he thinks at all. Certainly he thinks some of the market should be left alone, but he acknowledges human nature is naturally self-interested (which is different than selfish in Smith's vocabulary), and so it is necessary to make sure this self-interest won't hurt the Wealth of the Nation over all.
People have also made the assumption that Smith would support the rich businessman and disdain the laborer. That is not the impression I got at all while reading his book. At one point he even says that laborers are necessary for a business to work, and so they need to be treated decently. He says if the working class is not happy, then society will not be happy. It was like Marx read that bit and expanded on it. In fact, Marx did read Wealth of Nations. He simply thought Smith was too naive, for lack of a better term, in his views and took Smith's ideas about laborers to the extreme.
Now this is not to say Smith was without error in his idea about the economy. He was writing when a free market economy was in its early stages, and so he obviously could not know all the intricacies of how a free market would work (free market being a bit of a misnomer, since, as I stated earlier, he believes in some regulations). He set up a superb foundation for future scholars though, and if nothing else, any person interested in economics should read Wealth of Nations just to see what the "father" had to say on the matter. It is tedious, but worth the read. Actually, even if you aren't currently interested in economics, it's a good educational read regardless.
p.s. I did not include any quotes from the text, because that would require me looking them up. The book is 947 pages long. I am not going to reread the entire thing just to find relevant quotes. I already have to write a 15 page paper on the guy. No need to put any effort into this blog post as well. ... ;)
As a bit of a side note, I also had to read Theory of Moral Sentiments before reading Wealth of Nations. I do think reading Theory of Moral Sentiments before Wealth of Nations really helps to give a more complete picture of Smith, so one can see he is not as cold-hearted as Wealth of Nations might lead one to believe. Or maybe I just like Smith.
So I guess this was like a book review of sorts, except I didn't give a brief summary of what is in the book. Brief summary: economics. Enjoy.