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The Empire of Enterprise (2) : Adam Smith argues that the bold adventurers who opened up world trade could only have come from Europe.

From ‘Wealth of Nations’, by Adam Smith (1723-1790).

Having shown that European governments can claim no credit for their lively colonies in America, Adam Smith goes on to argue that no other region of the world at that time could have produced so many ordinary citizens with the enterprise and flair to make them succeed.

IN what way, therefore, has the policy of Europe contributed either to the first establishment, or to the present grandeur of the colonies of America?

In one way, and in one way only, it has contributed a good deal. It bred and formed the men who were capable of achieving such great actions, and of laying the foundation of so great an empire; and there is no other quarter of the world, of which the policy is capable of forming, or has ever actually, and in fact, formed such men.

The colonies owe to the policy of Europe the education and great views of their active and enterprising founders; and some of the greatest and most important of them, so far as concerns their internal government, owe to it scarce anything else.*

* Smith thought that London was the best (or least bad) of the imperial powers of Europe, but he still believed that our colonies’ runaway success was down to thoroughly British individuals being thoroughly British, rather than to any Government policy, and that small nations with free markets and no trade barriers possessed all the advantages of Empire, with none of the drawbacks. See The ‘Empire’ of Free Trade, and posts tagged Free Markets (12).

From ‘Wealth of Nations’, by Adam Smith (1723-1790).

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Picture: © Ed Yakovich (Emy111), Wikimedia Commons. Licence: Public domain. View original
The city of Philadelphia today. Adam’s Smith argued that the tremendous success of Britain’s American colonies was the result not of government policy, which tended to discourage it, but of the enterprise, character and intellectual values of individuals such as William Penn and Benjamin Franklin. Such leading figures did not slavishly implement government policy back home, but fostered individual aspiration and freedom of trade, speech and conscience in a world where such things were regarded as prejudicial to the common good.
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