July 2, 2010

THE YEAR hISTORY eNDED:

The Other 1776 Freedom Legacy (Ron Ross, 7.2.10, American Prospect)

Our nation will soon celebrate its 234th birthday. Another event of profound and enduring significance also occurred in 1776. It was the publication of Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations.

Our Declaration of Independence and the subsequent Constitution turned out to be enormously important for the cause of freedom not only in this country but what they inspired in other countries around the world. The Wealth of Nations and the lessons it taught have also reverberated far and wide since its publication. Smith's insight and genius are reflected in the book's full title -- An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. In a systemic way Smith set out to understand and explain the sources of a country's economic health and growth.

The average life expectancy in England at the beginning of the 19th century was 41 years. At the beginning of the 21st century in the U.S. the life expectancy was 78 years. What accounts for that unprecedented improvement in human welfare? There are numerous factors -- better nutrition, sanitation, refrigeration, advances in medical knowledge, for example -- but most of them would not be possible without dramatic improvements in productivity and material wealth.


It took politics and economics a while to catch up to religion, but once they did the question of how to order human affairs was answered, even if the argument had another two hundred years to run.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 2, 2010 5:34 AM
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