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Adam Smith on population


Population Studies 24(3): 377-388
Adam Smith on population
Abstract Adam Smith dealt with questions of population mainly in his Wealth of Nations. His discussion falls roughly under five heads and reflects in considerable measure his image of the English economy. (1) A country's population capacity, given the average level of consumption, was conditioned by the stock of land, the skill with which it was cultivated, and the degree to which division of labour could be increased and thereby augment output for domestic use and sale in external markets. (2) Growth of population was essentially in response to growth of the demand for labour and served to increase division of labour. (3) The social mechanisms underlying elevation of the scale of living are touched upon, and in an optimistic spirit. (4) The distribution of a country's population responded to its progress in opulence, with the rate of this progress conditioned by the degree to which inappropriate (e.g. mercantilist) policies were avoided. (5) Smith dealt briefly with such matters as colonies, education, size of economy, environmental influences, and public policy, all of which he recognized as significant for the quantity and quality of a country's numbers.


Accession: 051366965

PMID: 22074094

DOI: 10.1080/00324728.1970.10406135



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