Adam SmithAdam Smith, (1723-1790) Scottish philosopher and economist

Adam Smith Quote

“It is the highest impertinence and presumption, therefore, in kings and ministers, to pretend to watch over the economy of private people, and to restrain their expence, either by sumptuary laws, or by prohibiting the importation of foreign luxuries. They are themselves always, and without any exception, the greatest spendthrifts in the society. Let them look well after their own expence, and they may safely trust private people with theirs. If their own extravagance does not ruin the state, that of their subjects never will.”

Adam SmithAdam Smith
~ Adam Smith

An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations par. II.3.36

Ratings and Comments

Terry Berg, Occidental, CA

Reasonable. let's hope we can keep sumptuary laws to a minimum. Sales tax would fall into that category insofar as it burdens lower income brackets more than it burdens higher income brackets. High income individuals are unlikely to use much more toilet paper per person than those of lower income hence, the tax imposes a proportionally higher burden on low income folks. It works the same way for all consumables.

John-Douglas, Nassau

How very, very true.

Robert, Sarasota

The recent profits by oil companies and other buddies of the government plus the billions spent on invading a county to keep those same buddies rich... Death and mayhem is of no consequence when it comes to avarice and despotism. Hypocrisy is by far the number one contender as champion of US foreign policy - read Harold Pinters letter on US foreign policy.

Joe, Rochester, MI

Our government should follow this.

helorat, Milton

Great quote, what a pity most Americans are too ignorant to understand it and socialist to appreciate it. It would appear that both Terry and Joe learned economics at the feet of Karl Marx. Sales tax is not a Sumptuary Law. Sales taxes are not designed to limit spending nor does the burden of them fall inequitably on those who chose to be poor. High income people by yachts, limos, and gold plated toilet paper holders. The recent profits of oil companies are as a percentage of sales smaller then most corporations and much less then most banks and people like Microsoft. They also get less profit then the government gets by taxing them. If you want some of the profits buy some of the stock. The companies are publicly held. Robert quit whining like an American hating communist, and show me the country with the lily white foreign policy so I know where you are planning to move. Joe, if you want the country to follow it you better get rid of the Dems first and the RINOS second.

L. Hanson, Edmonton, Camada

Canada has the best foreign policy.

Mike, Norwalk

I like it. L Hanson, ok, you know I'm smiling, I'll bite, - best for what ? How does Canada's foreign policy deal specifically with sumptuary laws, or the prohibition of importing foreign luxuries ? Are Canadian foreign policy makers or ministers immune from becoming spendthrifts (were they vaccinated ?) ?

J Carlton, Calgary

Hanson's right...Canada's foreign policy is the same one as every other member of the United Nations, just like every other member of the IMF. So it must be "the best", just like everyone else's. ;-) Wow Hanson, you're really naieve aren't you?

Timothy Ray, Gainesville, FL

It is a fine statement about any attempts to curtail private spending, but that is the least of our dangers at this time. Along with quotations of Smith's "unseen hand," this one is subject to misapplication as though it were a recommendation against taxes or regulations to prevent the self-destructive binges of the titans of our private sector, who have repeatedly destroyed the financial solvency of us all on their way down. Those interpretations of Smith are simply erroneous and self-serving. Smith himself would never have agreed.

jim k, Austin, Tx

When you rob Peter to pay Paul, you will always have the support of Paul. Governments work on this knowledge, rob the producers through taxation and pass it on to the non producers and you will have a whole lot of people supporting big government.

Mike, Norwalk

Wait, I think I'm going to buy just one more sun dress before I completely destroy the economy.

Ronw13, USA

Smith, a Moral Philosopher, understood a Free market economy. Any attempts to tax or regulate, destroy the very nature of natural order in a free market. Legalized plunder, being the arm of Tyranny, wishing to force independence to servitude !! Does put a bad taste in the mouth of commonsense and honesty !


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