Criticism of Adam Smiths Definition


There is a lot of criticism against Adam Smith’s statement of economics. It has got an awful name for economics. Some social scientists such as Ruskin and Carlyle termed it “a dismal science”, “a dark science”. Though this criticism is unfair, since it is based on a misunderstanding regarding nature and scope of economics. As this statement emphasized “wealth”, they thought it is all concerning money. They concluded that economics taught men and women how to create money. Therefore they termed it a selfish science as in their opinion it emphasized on “the means to get rich”.

The above charge alongside economics is a false one. In economics, capital does not refer to money. This refers to the scarce goods that satisfy our needs. Furthermore, early economists employed the term “wealth” in the sense of wellbeing.

The drawback of Adam Smith’s statement is that there is over- emphasis on capital. There is no doubt that we have to study regarding wealth in economics. However it can be only a part of the study. There is another side. In fact, it is a more significant side and that is the study of man. Economics is a social science. Therefore the appropriate study of mankind must be man and not wealth alone.

Whenever we discuss Adam Smith’s statement of economics, we have to remember the time in which he lived. He wrote his book at a time when England was on the eve of Industrial Revolution. The big investments of capital and utilization of large-scale machinery enabled England to generate wealth on a large scale. Therefore it is only natural that Adam Smith emphasized on wealth and considered economics as “an enquiry into the nature and causes the wealth of nations”.


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