“If your views of political inquiry go further, to the subjects of money and commerce, Smith’s Wealth of Nations is the best book to be read.” – Thomas Jefferson
The Wealth of Nations
The full title of this book is An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, and it was first published in 1776. Smith delved into why some nations were more successful than others. The basic fundamentals of modern economics can be found here, from supply and demand to a definition of wealth and where it springs from. He discussed the division of labor, how specializing in smaller pieces of a task makes things more productive. Smith became known as the "father of modern economics" because of this book.
Much as Smith advocated for a free-market approach, he also felt that government had its (limited) place, namely to provide for defense—of the consumer as well as the country. Smith was very pro-market, not pro-business. He was anti-monopoly and “crony” capitalism.
“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our necessities but of their advantages.”
“It is the maxim of every prudent master of a family, never to attempt to make at home what it will cost him more to make than to buy…What is prudence in the conduct of every private family, can scarce be folly in that of a great kingdom.”
“What improves the circumstances of the greater part can never be regarded as an inconveniency to the whole. No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.”