Adam Smith was born in 1723 in Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland. When he was about fifteen years old, he attended Glasgow University, studying philosophy. He continued his studies at Balliol College in Oxford in 1740. After university, Smith traveled across Scotland delivering public lectures with references to his economic philosophy of "the obvious and simple system of natural liberty", referring to a free market economy. Smith's reputation became better known after he became a professor at Glasgow University, lecturing on topics such as political economy. After spending a few years lecturing in France, Smith moved to London in 1766, where he began work on his most famous work, The Wealth of Nations, which he completed in 1776. Smith's ideas expressed in this work were revolutionary and opposed the economic policy of Europe at the time.
At the time that Smith published The Wealth of Nations, Europe and much of the western world supported the economic policy of mercantilism. Mercantilism is the effort to achieve political control and economic unity. It is designed to keep the state prosperous and is done through a series of policies issued by the government. Government intervention was a major influence of the flow of economies in western counties. Many tariffs, taxes, and fixed prices were placed on goods. In England, unemployment was strongly discouraged, monopolies were rewarded, and hours were regulated. The Wealth of Nations challenged these ideas.
Smith supported the idea of a free market economy. He opposed government intervention and supported the idea of laissez-faire, which would give the consumers and sellers more control over the economy. An increase in competition would take place because producers would try to outsell each other. This would bring the price of goods to the lowest possible level, giving the consumer more buying power. Only the strongest producers would survive, and therefore only the higher quality or more demanded goods would be sold, which is another benefit to the consumer.