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Adam Smith's Theory of the State

             In the Wealth of Nations Adam Smith pays considerable attention to the State and its role in society. One must simply look at the duties that Smith holds the state responsible for to see that he advocates a small role for government (relative to modern standards). According to Smith the "Sovereign" should be held responsible for Defense of the society above all, protecting members of society from the injustice or oppression of other members (Justice) and the "erection and maintenance of those public works and institutions which are useful but not capable of bringing in a profit to individuals" (Heilbroner, p298) or in other words Public Works and Institutions. After discussing this role for the state Smith addresses the issue of paying for these services through taxing the general, state or city populations or though other various methods such as tolls and voluntary contribution. Many claim to have found passages in Smith's Theory of the State that contradict some of his earlier work that leans towards lower levels of government involvement while others point out that Smith realized Government had to provide some public works and institutions in order to make economic growth possible(Zinn, p 1).
             In examining the role of the state Smith addresses a plethora of issues dealing specifically with the scope and depth of the states involvement in society and the economy. Much of what Smith writes is in response to the Mercantilist movements in Europe, as Smith viewed government granted monopolies and restrictive trade as only being harmful for the economies of the nations that practiced them. Smith recognized the importance of the state providing security and protection from the outside as well as from those on the inside but also let the role of the state deepen by stating that it should be responsible for undertaking ventures that would benefit or even be necessary to the wellbeing of the society with out being profitable (public works and institutions).

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