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Of the Natural Progress of Opulence

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  • Pages: 4
  • Word count: 924
  • Category: Trade

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            In his “Of the Natural Progress of Opulence”, Adam Smith argues that the natural course of things is that agriculture comes first. When agriculture is already established, manufacturing comes in, and then after that, foreign commerce is finally established. This is the natural trade cycle of a progressive country.

            He starts his argument with the premise that the town and country work together to obtain progress. Their relationship is mutual, to wit, the country supplies the town with a means of subsistence and the materials for manufacture, and in return, the town repays the country by providing for the needs of the residents of the country.

            The first and prime trade is agriculture. It is safe because the one who invests in land is more secure in his investment because his land can not be stolen from him. He can also easily supervise the cultivation of his land. And finally, land has aesthetic value which never depreciates. Thus, a progressive country must, first, have farmers who produce food. Before a town can be developed, the countryside must first be cultivated.

            However, not everyone will be farmers because farmers also have needs for other trades such as smiths, carpenters, bakers, manufacturers and others. When a farm grows, its needs gets to a wider range, that then, other trades and manufactures must necessarily come in. It would cost much less for a farmer to engage another to address these needs than to do these himself. This is when a town with many crafts and trades develops. And all those trades which are within the town help each other. Thus, they all progress. When a town has a lot of manufactured goods, they then can start to export and engage in foreign commerce.


            Adam Smith was quick to point out, in the last paragraph of his argument, that the cycle is sometimes reversed. This gives me an impression that his argument is not always true. His argument that agriculture must first be established is not applicable in our time and age. Perhaps it was true during his time but during our time, there are already countries with no countrysides nor farmlands. Hong Kong is one of those. Switzerland is another. Farming in these countries are not a major factor to their economies. In fact, they just import their food because they have so rich economies that they do not have to produce their own food.

            I would however submit that uncultivated land is a waste. All lands must be utilized for some purpose. Sometimes, however, land use for agriculture is also a waste. Agriculture sometimes gives so little return for the effort and resources consumed in making the land productive. There are industries which give more return. This is how I feel about this.

            However, I find very good logic in his idea on how a country grows. Manufacturing industries do grow because we have farm produce and the increase of manufactured goods allows a country to already be able to engage in foreign commerce. And then that cycle repeats. Manufacturers who go to distant sales would tend to buy lands in distant places and start to cultivate that land there so that he will not have to travel far to get his food. Thus, another town is created. The cycle is unending until all lands have already been utilized.

            So yes, from another perspective, I agree with Adam Smith. And in fact, I am impressed with the logic and the simplicity of how he develops his argumentation.

The Writing Process

            The writing process involved in making the above summary and reaction is first, after the reading the material, I thought about what the writer was trying to convey. I adopted the idea that the subject matter is about commerce and I had to write from this point of view. I reflected on the points of his argumentation and tried to catch the flow of his discussion. I reread the concluding paragraphs and started my summary there. As I continued writing my summary, I went to back to the first paragraph and summarized the rest of the material in a manner which is consistent with the flow made by the author and according to how I understood his message. In writing my reaction, I dug deep into what I know about commerce and built on that. I contrasted what I know with what the author was trying to convey in order to build a personal disagreement. However, since I am so impressed with his manner of argumentation, I had to express my awe in the reaction.

            This writing process basically forces me to make a fluid transition of paragraphs when summarizing. The flow of the ideas must be smooth without breaking the train of thought. Thus, I was forced to use connective and transitional words such as however, thus, and many others. I learned to appreciate how handy these words can be in making summaries. The prereading material involved also helped me with what to focus on while reading the material. Having beforehand knowledge about what I was going to read made reading and summarizing a lot easier because I already have an idea what to expect as I read the material. It is, therefore advisable to read reviews, summaries and overviews of the material first before reading actually reading it in order to have good comprehension of it even at first reading.

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