Free Adam Smith's Human Nature Propensity Essay Sample

In his book, “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations,” Adam Smith uses the phrase “a propensity in human nature” to raise attention of the readers to his main theme of the book (Smith,  para. 2). By “a propensity of human nature”, in regard to his book he must have been implying to the natural tendency of human beings to settle into specializations in their pursuit for a living. He further expounds on the subject and shows how, by the natural tendency of human beings to specialize in their daily activities, the concept of ownership came into being and the need to obtain what is owned by another person brought about trading.

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      To "truck", which in Adam Smith’s book implies to bring things for sale, is seen as one way through which human beings are able to exchange mutually the goods that are as a result of their division of labor. Trading is seen a necessity because individuals have a tendency of being in want of products owned by others and so to truck is a propensity in human nature. The propensity of trading one’s belongings with those of other individuals is a property of all human beings. This is because, unlike animals, human beings have a sense of ownership and an orderly way of exchanging things, not by depending on the benevolence of the others as is the case with animals.

      This propensity in human beings is, however, observed in different proportions. A beggar, for example, does not have the same disposition of obtaining the products of other individuals like an able individual will do. At the same time, the disposition to exchange products amongst individuals is a propensity that varies with time. Therefore, the propensity can be connected to various human qualities such as humanity, self-love, and personal liberty. Out of their humanity quality, individuals will have a benevolence and supply to the animals and beggars without a need to exchange. On the contrary, individuals have personal liberty and self-love which will naturally, dictate that they exchange what they have for what they do not have. The justifications to these claims by Smith are that individuals do not obtain dinner from the butcher, the baker or the brewer, owing to their benevolence. Instead, the butcher, the baker, or the brewers are, all forced by their personal interests to supply the dinner to individuals.

      Following the generalization by Smith that the propensity for division of labor and trucking is common to all individuals, he embarks to justify it using evidence, imagined examples, and imagined examples. For example, Smith involves the reader in the argument using an analogy of a dog possessing a bone.  Using this analogy, Smith shows that, the dogs do not have the propensity of exchanging properties. He further elaborates his argument by involving the reader into thinking of a scenario, whereby, the dog and other animals rely on the benevolence of their owners for their provision.

      Because human beings have the propensity of exchanging their owned goods for what they need, out of their own interest, the need for trade and barter enters. Therefore, trade and barter have the benefits of facilitating the exchange of products amongst different individuals. From the point of view of Smith, that human beings have the tendency of division of labor and trucking what they produce, they are more like each other.

      Individuals are more like each other than is usually perceived, because they are shaped and molded by their social experiences. This argument connects with Smith’s argument for propensity in the sense that, out of experience, individuals develop division of labor.  At the same time, individuals are dictated by their disposition of wanting the products of other individuals’ offices, which they obtain through trading. Through the division of labor and trading, individuals are intertwined together and are hence molded and shaped to fit in a social system.

      Smith has developed the argument for the relative equality and similarity of humans and the inequalities by using the analogy of a beggar. Using the beggar, Smith reveals that the ability of an individual to exchange products varies. A beggar remains to be a human being only that he is lowly endowed, with the power to bargain for his requirement.


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