A ‘Night Watchman’ State?

  • Gavin Kennedy


An oft-quoted reference in a 1755 ‘paper’ of Smith’s, quoted in 1793 by Dugald Stewart (see Appendix), is a possible source for the mistaken myths and confusions that became popular in the 19th century of Smith’s alleged preference for a ‘night watchman state’:

Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice; all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things. All governments which thwart this natural course, which force things into another channel, or which endeavour to arrest the progress of society at a particular point, are unnatural, and to support themselves are obliged to be oppressive and tyrannical.1


Industrial Revolution Military Expenditure Military Technology Major Trading Partner Defence Expenditure 
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Copyright information

© Gavin Kennedy 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gavin Kennedy
    • 1
  1. 1.EdinburghUK

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