In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith argued that the origin of the division of labour, the growth of the market and thus the wealth of nations, was man’s natural propensity to ‘truck, barter and exchange’. But one might ask: why truck, barter and exchange when you can rob, pillage and loot? Of course, Smith considered this. In the Theory of Moral Sentiments, he argued that sympathy inhibited our baser instincts. In The Wealth of Nations, he argued that it was the duty of the sovereign to protect the nation from external violence; to protect the members of it from the injustice and oppression of each other; and to maintain public works and institutions. He also pointed out that the first duty of the sovereign, the protection of society, can only be performed by military force. Following Smith, I used to teach that it was the function of the state to maintain security by stopping people robbing, pillaging and looting. I qualified this after a student pointed out that in her country it was the state that did most of the robbing, pillaging and looting; not all states fulfil the first duty of the sovereign. This raises the issue of what constitutes security and how it may be provided and where we draw the line between the state robbing and taxing.
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