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An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth off Nations

The annual labour of every nation is the fund which originally
supplies it with all the necessaries and conveniencies of life which
it annually consumes, and which consist always either in the
immediate produce of that labour, or in what is purchased with that
produce from other nations.
According, therefore, as this produce, or what is purchased with it,
bears a greater or smaller proportion to the number of those who
are to consume it, the nation will be better or worse supplied with
all the necessaries and conveniencies for which it has occasion.
But this proportion must in every nation be regulated by two
different circumstances: first, by the skill, dexterity, and judgment
with which its labour is generally applied; and, secondly, by the
proportion between the number of those who are employed in
useful labour, and that of those who are not so employed.
Whatever be the soil, climate, or extent of territory of any
particular nation, the abundance or scantiness of its annual supply
must, in that particular situation, depend upon those two
The abundance or scantiness of this supply, too, seems to depend
more upon the former of those two circumstances than upon the
latter. Among the savage nations of hunters and fishers, every
individual who is able to work is more or less employed in useful
labour, and endeavours to provide, as well as he can, the
necessaries and conveniencies of life, for himself, and such of his
family or tribe as are either too old, or too young, or too infirm, to
go a-hunting and fishing. Such nations, however, are so miserably
poor, that, from mere want, they are frequently reduced, or at least
think themselves reduced, to the necessity sometimes of directly
destroying, and sometimes of abandoning their infants, their old
people, and those afflicted with lingering diseases, to perish with