Maxims and Quotes

Here is a list of maxims by Smith and Hume

Mentality Creates Reality

  • It is an established maxim in metaphysics, that whatever the mind clearly conceives, includes the idea of possible existence, or in other words, nothing we imagine is absolutely impossible. (Part 2, Sec 1, Treatise)


Effort at work

  • In every profession, the exertion of those who exercise it is always proportional to the necessity for that exertion.
  • Great objects are unnecessary to cause the greatest exertions.
    • Rivalship and emulation frequently lead to the greatest exertions.
    • On the contrary, great objects alone, and unsupported by necessity, are seldom sufficient to lead to any considerable exertion
  • An unrestrained competition never fails to excite emulation.
    • This emulation brought that talent to a very high degree of perfection.



  • Government must pay attention that such people should be instructed, even if the country derives no advantage from their instruction.
  • The demand for such instruction produced what it always produces, the talent for giving it.
  • But the understandings of most men are necessarily formed by their ordinary employments.
  • The public can encourage basic education by giving small premiums and little badges of distinction to excellent children.
  • The public can impose basic education on people by obliging every man to undergo an exam before he can be allowed to set up any trade.


Money and Money Supply

  • In reality, the value of the most precious metal regulates the value of all coins.
  • The more money that is needed to circulate goods, the more the amount of goods is reduced.



  • A [private] bank’s ruin would not be so dangerous as commonly imagined.
  • The only way to prevent the bad effects of the ruin of banks is to:
    • give monopolies to none, and
    • encourage the creation of as many as possible.



  • The wages of lower class workers are regulated by:
    1. The demand for labour
      • This demand requires an increasing, stationary, or declining population.
      • It regulates the worker’s subsistence, whether liberal, moderate, or scanty.
    2. This determines the amount of money which must be paid to the worker for his subsistence.The ordinary or average price of goods
  • The recompense of ingenious artists and men of liberal professions is proportional to the emoluments of inferior trades



  • While the demand for labour and the price of goods remain the same, a direct tax on wages raises wages higher than the tax.
  • High taxes frequently afford a smaller revenue to government than moderate taxes.
  • Merchants’ profits cannot be subject to a direct tax.
    • The final payment of all such taxes must fall on the consumers with a big overcharge.
  • It must always be remembered, that it is the luxurious and not the necessary expence of the lower class that should be taxed.


Ease and Comfort

  • “It is the interest of every man to live as much at his ease as he can;”



  • We may lay as a general rule, that the person who is deliberately guilty of a disgraceful action can seldom have much sense of the disgrace. The person who is habitually guilty of it, can scarce ever have any sense of disgrace.



  • This doctrine supposes that when two places trade with one another, neither of them loses or gains if the balance be even. But if it leans in any degree to one side, that one of them loses and the other gains, in proportion to its declension from the exact equilibrium. Both suppositions are false.

Personal Wealth

  • In general, house-rent is the best indicator of a person’s spending ability.



Plato’s Divine Maxim

He will religiously observe what Cicero justly called ‘the divine maxim of Plato’.

  • This maxim is never to use violence to his country no more than to his parents


Children’s education

Do you wish to educate your children to be:

  • dutiful to their parents, and
  • kind and affectionate to their brothers and sisters?

Put them under the necessity of being:

  • dutiful children, and
  • kind and affectionate brothers and sisters.
    • Educate them in your own house.


Fear and Violence

  • In almost all cases, fear is a wretched instrument of government.
    • It should never be employed against anyone who desires independence.
    • Terrifying them only irritates their bad humour.
    • It will strengthen their opposition which more gentle usage might soften or eliminate.


Church Decline 

  • If the Roman church had been attacked only by the feeble efforts of human reason, it would have endured forever.
  • But that immense and well-built fabric which could never be shaken by all human wisdom and virtue was naturally weakened and then destroyed in some parts.
    • It is now likely to crumble entirely perhaps within a few more centuries.