The debate about which is better between rural and urban life elicits mixed reactions among many people. Insights given by Adam Smith may partly settle this old debate. Adam Smith considers country life to be more precious than town life on several accounts. For instance, smith argues that it makes economic sense for people to invest more in the rural areas than in the urban areas due to lesser risks on their investments, and the fact that they can control their land. For this reason, smith argues that, it is more beneficial to invest one’s capital on land in the countryside, which is under their view and command instead of using the capital on foreign trade and manufacturing where the individual has no total control. Additionally, people who invest on their land are less liable to accidents as compared to traders who face many uncertainties.
Smith also goes further to explain that country life offers peace and tranquility that cannot be found in towns. Smith reckons that everyone likes a peaceful and quiet place, which is exactly what country life offers. In addition, the beauty of the countryside makes life more interesting than in the towns. Smith also adds that country life has a certain degree of independence, which makes it irresistible to almost everybody. Moreover, country life is not blemished by the injustice of human laws.
People practicing agriculture close to towns also stand to benefit from the extensive markets provided by the towns. For example, farmers growing corn a mile away from the town sell their produce at the same price as the farmers who are many miles away. For this reason, famers living close to towns accrue more profits than their counterparts living many miles away because they do not need to meet huge financial expenses to take their produce to the market. The benefits experienced on the country side also extend on a macro-economic level.
For example, Smith argues that the growth of the modern Europe and America has its basis on agriculture – practiced by people living in the country side. The growth of agriculture promotes the growth of towns, which in turn promotes trade. Therefore, service and manufacturing industries would not exist without the country life. This is because the towns need a supply of raw materials, which comes from the countryside. Once there is enough supply of raw materials, other service industries espouse to provide other essential services to the town people. The towns grow with time and later open up to foreign commerce. On this aspect, the towns can be said to gain their wealth from the countryside because they cannot produce or reproduce their substances without the rural areas.
Nevertheless, this does not mean that towns grow at the expense of the rural areas. Both the rural areas and the towns stand to gain from the mutual and reciprocal growth of each other. As a result, both the towns and the rural areas are servants to each other. The towns are sustained from the materials obtained from the rural areas, while the rural areas rely on the towns for manufactured produce and to expand their agriculture. In addition, the towns provide a market for the surplus materials from the rural areas, while the inhabitants of the rural areas exchange their materials for other commodities from the urban areas.
In conclusion, Smith makes the points that country life benefits people on individual and national level. On the individual level, people benefit from the peaceful lifestyle offered by the countryside and the assurance that their capital is safe. On the national level, rural areas promote growth of towns, which subsequently wealth for the country. As a result, it makes sense to devote more resources to the people in the country life.
Smith, Adam. An Inquiry into the nature and Causes of Wealth of Nations. ed. C. J. Bullock.
Vol. X. The Harvard Classics. New York: P. F. Collier & Son, 1909-14. Print.