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April 11, 2005

Adam Smith on Chair-Men, Coal-Heavers, Porters, Prostitutes, and Potatoes

Adam Smith is definitely pro-potato: He thinks potato-eaters are Buff and Gorgeous--"the strongest men and the most beautiful women perhaps in the British dominions.

Jack of http://elephantstrunk.net/ writes in comments:

Actually, [Adam] Smith was quite nice about potatoes:

In some parts of Lancashire, it is pretended, I have been told, that bread of oatmeal is a heartier food for labouring people than wheaten bread, and I have frequently heard the same doctrine held in Scotland. I am, however, somewhat doubtful of the truth of it. The common people in Scotland, who are fed with oatmeal, are in general neither so strong nor so handsome as the same rank of people in England, who are fed with wheaten bread. They neither work so well, nor look so well; and as there is not the same difference between the people of fashion in the two countries, experience would seem to shew, that the food of the common people in Scotland is not so suitable to the human constitution as that of their neighbours of the same rank in England. But it seems to be otherwise with potatoes. The chairmen, porters, and coal-heavers in London, and those unfortunate women who live by prostitution, the strongest men and the most beautiful women perhaps in the British dominions, are said to be, the greater part of them, from the lowest rank of people in Ireland, who are generally fed with this root. No food can afford a more decisive proof of its nourishing quality, or of its being peculiarly suitable to the health of the human constitution...

Adam Smith (1776), An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (London: William Strahan) Book I, Chapter 11.

Posted by DeLong at April 11, 2005 01:01 PM