One of my delights in preparing my recent talk on Adam Smith‘s Wealth of Nations, a talk I’ll post in the next few days, is that I read substantial sections of the book that I hadn’t read before. Whereas I have sometimes thought his prose bogs down, I found many instances with terse, crystal-clear reasoning. A case in point is his tight reasoning on lotteries:

In order to have a better chance for some of the great prizes, some people purchase several tickets, and others, small share in a still greater number. There is not, however, a more certain proposition in mathematics than that the more tickets you adventure upon, the more likely you are to be a loser. Adventure upon all the tickets in the lottery, and you lose for certain; and the greater the number of your tickets the nearer you approach to this certainty.