For die-hard free traders and capitalists like myself, Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations should be required reading -- even if getting through the thousand plus pages takes months (or years). But if you don't have the time and want the cliff notes version, I'd suggest checking out P.J. O’Rourke's modern analysis of the work titled On The Wealth of Nations. You can read O'Rourke's first chapter over on NPR's website (does anyone else see the irony in that?).
O'Rourke's premise is that Adam Smith matters more today than ever before. And that's because, "None of us, in fact, take the axioms of Adam Smith as givens -- not unless what's given to us are vast profits, enormous salaries, and huge year-end bonuses resulting from unfettered markets, low labor costs, increased productivity, and current Federal Reserve policy. Like the AFL-CIO, France, and various angry and addled street protestors, we quarrel with Adam Smith. If this is to be an intelligent squabble we need to examine Smith's side of the argument in full."
Amen, P.J. It's statements like this which remind me why I once sacrificed a high mark in college way back when to meet you. Specifically, I cut a Wharton undergraduate class to go to one of your book signings and had you inscribe in one of your books to my left wing legal studies professor a note explaining why I had not gone to class and had instead gone to your signing. I faxed it to his office, and he was impressed enough to give me a C+ for the semester. But I'd say that basic economics matter far more than contracts and tort law (even if it killed my GPA in the process).