How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life

How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life

An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness

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Additional Formats
  • Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781591846840
  • 272 Pages
  • Portfolio
  • Adult


A forgotten book by one of history’s greatest thinkers reveals the surprising connections between happiness, virtue, fame, and fortune.

Adam Smith may have become the patron saint of capitalism after he penned his most famous work, The Wealth of Nations. But few people know that when it came to the behavior of individuals—the way we perceive ourselves, the way we treat others, and the decisions we make in pursuit of happiness—the Scottish philosopher had just as much to say. He developed his ideas on human nature in an epic, sprawling work titled The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

Most economists have never read it, and for most of his life, Russ Roberts was no exception. But when he finally picked up the book by the founder of his field, he realized he’d stumbled upon what might be the greatest self-help book that almost no one has read.

In How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life, Roberts examines Smith’s forgotten masterpiece, and finds a treasure trove of timeless, practical wisdom. Smith’s insights into human nature are just as relevant today as they were three hundred years ago. What does it take to be truly happy? Should we pursue fame and fortune or the respect of our friends and family? How can we make the world a better place? Smith’s unexpected answers, framed within the rich context of current events, literature, history, and pop culture, are at once profound, counterintuitive, and highly entertaining.

By reinvigorating Smith’s neglected classic, Roberts provides us with an invaluable look at human behavior through the lens of one of history’s greatest minds.


“An earnest, accessible introduction to Smith’s ideas on the nature of virtue and happiness.” 
The Wall Street Journal

“A remarkable book…Mr. Roberts’s witty, candid take on Smith is filled with his own wisdom. Gurus, theologians and economists alike might learn a thing or two from him and the first modern economist.” 
The Wall Street Journal‘s Washington Wire

“Roberts skillfully blends modern examples with Smith’s original.”
Financial Times

“A wonderful new interpretation of Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments…A model of intelligent popularization and a great tool for teaching and learning….(Russ) is a great translator of economic ideas into the language of everyday life, and this book is a prime example of how very valuable that skill can be.”
—Yuval Levin, National Review

“I loved it. A wonderfully readable appreciation of Smith’s ingenuity. You can’t fail to be entertained.”
–Clive Crook, BloombergView

“Can economists teach us how to live a good life? When the economists in question are Adam Smith and Russ Roberts, the answer is a definitive yes. Roberts shines a fresh light on Smith’s ideas about morality and human nature and finds that these 18th century ideas hold up remarkably well in the 21st century.  This is a fun, fascinating, and original book that will challenge you to become a better version of yourself.”
—DANIEL H. Pink, author of Drive and To Sell is Human

“A great book. Makes you feel better about life, humanity, and yourself. Like having a conversation and a scotch with Adam Smith, or even better, Russ Roberts.”
NASSIM TALEB, author of The Black Swan

“Russ Roberts has taken a brilliant but difficult classic—Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments—and written an engaging and inspiring meditation on virtue, friendship, and happiness. The result is a wonderful guide to living a good life.”
JONATHAN HAIDT, author of The Righteous Mind

“Adam Smith was not just an economist; he also had penetrating insights into human nature that informed his rich, subtle, and revolutionary approach to moral philosophy. Russ Roberts combines a deep understanding of what Smith was on about with a fluent writing style to bring out the surprisingly modern implications of Smith’s thinking.”
MATT RIDLEY, author of The Rational Optimist

“Russ Roberts has done us all a great service in capturing the essence of Smith’s wisdom about the emotional and psychological foundations of both the good life and a successful economy. This book is a pleasure to read and, what’s more, Adam Smith almost certainly can change your life.”
DIANE COYLE, author of The Soulful Science