How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life



I take the ideas in Smith's little-known masterpiece, The Theory of Moral Sentiments and apply them to the modern world—lessons for work, family, friendship, and how to live the good life.

“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


Psychology Today Review

William Irwin reviews How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life at Psychology Today. Irwin gets what I’m trying to do and does a nice job explaining what I actually did. One of the more thorough pieces on the book so far:

In How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life Russ Roberts does not focus on The Wealth of Nations, but rather on Smith’s other major book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Smith founded the study of economics, but his training and education were in philosophy, and The Theory of Moral Sentiments is very clearly a work of moral philosophy. Part of Smith’s message in this book is that we should not pursue fame and fortune. Why? Because such pursuits and even accomplishments will not make us happy. Tellingly, the subtitle of Roberts’s book is An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness.

Roberts and Smith deliver on the implicit promise of the title and subtitle. I must confess that I have not read Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Very few people have these days. But having read Roberts’s book, I am now going to read Smith’s neglected classic. In the pages of Roberts’s book, Smith comes across as a brilliant psychologist and theorist of human nature.

  • 11.19.14

Radio Appearance on THINK

Kris Boyd of THINK (out of KERA–public radio in Dallas) interviews me on Adam Smith. Lovely questions and interesting discussion.

  • 11.05.14

Speech at the Royal Society of Arts

I talk at the Royal Society of Arts about Smith’s view of loveliness, what Smith might say about the seeming decline of the US and the UK, and how Adam Smith can, possibly, change your life.

  • 10.31.14

Speech at the London School of Economics

I talk about the real invisible hand at the London School of Ecomomics. I try to give the real story of how Smith thought about emergent order as not just a commercial phenomenon but a social one as well.

  • 10.30.14

Appearance on

“Roberts sat down with Reason’s Nick Gillespie to talk about Adam Smith’s relevance in both economic and moral arenas, the hubris of contemporary economists and the politicians who rely on them, the transformation of work from drudgery to a form of self-actualization, and how Adam Smith—a bachelor who lived much of his adult life with mother—just might help you live a happy life.”


  • 10.08.14

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Piketty Panel Video

Video of my debate on Piketty with Tyler Cowen, Brad Delong and Robert Solow is here.

  • 09.29.14


Welcome to my new website. This is where I keep stuff I’ve written or created. You can find my books, videos I’ve created, speeches I’ve made, podcasts or interviews, and essays of various kinds. There are also resources for teachers and students using material I’ve written. Hope you find something useful or interesting here.

  • 09.16.14

The Disrupters

This article first appeared in the September/October issue of Politico Magazine.

I’m hardly the first person to extol the virtues of the sharing economy—the latest iteration of which comes in the form of smartphone apps like Airbnb or Uber that connect people who want somewhere to stay or a ride with people willing to provide it. Tech that allows me to book an apartment halfway around the world or order a cab on my phone in mere minutes is pretty cool. But what many miss is how crucial an abstract concept—trust—is to making these businesses work. The sharing economy is changing our travel habits, fragmenting taxi and hotel services into hundreds of thousands of independent providers. It could also utterly transform the way our political institutions work. READ ARTICLE »

A Professor’s Professor


In his classroom, rigor was its own reward. By Russell Roberts.

This article was originally printed in the Hoover Digest on July 9, 2014.

Gary Becker was my PhD adviser at the University of Chicago. We graduate students were in awe of him and more than a little afraid of him. He had a very big brain and was never one for casual conversation or chitchat. READ ARTICLE »

Why Frank Underwood is a Democrat

This post originally appeared in Politico Magazine on 5/19/2014.

By now, most “House of Cards” junkies have gotten their fix and consumed all 13 episodes of season two of the buzzy Netflix show. Waiting for season three gives us time to step back and consider what we might learn from what is certainly the best political drama you can stream over the Internet.