How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life


OCTOBER 9, 2014

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



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

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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

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.

Janet Yellen Won’t Change the Fed

This article originally appeared in the Daily Beast on 10/9/13.

After President Obama announced her nomination Wednesday, Janet Yellen will likely become the first woman to head the Fed. The Maestro has morphed into the Mistress.

Should We Have Let Wall Street Go Bust?

This article originally appeared in Zócalo Public Square on 3/19/13.

Tough question. It’s like asking whether chemotherapy is worth it even if you’re not sure you’ve got cancer. Neither choice is attractive. Much better to avoid a suspicion of cancer in the first place.

Know Your Limits

This article originally appeared in The European on 02/21/13.

When asked for proof of the effectiveness of Keynes’s prescription of deficit spending to cure an ailing economy, Keynesians usually point to World War II—government ran large deficits, GDP surged, and unemployment disappeared.

Why Friedrich Hayek is Making a Comeback

This article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal on June 28, 2010.

He was born in the 19th century, wrote his most influential book more than 65 years ago, and he’s not quite as well known or beloved as the sexy Mexican actress who shares his last name. Yet somehow, Friedrich Hayek is on the rise. READ ARTICLE »

Gambling with Other People’s Money

How Perverted Incentives Caused the Financial Crisis