Return to media reviews

How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness

Russ Roberts' How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life is not an economics manual; instead, it's a surprisingly fresh take on the quest for personal happiness and virtue. Based on Adam Smith's lesser-known work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, this book unpacks timeless wisdom in a way that's approachable and relevant. Roberts considers Smith's principles: acting to please an 'impartial spectator' within, seeking virtue, understanding ourselves, and dodging the traps of wealth and recognition. It's a succinct reflection that parallels the Stoic musings of Aurelius and Epictetus, serving as a solid, modern gateway to virtue ethics.

What sets this book apart is Robert's ability to weave Smith's 18th-century insights into 21st-century life, exemplifying through captivating stories and behavioral economics how these ideas hold water today. It presents a kind of moral roadmap—advice on modesty, integrity, personal growth—and applies it not just to personal gain but to societal improvement. Through small, daily actions, and leading by example, we can collectively edge towards a kinder world. If you're up for some introspection and are curious about how an old economist's ideas can refresh your perspective, I think you'll enjoy it.


These are entirely subjective, and roughly try to capture my personal enjoyment and usefulness, and how likely I'd recommend it to others. Don't read too much into this unless you love my judgement. Rough guidelines:

A: Top quartile. Changed the way I think about something.

B: Worthwhile. I took away something useful.

C: Didn't hit, wouldn't directly recommend. Likely won't revisit.

Stay connected

I send out occasional updates on posts, interesting finds, and projects I'm working on. I'd love to include you. No tracking, one-click unsubscribe.