Ryan Irelan

is building Mijingo and doing limited consulting.

How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life - Russ Roberts

I am not well-versed in economics nor many specifics of Adam Smith other than that he wrote a book of which I’ve heard: The Wealth of Nations. However, I was intriuged by the idea of taking Adam Smith’s secondary work–_The Theory of Moral Sentiments_ published in 1759–and reading through a lens of modern life and living.

But I’ll be honest: this book was a slog for me after the first one third or so. I don’t fault the author for this. I think the material lends itself to explanations that are drawn out and over-explanatory.

Economist Russ Roberts takes Smith’s work and breaks it down into chapters that are the ways in which Adam Smith can change our lives:

  • How to Know Yourself
  • How to Be Happy
  • How Not to Fool Yourself
  • How to Be Loved
  • How to Be Lovely
  • How to Be Good
  • How to Make the World a Better Place
  • How Not to Make the World a Better Place
  • How to Live in the Modern World

The chapter titles read like the contents of a third-rate self help book at the mall bookstore (Do mall bookstores still exist?) but they will fool you. The material in them is nothing of the sort. It’s quite good.

Okay, so why is an economist writing a book about living a better life, which is based on a book by an 18th century philosopher and economist?

Economics isn’t just about money.

Economics helps you understand that money isn’t the only thing that matters in life. Economics teaches you that making a choice means giving up something. And economics can help you appreciate complexity and how seemingly unrelated actions and people can become entangled. These insights and others are sprinkled throughout The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

And then we’re off, as Roberts launches deep into the nine ways you can improve your life through Adam Smith. Russ Roberts successfully dusts off a centuries old work and applies it to the modern day.

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