Russ Roberts: Adam Smith's Surprising Guide to Happiness (But Not Wealth)


"It's kind of shocking to realize the person known as the father of modern economics, Adam Smith, didn't think the pursuit of wealth was a very good idea," say Russ Roberts. "He thought it was corrosive, thought it was bad for you, thought ambition was bad for you, thought the pursuit of fame would destroy your character and your happiness, your serenity, your tranquility.

Roberts is the author of the just-released How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness, an extended and lively meditation of Smith's classic The Theory of Moral Sentiments, first published in 1759, years before Smith's better-known Wealth of Nations.

One of the most popular explicators of economic thought—and perhaps more importantly, the limits of economic thought—Roberts is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, the host of the great podcast EconTalk, a regular presence on NPR, co-blogger at Cafe Hayek, and the author of a host of previous books (including three novels: The Choice, The Invisible Heart, and The Price of Everything). He is the co-creator of the wildly popular rap videos illustrating the ideas of John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek, which have been viewed more than 7 million times on YouTube. His personal website is here.

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.

About 1 hour. Scroll down for downloadable versions and a transcript. Subscribe to Reason TV's YouTube channel to receive automatic notification when new material goes live.

Edited by Todd Krainin.