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How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness Paperback – Deckle Edge, October 13, 2015
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"A remarkable book . . . Mr. Roberts’s witty, candid take on Smith is filled with his own wisdom. Gurus, theologians, and economists alike might learn a thing or two from him and the first modern economist."
— ROBERT LITAN, The Wall Street Journal
"I loved it. A wonderfully readable appreciation of Smith’s ingenuity. You can’t fail to be entertained."
— CLIVE CROOK, Bloomberg View
"This is a fun, fascinating, and original book that will challenge you to become a better version of yourself."
— DANIEL H. PINK, author of To Sell Is Human
"An engaging and inspiring meditation on virtue, friendship, and happiness. The result is a wonderful guide to living a good life."
— JONATHAN HAIDT, author of The Righteous Mind
About the Author
Russ Roberts is the John and Jean De Nault Research Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. He hosts the award-winning weekly podcast EconTalk and is the author of three economics novels, including The Price of Everything: A Parable of Possibility and Prosperity. He is also the co-creator of the Keynes-Hayek rap videos, which have been viewed over seven million times on YouTube. His twitter handle is @econtalker.
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Roberts does not proceed through TToMS linearly, but rather provides his own well thought out progression of topics. Frequent snippets from Smith serve both to assure the accuracy of Roberts' summarization and to make me glad that I did not have to work through the 18th century prose.
Roberts waits until the end of the book to present his take on the "Adam Smith question", specifically "how could the same author produce one work so disdainful of pursuing wealth for wealth's sake and then write the founding book of classical economic theory assuming man as an economic actor solely pursuing his own material interest?"
Hayek understood how to reconcile this and Roberts rightly credits him while presenting a richer version of Hayek's arguments, informed greatly by the material presented in the preceding chapters.
Roberts deserves a lot of credit for both illuminating Smith's genius and keen understanding of the world and for writing a book that is a pleasure to read.
A lot of people might not have heard of Adam Smith. Those who have heard of this famous man are familiar with his work on the Economy. He wrote a famous book called “The Wealth of Nations.” But this book is not the only material he produced. He also wrote an excellent book called “The Theory of Moral Sentiment.” This book is an excellent look into the makeup of humanity. Here are some insights on the process of self-deception that Smith provides for us today.
“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.”
“Not surprisingly, we find it much easier to see the moral imperfections in others than our own shortcomings.”
“Once you’ve noticed this strange logical inversion— what seems good for me is actually good for you!—… We do what’s best for ourselves but convince ourselves that our motivation is for others.”
“Smith reminds us that it’s hard to be objective when you have a horse in the race— your own self-interest. It’s easy to convince yourself that you’re doing the right thing when you’re merely doing what benefits yourself.”
“If you have water in your basement and ask a waterproofer for an assessment of the problem, he’s likely to recommend spending $ 30,000 to dig a trench around your house and reset the piers that support your foundation. The guy who sells sump pumps will recommend a sump pump. The gutter guy will tell you need to replace your gutters, and the landscaper will want to construct a berm to direct water away from the house. When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
These quotes come from a book called “How Can Adam Smith Change Your Life.” Adam Smith was an attuned observer of humanity. The best way to overcome self-deception is to be part of a community of accountability, and maintain a strong spiritual life.
Regarding this book, I don't agree with the grand generalization presented that we (all) want to be 'loved and lovely'. I'd have to read TMS myself to judge whether Smith applied this to all, or most people. I've observed several that don't seem motivated by this idea, but I found it an interesting lens for consideration.
Smiths 'impartial spectator' does not seem as correct or consistent as the 'inner master' from 'What is Man?' for understanding and predicting peoples behavior. I recommend Mark Twains work after reading Roberts book.
One of the ideas that makes this book more than worth the candle is the necessity and justification for having a separate business outlook from personal outlook. Roberts description of a fireside chat with Adam Smith is charming. It is an interesting contrast to some of Smiths ideas that seem cold on first review, but wise after more thought is applied.
Whether Roberts accurately reflects Smiths views or not, and whether or not Smith was correct in these views, this book outlines a useful guide.