Adam Smith provided a revolutionary blueprint for prosperity and morality in his two books, The Theory of Moral Sentiments and The Wealth of Nations. His ideas can be found woven into the U.S. Constitution and many foreign government charters. Those ideas changed the world.
Adam Smith lived, lectured and socialized in Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh.
Host Johan Norberg explores Adam Smith’s Paris, where Smith – a noted author at the time -- was eagerly welcomed in the salons and estates of the wealthy.
“Smith took ideas of economics that were really in the bow and arrow stage and made them into a modern theory, which actually still drives out economic thinking today,” said Eamonn Butler, director of London’s Adam Smith Institute. “People call him an economist; he was really a social psychologist. He wrote about ethics, he wrote about law, he wrote about politics and obviously, he wrote about economics.”
“I think the United States is Smithian in its bones,” said James Otteson, Executive Director and Professor, Wake Forest University.
At the University of Chicago, Chinese students gather to discuss Adam Smith, capitalism and communist China…a conversation that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
Aboard the largest and most modern container ship in the world, the Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller, Johan Norberg witnesses the incredible scale of world trade first hand as he sails from Spain into Rotterdam harbor.
Ideas That Changed the World host Johan Norberg observes the final assembly of a new Airbus A380 in Toulouse, France and examines Adam Smith’s insights on the division of labor’s ability to generate wealth.
Host Johan Norberg visits the largest library in the world, the Library of Congress where Thomas Jefferson’s original copy of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations is housed. “Jefferson not only read the book; he studied it, referenced it and recommended it to others,” said Norberg. “In a letter to John Norville, he writes, ‘ ... if your views of political enquiry go further to the subjects of money and commerce, Smith’s Wealth of Nations is the best book to be read.’”
The 400 Whole Foods Markets throughout the U.S., Canada and the U.K. are stocked with products from around the world, transported aboard cargo ships like the Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller.
“Adam Smith was one of the greatest minds of all time,” said award-winning Smith biographer and Honorary Fellow at the University of Edinburgh Nick Phillipson. Referring to Adam Smith’s enormous popularity in Paris, Phillipson said, “Paris was ready for Smith and Smith was ready for Paris.”
“Adam Smith gives us a way of thinking about markets and morality together,” said Marquette University Professor Ryan Hanley. “For Smith, these are not two things that can easily be extricated from each other.”
“Adam Smith was so far ahead of his time,” said John Mackey, founder and CO-CEO of Whole Foods Markets. “The totality of his ideas are still very, very important and very relevant today.”
“After Mao died, both the Chinese leaders and the Chinese people recognized that socialism didn’t work,” said Ning Wang, author of How China Became Capitalist and professor of economics at Ronald Coase Institute. “They gradually opened up the economy, allowed private sector to enter in one industry after another, and of course, once the private enterprises entered any sector, they quickly out-performed state enterprises.”
“Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, believed in Adam Smith’s principles,” said Devin Wenig, CEO of eBay Marketplaces. “He believed that an economic democracy would not only be a great business, but it had the potential to do immense amounts of good around the world.”
“In learning of the burning of the Capitol and the loss of the 3,000-volume Library of Congress in 1814, Thomas Jefferson offered Congress his personal library as a replacement. A second fire in 1851 destroyed two thirds of those volumes,” said Mark Dimunation, Library of Congress chief of Rare Book and Special Collections Division. “One book that survived both fires is Thomas Jefferson’s original copy of The Wealth of Nations.”
Morality and Markets host Johan Norberg visits Le Procope, one of the oldest restaurants in Paris and a gathering place of the great thinkers of the age, including Voltaire, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, Russo and Adam Smith.
Host Johan Norberg examines Adam Smith’s 18th century life and ideas and their relevance to our 21st century global marketplace today.
Johan Norberg visits Gelb Music, a small business that sells successfully on eBay. “Adam Smith would have said that an ‘invisible hand’ guides eBay sellers around the world,” he said. “As prices are on the rise, because buyers want a particular item, sellers stream into the market to satisfy that demand. And when demand drops…prices go down. There are millions of exchanges each minute, all of them without regulation. It’s an enormous amount of business based solely on trust.”