Now Playing

What can a man with a plain name who lived over 200 years ago tell us about life today? Who was The Real Adam Smith? And why should we care?

In this two-hour, two-part documentary, Swedish author, commentator and Cato Senior Fellow Johan Norberg explores Adam Smith’s life, his ideas about morality and economics, and how the concepts he discussed in his books and lectures are still relevant today.

Filmed around the world, from Kirkaldy, Scotland, to Paris, France, and from the United States to the deck of the Maersk McKinney Moller, one of the largest cargo carriers on the oceans today, The Real Adam Smith answers questions like: How do we know right from wrong? Is the shopkeeper “evil” to be concerned with his own wellbeing? What do Uber and eBay illustrate from Smith’s teachings? Did Smith influence the writings of America’s founders and thus the documents on which the country is based?

Though Smith was a huge advocate for free markets, he was also greatly concerned about the plight of the poor.

Hour One, Morality & Markets, explores Smith’s life and role in the Scottish Enlightenment, his thoughts on empathy and how we distinguish right from wrong. French wine, Scottish whiskey, and freshly-baked scones all illustrate Smith’s economic principles. True wealth is defined. We discover Smith’s thoughts on the government’s role in markets, his distaste for monopolies/crony capitalism in the form of the East India Company, and his thoughts on the American colonies.

Hour Two, Ideas That Changed the World, explores contemporary life and Smith’s influences on the very things we see going on today. Why is Smith widely studied now in China? Ethical businesses, like Whole Foods, showcase the morality Smith insisted was critical to thriving markets. Uber and eBay demonstrate that markets can thrive through the organization and “self-policing” of the participants themselves.

The Real Adam Smith: A Personal Exploration by Johan Norberg reveals an uncommon 18th-century man whose revolutionary ideas resonate in our 21st-century world.