Best Books of 2019: Humanomics by Vernon Smith and Bart Wilson


Review of Humanomics: Moral Sentiments and the Wealth of Nations for the Twenty-First Century by Vernon Smith and Bart Wilson

Smith and Wilson combine insights from their experimental economics research with insights about human character from Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations and especially his 1759 book The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Not only are the two Smith’s systems compatible, they make each other stronger. Adam Smith’s insights into how empathy drives human behavior turn out to be confirmed by today’s game theory and empirical lab experiments. Rather than the hyper-rational Homo economicus who lives only in textbooks and on blackboards, Both Smiths and Wilson are more interested in Homo sapiens, a much more subtle and demanding subject. Their choice of title is a good one.