NYU Stern School of Business | Groups


Mission statement:The Adam Smith Society is a community of business school students and alumni dedicated to exploring the links among the economy, government, and society. The Society believes that business, entrepreneurship, and commerce are wellsprings that keep this country vibrant, creative, prosperous, and free. Through debate and discussion, the Society aims to advance this idea on campus and among business leaders.

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 The Adam Smith Society sponsors lectures and debates with prominent speakers, meet-and-greets with business leaders and experts, reading groups, and other events. At the National Meeting, chapter members and alumni from across the country meet each other and hear from accomplished business leaders on philosophical and historical principles that underlie our society—as well as their practical applications. For MBA graduates, the Adam Smith Society also facilitates a national alumni network that connects recent graduates, current students, and business leaders with one another.  


With Adam Smith’s seminal work The Wealth of Nations, the modern discipline of economics took root. Detailing the division of labor according to specialization, the importance of rational self-interest, and the ability of a free market to self-regulate via prices and wages, Smith firmly established the principles of free markets that enable commercial success.

Born in 1723 to a recent widow in Kirkcaldy, Scotland, Adam Smith left his small village at the age of fourteen to attend the University of Glasgow. Here he was greatly influenced by the moral philosopher Francis Hutcheson and Scottish enlightenment philosopher David Hume. After attending Balliol College at Oxford, Smith returned home to Scotland to teach at Glasgow University, where he became first chair of logic in 1751 and then chair of moral philosophy in 1752. Here he taught natural theology, ethics, jurisprudence, and economics. Smith was fascinated by virtue and generosity, commenting in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, “How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature which interest him in the fortune of others and render their happiness necessary to him though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.”

Leaving the University in 1764 to become the Duke of Buccleuch’s tutor, Smith spent his free hours pondering the ideas that eight years later he detailed in The Wealth of Nations. Published in 1776, the same year American patriots signed the Declaration of Independence, The Wealth of Nations explained how the division of labor increased production, why the “invisible hand” led each individual pursuing his own rational self-interest to invest his resources into ways that served and benefited his fellowman, and how prices self-regulated the commercial system, among many other foundational economic concepts.

In 1778, following the publication of his work, Smith was appointed commissioner of customs. He died in Glasgow in 1790. 


The Adam Smith Society is an initiative of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. Following the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent broadsides against capitalism, we partnered with the Marilyn G. Fedak Capitalism Project and began looking for ways to support teaching and scholarship surrounding the philosophical, historical, and moral aspects of a market economy. We also looked for ways to expand opportunities on campus for current students—the leaders of tomorrow—to reflect on the meaning of citizenship and their own role in keeping America an inspiring place to live and work.

In 2011, we began recruiting MBA students to found chapters of the Adam Smith Society at their home business schools. These students were committed to engaging in dialogue about individual liberty, limited government, and free enterprise—“big picture” ideas—amongst MBA students.
With financial assistance and programming guidance from the Manhattan Institute, chapters began to host events with prominent business leaders, journalists, and public officials who inspire students to think about their own responsibility in seeing our economic system endure.

We presently have students and student groups affiliated with the Adam Smith Society at business schools including: NYU, the University of Chicago, Columbia, Harvard, the University of Texas (Austin), Yale, the University of Virginia, Cornell, and Dartmouth. We will continue to grow our network to include students and groups at other top business schools in the coming years.