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  • Writer's picturePeak Frameworks Team

The Economic Views of Adam Smith and Alfred Marshall

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what is economics
Source: Wallstreet Mojo

Adam Smith's Perspective on Economics

Who was Adam Smith?

Often referred to as the "father of economics," Adam Smith's insights laid the foundation for modern economic thought. His magnum opus, The Wealth of Nations, is a testament to his profound understanding of economic systems.

Smith's View on Economics

Smith introduced the concept of the "invisible hand" - an unseen force that guides individuals in the market. He believed that when individuals acted out of self-interest, they inadvertently benefited society. A contemporary example can be seen in Silicon Valley’s tech boom. Entrepreneurs, driven by personal ambition, ended up creating jobs, driving innovation, and contributing significantly to the U.S. economy.

Adam Smith Economics
Source: Prezi

Alfred Marshall’s Contribution to Economics

Alfred Marshall, Economics
Source: Prezi

Introduction to Alfred Marshall

Marshall, another luminary in economics, shifted the focus towards the micro aspects of the economy, emphasizing the behavior of individuals and firms.

Marshall’s Definition of Economics

He described economics as the study of mankind in the "ordinary business of life." To Marshall, economics wasn't just about wealth, but about how individuals made decisions. For example, the rise of sustainable consumerism in Europe showcases Marshall’s point. People are not just driven by prices, but also by their values, ethics, and the impact of their choices.

Comparing and Contrasting the Two Definitions

While Smith focused on the broader macroeconomic picture, Marshall zoned in on individual behaviors and choices. Their definitions complement each other. Smith's "invisible hand" can be seen as the aggregate outcome of the individual decisions that Marshall so meticulously studied.

The implications of their combined insights are profound. For instance, Apple’s decision to invest in renewable energy is a Marshallian micro decision. But the ripple effects of such a decision, from job creation in the renewable sector to influencing other tech giants to follow suit resonates with Smith’s broader economic perspective.

Applying Foundational Economic Principles

Behavioral Finance and Decision-Making

Marshall's focus on individual behaviors and choices has evolved into the broader field of behavioral finance. For instance, tech-driven stock market surges, like Tesla's meteoric rise, are often driven not just by hard financial data, but by investor sentiment, psychology, and collective behavior. Understanding the underpinnings of individual decisions can shed light on market anomalies and opportunities.

Strategic Corporate Decisions

Adam Smith's invisible hand and broader macroeconomic views are continuously at play in the corporate world. When major corporations, like Microsoft, pledge to go carbon negative, they aren't just adhering to ethical or environmental standards but are also making strategic moves that resonate with market demands and stakeholder expectations.

Understanding Historical Economic Thought for Contemporary Professionals

Informed Predictions and Risk Management

The cyclical nature of economies, as demonstrated by the 2008 financial crisis, is better understood when professionals have a grasp of historical economic thought. By learning from past market behaviors, professionals can craft more informed predictions and develop comprehensive risk management strategies.

Building Stronger Analytical Skills

Diving deep into historical economic thought is not just about the content; it's about honing one's analytical skills. By engaging with the challenging ideas of Smith, Marshall, and other economic greats, professionals can sharpen their critical thinking and analysis abilities, which are invaluable in the ever-evolving world of finance.

Furthermore, if you’re keen on diving deep into the world of finance and investment, knowledge of these foundational economic principles is invaluable.


While economics is a vast and evolving discipline, the foundational principles remain crucial for understanding our world. From Smith's invisible hand to Marshall's emphasis on individual choices, these titans of economic thought have provided us with tools to navigate the complex financial landscape.


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