“Adam Smith”George Goodman

(Reading Time: 2 minutes)

A writer, Goodman had graduated from Harvard (magna cum laude), and then as a Rhodes scholar, studied political economy at Oxford. He published a novel, The Bubble Makers, instead of a thesis. In the mid-1950s he was a U.S. Army Special Forces intelligence analyst, but what he really wanted to do was write full time. He wrote more novels, including a children’s book, but to pay the bills he wrote for Barron’s, Time, and Fortune. In the 1960s, he took a staff position at the startup New York magazine, and was assigned to write about Wall Street. To protect him against retribution when covering the financial sector, he was assigned a pen name: Adam Smith, after the 18th-century father of modern economics. He hated using the fake name, and tried to find out who had assigned it to him so he could appeal the decision. No one would admit to it (though it was probably the magazine’s founding editor, Clay Felker). “Of course, after my books became successful, three people owned up,” Goodman said years later.

Indeed as “Adam Smith,” Goodman became extremely popular, and the key to his success, he thought, was he didn’t try to explain economics to people, but rather money. “Everybody’s interested in money,” he said. “Money, food and sex — not necessarily in that order.” And “as my Texas friends say, ‘Money ain’t everything, but everything won’t go out with you unless you’ve got it’.” His first book on the subject explained money in a way the average person could understand it — and profit from it. The Money Game, published in 1968, was a best-seller. It was followed by Supermoney (1972), Paper Money (1981), and a TV show on PBS (and syndicated to 40 other countries) called Adam Smith’s Money World, which ran from 1984 to 1997. “I was curious to know why some people make money and others don’t,” he said in 1989, and worked to demystify the financial markets. The only way the show could be better, said a reviewer in the New York Times, is if Goodman spent more time “interviewing himself.” Goodman knew that the stock market sometimes got out of control and became overvalued. “We are at a wonderful ball where the champagne sparkles in every glass and soft laughter falls upon the summer air,” he wrote in 1968, in The Money Game. “We know at some moment the black horsemen will come shattering through the terrace doors wreaking vengeance and scattering the survivors. Those who leave early are saved, but the ball is so splendid no one wants to leave while there is still time. So everybody keeps asking — what time is it? But none of the clocks have hands.” Goodman died January 3, from myelofibrosis, a bone marrow disease which was a complication of leukemia. He was 83.

From This is True for 5 January 2014