“The great society indeed became possible by the individual directing his own efforts not towards visible wants but towards what the signals of the market represented as the likely gain of receipts over outlay.”
-F.A. Hayek, “Adam Smith (1723–1790): His Message in Today’s Language”, The Trend of Economic Thinking, 117. (PDF)
That process, writ large, is the single most powerful force in all the social sciences. It has conquered hunger, disease, and poverty wherever it has been allowed to operate with a reasonable degree of freedom.