Invisible Hand Pt. 1

By - Nov 3, 08:00 AM Comments [0]


By Lucas Weingarten

On March 9, 1776, four months before the United States declared its independence from the British Empire, a Scottish economist by the name of Adam Smith published a seminal work in economic theory titled, “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.” Within the pages of this transcendent tome, Smith uses a metaphor that subsequently released a waterfall of economic discourse and theorizing which perpetuates to this day. Smith mentions the metaphor only once and in specific rather than general context (domestic versus foreign trade). However, its poignancy and illustrative properties supply endless fodder for academic thought:

“… led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.”

The concept of the Invisible Hand is widely and basically understood to refer to the underlying processes leading to unforeseen and unintended results of individual actions (my words). One could posit the invisible hand is a guiding force that is, metaphorically speaking, both the chicken and the egg.

So what does all this have to do with the previous post? What does the invisible hand have to do with sustainability? Is this “the One” I was referring to?

I asked for guesses, but got only a few (thanks for those!). My favorite is entrepreneurship because it’s both near and dear to my heart and it is precisely that breed of thinking that we need so much more of. It is not, however, what I had in mind when I posed the query. The One exists on a much more macro level, but certainly does encompass entrepreneurship, as well as engineering, greed, regulation, and the government (other guesses).

The answer: market economics.

Note here that I did not say free market economics. That’s because a free market only exists in theory and has never existed in reality. [Perhaps it will never exist because it can never exist in pure and true form, but that's another issue entirely.] All of the guesses above live and thrive across the globe under this over-arching umbrella. Market economics is both the cause and the solution to our current economic and environmental problem(s).

More to come in my next post… Thanks for reading.

~Article provided by the courtesy of Kaplan GMAT

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