Sunday, March 25, 2007

Songs of Praise for Invisible Body parts

Tim Webb writes in The Independent (25 March) about Gerry Spindler, boss of UK Coal:

“Gerry Spindler: Glimmers of hope at the bottom of the pit. It's tough being a former state-run monopoly in a privatised world, but the Chief Executive of UK Coal remains philosophical”

“Ordinarily, you might not expect the chief executive of what used to be British Coal to quote Mark Twain and wax lyrical about the economists Milton Friedman and Adam Smith. But Gerry Spindler, the American head of UK Coal, fancies himself as a bit of a philosopher.

"I am a disciple of Milton Friedman," he says in his slow, measured tone. "I believe in Adam Smith's 'invisible hand'. I have seen the free market economy work and I am a believer."

Just for good measure, he also warns sagely: "You can't trust capitalists," without explaining whether he includes himself in this category.”

Yes, markets work but whether they need or there is ‘an invisible hand’ running the show is not in doubt: there isn’t, and Adam Smith never said there was. His explanation of markets (Books I and II of Wealth of Nations) did not invoke any invisible body parts at work.

The neoclassical economists from Chicago who linked the metaphor (from Book IV) to markets (Books I and II) have sowed confusion –even helped to start a new religion for ‘believers’, of which Gerry Spindler appears to be one (of many). He sings praises to an invisible body part like the ancient pagans who sang praises to invisible gods who lurked in every tree, stream, cloud, storm, earthquake, eclipse, rainbow and season.

[Read more of Tim Webb on Gerry Spindler at:]


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