Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A True Believer is Dumfounded

Kirk Barrell writes on Random Roving Blog (‘A Non-Partisan Community for Communication And Collaboration’): “Don't Shoot The Messenger” (HERE):

‘I’m continually dumbfounded by the fact that most people believe that the economy is controlled by the president and their administration. I first ask: “wouldn’t all presidents want a good economy? If so, why don’t they create it?”. I’m a big believer in Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” [HERE] Markets beat to their own cycle. Presidents are like bullriders trying just to stay on for 8 seconds and if they’re lucky, maybe they steer the bull in one direction for a brief moment.’

If you rely on Wikipedia for knowledge, you get what you don’t pay for, in this case rubbish.

The clue to the real problem is that Kirk Barrell is a ‘big believer in Adam Smith’s invisible hand'.

He exhibits an almost religious belief in a myth; the myth being that Smith’s use of the metaphor of ‘an invisible hand’ was re-invented in Chicago in the 1930s as a mystical force credited with miraculous powers – even Godly – which passed into mainstream academe, like a meme, virus, thanks to Paul Samuelson’s phenomenally successful textbook, Economics, from its first edition in 1948 to its 13th edition in 1989 (there are claims that Economics went through 16 editions), which claimed that Adam Smith had first talked about markets ‘as if led by an invisible hand’, when in fact he never did.

But millions of students read Samuelson and got the message about mystical invisible hands; the ‘belief’ is now firmly entrenched and such authority as Wikipedia may have, means that millions more will become believers too.

Quelle domage!

If only these people would read Adam Smith and see what he actually said. They would find that the metaphor of ‘an invisible hand’ was not part of Smith’s exposition of how markets worked.

They could also download an early version of my paper, ‘Adam Smith and the invisible hand: from metaphor to myth’ (HERE) and read for themselves what he actually said.

Labels: ,


Blogger Kirk Barrell said...

I believe that you missed my point on my post. There was nothing religious or mythical about it. It was basically stating that the economy is cyclical and the "powers that be" will never change that.

3:12 pm  

Post a comment

<< Home