Tuesday, October 05, 2010


So far this week (and the weekend) I have been working on my paper in response to a US colleague on the Invisible Hand for publication. A major calamity occurred when I lost the draft version in a computer accident. This took much of Sunday to rewrite from scratch, references and all (I save current drafts almost every paragraph).

Since then I have been working on improving the new draft for sending off by the Friday deadline, putting all else aside.

It’s just as well, though, for while the alert keeps sending invisible hand references in the world’s media, many of them are so pathetic (even some scholarly ones) that it would be tiresome to use them.

When asked why I bother, I can show many taken examples at random, where policy-makers take the conventional view that there is an invisible hand guiding competitive markets to the public good, where an examination of their version of the public good is highly political or so mysterious as to be scary.

Competitive markets are almost always likely to be more satisfactory than government dictat but that does not mean that decision-makers ought not to be watched closely (hence the importance of liberty). But there are also few markets that are free of monopolies – not all that much has changed since Smith’s day – mercantile political economy is still rampant across the world and silly ideas about behaviour and outcomes, like the tooth fairy, inhabit popular understanding of the supposed power of an invisible hand.



Blogger Joe Francis said...

Just found out about your work on Smith - thank you!

Some time ago I took the time to read bits (not all!) of Smith, and was surprised that he has been so widely misrepresented. My personal theory is that that misrepresentation began with David Ricardo, who presented a crude caricature of Smith, which then became the mainstream view. I then started to wonder whether Ricardo himself had really even read Smith properly...

Anyhow, thanks again - I'm looking forward to reading your work in more detail.

3:14 pm  
Blogger Gavin Kennedy said...

Joe Francis
Thank you for your message.

I agree that the drift away from Smith's work got under way with and after Ricardo. He dug himself in a hole with intepretating what he read as a labour theory of value in Smith. The pure ideas became separated from Smith's deep sense of history.

See my 'Adam Smith: a moral philosopher and his political economy, 2008, 2nd edition, paperback, Palgrave Macmillan.2010, (£19). Let know what you think.


8:28 pm  

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