Good News, I Hope (Confirmed!)
Asad Zaman, International Institute of Islamic Economics, HERE
“Death of a Metaphor: The Invisible Hand”.
Abstract: Models are representations of reality. They simplify and ignore many complexities in order to focus on certain aspects. With constant and repeated use, theorists sometimes confuse the model with reality. This leads to many types of errors. In this article, we argue that the metaphor of the invisible hand has become deeply entrenched in the ways of thinking about and framing of economic problems. This has led to overuse and abuse of the metaphor. Why this happened, what harm has resulted from it, and how it can be remedied is the subject of this paper.”
Just received and welcome for that too!
Along with Warren Samuels’s recent (2011) book Erasing the Invisible Hand: Essays on an Elusive and Misused Concept in Economics, (Warren J. Samuels, Marianne F. Johnson, William H. Perry - 2011).
This paper (and some others recently), indicate, I hope, that the case against the over-attribution to Adam Smith’s wholly innocent use of the metaphor of “an invisible hand” by, among others, including Nobel Prize winners, is now under critical examination and that the IH metaphor as a so-called defining concept, paradigm, or theory of markets, is challenged increasingly well beyond Lost Legacy.
I shall report more on Asad Zaman’s paper later when I have read it (I am on holiday and am being called for lunch en famille).
Postscript: Asad's paper is well worth reading (follow the link). It challenges the myth of "an invisible hand" from its present core in modern (Western) theory. It is definitely worth reading. I feel vindicated to an extent. Much as I felt on reading Warren Samuels last book, referenced above.
Asad tackles the IH metaphor from a slightly different angle to my own, but from a complementary direction. It does not deny the role of metaphors - as I do not - but he explains that the IH metaphor has long past it 'use-by' date. To some extent Asad is influenced by some 'new leftist' criticism of markets but this is only because some "rightist" ideological IH believers have gone far too far into the realms of imagination well beyond the appropriate claims of science.
Asad seems to argue that the IH metaphor was produced as part of the secularisation of political economy from the 19th century away from pre-existing religious beliefs.
I would suggest the belief in an actual invisible hand guiding markets, which was never a claim made by Adam Smith, was more like a return by post-Sauelson economists to beliefs in the mystical "pusillanimous superstitions", of which Smith wrote about as the prelude to philosophy among forest hunter-gatherers of pre-history see Smith's "History of Astronomy", 1795 posthumous).
However, there is more than enough common ground between us to welcome Asad's contribution to what I hope will be the beginning of an extensive re-appraisal of the entire "romance" of the myths of "an invisible hand" in economics.