Monday, October 15, 2012

When Theology Takes Over Economics


J. Jasper posts a blog (with Z. Brown) with the defiant title of The Invisible Hand Still Exists Economics Beyond the Textbook”  HERE  
Jasper, an aspiring economist at Samford University (a private Southern Baptist institution) interested in a career in Finance, writes:
One of the major reasons I started this blog was so that people could go to a place where the economy and world news is discussed and summarized. I wanted to express the world of opinions and make them available for everyone. In my opinion I was guided by the Invisible Hand to start a blog that made everything make sense.
Comment
Jasper's post comes complete with a daily bibliography of his regular reading, viewing and listening to assorted podcasts.  I am sure Jasper is very bright and artiulate. He must also be a busy bee of a student if he attends classes, reads his textbooks and his and views his podcasts listed in his daily biblio.
However, I hope if Jasper ever gets into finance after Samford, he sticks to risking his own money because if he believes there such a disembodied entity as “an invisible hand”, then he does not know the difference between a figure of speech, such as a metaphor, and a noun.  There is only so many times that he can claim he made money because of was guided the "invisible hand" and lost it too because he was "misguided" by the same or another  "invisible hand".  His losing customers will be driven to say: "Stuff the invisible hand! We pay you to choose when to buy and when to sell in visible markets and not your fantasy nonsense of being guided by an invisible hand".

3 Comments:

Blogger Stephen Cowley said...

Smith distinguished genuine religion from superstition and endorsed the former. He is commonly and plausibly regarded as deistic, though there is a seemingly Christian passage that was withdrawn from later editions of Moral Sentiments, so his convictions may have wavered. In this light, why should the 'invisible hand' be regarded necessarily as metaphor?

8:42 am  
Blogger Gavin Kennedy said...

Stephen
Thank you for your thoughtful observation.
I believe the question of Smith's non-adherence to revealed Christianity is much stronger. My paper, "The Hidden Adam Smith in his Alleged Theology", in Journal of the History of Economic Thought, 2011, no 3, makes a detailed case for my observation that the IH was a metaphor and not an "entity' of some kind. I can send you a copy if you send your email address to: GavinK9 AT gmail.DOT. com (not for publication).
Deism in the 18th century was inevitable when knowledge of challenges by science were not available until post-Darwin, though already raised by challenges to the flood theory by James Hutton's Theory of the Earth (1787), somewhat hindered by its impenetrability. Christianity dismissed deism in its early years as "heresy".
Smith's use of the IH metaphor is fully confirmed by its behaviour as a metaphor in "describing in a more striking and interesting manner" it "object" (Smith: Lectures in Rhetoric and Belles Lettres", 1783, p 29).
Gavin

3:53 pm  
Blogger Stephen Cowley said...

Thinking it over a little more, I think Smith's use of the invisible hand might be taken as a metaphor for what was knows as 'general providence'. That leaves aside the question of a particular providence that is perhaps at issue here, which I seem to recall David Hume doubted but Thomas Reid defended.

In general, I don't think that recognising the (partly) metaphorical nature of religious language excludes the idea of transcendence and so puts someone necessarily in the secular camp - take Condillac on Genesis for example (whom Smith had read), or the theology of Smith's day, like Bishop Warburton's Divine Legation of Moses.

I would certainly be interested in your article.

11:50 am  

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