ERUDITE BUT STILL LACKING FACTS ABOUT ADAM SMITH
Dan McCaslin, teaches on religion at Crane School, posts (29 November) on NOOZHAWK (Santa Barbara) HERE
“Now that we are in the Age of the Anthropocene, we can agree with Harari that hyper-belief in capitalism is just another cult: “Capitalism began as an economic theory [and] assumed faith in the future” via Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” – faith in a doctrine of continual material growth. …
… Adam Smith’s capitalist dogma demanding worship at the shrine of “growth,” with a divinely invisible hand hovering overhead, is one of these splintered little beliefs Whitehead discussed in 1925.”
(“Anthropocene: coined by Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer in 2000 to denote the present time interval, in which many geologically significant conditions and processes are profoundly altered by human activities”.)
McCaslin’s writing does not lack erudition. He does, however, lack focus in respect of the significance of Adam Smith’s so-called “invisible hand” (IH).
For Smith the metaphor of “an invisible hand” had nothing like the significance is has gained since his use of it (only twice) over two centuries ago. A phenomenon not unconnected to the fact that so few scholars read his books (all still in print).
The IH has become a parody of Smith’s meaning. Indeed, while Smith was alive and for near on a hundred years after he died in 1790, less than a dozen persons mentioned his use of the IH at all. Before 1948, perhaps a dozen more mentioned it, until Paul Samuelson referred to a false version of the IH in his best selling book of 5-million sales, Economics: an introductory analysis, McGraw-Hill, 1948 and 19 editions to 2010.After Samuelson, a virtual snow storm of imaginative references to false versions of the IH still hits all media outlets and public discourse. Moreover, most such references spread the myth, namely that Adam Smith meant by that selfish motivated market actions that allegedly led to “public benefits” and this myth was somehow “miraculous”, the latter designation a small step to McCaslin’s theological assertions, see:
Gavin Kennedy: Paul Samuelson and the Invention of the modern economics of the Invisible Hand., 2010, vol. 3. History of Economic Ideas, vol xviii).
For my criticism of ideas that Adam Smith remained religious after 1744, see:
Gavin Kennedy: The Hidden Adam Smith in his Alleged Theology. Journal of the History of Economic Thought, 2011, September,vol. 13 (3). pp. 385-402 and
Gavin Kennedy: Adam Smith on Religion. 2014. The Oxford Handbook of Adam Smith, pp. 464- 84. Oxford Uiversity Press.
Gavin Kennedy: “Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand: From Metaphor to Myth” Economic Journal Watch Vol 6, No. 2, 2009.