QUICK BITS no. 15
Andrew Smolski (‘a writer and sociologist’) posts (10 June) HERE on Counter Punch (‘Tells the Facts, Names the Names’)
“It is capitalist civilization’s rule, or possibly its virus. A lot of pain and suffering have occurred to uphold this foolish battle; a lot of blood, a lot of trauma. This horrendous maxim of “forget all but self” corrupts us. It is a deadening weight pulling us under, tearing us apart. It divides, and as it divides, it ruins. It becomes a capricious daily life. A world built on the lie of an “invisible hand”
The ‘invisible hand’ as far Adam Smith was concerned was a metaphor, not a proper noun. Metaphors do not exist like, say nouns - they are representatve of their ‘objects’, i.e to what they refer. See Adam Smith on metaphors in his Lectures on Rhetoric 1763/1978
When for example, Adam Smith, wrote of paper money as being, metaphorically, the “Daedalian Wings of Paper Money” he referred to the insecurity of paper money compared to the solidity of gold. The Daedallian wings were fixed to the body of Icarus, who tried to fly, but the sun melted the glue holding the wings to his body and he fell to his death. Hence, solid gold is more secure than paper money. There were no Daedalian wings - it was a well known mythical fable, but an excellent example of the rhetorical use of a metaphor.
Andrew Smolski is wrong to treat the metaphor of “an invisible hand” as an actual existing entity. It does not exist and never has. It was commonly used in the 17th and 18th centuries, mostly for theological purposes ('hand of God') . Smith used it only once in Wealth of Nations but not theologically and his use of t was hardly commented upon until the 1870s; it became famous in the 20th century after Paul Samuelson referred to it in his famous textbook in 1948. It is now ubiquitous. It still does not exist. To refer to its as a "lie" is meaningless.