Tuesday, June 06, 2006

'Visible Feet'?(!)

‘Adam Smith and the Visible Foot of Government’
by Gary Galles:

his articulation of how the "invisible hand" of market interactions can coordinate a society based upon liberty — i.e., private property rights and voluntary exchange — more effectively than can the coercive power of the state.’

… 'Seemingly everyone has heard of that invisible hand, by which market transactions lead people pursuing their own self-interest to advance the interests of others as well. ("By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.")’

... ‘Visible foot’ of government?

... ‘The invisible hand under limited government’

…’We need to rein in its overreaching, so that we can use the invisible hand of voluntary market arrangements more, and the clumsy visible foot of the government less.’

See the article at: Mises Blog http://blog.mises.org/archives/005140.asp

Smith had no theory of an invisible hand; it was a simple metaphor for the unintended consequences of human motivation, and in the only three cases in which Smith used the metaphor, none of them were to do with markets. One was about pagan religious superstition; the second was about feudal lords having to feed their retainers and the third was about traders’ fears of letting their scarce capital-stock out of their sight.

A new metaphor about 'visible feet' is an excellent paraody of the nonsense written about Smith's use of a metaphor (actually Shakespeare's in Macbeth, 3: 2, repeated by Daniel Defoe in Moll Flanders, in 1722).

After re-publishing Rothbard’s ill-tempered rant against Smith’s writings on the division of labour (see my articles on this site on "Murray Rothbard’s Myths") I think the Mises.org has a blind spot about Smith in an otherwise brilliant array of ideas it promotes, most of which I sympathise with, but its scholarship on Adam Smith is well below the standard it shows elsewhere.


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