Monday, June 06, 2011

Great Writing from Dartmouth

W. Simons writes (5 June) in At This Point (The Dartmouth History Blog) HERE

‘On Alan Greenspan, Metaphors, and Allegory (With a Detour to Montaillou)’

There was first of all Alan Greenspan’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal of March 29, 2011, which contained this gem:
Today’s competitive markets, whether we seek to recognise it or not, are driven by an international version of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” that is unredeemably opaque. With notably rare exceptions (2008, for example), the global “invisible hand” has created relatively stable exchange rates, interest rates, prices, and wage rates.

….This is why, to come back to my point of departure, I do have a certain amount of sympathy for Greenspan’s formulation, droll as it might seem at first. With all his linguistic prowess and educated in a world that was blessedly Google-free, he at least had the wisdom to remind us of Adam Smith’s old metaphor, the invisible hand. It has been used and abused in the past, sure enough, and Greenspan himself stretched it to absurd limits, so to speak. And yet, his op-ed may have succeeded in breathing new life in the metaphor. We can now once again contemplate the key question: whose invisible hand exactly is this, anyway?

I’ve had my problems with Dartmouth people in the recent past (see earlier Lost Legacy posts and comments this year) but I have to say this extract is among the very best pieces I have read recently. Well written, erudite and informative, from an author well versed in a good literary style (if only I could write nearly as well). The author is in the Dartmouth History department.

I recommend heartily that readers follow the link and enjoy good writing seldom found nowadays (at least outside the History department of Dartmouth College).

I shall pass over the references to the metaphor of an invisible hand – Simmons’s focus is on what Greenspan made of the metaphor when he ‘stretched it to absurd limits, so to speak’. Read the rest of the essay on ‘allegories’ and ‘metaphors, and the Detour to Montaillou!

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