Saturday, May 03, 2014


ANON writes (3 May) in Yorkshire Post HERE 

A  misdiagnosis  of  GP  finances"

THE LAW of unintended consequences, a phrase first coined by the 18th century philosopher Adam Smith, probably lies behind reports that up to 100 GP practices, including surgeries in Sheffield, could close because of changes to their funding arrangements.”
Not true; the phrase was not “coined by Adam Smith”.  
Cardinal Du Reitz opined about “unintended consequences” before Adam Smith in 1759 - even Oliver Cromwell, a century earlier, is also quoted as a predecessor. 
Smith’s first reference to “the invisible hand” of Jupiter, the pagan Roman god,  remained unpublished until 1795 when Smith’s manuscript, History of Astronomy, was published posthumously in 1795, though written between 1744 and 1758 (it predicted a visit of a commet in 1758).
Sometimes “unintended consequences” are cited as the modern meaning of the Smith’s ‘invisible hand’, a wholly unsubstantiated claim.  Consequences may be “unintended” but they are not “invisible”! How else do you know that an ‘unintended condequence’ happened? Hence the IH metaphor does not describe them in a “more striking and interesting manner” (Smith, Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres”, p. 29. 1762-3/ 1983).

Fredriech Hayek (Hayek, Friedrich A. 1978. New Studies in Philosophy, Politics, Economics and the History of Ideas. University of Chicago Press) reinvigorated the “unintended consequences” observation in th. Since the mid-1960s, R. Nozik (1974) “Anarchy, State, and Utopia” Basic Books,  and (1994) “Invisible Hand Explanations”,  American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings,  84(2): 314-18, and others - more recently,  N. Emrah Aydinonat, (2008) in his “The Invisible Hand in Economics: how economists explain unintended social consequences” (Routledge).


Post a Comment

<< Home