Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on June 5, 2014

in Adam Smith, Complexity & Emergence

… is from Arthur Shenfield’s 1970 Modern Age article “The Ideological War Against Western Society”; specifically, it’s from pages 326-327 of the 1998 reprint of this article in Limited Government, Individual Liberty and the Rule of Law: Selected Works of Arthur Asher Shenfield (Norman Barry, ed.):

We need not dwell long here on Adam Smith’s ‘unseen hand’, though we ought to take note of the fact that the enemies of the free society love to make it the object of their derision, implying that poor Smith believed that there was some kind of beneficent magic at work in the free economy.  How easy to demonstrate the naiveté of the champions of the free economy if, after two centuries of experience, they believe in such magic!  But of course the ‘unseen hand’ was no more than a metaphor by which Smith sought to expound two propositions that are both true and important; one, that economic order or pattern can arise without any central direction; and two, that in the process of free exchange a man may promote the interests of others even though the interests he seeks to promote are his own.  There is nothing in Smith’s famous passage on the unseen hand to suggest that he thought that he had found the key to perfect order and harmony or that the way to serve others was always to serve oneself; still less that he thought that there was any magic in the processes he described.

Today is Adam Smith‘s birthday (or at least it is the date listed on his gravestone in Edinburg as that of his 1723 birth; some people argue that June 5, 1723, is instead the date of Smith’s baptism).  June 5th (1883) is also the birthday of John Maynard Keynes.  How’s that for historical irony?!

Alberto Mingardi remembers Smith’s birthday here, and Richard Ebeling does so here.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments

comments

Add a Comment    Share Share    Print    Email

Previous post:

Next post: