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Nov 20, 2009 10:23 am

Dan Klein on the Invisible Hand

GMU economist Daniel Klein and GMU grad student Brandon Lucas have an interesting piece here on the centrality to Adam Smith of the"invisible hand" notion. Here's the abstract:

"We explore the conjecture, first hinted at by Peter Minowitz, that Smith deliberately placed his central idea, as represented by the phrase “led by an invisible hand,” at the physical center of his masterworks. The four most significant points developed are as follows: (1) The expression “led by an invisible hand” occurs pretty much dead center of the 1st and 2nd editions of Wealth of Nations, and of the final edition of the volumes containing Theory of Moral Sentiments. (2) The expression in WN drifted only a bit from the center, only about 5 percent from the center in the final edition (and even less if the index is excluded). (3) The rhetoric lectures show that Smith not only was conscious of deliberate placement of potent words at the center, but thought it significant enough to remark on to his pupils, noting that Thucydides “often expresses all that he labours so much in a word or two, sometimes placed in the middle of the narration.” (4) There are numerous and rich ways in which centrality and middle-ness hold special and positive significance in Smith’s thought."

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