Invisible Hand - Criticisms - Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky, while acknowledging the intelligence of Smith's thesis, criticizes how the term of the "invisible hand" has been used. He also explains:

Throughout history, Adam Smith observed, we find the workings of "the vile maxim of the masters of mankind": "All for ourselves, and nothing for other People." He had few illusions about the consequences. The invisible hand, he wrote, destroys the possibility of a decent human existence "unless government takes pains to prevent" this outcome, as must be assured in "every improved and civilized society." It destroys community, the environment, and human values generally—and even the masters themselves, which is why the business classes have regularly called for state intervention to protect them from market forces. (...)

and

Rather interestingly these issues were foreseen by the great founders of modern economics, Adam Smith for example. He recognized and discussed what would happen to Britain if the masters adhered to the rules of sound economics -- what's now called neoliberalism. He warned that if British manufacturers, merchants, and investors turned abroad, they might profit but England would suffer. However, he felt that this wouldn't happen because the masters would be guided by a home bias. So as if by an invisible hand England would be spared the ravages of economic rationality. That passage is pretty hard to miss. It's the only occurrence of the famous phrase "invisible hand" in Wealth of Nations, namely in a critique of what we call neoliberalism.

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