Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Visible Hand

I am playing with an idea which I call 'the visible hand' in homage to Adam Smith. If I remember correctly, Smith argued that in certain situations the activities of individuals, all working in their own interests, can produce a society that works for everyone: the greed and striving of individual merchants can produce general prosperity.

I am thinking of situations where this does not work. For example, what the countries of Europe are trying to do now is cut costs internally, through cutting wages and benefits for working people. This will reduce the cost of their goods, which they can then export, and the revenue coming back into their countries will fuel economic recovery.

However, for every successful exporter, there has to be another country that imports. China is able to sell because the US (and other countries) are willing to buy. There have to be nations with trade deficits, if there are going to be nations with a positive balance of trade. It is not possible for every country to export its way to prosperity.

Or put another way, what works for an individual does not work for the group. This is the visible hand.


Blogger Lamont Cranston said...

He said in a situation of perfect liberty the market could lead to perfect quality.

But with our vast inequality, ever widening gap between haves and have-nots, government working for the rich & powerful, etc the result would be to set in concrete the status quo. http://www.chomsky.info/books/warfare02.htm
And what you said about selfishness sounds more like Ayn Rand.

6:43 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home