Friday, May 26, 2017

THE UBIQUITOUS INVISIBLE HAND

I came across this headline this morning:
"On Language Change: The Invisible Hand In Language"

A GROWING CONCERN - EVEN DOUBTS -ABOUT WHERE ECONOMISTS ARE GOING

HISTORY OF ECONOMICS eJOURNAL
Sponsored by the History of Economics Society
Vol. 12, No. 27: May 26, 2017

SSRN HERE  PETER J. BOETTKE, George Mason University - Department of Economics Email: PBOETTKE@GMU.EDU
“Economics, properly understood, makes sense out the complex web of historical relations that constitute reality, namely by utilizing economic theory. Economics without price theory is not economic theory, and measurement without theory isn’t empirically meaningful. However, graduate students are being increasingly trained in sophisticated procedures of optimization and statistical testing, remaining largely ignorant of economic theory as a tool to understanding economic history. This address is a renewed call for my fellow economists to continue to instill in their teaching the beauty of economic theory, as well as the empirical importance of economic history. In short, economic teaching and training must instill an understanding of economic forces at work, and properly done, instills the principles that constitute a golden key that unlocks the deepest mysteries in the human experience. Without learning the governing dynamics of human action and the mechanisms that produce the social cooperation under the division of labor, modern civilization will be left undefended against the fallacious claims that market processes are exploitative, monopolistic, and unfair.”
COMMENT
Interesting. Peter Boettke is a most literate writer/teacher on economics. I am pleased he has noticed the consequences inherent in the contemporary mathematisation of economics, including the absorption of economics departments into departments of pure and applied mathematics. That trend may well continue.
Of relevance, see David Warsh and hisKnowledge and the Wealth of Nations: A Story of Economic Discovery”, Norton. Here the ever-changing development of macro-models of financial economics are revealed, and presumably continues, along with Nobel prizes.
I remain unconvinced that human behaviour can be modelled mathematically. Even the simple supply and demand curve diagrams are suspect, along with the asssociated ideas of equilibrium.  They make excellent tools for teaching and examinations, but do they exist in the long-chains of productive activity in the real world? 
Even Smith’s account of the labourers common coat in Wealth of Nations showed the complexity involved in making it by people several links along the chain. He showed similar complexity in his Lectures on Jurisprudence which addresses another even more complex description of the inter-connecting chains innolved in the distinctive living standards of the poorest consumer in societies, compared to the even greater abject poverty of humans living off the forests.

NB: Nothing said above diminishes my long standing admiration for Peter Boettke’s scholarship as a teacher of economics.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

THE POOR MAN'S SON PARABLE

I was sent this snippet by a reader. It appears to be quite interesting and worth a look. Unfortunately I am more or less housebound and the last time I tried to enter Edinburgh University Library, I was adamantly refused entry by an over-officious, uniformed security guard, whose firm refusal was not open to discussion. So I could not get a day’s pass without accessing the library’s information desk, located inside while I pleaded on the street-side of the security desk.
Hence, my commemt is confined to the paragraph below:
Journal of Scottish Philosophy HERE http://www.euppublishing.com/doi/abs/10.3366/jsp.2017.0149  Lisa Hill
‘The Poor Man's Son’ and the Corruption of Our Moral Sentiments: Commerce, Virtue and Happiness in Adam Smith”
“In order to operate effectively, modern capitalism depends on agents who evince a rather morally undemanding type of moral character; one that is acquisitive, pecuniary, recognition-seeking and merely prudent. Adam Smith is considered to have been the key legitimiser of this archetype.
In this paper I respond to the view that Smith is actually sceptical about the value of material acquisition and explore whether he really believed that the pursuit of tranquillity and virtue—especially beneficence—offers a superior route to happiness than the commercial world of materialist acquisition. I approach these issues partly by considering the roles of beneficence and sympathy in Smith's system and partly by analysing the story of ‘The Poor Man's Son’ related in Book IV of The Theory of Moral Sentiments. As he narrates this story, Smith seems highly critical of the unrelenting drive for worldly success. But what is the real moral of the story? Should people contain their ambition for recognition and material success and pursue tranquillity and virtue instead?
I suggest that Smith's discussion in and around the story of ‘The Poor Man's Son’ points to a significant tension between his personal ideal of happiness and his observations and recommendations as a social scientist.”
COMMENT
I agree that the ‘Poor Man’s Son” parable is a trifle paradoxical. On the one hand, Smith points to the dubious benefit for the poor man’s son of seeking to establish the material aquisitions available to a ‘rich man’s son’, who is born into affluence. The poor man’s son is going to suffer a lot on the road to acquisition, in which Smith speaks in his best imitation of a Calvinist preacher (to which Smith was exposed each Sunday when he escorted his mother to Church).
On the other hand, Smith slides into the unrelenting positivity of such sacrifices by ambitious folk which led to the oceans being crossed, the forests felled, to create farmland, and to the building of great city centres of prosperity (I paraphrase). 
Of course, Smith was born into the social class of educational opportunity, another route to a comfortable, if not a wealthy, over-abundance in material possessions. Smith did accumulate an abundance of books, which was (and is) more ceditable than sets of tweezers, watches, decorative chairs (and the rooms to display them), and other consumables producing stylish manners to suit.
Smith recognised that “the commercial world of materialist acquisition” made everything that created the ‘wealth of nations’ possible. The alternative was to have remained in the ‘Forest’ where the indigenous “king” ruled the tribe absolutely amidst an economy where the lowest members of the tribe were so destitue that the lowest members of a society with developed ‘commerce’ were incomparably richer than the tribal ‘King” of the Forest, who ruled with absolute power his tribal poor. 
It was better to be poor in a commercial/farming society than even to be ‘king’ in an indigenous forest society, let alone to be one of his tribe.

Whatever is imputed as Smith’s moral stance, I do not think it was “to pursue tranquillity and virtue instead”. Smith was quite definite in his actions in pursuit of academic “recognition” and as determined for “material success” to fund his scholarly ambitions, such as the free-time and “tranquility” to spend over ten years writing “Wealth of Nations”, funded by his life-pension from the Duke of Buccleugh.

Monday, May 22, 2017

TODAYS INVISIBLE HANDS no. 7

1
Adam Smiths invisible hand in a velvet glove by S. Herbert Frankel, ... Invisible Hand Definition Investopedia Big Three In Economics; Adam Smith, …
2
Reviving The Invisible Hand: The Case For Classical Liberalism In The Twenty-first Century
3
The Dilemmas Of Laissez-faire Population Policy In Capitalist Societies: When The Invisible Hand Controls Reproduction | soqwyko.ru.
COMMENT
Three of a daily kind of headline from Russia on the invisible hand in the archives, trawled out by ‘ru’ sources. The headline sources appear to be genuine, which is not the same as saying that the ideas expressed in their headlines are valid. They are part of the western/asian misreading of Adam Smith’s use of a now famous metaphor in Wealth of Nations. 
Plus a late press post received today:
4
Mao's Invisible Hand: The Political: Foundations of Adaptive Governance in China (Harvard Contemporary China Series)
Advert received this morning:

PDF online The Dilemmas Of Laissez-faire Population Policy In Capitalist Societies
The Dilemmas Of Laissez-faire Population Policy In Capitalist Societies: When The Invisible Hand Controls Reproduction | soqwyko.ru

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

TODAY'S INVISIBLE HANDS no 6

1
MERRY JANE HERE
"Denver's trying to mess with the invisible hand, and the invisible hand is going to smack them." 
2
"Economics and Ethics: Hayek Get the best online deal for Accepting the Invisible Hand: Market- Based Approaches to Social-. Economic Problems"
3
"Virtuosity in Business: Invisible Law Guiding the Invisible Hand."
4
"The Invisible Hand Of Planning: Capitalism, Social Science, And The State In The 1920s" 
5
Jacob Frommer posts (16 May) on SCRIBE HERE
Why Are Most Kosher Restaurants So Terrible?” 
“Why are kosher restaurants so bad?

More specifically, why do proprietors and their patrons willingly accept gaping inconsistencies in service, food, price and cleanliness? Is it because of the Talmudic laws disallowing competition between Jewish-owned businesses? Does this lack of Adam Smith’s invisible hand encourage kosher restaurants to limp lamely to just above tolerable? Or might kosher dining and its concomitant failures fall on the patrons who refuse to treat the wait staff or their fellow diners with anything approaching civility? Are we too worried about surviving the next Holocaust to say excuse me? Or are we so heady a people that we simply don’t notice taste and ambiance, don’t have time for courtesy and respect of employees and each other?
6
Stuart Jackson posts (17 May) on Conservative Home HERE
A ‘relative’ cap on the difference between standard variable tariffs and acquisition tariffs, along the lines proposed by John Penrose, could untie Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ in the retail energy market.”
7

On Language Change: The Invisible Hand In Language


NEW BOOK MS WITH PALGRAVE



 
Photo: Gordon Wright, April 2017

Yes, my NEW BOOK, "An Authentic Account of Adam Smith" is with the Palgrave-Macmillan, the publisher and beginning to get on its way, subject to the usual proof corrections, both mine and the publisher's and the usual editorial discussions.

It has dominated my life for several months and while there is more to do before publication, the long hours - 12-hour days - the hard bit of creative writing and personal focus is behind me.

My writing space is a clutter of books used in reference checking and theme creating.  That is to be cleared and tidied up today - domestic orders from the family!

LOST LEGACY is getting back to normal. 

Apologies to those who wrote to me recently without replies. I shall start working though them - soon!
Gavin


Saturday, May 13, 2017

APOLOGIES!

My days and late nights are fully taken-up just now with preparing my new book for the publisher's deadline of the 15th May.
 I hope to get back to normal later this week.
Despite 12 hour writing shifts, final progress is slow as I reconcile references with text.
Gavin

Monday, May 08, 2017

TODAY'S INVISIBLE HANDS no 5

1
Virtuosity in Business: Invisible Law Guiding
the Invisible Hand by Kevin T. Jackson (27-
Oct-2011) Hardcover
2
“Guiding The Invisible Hand: Economic Liberalism And The State In Latin American History”
3
Paradoxes Of Political Ethics: From Dirty Hands To The Invisible Hand ... the invisible hand / John M. Parrish ... of political responsibility shape and ...
4
Antony Last
zaThe 'invisible hand' of economic growth – MoneywebMoneyweb.co.zaEconomic transformation has become an important topic of debate in South …
5
Outlook First

“Adam Smith called it the invisible hand: you do something for yourself, and if you succeed you are actually promoting a social interest.”

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

AN AUSSIE SPEAKS HOW HE SEES IT

Mungo MacCallum posts (1 May) on ECHO NET DAILY HERE
Even as he prepared to remove the velvet glove from his iron fist, Malcolm Turnbull spoke more in sorrow than in anger : ‘the market is not working as it should,’ he mourned.
But this was, like so many of his lawyerly assertions, at best a half truth. As Turnbull, a businessman and a banker – a graduate from Goldman Sachs no less—must know, the market was working precisely as it was meant to.
The gas producers saw a better price and latched on to it. This was text book supply and demand: if there was a shortage of gas available for all, the highest bidders got what was around.
Certainly there were unexpected consequences when a glut of the stuff forced international prices down while the domestic buyers were stuck with soaring costs to secure whatever was left, but hey, that’s just Adam Smith’s invisible hand at work, or perhaps more of a rapacious, grasping talon, a predator red in tooth and claw.”
COMMENT
Mungo MacCallum sports that Aussie predilection for using somewhat coarse language to express themselves. 
At base, Mungo’s idea of the “invisible hand” as a “rapacious, grasping talon, a predator red in tooth and claw” is typical of Aussie bar-talk used to shock first-year students from up-tight communities in the suburbs into loosening up.

There is no invisible hand in the market. Just VISIBLE prices. That’s how markets operate.