‘The invisible hand’
I thought E.J. Dionne Jr.’s review of the United States for the past 80 years was superb, even though it omitted some significant bad things in the “good” years (such as the long delay in ending racial segregation and the carpet bombing of civilians in World War II). [“American power, home and abroad,” Opinion, March 19.]
However, I believe there is a different way of viewing it. Dionne described some of what I am referring to in writing “And we fought poverty, for moral reasons, but also because we wanted to show the world that we could combine our market system with economic justice. We forget that we succeeded.”
It seems to me that worshippers of economist Adam Smith’s mysterious and magical “invisible hand” cannot possibly agree with that success. In his 1776 “The Wealth of Nations,” Smith proclaimed, “Every individual in pursuing his or her own good is led, as if by an invisible hand, to achieve the best good for all. Therefore any interference with free competition by government is almost certain to be injurious.”
Both have been tried in those 80 years, with Smith’s belief in magic ascendant in the last half but now being challenged. Conservatives’ unswerving belief in the invisible hand leaves them no choice but to claim that any current failure (such as the hidden hand’s inability to deliver that “best good for all”) must be due to either government interference or losers being too lazy to compete. Conservatives are now meeting to review their strategy for meeting the current challenge. However, they cannot choose anything other than trying to improve their evangelical advertising.
— Edward George, Renton