Invisible Hand

The “invisible hand” is a phrase, originally used as a metaphor by Adam Smith, which summarizes how social and economic outcomes arise without design or explicit agreement. The invisible hand refers, then, to how individuals, interacting in purposeful ways, could bring about a result that was not part of their intention. Such an unintended outcome is sometimes referred to as a spontaneous order, but the invisible hand concept is employed to designate either the process by which the pattern or outcome is produced or an explanation of that process. In either sense, the idea is distinct from the notion of a hidden hand that purports (as Robert Nozick describes) to explain seemingly unpatterned events as the result of someone’s intention or design. The invisible ...

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