23 Sep 2013

Mises on the Invisible Hand Metaphor

Mises 22 Comments

From page 240 of the Scholar’s Edition of Human Action:

Theism and Deism of the Age of Enlightenment viewed the regularity of natural phenomena as an emanation of the decrees of Providence. When the philosophers of the Enlightenment discovered that there prevails a regularity of phenomena also in human action and in social evolution, they were prepared to interpret it likewise as evidence of the patcrnal care of the Creator of the universe. This was the true meaning of the doctrine of the predetermined harmony as expounded by some economists. The social philosophy of paternal despotism laid stress upon the divine mission of kings and autocrats predestined to rule the peoples. The liberals retorted that the operation of an unhampered market, on which the consumer–i.e., every citizen–is sovereign, brings about more satisfactory results than the decrees of anointed rulers. Observe the functioning of the market system, they said, and you will discover in it the finger of God.

22 Responses to “Mises on the Invisible Hand Metaphor”

  1. Gene Callahan says:


    I’ve noticed that some e’s from that book paste as c’s.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Copying and pasting text from a 19th century booked pdf’d on Archive.org is even worse.

      • GeePonder says:

        You had me at “Copying and pasting text from a 19th century booked pdf’d.”

        How cool is that?

        • Major_Freedom says:

          The internet is a beautiful thing.

  2. joe says:

    So there it is. The Austrian School is based entirely upon a biblically-based axiom.

    • gienon says:

      When people say that “an average joe” will not understand some concept, do they mean you specifically?

    • Bharat says:

      And that is known as the Austrian invisible hand axiom!

    • Bob Roddis says:

      What a load of crap. Mises was describing the undeniable and irrefutable observation that without a central coordinator, people go about their business planning their lives, observing what other people need, make and buy and follow their dreams, a process which created untold riches for most everyone only in the last few centuries. The process is amazing and awe-inspiring whether you think it was created by God or Mother Nature.

      Further, a central human coordinator and/or Keynesian policies will only gum up the process by, in the very least, distorting the pricing and price information process, a subject about which Keynesians are intent to be perpetually oblivious.

      • Gamble says:

        Hi Bob Roddis,

        Natural law works fairly well.

        Why statist attempt to pervert it is beyond me. I can only conclude they worship death?

        • Bob Roddis says:

          To avoid a long, dragged out fight about “natural law”, It’s more like “the nature of things”. Dispered knowledge is just the way the universe is. And it’s an empirical fact.

          • Bob Roddis says:

            DISPERSED knowledge..

            • Bala says:

              You are entering dangerous territory by starting to talk of knowledge. Get ready to be called a religious zealot.

            • Bob Roddis says:

              I’m trembling in fear.

    • Dan Lind says:

      Sure. Just like physics is based entirely upon a biblically-based axiom.

      Methinks Bob is discovering that human action is an argument for Intelligent Design.

      • Dan Lind says:

        If my comment with respect to Bob sounds condescending, and it does to me, well, I didn’t mean it that way.

  3. skylien says:

    It seems you are entirely based on ignorance and a possibly willful lack of reading comprehension..

    • Major_Freedom says:

      What a harsh comment to an unstated interlocutor.

      • skylien says:

        Well, you are right. Sorry for the confusion caused. It should’ve been a reply to joe.

  4. Ken B says:

    So you’re saying the free market is god giving us the finger?

    Joking joking.

  5. Ivan Jankovic says:

    I finally see why communism failed: God switched of his invisible hand to punish them for their atheism.

  6. Bob Roddis says:

    I don’t agree with labeling this phenomenon “the invisible hand”. Everything about the process is self evident and out-in-the-open. As we’ve explained 5 million times before.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      The invisible hand metaphor is likely a consequence of a monistic mindset that thinks of everything taking place from a unitary cause; a prime mover.

      But using this mindset, it then leads to the thought that since there is no visible entity who we can all understand as “the” controller of everything, then the conclusion is made that “the” controller still “exists”, by virtue of the monistic thought, but because we can’t see it, it therefore must be invisible.

      Hence, invisible hand.

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