The Invisible Hand

The invisible hand is one of Smith's most well-known turns of phrase, yet he uses it but once in each book. So what does it mean, and why does this concept remain important today?

Questions for Further Thought and Discussion:

1. Who do you care for most in the world, and why? 

2. How do you know whom to trust? How might you go about teaching someone how to know this?

3. What do you think makes people naturally sociable?

4. The narrator claims that economists today are more often seen as “fortune tellers” or “stockbrokers.” How did Adam Smith see himself by contrast? Do you think this characterization of economists today is correct? Why or why not?

5. What is the real “moral” of the story of the poor man’s son told by Smith?

6. The narrator describes the “spontaneous pattern” of the invisible hand as amoral. To what extent do you really believe such an outcome is amoral, even if spontaneous? 

7. The episode ends with Smith’s caution regarding the “pursuit of wealth and greatness.” Is such a pursuit unequivocally bad? Wy or why not?

8. Does wealth contribute nothing to happiness? Explain.