Invisible hand

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"Invisible hand" is a phrase most often used in economics to describe the operation of free markets. It is also commonly associated with Adam Smith. Despite this, Smith used it only four times in all of his writings and never in quite the same sense as the modern usage, and the phrase significantly predates him.



  • Wikipedia: "In economics, the invisible hand is a metaphor used by Adam Smith to describe unintended social benefits resulting from individual actions." The article has an extensive discussion of the phrase's interpretation and Smith's usage of it.
  • ConservapediaConservapedia is an unreliable source.: "The invisible hand is Adam Smith's name for the economic trend towards productivity and efficiency that results when government stops interfering in markets trying to steer them and allows individuals and corporations to fend for themselves and reap the benefits of their own hard work and innovation."
  • RationalWiki: redirects to Adam Smith, which says "Smith coined the term "invisible hand" in Wealth of Nations, though its current usage has expanded far beyond Smith's original meaning."
  • Google Ngram Viewer shows that the phrase was already quite popular by Smith's time, and that Smith's writings do not seem to have affected said popularity noticeably.