The Past and Present of the Invisible-Hand Proposition: From Scottish Political Economy to General Equilibrium Analysis
117 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2012 Last revised: 7 Feb 2015
Date Written: February 6, 2015
The present study raises the following questions: To what extent is axiomatic general equilibrium analysis a rational reconstruction of Scottish Political Economy as defined by the writings of David Hume and Adam Smith? How much is gained and how much lost by the axiomatic transformation of the invisible-hand proposition? What are the implications of negative results like the Sonnenschein-Mantel-Debreu demonstrations for the Scottish point of view? Did it reach deadlock, or is there still hope for the dominant trajectory in the history of economics? In contrast to the rich historical literature on the invisible-hand proposition, the present study does not level any paradigmatic criticism at neo-Walrasian analysis. Rather, by focalizing the most important results against the backdrop of Scottish Political Economy, it provides some flesh to the bones of axiomatic economics and, insofar, may inform theory choice within the neo-Walrasian paradigm. Naturally, the answers to the questions raised are complex and do not fit into an abstract. Instead, the reader is referred to the final section, which lists, interrelates, and discusses the major results of the study.
Keywords: Invisible Hand, David Hume, Adam Smith, Scottish Political Economy, Walras’s law, general equilibrium analysis, SMD results
JEL Classification: B12, B21, B23, B31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation