The Invisible Forces: Economics with a Broader Perspective

The Invisible Forces–the invisible hand, the invisible foot, and the invisible handshake–stem from Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations (1776).  As is well known, Smith wrote about the unintended consequences of “the invisible hand.”  This idea was subsequently extended to “the invisible forces” by economist David Colander in Microeconomics, 2nd ed. (1995), pp. 17-19.  The invisible forces bear some similarity to the three fields of life–the political, the economic, and the moral-cultural–expressed by Michael Novak in The Catholic Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1993), p. 219.  It is this broader view of economics that I wish to illustrate and explore.

According to Colander, with some adaptation:

the invisible hand refers to economic forces that influence human behavior

the invisible foot refers to legal and political forces that influence human behavior

the invisible handshake refers to social and hist orical forces that influence human behavior

Simply put, the invisible hand, the invisible foot, and the invisible handshake comprise a system of forces that influence and are influenced by human behavior.  Since this behavior takes place in a physical and biological environment, and influences that environment, matters relating to the physical and biological environment will appear regularly.

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