Yes, it all happened in Seattle, dear friends, as this harsh documentary shows, but the COVID-19 pandemic is like an X-ray machine. It displays all that is broken and hidden.
I'll start my detailed explanation of the multiple causes that underlie urban decay in the US from this beautiful quotation by a friend:
Many saints grew in holiness to the point where, by God's grace, they restored around them the original harmony with creation which Adam enjoyed in Paradise. One thinks immediately of St Seraphim of Sarov and St Sergius of Radonezh who befriended wild bears, or of St Paul of Obnora who was beheld surrounded peacefully by forest animals. Even in our own time there are testimonies of monastics living in the wilderness peacefully with wild deer and even mountain lions. Elder Herman is remembered for a gentle ermine who was utterly devoted to the Saint. When asked what he thought of the animals, a recent American monastic elder replied, "They have something to do with paradise."
Sadly, the beauty of these human outliers, who have lived in harmony with nature - just as we try -, is inconsistent with my understanding of human nature, and of God who must have been invented out of emotional necessity to ease the unbearable weight of freedom of choice. God enters directly or not as the key motivator and (ab)solver of human endeavors. What follows are four of the most famous excerpts of use of an/the invisible hand (of God, sometimes) in the treatises on economy. God started helping economists in the eighteenth century, when He/She inspired a famous Scott, Adam Smith.
Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, generally referred to by its shortened title The Wealth of Nations, is the magnum opus of the Scottish economist and moral philosopher Adam Smith. He used for the second time “an invisible hand” [emphasis added] metaphor in Book IV, Chapter II, paragraph IX of The Wealth of Nations. I start from this quotation, because it is pertinent to a more modern economy:
“But the annual revenue of every society is always precisely equal to the exchangeable value of the whole annual produce of its industry, or rather is precisely the same thing with that exchangeable value. As every individual, therefore, endeavours as much as he can both to employ his capital in the support of domestic industry, and so to direct that industry that its produce may be of the greatest value, every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand [emphasis added] to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was not part of it. By pursuing his own interest, he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good. It is an affectation, indeed, not very common among merchants, and very few words need be employed in dissuading them from it.”
The first use of the “invisible hand” entered The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) in Part IV, Chapter 1, where Adam Smith described a selfish landlord as being led by an invisible hand [emphasis added,] to distribute his harvest to those who work for him. Notice that this time Smith uses “an invisible hand,” as opposed to “the invisible hand.” So perhaps this invisible hand is a result of many causes or it does not exist at all, as Joseph E. Stieglitz wrote famously (The Roaring Nineties, 2006; Altman, Daniel. Managing Globalization. In: Q & Answers with Joseph E. Stiglitz, Columbia University and The International Herald Tribune, October 11, 2006 05:03AM. Archived June 26, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
Only in The History of Astronomy (written before 1758) Smith speaks of the invisible hand (not of God) [emphasis and “not of God” added], with which ignoramuses explain natural phenomena otherwise unexplainable:
“Fire burns, and water refreshes; heavy bodies descend, and lighter substances fly upwards, by the necessity of their own nature; nor was the invisible hand of Jupiter ever apprehended to be employed in those matters.” (Smith, A., 1980, The Glasgow edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith, 7 vol., Oxford University Press, vol. III, p. 49.)
Finally, in The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and in The Wealth of Nations (1776) Adam Smith speaks of an invisible hand, never of the invisible hand. In The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith uses the concept to sustain a "trickle down" theory, a concept also used in neoclassical development theory: The gluttony of the rich serves to feed the poor.
“The rich … consume little more than the poor, and in spite of their natural selfishness and rapacity, though they mean only their own conveniency, though the sole end which they propose from the labours of all the thousands whom they employ, be the gratification of their own vain and insatiable desires, they divide with the poor the produce of all their improvements. They are led by an invisible hand [emphasis added] to make nearly the same distribution of the necessaries of life, which would have been made, had the earth been divided into equal portions among all its inhabitants, and thus without intending it, without knowing it, advance the interest of the society, and afford means to the multiplication of the species. When Providence divided the earth among a few lordly masters, it neither forgot nor abandoned those who seemed to have been left out in the partition. These last too enjoy their share of all that it produces. In what constitutes the real happiness of human life, they are in no respect inferior to those who would seem so much above them. In ease of body and peace of mind, all the different ranks of life are nearly upon a level, and the beggar, who suns himself by the side of the highway, possesses that security which kings are fighting for.” (Smith, A., 1976, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, vol. 1, p. 184 in: The Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith, 7 vol., Oxford University Press.)
There is no invisible hand. But there is greed and abuse of the environment, plain and simple, like in the picture below. More precisely, that which the global fossil Amoeba takes from the Earth, and the poisons she dumps back into the Earth, is the invisible hand that guides our smooth and fast self-destruction that results from greed.
- The more debt you accrue the slower you will grow, and this is a universal law.
- If you want to change your economy to a new mix of resources ("Green Revolution"), you will have to forgo your cumulative investment in the old resources, build a stock of new resources, and only then you will be able to grow again from a much lower level. This is a multidecadal process that no politician will be able to stomach, and the disinterested, uneducated public will refocus on the conspiracy theories and other lies.
- Current rampant borrowing will translate into GDP generation with a low and ever lower efficiency. And that's a universal law again!