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  • Writer's pictureRana Basheer

Invisible hand of peace

Adam Smith the pioneer of political economics coined the term “invisible hand of the market” to refer to the self regulating aspect of market place when individuals pursue their economic interest without interference. His exact words were

He intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was not part of his intention.” — Adam Smith (1776, The Wealth of Nations)

An interesting offshoot of that invisible hand metaphor has been simmering in my mind for a while. In my opinion, the development of science and technology has generated a situation where most of us rely on highly specialized skill set for our sustenance resulting in our total dependence on others possessing different set of skills for our survival. Subconsciously, we realize that we want to preserve this system for our own selfish need thereby ushering in an unprecedented level of peace and stability the likes of which our human history has never enjoyed. If I may rewrite Adam Smith’s original words based on this concept of invisible hand of peace, it would sound something like

He intends only his own survival, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote peace among humans which was not part of his intention.

For my own sustenance, I work in a specialized industry that designs semiconductors for decoding satellite signals to support modern technology’s newest baby Global Positioning System (GPS). This area is so narrow in scope that if an Armageddon befell upon us, then my death, if it didn’t happen instantly from whatever horrific incident, would be a slow painful starvation arising from my lack of skill in hunting, growing or foraging for food. I, like so many city dwellers, rely on an army of fellow homo sapiens for our survival that we selfishly don’t want to do anything to tip this delicate tapestry of symbiotic human cocoon called the City.

Siri.. Order Pizza

Siri… Order Pizza

My response to those Luddites who are bemoaning the death of civilization with every new technological invention is that the rise of science and technology is replacing the ominous Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) paradigm for peace in 20th century. In this century, a new paradigm of mutual assured inter dependence (MAID) arising from our highly specialized nature of livelihood is selfishly driving us towards global peace. Therefore, the solution for global peace, would be to integrate more and more of us into the global web of inter dependency and strip an individual of his ability to survive alone. Once an individual realizes that he has now become a cog in this huge industrial machinery called City, there will be no wars and an eternal peace will ensue.

While researching on this topic, I came across a book that seemed to throw some interesting ideas about our inter dependence and global peace. It is titled The Invisible Hand of Peace: Capitalism, The War Machine, and International Relations Theory” by Patrick J. McDonald. I have only read bits and pieces that Google Book would allow me but with the help of Amazon book rental that allows 30 days rental for $6.26, I hope to read it in entirety soon.


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