It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our necessities but of their advantages.
— Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, Book I, Chapter II
It was in this work and in this passage that Smith first began to describe the “invisible hand” of the market — the way that the rational self-interests of individual actors in a market, acting in concert with each other, yield efficient allocations of resources.
By the design of some grand cosmic joke, noted George Mason University economist Don Boudreaux in 2011, today is also John Maynard Keynes’s birthday.