Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Magic Hand of the Market

I studied economics in college, not only in Econ classes but in History classes, where economic forces play themselves out in the rise and fall of individuals and of empires. I read Adam Smith, whose elegant explanations made a young idealist almost believe there was a kind of magic guiding our lives. I've never stopped reading, and because I'm an illustrator the reading conjures pictures, diagrams, visual analogies. This is one of those. It appears in the September issue of the Atlantic, art directed by Jason Treat.

My point in this simple drawing is that the so-called "Magic Hand of the Markets" does indeed direct and correct the forces that determine our fates. What should be obvious, though, is that the magic hand of an unregulated market corrects some fates more than others, protects some more than others, favors some fortunes more than others. Larger fortunes are more buoyant already but the market tends to nurture and support them. The fortunes of little people have less juice in them, less upward trajectory, they're buffeted more, given less favor, fewer advantages. We see it every day, every year, but we are taught not to believe it because in America everyone is supposed to have an equal chance. It's our national religion, even if we can see it isn't true.

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