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Invisible Hand moves Adam Smith to Virginia Tech


Graduate sit during commencement at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Saturday, May 12, 2012, at Trask Coliseum in Wilmington, N.C. The university awarded approximately 1,826 undergraduate degrees, 242 masters degrees and 6 doctoral degrees. (AP Photo/Star-News, Matt Born)


I possess a bachelor’s degree awarded by an inexpensive public university, which entitles me to misuse the partially-digested Cliff’s Notes versions of just about any foundational concept of Western civilization. Especially in service of writing college basketball articles in the offseason. As such, let us now drain a Natty Light and discuss the Invisible Hand, as written about by Adam Smith in his seminal work The Wealth of Nations, and as skimmed in a frenzy of late-night cramming by yours truly.

The Invisible Hand concept is used by economists and Sunday talk-show pundits as shorthand (like what I did there?) for the benefits of self-interest. Here’s an out-of-context Smith quote that might shed some dusk on the subject:

(H)e 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 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.

Obviously, the question here is “who is this He we’re talking about?” In this case (and here comes the basketball, I know you were wondering), He is Adam Smith. Not Adam Smith the revolutionary economic thinker, but Adam Smith the inconsistent but promising college basketball player.

As a freshman at UNC-Wilmington, Smith exploded on the scene in his first game, dropping 23 on Maryland in a non-conference game. He later drilled a season-high 32 against another ACC team, Wake Forest. Of course, the Seahawks lost both of those games, and 19 more last season, and the program has been slapped with APR-related sanctions as well, leading Smith to explore other options. Under the well-known “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” theory, the young gunner will transfer to Virginia Tech, where he will, presumably, continue to beat up on Maryland and Wake Forest as often as possible.

Smith’s Hand, will, in fact, be Invisible (as well as intangible) as he sits out a transfer season, but his decision to act in his own self-interest may have an unintended effect on society. Mostly the society in Blacksburg, VA for now, but possibly as far away as Syracuse, New York to Tallahassee, Florida in 2013. Assuming, of course, that the economic forces of realignment don’t alter the landscape further by then.