And I don't mean that it's a metaphor and it's not "real". I mean there is no such metaphor in the way we normally think about it. I noted this on Coordination Problem the other day.
I hope most of you are familiar with the arguments of Gavin Kennedy. I agree completely with him on this. When people like Kenneth Arrow refer to "the invisible hand", I take it to be the shorthand we've adopted for Smith's claims that private action leads to public good. That was all over the Wealth of Nations. But the actual passage discusssing the "invisible hand" has nothing much to do with it.
As a matter of terminology, I don't personally mind that we've adopted "the invisible hand" to mean that (that's why I was quoting Arrow and Hahn uncritically on this last night). It's a nice phrase, after all. But as a matter of history of thought I've always agreed with Kennedy on this.
Thanks for reminding us, Gavin!