from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition
- n. An economic principle, first postulated by Adam Smith, holding that the greatest benefit to a society is brought about by individuals acting freely in a competitive marketplace in the pursuit of their own self-interest.
from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License
- n. A metaphor for the principle that in a free market, an individual pursuing his own self-interest also tends to promote the good of his community as a whole.
Coined by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations. Influenced by and echoing earlier use as "the hand of God". See Etymology citations (Wiktionary)