← Back

(In)visible Foot

While most are familiar with the ‘invisible hand’ of the free market, this piece refers to E.K. Hunt’s 1973 notion of its ‘invisible foot’ that drives us to behave in ways that only cause greater externalities.
(In)visible Foot
(In)visible Foot


In his 1776 book The Wealth of Nations, Scottish philosopher and economist Adam Smith coined the “invisible hand” to describe how free market competition incentivizes individuals to produce what is socially necessary [1]. The concept is predicated on the idea that when individuals pursue their interests, they inadvertently contribute to the greater good of society.

While advocates of the free market and neoliberalism often tout the positive impacts of the magical “invisible hand,” they ignore profit maximization, exploitation, alienation, and the negative externalities that harm 99% of the population. These omissions drove economist E.K. Hunt to coin the term “invisible foot” as a corollary [2]. Hunt argued that Adam Smith’s concept of the invisible hand does not fully capture the complex and often unintended consequences of economic actions that invariably harm working-class people and the environment.

(In)visible Foot, 24” x 12” x 12”

In recent years, we’ve seen more severe climate events, including droughts, wildfires and desertification, and mass species extinctions [3]. CO2 emissions are now at record highs [4]. Since Hunt’s coining of the “invisible foot,” many have argued that unregulated, free-market capitalism drives these negative environmental externalities [5]. Taking inspiration from Hunt’s metaphor, (In)visible foot is ringing the bell, marking the falsehoods of neoliberal capitalism and bringing attention to one of its many negative externalities. Real-time AQI and carbon data drive its operating mechanics to make capitalism’s detrimental, invisible impacts more visible. Motor pulses are calibrated to relative highs and lows from data streams. Increased carbon emissions lead to more erratic, chaotic speeds and revolutions, which drive its kinetic and sonic effects.

(In)visible Foot detail
(In)visible Foot detail


  1. Smith, Adam. The wealth of nations [1776]. Vol. 11937. na, 1937.
  2. Hunt, E. K., and Ralph C. d’Arge. “On Lemmings and Other Acquisitive Animals: Propositions on Consumption.” Journal of Economic Issues 7, no. 2 (1973): 337–53. [http://www.jstor.org/stable/4224234).
  3. “Why Does The American West Have So Many Wildfires?“. 2022. Nytimes.com. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/01/climate/wildfire-risk-california-west.html#:~:text=There’s%20not%20necessarily%20an%20increase,effects%20of%20wildfire%20on%20Western.
  4. Liu, Zhu, Zhu Deng, Steven J. Davis, Clement Giron, and Philippe Ciais. “Monitoring global carbon emissions in 2021.” Nature Reviews Earth & Environment 3, no. 4 (2022): 217-219.
  5. “Capitalism Is Killing The Planet – It’S Time To Stop Buying Into Our Own Destruction | George Monbiot”. 2021. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/oct/30/capitalism-is-killing-the-planet-its-time-to-stop-buying-into-our-own-destruction.