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"The oft-forgotten division of labor describes a world of increasing returns"

The increasing returns of the DoL is "limited by the extent of the market", suggesting increasing returns could be a local not global phenomenon (under existing conditions). For IR to be global, you'd need to argue that markets possess the potential for limitlessness. Or, which is the same thing, that greater specialization itself enables market expansion. At that point you have recursion and turtles all the way down. Which is fine, it just makes things messy.

"Textually, also, the quote with in-passing mention of the invisible hand doesn’t come until near the end of the book when Smith is criticizing mercantilism in Book IV; Division of Labor is the first concept in Wealth of Nations!"

Ah, but the IH appears in TMS, published 17 years earlier than WN, also making a claim about the distribution of the necessaries of life. You'll want to look at that passage because it sure doesn't seem like he's suggesting good institutions are necessary for the IH to operate for public benefit. TMS IV.i.10

There was a conversation between Gavin Kennedy, Craig Smith, Dan Klein, and Brandon Lucas about the IH centrality. See "The Centrality of the Invisible Hand in Smith's Books" Kennedy (2010), and "On the Deliberate Centrality of an Invisible Hand" Klein and Lucas (2011)

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