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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries


Your November 2003 editorial takes us through the Circles of Hell in Dante’s Inferno, challenging the futile pursuit of wealth among other things. Here is how Dante describes Fortune in Canto VII of The Inferno. Mark Musa’s translation captures it best to my mind:

that One, whose wisdom knows infinity, made all the heavens and gave each one a guide, and each sphere shining shines on all the others, so light is spread with equal distribution: for worldly splendours He decreed the same and ordained a guide and general ministress who would at her discretion shift the world’s vain wealth from nation to nation, house to house, with no chance of interference from mankind: so while one nation rules, another falls according to whatever she decrees (her sentence hidden like a snake in the grass). Your knowledge has no influence on her; she provides for change, she judges, and she rules her domain as do the other gods their own. Her changing changes never take a rest; necessity keeps her in constant motion, as men come and go to take their turn with her. And thus is she so crucified and cursed; even those in luck who should be praising her, instead, revile her and condemn her acts. But she is blest and in her bliss hears nothing; with all God’s joyful first-created creatures she turns her sphere and, blest, turns it with joy.

Was Dante preceding Adam Smith by 500 years in his description of the Invisible Hand of the market?