Morality & Markets – Man of Systems

Smith thought that those people who believed
they knew what was best for others were represented by a figure he called: the “man of system.”
The man of system is the man who is entranced, enthralled by his own idea of the ideal, tries
to make that ideal a reality. And decides that he’s going to impose it from
the top down, whether people want it or not. And as Smith said, the man of system makes
the mistake of thinking that he can move people around the way a hand moves chess pieces around
on a chess board. And Smith thinks that this is dangerous for
two reasons. First, he thinks he knows more than he can
actually know. He thinks he knows what’s good for all individuals and then tries to force
them into his particular boxes. But of course the mistake, Smith says, is
that human beings are not like chess pieces. They have principles of motion all their own.
They have their own ideas about what they’d like to do in life. They have free will.
Far better for the well-being of the economy as a whole, far better for actual individuals
to be free to pursue their own self-interest as they see fit.

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