Adam Smith raised a series of obstacles to effective large-scale social planning. In this paper, I draw these Smithian obstacles together to construct what I call the “Great Mind Fallacy,” or the belief that there exists some person or persons who can overcome the obstacles Smith raises. The putative scope of the Great Mind Fallacy is larger than one might initially suppose, which I demonstrate by reviewing several contemporary thinkers who would seem to commit it. I then address two ways the fallacy might be overcome, finding both wanting. I close the paper by suggesting that Smith's Great Mind Fallacy sheds interesting light on his “impartial spectator” standard of morality, including with respect to the specific issues of property and ownership.The whole issue is worth reading as it collects together a number of papers from a distinguished group of scholars all addressing the general topic of "ownership and justice."
Monday, 11 January 2010
More on get rid of government experts
A previous posting, Get rid of government experts: they do not know what is best for the people, was based on an a article by philosopher James Otteson in Forbes. The Forbes article was in turn based on an academic piece by Otteson which has now appeared in the journal Social Philosophy and Policy. The full details are Adam Smith and the Great Mind Fallacy, James R. Otteson, Social Philosophy and Policy (2010), 27:276-304. The abstract reads,