Thursday, January 3, 2013

Men of systems...

The man of systems . . . seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chessboard. He does not consider that the pieces upon the chessboard have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chessboard of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different than that which the legislature might choose to impress upon it. If those two principles coincide and act in the same direction, the game of human society will go on easily and harmoniously, and is very likely to be happy and successful. If they are opposite, or different, the game will go on miserably and the society must at all times be in the highest degree of disorder.  ---Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759):

The President, members of congress, their advisors and Fed officials (men of systems) seem to imagine that they can inspire, with their contrived incentives, individuals to perform in a manner that would produce some predictable level of growth sufficient to offset the cost of the inducements. They fail to consider that each individual proceeds down her own path, entirely independent of whatever they might choose to impress upon her. Therefore, given the gross improbability that the principles guiding the hand of government would coincide with those guiding the individual, society---particularly when men of systems find themselves desperate to stimulate the economy---will find itself in the highest degree of disorder.

Ultimately, and ironically, when the economy finally gains enough momentum to burst through the restraints placed on it by well-intentioned (or otherwise) men of systems, men of systems---bolstered by a sympathizing media---will take all the credit.

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