Society suffers when the man of system attempts to force his desires on the lives of individuals in ways that contradict their own desires.

James Otteson is the executive director of the BB&T Center for the Study of Capitalism, and Teaching Professor of Political Economy, at Wake Forest University in Winston‐​Salem, North Carolina. He also serves as a Senior Scholar at the Fund for American Studies, a Research Professor in the Freedom Center and Department of Philosophy at the University of Arizona, and a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute in California.

How do you like being told what to do? If someone tells you to do something you find enjoyable or fulfilling, you may not mind. What if you are told to do something contrary to what you would choose for yourself? What if the government was the one telling you to do it? Adam Smith, the philosopher and father of economics, talks about a “man of system,” a central planner who believes he can orchestrate the lives of others, like chess pieces that can be moved at will. As Professor James R. Otteson illustrates, society suffers when the man of system attempts to force his desires on the lives of individuals in ways that contradict their own desires. According to Smith, people are not chess pieces to be moved on a board; they are living and thinking and have their own wills. Individuals pursuing their own desires will constantly be in conflict with the desires of any central planner.

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