“The man of system…is apt to be very wise in his own conceit; and is often so enamored with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of government, that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from any part of it… He 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 chess-board. He does not consider that in the great chessboard of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might choose to impress upon it.” -The Theory Of Moral Sentiments, Part VI, Section II, Chapter II, pp. 233-4, para 17.
Adam Smith, the father of capitalism, brought more to the field of economics than his ideas about an “invisible hand.”
His book Wealth of Nations may have focused on how capitalism worked in an economic sense, but his book The Theory of Moral Sentiments focused on the moral ideas that would support that same system.
Smith’s concept “Man of System” was an attack on central planning and would later form the basis for Friedrich Hayek’s work on the knowledge problem.
The man of system is firm in the belief that a singular individual or group of individuals can develop a plan to organize all of society. It works under the premise that one can control the desires of individuals as they move through life.
This is illustrated by Smith in the form of a chess game, where the central planner believes they can lay out all the variables of human society at their own design, moving them when they see fit.
There are at least two major issues to take with this view on central planning.
First, is that individuals are not chess pieces which you can move at your own desire across a board. To take this further, society is not an even board divided up into perfectly shaped squares.
It is an immensely complex system, filled with countless variables that care nothing for the desires of people in some form of power. For instance, nature does not care for the power of humanity and will send storms to ravage their shores all the same.
This same complex society is filled with millions of individuals, all with their own desires, goals, values, etc. Though some may be persuaded to follow the views and notions of others, human society will never be reduced to a singular and robotic hive mind.
The second issue to take with the premise of central planning is that of coercion.
No singular governing body or individual can seek to control any aspect of society, let alone the whole of society, without having the means required to achieve that goal.
How else would you force people to change their minds, desires, and give up their wealth?
That is what is required for central planning. It is the use of force to coerce individuals to conform the perfect “master plan”. This means both economic and physical force have to be applied to society for central planning to work.
We need only look to the recent case in Venezuela to see the falls of central planning.