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  • Cited by 2
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    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Gonin, Michael 2015. Adam Smith’s Contribution to Business Ethics, Then and Now. Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 129, Issue. 1, p. 221.

    Menudo, José M. 2013. Market Stability in Adam Smith: Competitive Process and Institutions. Journal of Economic Issues, Vol. 47, Issue. 3, p. 719.



  • James R. Otteson (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 January 2010

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.

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James R. Otteson , Adam Smith's Marketplace of Life (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002)

Thomas Christiano , “The Authority of Democracy,” The Journal of Political Philosophy 12, no. 3 (September2004): 266–90

Lu Hong and Scott E. Page , “Groups of Diverse Problem Solvers Can Outperform Groups of High-Ability Problem Solvers,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 101, no. 46 (November 16, 2004): 1638516389

James M. Buchanan and Viktor J. Vanberg , “The Market as a Creative Process,” Economics and Philosophy 7, no. 2 (1991): 167–86

Colin F. Camerer , “Using Neuroeconomics to Make Economic Predictions,” Economic Journal 117 (March 2007): C26C42

Liam Murphy and Thomas Nagel , The Myth of Ownership: Taxes and Justice (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002)

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Social Philosophy and Policy
  • ISSN: 0265-0525
  • EISSN: 1471-6437
  • URL: /core/journals/social-philosophy-and-policy
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