Socialized View of Man vs. Rational Choice Theory: What Does Smith’s Sympathy Have to Say?

ELIAS L. KHALIL

JOURNAL OF ECONOMIC BEHAVIOR & ORGANIZATION

Abstract: To explain the anomaly of cooperation in finitely repeated games, some economists advance a socialized view of man as an antidote to rational choice theory. This paper confronts these economists insofar as they trace the socialized view to Smith’s theory of sympathy in The Theory of Moral Sentiments (TMS). TMS rather advances a view that anticipates rational choice theory. These economists misinterpret TMS because they fail to realize that Smith distinguishes between two functions of sympathy: one that determines the optimal decision and another that determines the command of that decision. The dual function of sympathy parallels the two senses of rational choice: rationality as making the optimal decision and rationality as commanding that decision. Thus Smith’s sympathy does not support the socialized view of man.