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Janan Ganesh writes that “no grand theory can explain the Ukraine crisis” (Opinion, April 13). Oh yes it can! Bashar al-Assad in Syria, leaders in the Middle East, the great Singaporean statesman Lee Kuan Yew, Lenin, Stalin, Che Guevara. All claim that “the end justifies the means”.

In a clash of civilisations all sides will claim the theory — although the world would do better to forget teleology and remember Adam Smith, who said society, without planning, without government, with individuals simply pursuing their self-interest to survive (by producing goods and services), as if led by an invisible hand, will organise itself better than anything that can be done by design. That, too, is elegant theory. To paraphrase Immanuel Kant: man is the goal of betterment, not the means.

David Parker
Political Economist, San Francisco, CA, US

Letter in response to this letter:

Conservatives misread Smith’s free market ideas / From Harry Thorn, Philadelphia, PA, US

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