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Commentary
September 1, 2010

Societal Perceptions of PhysiciansKnights, Knaves, or Pawns?

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Washington, DC (Dr Jain); American Board of Internal Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Dr Cassel).

JAMA. 2010;304(9):1009-1010. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1250

The British economist Julian Le Grand suggested that public policy is grounded in a conception of humans as “knights,” “knaves,” or “pawns.”1 Human beings are motivated by virtue (knights) or rigid self-interest (knaves) or are passive victims of their circumstances (pawns). A society's view of human motivation influences whether it builds public policies that are permissive, punitive, or prescriptive.

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