Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on August 24, 2017

in Civil Society, Complexity & Emergence, Myths and Fallacies

… is from page 353 of my GMU Econ colleague Chris Coyne’s excellent 2011 paper “Constitutions and crisis” (typo corrected):

The notion of the “art of association” can be traced back to Tocqueville, who noted America’s robust civil society that consists of an array of social associations and networks.  These associations and networks were not the result of government design or legislation, but instead evolved through the ingenuity of self-reliant citizens acting entrepreneurially.  Associations stand between the government and the market.  They allow people to come together and solve common problems without relying on government.  In doing so, they serve as a check on government power because private individuals do not become overly reliant on government to solve the problems they face.  The emergence of a robust civil society is only possible when people’s right to free association is established and protected.  Where this right exists, people can invest in establishing social associations and networks, which can potentially play a crucial role in the wake of crises.

DBx: Society is not government.  And while reasonable people can and do disagree over the degree to which government is necessary to a thriving society, indisputably false is the notion that society is created by government and is sustained only by the detailed directions – or, more accurately, detailed diktats – of government.  Unfortunately, the creationist-engineering mindset is dominant in the general public and even more so in the ranks of social scientists.  Even among economists, who are the least likely of all social scientists to fall for the social-creationist myth, the social-creationist myth seems to me to be gaining ground.

Were it not so laden with danger, it would be amusing to witness the typical professor who so often, with one breath, sneers at those who deny that the orderly complexity of the natural world is the result of unplanned evolution, and, with the next breath, cheers those who deny that the orderly complexity of the social world is the result of unplanned evolution.

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