It’s remarkable how many economists have tried to capture the wonder of how markets coordinate economic cooperation without anyone being in charge. Adam Smith wrote about it. Henry George did, too. Hayek wrote about it often. So did Bastiat and Leonard Read. Here’s my essay from the Library of Economics and Liberty tying together these examples and applying some of the insights to the largest migration in human history.
I’m working on a book that looks at how our standard of living is driven by the same phenomenon of economic action without conscious design or a centralized plan. Sometimes this phenomenon is called spontaneous order, a phrase that reminds me too much of spontaneous combustion. This encourages people to think of economic order as something that flares up unexpectedly rather than something that thrives without anyone being in charge.
Whatever you call it, it’s a wonderful example of the seen and the unseen. Being unseen, the orderliness of the marketplace is easy to overlook. But I suspect the lack of incentive for understanding it, explains why economists must continually work to make it noticed and understood.