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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 43 of George Smith’s 2013 Cambridge University Press volume, The System of Liberty:

Hume argued that the social utility of a juridical system is not due merely to the direct effects of each constituent rule, considered separately and in isolation, but rather to the indirect, long-range benefits of the system as a whole, which contributes stability and predictability to a social system.

Rules are vitally important.  Good rules themselves embody much wisdom, and there is much wisdom – and security – in a commitment to follow rules.  Society progresses, however, only when patterns are broken.  Yet society can also regress when patterns are broken.  The challenge is to arrange for the experimentation and risk-taking that are the seeds of progress while simultaneously protecting the social order from the dangers of large-scale harmful disruptions.  While listing and elaborating on how best to meet this challenge would take volumes, one point seems clear: decentralization of decision-making is necessary.  Not only can individual decision-makers in a decentralized society experiment with breaking ‘the rules’ – experiment with different ways of achieving their ends – without having first to get the approval of some collective or some authority, but also, when such individual experiments fail, the consequences are localized and more thoroughly concentrated (“internalized”) on the responsible decision-makers.


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