Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on August 24, 2019

in Complexity & Emergence, Hayek, Hubris and humility, Philosophy of Freedom, Seen and Unseen

… is from page 308 of F.A. Hayek’s brilliant 1968 lecture “Competition As a Discovery Procedure,” as reprinted in The Market and Other Orders (Bruce Caldwell, ed., 2014) – a collection of some of Hayek’s most profound essays about spontaneous order:

On the other hand, advantages of the spontaneous order of the market, or the catallaxy, are correspondingly two. Knowledge that is used is that of all its members. Ends that it serves are the separate ends of those individuals, in all their variety and contrariness.

DBx: Progressives are proud of their love of diversity. Yet Progressives’ notion of diversity is singularly restrictive: it’s diversity only of a handful of relatively easily observable ‘objective’ facts about individuals; mostly these: skin color, sex, and sexual preferences.

I share Progressives’ disgust at the bigotry that many people exhibit against fellow human beings on the basis of skin color, sex, and sexual preferences. But of course we human beings, while all sharing a human nature, differ from each other along dimensions far more numerous than the three or four dimensions that monopolize the attention of Progressives.

The kind of society that Progressives and many people on the political left – and, let’s be clear, also many conservatives – wish to live in is one in which all individuals act in ways that fulfill not their individually chosen preferences but, instead, to fulfill some particular vision of what economic and social outcomes ‘should’ look like. And Progressives as well as many conservatives are happy to use the power of the state to impose their particular vision on society and to attempt to compel individuals to act in ways that are thought to bring about outcomes that fulfill that vision.

And so the likes of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren aren’t, after all, so very different from the likes of Donald Trump. The details of the Progressive vision differ from those of the vision of “conservative nationalists” such as Trump. But Sanders and Warren share with Trump an itch to compel hundreds of millions of strangers to behave according to their – the “leaders’” – wishes. To the extent that any of these social-engineering schemes are imposed and enforced, the enormous diversity of human preferences, knowledge, information, experience, talents, and hopes and dreams is ignored and quashed.


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