Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on December 14, 2020

in Complexity & Emergence, Curious Task, Hayek

… is from page 169 of University of Glasgow Senior Lecturer Craig Smith’s excellent 2020 book, Adam Smith:

Hayek suggests that constructivist rationalists have misunderstood the nature of social order. Societies are not made orders which are deliberately directed by politicians. Instead, they are orders which arise by individuals adjusting to each other and to the rules of the society. Hayek believes that humans have evolved a form of association (civilization) that is governed by rules of just conduct rather than deliberate commands. The success of this kind of order arises from the fact that rather than being directed by a few minds it is able to rely on the whole of society adjusting to their local circumstances.

DBx: Society can survive a good deal of obstruction of the ability of individuals each to adjust in light of his or her local knowledge and preferences. Fortunately, the free society is not a delicate flower that must be put on death watch the moment it encounters conditions that are less than ideal.

But nor is a free society indestructible. At some point the obstructions placed by governments on the ability of individuals each to act on his or her unique knowledge as he or she prefers while respecting the same rights of others will become too burdensome. The connections that we form with each other to create a genuine civilization will become too few to sustain that civilization. Each of our abilities to rely on – to benefit from – the knowledge that is possessed only by hundreds of millions of other of our fellow human beings will be so weakened that we eventually revert to a state of society that, from the perspective of 2019-2020, is primitive and inconceivably poor both materially and spiritually.

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