Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on August 23, 2021

in Complexity & Emergence, Hayek, Myths and Fallacies

… is from page 149 of F.A. Hayek’s profound 1952 book The Counter-Revolution of Science, as this book appears as part of volume 13 (Studies on the Abuse & Decline of Reason, Bruce Caldwell, ed. [2010]) of the Collected Works of F.A. Hayek (footnotes deleted; link added):

The belief that processes which are consciously directed are necessarily superior to any spontaneous process is an unfounded superstition. It would be truer to say, as A.N. Whitehead has argued in another connection, that on the contrary “civilisation advances by extending the number of important operations we can perform without thinking about them.” If it is true that the spontaneous interplay of social forces sometimes solves problems no individual mind could consciously solve, or perhaps even perceives, and if they thereby create an ordered structure which increases the power of the individuals without having been designed by any one of them, they are superior to conscious action. Indeed, and social processes which deserve to be called ‘social’ in distinction from the action of individuals are almost ex definitione not conscious. Insofar as such processes are capable of producing a useful order which could not have been produced by conscious direction, any attempt to make them subject to such direction would necessarily mean that we restrict what social activity can achieve to the inferior capacity of the individual mind.

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