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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 49 of Richard Dawkins’s remarkable 1987 book, The Blind Watchmaker (original emphasis):

This belief, that Darwinian evolution is ‘random’, is not merely false. It is the exact opposite of the truth. Chance is a minor ingredient in the Darwinian recipe, but the most important ingredient is cumulative selection which is quintessentially nonrandom.

DBx: An error parallel to the one here exposed by Dawkins is made by many (most?) critics of the market economy. Because the market order is not the result of a conscious plan – because market processes and their outcomes are not preconceived in someone’s mind and then imposed on human beings as an army general imposes his battle plan on his troops – market processes are wrongly asserted to be random. Market processes are accused of being akin to the meanderings of drunk donkeys.

In fact, the market is filled with impressively sensitive, nuanced, and fast feedback mechanisms that inform and incite each participant to adjust his and her actions in ways that improve the prospects not only of this individual to better satisfy his or her desires, but to improve also the prospect of countless strangers doing so. The overall result is a highly complex order of individual plans and interactions that enable participants to improve their lives as they see fit. To assert that the market order is random is akin to asserting that the existence of opposable thumbs on humans or of gills on fish is random.

There are general rules that apply within the market order, not the least important of these rules being that everyone must play by the rules. Another rule is that each person gets to use his or her property (including his or her labor) in whichever peaceful ways he or she chooses – a rule that rules out Jones being able to threaten Smith with violence if Smith chooses to spend her income in peaceful ways that do not contribute to Jones’s income.

The results of the spontaneous market order of course are never perfect. Only an immature mind uses such a standard for guiding policy. Nor will these results, even if they are ‘perfect’ according to some reasonable standard, fully satisfy the material or aesthetic or ideological desires of any individual. Only an infantile mind imposes this solipsistic criterion. But decentralized market processes are – by far – the best means of improving as much as possible the prospects for any randomly chosen individual to achieve as many as possible of his or her desires.