Spontaneous Order

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Use of "spontaneous order" by libertarians is a propaganda term popularized by Friedrich von Hayek. It is meant to imply that no design is needed to create the order, while distracting from the fact that real human environments have major designs such as property and other institutions. Any environment will have a spontaneous order, whether or not any part of it is designed, coerced, or planned. Often these are (or result in) Unexpected Consequences. Nor are spontaneous orders likely to be maxima.

Links

Capabilities and Libertarianism, Part II: Capabilities for Bullet-Biting Libertarians [More...]
"[H]ow some common justificatory bases for libertarianism fail, and do so in ways readily grokked from a capabilitarian vantage." The NAP, property, Ayn Rand and spontaneous order take a beating.
Get Ready for the Great Urban Comeback: Visionary responses to catastrophes have changed city life for the better. [More...]
AKA: “How Disaster Shaped the Modern City.” History shows that major disasters can sweep away undirected "spontaneous order" accretions and allow large, planned improvements.
Hayek, the Mind, and Spontaneous Order: A Critique [More...]
Richard Posner finds Hayek's refutation of universal central planning to be useless in real-world mixed economies. He points out Ronald Coase has shown that central planning works better than markets for some problems, hence firms (including governments.)
Is “Know It When I See It” Enough? [More...]
"Spontaneous orders arise out of planned, intentional actions, so the phenomenon of spontaneous order cannot counsel us against planned, intentional actions. Since constructivism is a component of spontaneous order, spontaneous order gives us no traction for a critique of planning."
Karl Polanyi Explains It All [More...]
Robert Kuttner explains how Polanyi's The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time is more relevant now than ever. "Contrary to libertarian economists from Adam Smith to Hayek, Polanyi argued, there was nothing “natural” about the free market."
Libertarianism's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea [More...]
"From Locke to Smith to Hayek, the lesson seems clear: Leave people alone, and a coherent civil order will spontaneously emerge and perpetuate itself. This is utter fiction. A fairy tale. A just-so story that has as much historical veracity as Locke's happy talk about a prepolitical state of nature filled with spontaneously formed families and settled plots of legitimately gotten farmland."
Some Problems with Spontaneous Order [More...]
"It is not possible to distinguish in principle, either descriptively or normatively, between spontaneous and constructed orders. Instead, the difference depends entirely on the observer’s frame of reference." A convincing explanation of how Hayek pulls a hand-waving fast one.
The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time (book, online) (1 link)
Explains the socially constructed nature of "free markets", as opposed to "spontaneous order". A major work of economic history.
Unmade, Amoral Orders Composed of Made, Moral Orders? A Response to John Hasnas [More...]
"Hayek has given insufficient ground for distinguishing a constructed from a spontaneous order. Indeed, the basic problem is that Hayek incorporates constructed orders into his definition of spontaneous orders, resulting in a sort of logical nesting doll or fun-house mirror in which any action can qualify as constructed or spontaneous depending on how one frames the issue."

Quotations

Thus despite, for example, the dogmatic insistence on “spontaneous order” as the exclusive result of market-based transactions -- transactions that in core neoliberal dogma are said to be the only permissible form of social planning -- the social policies pursued by the MPS [Mont Pelerin Society] and its outer shells [libertarianism, classical liberalism, etc.] are often exquisitely planned, anything but spontaneous, and have nothing to do with any market.
David Golumbia, "Cyberlibertarianism: The Extremist Foundations of ‘Digital Freedom’"
[Hayek] is not evaluating a mixed system, in which there is a degree of personal freedom but also a degree of imposed order. A mixed system is what we and our peer nations have, and I have not been able to figure out what help Hayek offers for evaluating such a system.
Richard Posner, "Hayek, the Mind, and Spontaneous Order: A Critique"
… Economic doctrines always come to us as propaganda. This is bound up with the very nature of the subject and to pretend that it is not so in the name of ‘pure science’ is a very unscientific refusal to accept the facts.
Joan Robinson, in Marx, Marshall And Keynes