Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sandefur on Spontaneous Orders, Again

There comes a point where you wonder if the person one (or others) is arguing with is actually paying attention to any of the actual arguments, or if they are simply starting to get to a place where they are defending their position no matter what. After reading Sandefur's latest response, I cannot come to any other conclusion but that he has reached this point. Most of his points have been definitively answered already, especially by Hasnas in his last response. Sandefur still does not recognize the difference between an entity and an environment (putting him in the same camp as the economic planners Hayek was writing against, who equally could not tell the difference). A person does act based on a wide variety of bases, including rational decision-making, for a variety of goals -- but that does not make the person either a constructed or, certainly, a spontaneous order.A corporation can be defined in a similar way, though a corporation is certainly a constructed order. Such entities ad people and corporations (and non-profits, etc.) do have goals, and work toward realizing those goals, but a social system should not have goals imposed on it. This Hayek does make abundantly clear. The reason why is clear, if we understand, for example, what happens in a corporation.

When we work for a corporation, we align our goals with those of the corporation while we're working for that corporation. When we are at home, we do not have to do so any longer. And if we do not want to align our goals with the corporation, we can quit. The corporation, being in direct competition with other corporations, receives the kind of information that allows it to discover new ways of doing things, and new products to make.

When we are a member of a society, entry and exit are not so easy. Especially when we are talking about large nation-states. What is the "goal" of society? That should be a nonsensical question. But there have been people who have tried to construct society as a corporation -- this is the kind of constructivism Hayek is talking about -- and they have thus tried to give society "goals." When they do that, they have to align the society's members' goals with that of the state. Nobody can be allowed to have their own goals, because that can derail the social constructivist's goals. Thus, a constructed society necessarily is coercive, because there will be people who do not want to align their goals with the constructivist's goals. If you have to align your goals with someone else's goals, and have no way to legally escape it, then you are not free. Indeed, you are a slave. And slavery cannot exist in a true spontaneous order. Indeed, once we understand that only in a true spontaneous order that people are free to pursue their own goals as they see fit (so long as they do not involve coercion), do we see that spontaneous orders are the kinds of social systems that are conducive to liberty.

Sandefur objects that spontaneous order is essentially a non-concept because there is no pure example, that there are mixed systems. Indeed, there are mixed systems. They are called complex adaptive systems. But even if we cannot ever make a true spontaneous order, the concept is worth having because it is the model of complete social liberty. One can posit a kind of continuum from constructed social order to spontaneous order. But in that continuum, we also move from slavery to increasing liberty. What Sandefur claims are examples of spontaneous order arising from the interstices of constructed orders is really features of complex adaptive systems. Self-organizing, where possible> Yes. A spontaneous order as Hayek describes it? No.

I get all this from Hayek, with only some clarification from recent work on complex adaptive systems. I honestly don't know why Sandefur cannot seem to see what to me Hayek clearly says about the relationship between liberty and social spontaneous orders.
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