Saturday, April 23, 2011

Hayek, Instincts, Spontaneous Order

Larry Arnhart raises some interesting questions about the relationship between instincts and Hayek's conception of spontaneous order.

He complains that Hayek sees civilization/spontaneous orders as suppressing our instincts. I think Arnhart is right that this is at least partly incorrect. Work needs to be done to clarify the issue of instincts in relation to spontaneous order vs. organizational structures, incuding tribalism and socialism. I think that Hayek is right that socialism is essentially atavistic in the way he suggests, precisely because they share organizational network structures. Socialism attempts to impose the hierarchical network structure found in tribes and firms on society, where only scale-free networks can work. This actually gets to the knowledge problem Hayek talked about. Hierarchical networks create bottlenecks, a problem not found in scale-free networks.

Nevertheless, work does need to be done on the expression and suppresion of instincts in spontaneous orders and organizations. Humans are full of paradoxical instincts: we are xenophobic and xenophilic simultaneously, for example. What system emphasizes one over the other? What institutions? These are interesting questions that need to be investigated.
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