Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Uncertainty and Spontaneous Orders

When a society moves from epistemological certainty to uncertainty, the outcome is liberty and the emergence of spontaneous order.

When a society moves from epistemological uncertainty to certainty, the outcome is enslavement and the attempt to transform that society into an organization.

Different social orders are affected differently at different times. Theological uncertainty gave us the Reformation and the eventual emergence of a religious spontaneous order (at its most developed stages in the present-day U.S.). Cosmological uncertainty gave us the Scientific Revolution and the eventual emergence of a scientific spontaneous order. Economic uncertainty gave us Capitalism and the eventual emergence of a market spontaneous order. Mythic uncertainty gave us a literary spontaneous order. Political uncertainty gave rise to the emergence of democratic spontaneous orders.

In turn, though, the misuse of science gave rise to certainty in the economy, which gave rise to the idea of central planning and, thus, to socialism and communism. The return of political certainty gave rise to dictatorships like Hitler's and Stalin's. And statements like "The science of anthropomorphic global warming is settled" is a bad sign for science, which can no more survive under that kind of certainty than can free markets under economic certainty or democracy under political certainty.

Postmodern uncertainty leads to nihilism; absolute certainty leads to totalitarianism. In between we have the kind of recognition of one's own ignorance and the possibility of knowledge that leads to spontaneous orders in religion, science, economics, the arts, and even governance. Only to the extent that members of a society accept their necessary ignorance in most things can that society be free.
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