In defence of spontaneous order: Hayek and libertarianism

The Economist 

Abstract 

According to Adam Smith, Friedrich Hayek and everyone else who knows what he or she is talking about, well-functioning markets depend, inter alia, upon clear property rights and a judicial system that enforces agreements and resolve disputes.

It’s true that Friedrich Hayek, whom Mr Linker shamelessly abuses, is the most prominent 20th-century intellectual behind the concept of spontaneous order—the theory that systems, such as markets, naturally correct, and function best without human meddling. It’s true that Hayek is commonly lumped in with libertarians. It’s true that spontaneous order is an idea libertarians tend to promote. Yet spontaneous order is not a libertarian idea.

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Nozick’s last interview?

Julian Sanchez interviews the great man.

And in the spring, I’m giving a course jointly with a professor in the Slavic Languages department on Dostoyevsky and his philosophical ideas, and the difference that is made when philosophical ideas are presented in works of fiction rather than in discursive prose.

It’s the difference between people who want to meet arguments, even when they disagree with their conclusions, and those who want to dismiss arguments by scorn or contempt . . .

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CFP: Cosmos + Taxis

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The interdisciplinary journal Cosmos + Taxis is issuing a call for papers for its second conference on spontaneous orders, to be held at the Rochester Institute of Technology from May 8 to May 9, 2015.

Both days will feature morning and afternoon sessions and informal lunches and dinners. The theme of the conference is “Spontaneous Order in Economic and Political Thought from Smith to Hayek and Beyond.”

We are looking for papers that explore spontaneous orders or complexity theory in the history of political and/or economic thought, including but not limited to work on thinkers such as Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, Herbert Simon, Michael Polanyi, and, of course, Friedrich Hayek. More contemporary work that builds on these traditions is also welcome.

Papers that are selected for presentation will be considered for inclusion in Cosmos + Taxis, an open-source peer-reviewed journal.

Participants will be provided with lodging and meals while in Rochester, NY and may apply for additional travel assistance, depending on funding availability and need. The deadline for abstract submission is October 1, 2015.

The abstract must be an extended one of between 500 and 600 words, not including an optional list of up to 10 key literature references. The abstracts will be reviewed by a multidisciplinary panel. Due to the interactive format of the conference, we will select between 12 and 14 of the proposed papers for inclusion in the final program. Final versions of accepted papers are due April 1, 2015. All accepted papers are allotted 45 minutes of program time.

Extended abstracts and papers should be submitted by email as a Word document to David.Andersson@nottingham.edu.cn.

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Troy Camplin Reviews Napoleon in America

A terrific highly thoughtful review of Napoleon in America by the renaissance man that is Troy Camplin. Be sure to check out Troy’s eclectic blog and his book DiaphysicsMany will know that I’m a great fan of Troy’s work — he did a lovely chapter for me entitled “Getting to the Hayekian Network“. 

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There’s Something About Mary

Frank Jackson on the Mary thought experiment and “Epiphenomenal Qualia”

Elsewhere I’ve written:

Jackson’s thought experiment bears a striking resemblance to Hayek’s discussion in The Sensory Order, 1.95. Hayek took inspiration from C. D. Broad, the idea that an omnipotent being would still not be able to predict the qualia associated with a substance, for example, ammonia (Broad, 1925, p. 71). Here Hayek poses the question: how could one communicate the idea of vision generally and color in particular to the congenitally blind? In The Sensory Order, 1.97 and 1.98, Hayek cites physicist Kenneth Mees’ thought experiment as illustrating the distinction between the physical and the phenomenal orders. Mees asks us to consider the case of a congenially and totally deaf person confronted by someone playing a violin. Moreover, he asks us to suppose that this person knows nothing of sound even in a theoretical way. Confronted by the actions of the violin player, to the deaf person the actions will appear irrational. But, says Mees, if our deaf person was a scientist, he or she would eventually figure out that the movements of the violin bow generated vibrations that could be detected by equipment (the science of acoustics). Now whatever the issues Hayek has with Mees’ example, his conclusion is this: ‘‘the congenitally blind or deaf can never learn all that which the seeing or hearing person owes to the direct experience of the sensory qualities in question, because no description can exhaust all the distinctions which are experienced’’ (Hayek, 1952/1976, 1.102). The similarity of the conclusion shared by Hayek and Jackson is uncanny.

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