Blundering into Wisdom? The Missing Elements of Hayek's Spontaneous Order Liberalism
23 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2008
Date Written: September 1, 2008
This paper discusses F. A. Hayek's theory of spontaneous order and cultural evolution. After briefly outlining the main elements of Hayek's approach, we review some of the criticisms addressed to his evolutionary theory. In particular, we discuss a number of paradoxes generated by his view of spontaneous cultural evolution. In our view, these paradoxes result from an insufficiently specified theoretical environment in which cultural and social evolution are taking place. Namely, Hayek does not spend much time discussing the precise nature of political markets that are nonetheless crucial for the persistence and the change of institutional outcomes. Likewise, Hayek places himself outside of his own theory of cultural evolution, for he lacks a model of how ideas and intellectuals affect the choice of one of the multiple evolutionary equilibria. We outline one such model, which uses the notion of sympathy as its main driving mechanism. Taken together, we claim that an explicit analysis of politics and a model of influence of ideas would have helped to resolve some of the key incongruities in Hayek's evolutionary work.
Keywords: Hayek, spontaneous order, liberalism, political philosophy, cultural evolution, public choice, sympathy
JEL Classification: B25, B31, P10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation