Regarding the Use of Knowledge in Political Economy: Paretian Insight into a Hayekian Challenge

25 Pages Posted: 7 May 2016 Last revised: 9 May 2016

See all articles by Richard E. Wagner

Richard E. Wagner

George Mason University - Department of Economics

Date Written: May 7, 2016

Abstract

Friedrich Hayek (1937, 1945) explained that scholars engage in fantasy when they presume that they, or anyone for that matter, presume to possess the knowledge necessary to construct some societal equilibrium. That knowledge is incapable of being possessed by a single mind, which means that the relevant analytical challenge is to explain how competitive processes of social interaction are able to promote what could be called an assembly of relevant knowledge, much as conveyed by Leonard Read’s (1958) piece on the pencil. Vilfredo Pareto (1935) provides particular insight into Hayek’s challenge with his distinction between logical and non-logical action. Both types of action correspond to notions of rationality, only they pertain to different environments of action. This paper brings together Pareto’s insight and Hayek’s challenge, recurring in the process to Frank Knight’s (1960) concern with the relation between intelligence and democratic action.

Keywords: generated vs. postulated equilibrium; assembly of distributed knowledge; logical vs. non-logical action; economic calculation; non-priced environments; social tectonics

JEL Classification: D01, D78, D83, H11

Suggested Citation

Wagner, Richard E., Regarding the Use of Knowledge in Political Economy: Paretian Insight into a Hayekian Challenge (May 7, 2016). GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 16-15. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2776985 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2776985

Richard E. Wagner (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
334 Enterprise Hall
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States
(703) 993-1132 (Phone)

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