October, 2009

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Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

I really liked this reading, because I saw, once again, the principles of process-oriented justice versus end-state justice. I agreed with the general principles, but did not fully understand in what manner they could be implemented in the real world. Process oriented justice is not brought about by an absence of government and an absence of law, but through a specific and limited sphere of governmental influence and a specific type of law. But people have to believe in the principles that underlie such a system.

People have lost their “belief in a justice independent of personal interest” which has resulted in the “use of legislation to authorize coercion, not merely to prevent unjust action but to achieve particular results” (2) People have lost their belief in a process-oriented justice and prefer an end-state conception of justice. This is unfortunate, because its “widespread acceptance is the indispensable condition for most of the particular things we strive for” (58). I doubt that anyone could pinpoint exactly what has caused this. I would say that it was a shift in cultural values that occurred over many years and involved millions of individuals. I am beginning to agree with Schumpeter that to some degree we are victims of our own success. Increasing economic freedom has led people to comfortable enough life-styles that they have the time and energy and independence from the system to criticize it. Intellectual freedom has allowed us to question everything that our societies are built on—even the previously inviolate principles and norms on which the system depended. But conformism and blind belief don’t seem like advocable position. And I’ve hit my word limit, so I will end on that inconclusive note.

I Wrote This on My iPhone

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

In reading this quote by Hayek I thought of the many apps of the iPhone.  What apple did with the iPhone is opened up their programing code and made it available to developers.  It set up very basic guidelines for content and invited absolutely anyone to develop apps for their product.  The result is over 50,000 programs and games available to iPhone users giving them access to more and better products then had apple retained control over development.


This seems a good metaphor for the spontaneous order Hayek talked about.  What the iphone has to offer customers with their secondary apps is greater then what apple could have produced by itself.  This is a byproduct of an open and free market, and today consumers have access to more and better products then had apple retained control over development.  And apple is in turn rewarded as the 50,000 apps have turned into the biggest marketing tool for attracting new customers to their product.

Free markets are flooded with products and services that have arisen as a result of the market itself, what Hayek calls ‘spontaneous order’ which arise as markets react to the best ideas and technologies and use them to meet present demand.  The result is something that can’t be planned for or predicted, and it vindicates the interconectedness of the market.  Heavy regulation (either by government or industry leaders themselves) stifles this innovative reaction by restricting the adaptive capabilities of any organization.  It limits the degree in which an industry or company can react and it puts them on track to a future goal or projection that will disappear as new innovations are invented.  Law and order must be the servant of the markets and industry, not the other way around.

Students: In Service of Concrete Purposes

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Two words: public education. The goal of public education is to produce competent and contributing citizens. What comprises a competent and contributing citizen, however, is subjective. Thus, the government mandates a certain curriculum of what it deems to best shape a student into a competent and contributing citizen. All students are then held to this standard if they are to be considered smart and of worth to the nation. This method for public education is opposite to what Hayek said will actually produce the best citizen. Quoting Adam Smith he states, “Every man, so long as he does not violate the laws of justice [being] left perfectly free to pursue his own interests in his own way” (56). Yes, some may argue that since children do not have a lot of knowledge nor full reasoning capabilities, they consequently need their education to be mandated and monitored through such things as standardized testing. This system, however, is counterintuitive. As Hayek says, “Any such restriction, any coercion other than the enforcement of general rules, will aim at the achievement of some foreseeable particular result, but what is prevented by it will usually not be known” (56-57). By imposing a certain curriculum on students, the result is a bland citizen. Those who had more potential to learn were held back in order to coincide with the other students. Those students who struggled with the mandated curriculum were not allowed the freedom to fully develop their talents (which were not seen as important in the curriculum). In both cases, the government, by coercing students down a particular trajectory of learning, ends up creating less diverse and dynamic citizens. 

A Condition of Liberty

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

“a condition of liberty in which all are allowed to use their knowledge for their purposes, restrained only by rules of just conduct of universal application, is likely to produce for them the best conditions for achieving their aims”, and “such a system is likely to be achieved and maintained only if all authority, including that of the majority of the people, is limited in the exercise of coercive power by general principles to which the community has committed itself” (p. 55)

These statements serve to explain Hayek’s overall thesis in “Law, Legislation, and Liberty.” Individual liberty has been allowed to flourish as a product of public sentiment, not because of government institutions. And like individual knowledge, which may be limited in its own right, individual freedoms greatly benefit the larger community when allowed to exist unmolested. This means that government and its institutions should stay detached from defining or redefining such fundamental principles. Freedom can be achieved and realized by individuals naturally, through a collection of traditions, customs, and cultural values. Yet when the state attempts to involve itself in defining a fundamental principle like freedom, the principle is most often undermined.

Government institutions fail quite often to comprehend and respect these fundamental principles because of the tendency for institutions to overestimate their power of reason. This reliance on rationality can obscure the abstract forces within a community and because of the inability to even perceive such forces, government institutions prove ineffective when it comes to the preservation of fundamental principles.

On the other hand, societies which have been most successful at preserving fundamental principles like freedom have not permitted institutions to infringe upon the ability for individuals exercise according to their own purposes. In such a condition, mankind holds onto his traditions, customs, and culture, which only strengthen the existence of those important fundamental principles.

What is legislation?

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

A condition of liberty in which all are allowed to use their knowledge for their purposes, restrained only by rules of just conduct of universal application, is likely to produce for them the best conditions for achieving their aims”

     Hayek’s use of abstract concepts to define democracy made me contemplate the nature how our society operates.  While it can be said that tacit rules exist in our society, such as the right to life, liberty, and happiness (which are really part of the constitution) it is interesting to see how far that Hayek believes we should embellish our liberty and freedom.  In our Koch discussions we have talked about the nature of rights and of laws, and Brent made the great comment that one person’s right is another’s obligation.  Therefore I believe that Hayek is justified in his claim that people should be restrained by “rules of just conduct of universal application”.  Having said this, I understand that there will be some who might disagree because of Sam in the “Invisible Heart”, who stated that we should not have any laws really, including those of safety.  The only security mentioned by Hayek is in the application of ‘just laws’.  How just are safety laws in this light, and do they really infringe on our rights to liberty?

     Therefore, “law is…to consist of abstract rules which make possible the formation of a spontaneous order by the free action of individuals through limiting the range of their actions” (i.e., through preventing coercion), and it is not to be “the instrument of arrangement or organization by which the individual is made to serve concrete purposes” (p. 71).” 

     Hayek I believe is a free market supporter and I think that this book describes how the free market works very well.  The free market has be infringed on in the past with legislation, and it usually does not serve the market beneficially in the long run.  In trying to understand the nature of laws more, I came across two different but interesting definitions, law is: “a rule or manner of behavior that is instinctive or spontaneous”.  It can also be described as: “the controlling influence of such rules; the condition of society brought about by their observance”.  Therefore there is some discrepency in the laws under which our society can operate, however I believe that Hayek believed in the tacit laws that lead to spontaneous creation rather than legislation.

 

Lost in Translation

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009


“[W]hat the spontaneous order of society provides for us is more important for everyone, and therefore for the general welfare, than most of the particular services which the organization of government can provide, excepting only the security provided by the enforcement of the rules of just conduct” (pp. 132-133).

As argued by Hayek, the emerged conflicting views of society are either a made order or a grown order, which he refers to as taxis and cosmos. The emerged system, or cosmos, is the natural inclination of society, and the made order, or taxis, is an order that is decided on and then enforced. I found it interesting that even forty years ago some, like Hayek, recognized that our principles which have founded this great country do not always translate. He said that freedom has been preserved for so long because such principles have governed public opinion, but that “the institutions by which the countries of the Western world have attempted to protect individual freedom against progressive encroachment by government have always proved inadequate when transferred to countries where such traditions did not prevail.” (p 55) We have even more examples today that support this claim and I agree with Erica/Lance that it is because of the cultural diversity of the inhabitants of this earth. In architecture I believe that there is no formulaic design that will work across the board for any given function. Each region, each climate, each culture must be taken into account before designing a masterpiece lest it fall to destruction in a short period of time. And so it is with made-orders, or taxis, unless perhaps they are so abstract that they can be molded and “specked’ out.

Hayek connects the two orders to laws and legislation: law proper, or “nomos” coinciding somewhat with the concept of natural laws formed by social interaction– and legislation (“thesis”), which he calls the “chief instrument of deliberate change in modern society,” and is limited to confine of government services.

In response to this excerpt: “law is…to consist of abstract rules which make possible the formation of a spontaneous order by the free action of individuals through limiting the range of their actions” (i.e., through preventing coercion), and it is not to be “the instrument of arrangement or organization by which the individual is made to serve concrete purposes,” (p. 71), I must agree. Something I did not realize until I joined Koch Scholars and listened to everyone’s inspiring wisdom (wink, wink) is that laws, while important, can cause havoc if created without foresight. Hayek maintained, “Few facts show more clearly how prevailing conceptions will bring about a continuous change, producing measures that will in the beginning nobody had desired or foreseen but which appear inevitable in due course, than the process of the change of law.” (p. 65)… I concur.

Thinking about the abstract…

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Therefore, “law is…to consist of abstract rules which make possible the formation of a spontaneous order by the free action of individuals through limiting the range of their actions” (i.e., through preventing coercion), and it is not to be “the instrument of arrangement or organization by which the individual is made to serve concrete purposes” (p. 71).

Hayek emphasizes the importance of abstract rules because of their moldable nature, They can change and evolve without restricting too tightly. He also talks about the fact that abstract ideas are something we already believe as part of our moral standard “The power of abstract ideas rests largely on the very fact that they are not consciously held as theories but are treated as self evident truths which act as tacit presuppositions”(p.70)

However as I read this book my mind was continually pulled back to the words of another author and his opinion that abstract and ambiguous rules can push, motivate and inspire people. The book is called Leadership and Self Deception and in it the author lists characteristics and tactics of effective leadership. In this book he talks about the importance of ambiguity, and states that by using abstract rules and ideas you give people room to innovate, they push themselves harder and learn to grow faster. When you are strict and specific with your rules and direction employees will simply reach the goals of what are necessary.

It made me think, can a law serve as more than a restriction? Could it actually be used to motivate and inspire?

Even Laws

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

I was attracted to the third quote Randy posted because it didn’t sound very Hayeky: “Law is…to consist of abstract rules which make possible the formation of a spontaneous order by the free action of individuals through limiting the range of their actions,” but not to be “the instrument of arrangement or organization by which the individual is made to serve concrete purposes.” Hayek usually stays far away from these statements about the essences of things (unlike the Cartesians he challenges, he did not believe that law had been consciously developed at the dawn of civilization, and that we could therefore discover its true nature by reverse engineering it). When we put the quote in context, we see that Hayek is contrasting his views with those of Carl Schmitt, and so what seems to be a claim about the necessary essence of law is really an examination of two different viewpoints.

Of course, all this leaves the bigger question unanswered: are the best kinds of laws “abstract rules” that limit individual actions? I think it’s important to note that there are laws that fall between those actually abstract rules Hayek probably wants (the sort of laws that simply keep an individual from violating another individual’s freedom) and conscious engineering. As an example, take New York State’s law banning trans fats in restaurants. This law was not abstract, and it certainly aimed toward a “concrete purpose,” but it was applied equally across the board in that anyone who wanted to serve food had to obey it. This law was hard on restaurants and their suppliers; the reason trans fat is so popular in food production is that it is solid at room temperature. Transporting and processing non-trans fats requires new equipment and organizations. Here’s my question, then: can we call this law the cause of creative destruction? Like an innovation, it obsoleted a method of production over night. If we can agree that trans fats are bad, but that creative destruction is not, does this mean that the New York Law was a good thing? Can we create more laws that aim creative destruction, or was this one just a fluke?

-Ben

Freedom is “Legit”

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

“[W]hat the spontaneous order of society provides for us is more important for everyone, and therefore for the general welfare, than most of the particular services which the organization of government can provide, excepting only the security provided by the enforcement of the rules of just conduct”

Erica made a great point in her post.  She said “There are too many customs, people, ideas, and interactions within any given society for it to be managed by an ordered power.”  I agree wholeheartedly.  So much authenticity and richness are lost when somebody who doesn’t know “what’s up” tries to act like they do.  This is a purely cultural argument of course, but I have a story to back it up.  

In high school, my friends and I always just seemed to end up at Matt Wright’s house.  It became home base for our group of friends.  This is probably because the fridge was always full and open for pillage, but also because we all really enjoyed his parents.  Matt’s dad, Bill, was exceptionally fun.  Bill had a thing for bargain shopping and would often buy things just because they were a good deal, whether they were needed by anyone or not.  One night, as we were hanging out in the kitchen, Bill got an excited look on his face and ran upstairs.  On his way down the stairs a few minutes later he started saying things like “watch out now” and “check a brother out”.  He strutted into the kitchen baggy wearing a maroon velvet jogging suit.  The suit was obviously cut for someone Bill’s height but two or three times his girth.  The closest thing I’d ever seen to it was on a rap music video.  Apparently Bill had the same idea so he started saying “sup dawwwg, what’s crackin’ my homie” while bouncing up and down with his arms out like p-diddy.  Then he turned to his wife and practically yelled, “Honey!  All i need now is some bling!!”  We all lost it.  And we’ve never let him live it down.  

The moral of this story is that if you ain’t it, don’t pretend that you are.  The rationale that we often use to defend the idea of kosmos is a raw efficiency argument.  And to be honest, on the surface, it can be kind of a sterile argument.  But what if cool was a taxi-controlled thing?  Would they hire Bill Wright?  No one would buy.  The natural order of human interaction is full of color and personality.  Much of that vibrancy is lost when situations are overly planned and controlled.

Who doesn’t want equality?

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

“[W]hat the spontaneous order of society provides for us is more important for everyone, and therefore for the general welfare, than most of the particular services which the organization of government can provide, excepting only the security provided by the enforcement of the rules of just conduct” (pp. 132-133).

I really enjoyed Hayek’s views on made orders (taxis) versus natural orders (kosmos). I can see that society is a naturally organized structure. There are too many customs, people, ideas, and interactions within any given society for it to be managed by an ordered power. The market system operates in much of the same way. Because it is a natural and spontaneous order it naturally provides the best for the most, which is also (in many, but not all cases) the most fair. Of course, along with the majority of “winners” there will be also “losers” as a result of this system. There equality in a natural system, we are all playing the same game by the same rules. If this natural force is disrupted, it is no longer the natural order (working for the best for the most) that creates the winners and losers, but “authority is to decide who is to be hurt.” (63) Is it equal for an outside entity to decides who gets and who doesn’t?

Now, of course, there are many that take objection to that argument. Why can’t we all be winners? It is interesting that Hayek makes the connection between a perceived equality and liberty. When the general populace begins to perceive a form of equality that allows government to divide and distribute resources we begin to give up many personal liberties, many times without even noticing. These types of legislation are deemed as for “the general good.” Little by little, as our liberties are being taken away, we arrive at the destination described by Hayek, where there are no further liberties to be taken away. I do not think this is the “big bad government” taking away our liberties willy-nilly. I think a majority of people have this perception because who doesn’t want equality? But there are ways to do so (some say that are better than this way) other than allowing this “authority” to have that power.