Thursday, 3 December 2009

Spontaneous responses to stimuli

What is spontaneous is not the historical origin of an order. Spontaneity is an attribute concerning the type of response of a given order to the changes in its environment. When the change in the disposition of the elements of an order is generated in response to changes in the input of data from the environment by an authority that seeks to obtain a certain effect in that environment, the said order is a created one. A spontaneous order changes the disposition of its elements in response to the stimuli from the environment following not any purpose of any conscious authority, but a pattern built as a negative feedback system. This pattern of response to the input of data from the environment may either come from tradition or be created by a legislator; it may either lack of a historical beginning or have one. What is important is that that pattern provides the order with a mechanism of automatic adjustment to the changes in the given data. In this sense, spontaneity does not mean absence of historical origin but of a purposive source of change.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Naturalistic Fallacy

To distinguish between “spontaneous order” regarded as “Great Society” and “spontaneous order” as “any blind self-generated mechanism evolving in accordance with the changes in the environment” becomes essential when it is necessary to avoid the naturalistic fallacy. The “Great Society” is a spontaneous order provided with several sub-systems which behave as spontaneous orders in themselves, such as the law, morals, language, monetary systems and so on. The present legal system of a given society, although spontaneously evolved, is not necessarily the only possible spontaneous legal system to rule that society.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

The Law and the Social Order

That the law follows the evolution pattern of a spontaneous order –like the language or the monetary system also do- does not imply that the rules prevailing in any society -meant as a spontaneous order as well- have to be regarded as norms worth of being obeyed just because they emerge from the spontaneous social order. As we had already said, whether a norm acts as a negative or a positive feedback system, giving society a stabilization devise or not, is subject to being empirically proved. Once that problem is solved, we have to face with the question of if the stable order that that norm contribute to is also in accordance with our values, such as the importance of the individual liberty or of the equality before the law.

Friday, 20 November 2009


Since rational agents are not fully aware of the rules which govern human action, no social institution can provide the spontaneous order with a complete stability. Moreover, the aptitude for providing stability for any social order is not a necessary attribute for every set of rules that compound an institution. Whether a particular social institution plays a role of a negative feedback system in the social order or not is a statement subject to empirical investigation.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Types of Rules

The different types of rules of conduct are named by Hayek as “articulated”, “unarticulated” and “implicit” (see “Law, Legislation and Liberty”, Chapter 4), following progressive degrees of abstraction. The “command” is an articulated rule which conveys a concrete purpose. The norms of just conduct may be articulated or unarticulated, but in both cases they will be purposeless. A leading case would be that whose solution was implied in unarticulated norms of just conduct. The new precedent invokes a norm not enunciated before, but being considered as just once it is articulated by the judge, because it expresses an implicit feeling of justice previously shared by everyone. The most difficult task in the Hayekian theory of law is to explain convincingly the sphere of the implicit norms just conduct. The norms of that kind inform our notion of justice, notwithstanding they are insusceptible of ever being fully stated or provided of a complete rational justification. In the Chapter Four of Law, Legislation and Liberty, Hayek explains that even the already articulated norms of just conduct rest on a background of implicit norms, which give sense to the former. This is a central issue for Hayek’s critical rationalism, whose implications reach his theory of democracy.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Levels of abstraction

In “The Sensory Order” and in “The Primacy of the Abstract”, Hayek suggests that the mind is made of the juxtaposition of several kinds of abstraction levels and systems of classification. Mind is part of the nature and the different levels of abstraction that compound it change in response to the changes in the environment. The rational agent is unaware of the highest levels of abstraction that condition his mind. These highest levels of abstraction are formed by social institutions, aesthetic values, “moral sentiments”, etc, and evolve following a natural selection pattern. That the rational agent is not able to choose or modify such levels of abstraction is at the core of the notion of “spontaneous order”.