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.

1 comment:

Sheldon Wein said...

The two best known philosophic accounts of convention (that by David Lewis and that by Andrei Marmor) seem compatible with this. Lewis holds that:
“A regularity R in the behavior of members of a population P when they are agents in a recurrent situation S is a convention if and only if it is true that, and it is common knowledge in P that, in almost any instance of S among members of P,
(1) almost everyone conforms to R;
(2) almost everyone expects almost everyone else to conform to R;
(3) almost everyone has approximately the same preferences regarding all possible combinations of actions;
(4) almost everyone prefers that any one more conform to R, on condition that almost everyone conform to R;
(5) almost everyone would prefer that any one more conform to R’, on condition that almost everyone conform to R’, where R’ is some possible regularity in the behavior of members of P in S, such that almost any instance of S among members of P could conform both to R’ and to R.”
David Lewis, Convention: A Philosophic Study (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 1969), page 78.
Marmor’s account is “A rule, R, is conventional, if and only if all of the following conditions obtain:
1. There is a group of people, a population, P, that normally follow R in circumstances C.
2. There is a reason, or a combination of reasons, call it A, for members of P to follow R in circumstances C.
3. There is at least one other potential rule, S, that if members of P had actually followed in circumstances C, then A would have been a sufficient reason for members of P to follow S instead of R in circumstances C, and at least partly because S is the rule generally followed instead of R. The rules R and S are such that it is impossible (or pointless) to comply with both of them concomitantly in circumstances C.”
I assume that Lewis did not really mean the "common knowledge" requirement in the preamble (or if he did, he is mistaken). So Hayek is holding that the social order is a convention. And given this there is no reason to suppose it is either the best convention we can have for the purpose (so there is, or may be, reason to try and alter the contents of our social conventions) while at the same time reason to go along with them (even though they are not the best ones we might have).
It seems to me that the interesting questions all focus around whether we humans could come up with better kinds of conventions than we now have (not just better content to our existing conventions) and whether conventions that solve cooperation problems need differ in important ways from those that solve coordination problems.
Does Hayek have interesting things to say about either of these issues?