Thursday, 19 August 2010

On Resilient Social Institutions

According to Hayek´s thought, we might state that the price system is a sort of perception device which enables the spontaneous –or abstract- order to get knowledge of changes in the relative scarcities of economic goods and to proceed to an automatic and purposeless reallocation of them, working as a negative feedback system. But, in Hayek’s theory, the price system is not enough to fulfill the function of providing the spontaneous order with the necessary adaptation to the changes in the environment. Normative systems –both legal and social- and traditions are some of the many behavioral patterns that give a framework to the maximizing activity of the decision making agents, who have to cope with the fragmentation of information and the resultant costs of transaction. As we mentioned in a previous post, those systems are forces emerging from a natural selection process and fitted to the changes in the environment. Now, it is high time to acknowledge that, besides an expected time lag between the changes in the environment and the subsequent adaptations to them, it is very likely to be found that each sub-system responses to those changes at a different pace. Moreover, we can find a complex of resilient social institutions that remain unfitted to the new conditions the spontaneous order has to deal with.


AL said...

You made me remember of the "Six constraints on perfection" mentioned by Dawkins in "The extended phenotype". His argument was the same as yours, namely, that biological evolution does not necessarily leads to perfect adaptation both because of time lags and because different subsystems change at a different pace. I would only add that the picture is further complicated by the fact that (both in biological and in cultural evolution) some adaptations can work against others. For example, a normative adaptation may survive even though it makes the price system work less smoothly.

Federico Sosa Valle said...

Absolutely perfect! Thank you, AL, for your comment! It's true I’m strongly indebted to Dawkins’ “Extended Phenotype” for its influence on this post. I completely agree with you on the possibility of an unfitted normative adaptation producing a friction in the price system. Moreover, it would be very interesting to study the devices developed by the resilient social institutions in order to persist notwithstanding being their outcome a net loss.