Front Page Titles (by Subject) Cultural Evolution as Spontaneous Order - Literature of Liberty, April/June 1979, vol. 2, No. 2
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Cultural Evolution as Spontaneous Order - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, April/June 1979, vol. 2, No. 2 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Cultural Evolution as Spontaneous Order
“The Three Sources of Human Values: A Postscript to Law, Legislation, and Liberty.” The Hobhouse Lecture given at the London School of Economics, May 17, 1978.
G. E. Pugh's The Biological Origin of Human Values has received high praise from sociobiologists such as Professor Edward O. Wilson of Harvard University. Much of the argument is based on the idea of primary and secondary values, “meaning by the first term those which are genetically determined and therefore innate, while he defines the secondary ones as ‘products of rational thought.’”
But there is a third kind of value—cultural evolution—which is older than the biological notion of evolution, and goes back through Charles Darwin to his grandfather, Erasmus, and derived most likely from thinkers such as Bernard Mandeville and David Hume. The notion of cultural evolution, quite familiar to an-thropologists and some geneticists, is a much more rapid selective process than the biological one. “What has yet to be more widely recognized is that the present order of society has largely arisen, not by design but by the prevailing of the more effective institutions in a process of competition.”
In short, “Culture is neither natural or artificial, neither genetically transmitted nor rationally designed. It is a tradition of learned rules the conduct of which have never been ‘invented’ and whose functions the acting individuals usually do not understand.” What is good need not be either innate or rationally chosen, and culture is not merely the result of whim or caprice. In fact, “civilization has largely been made possible by subjugating the innate animal instincts to the non-rational customs which had made possible the formation of larger orderly groups of gradually-increasing size.”
“Mind and culture developed concurrently and not successively.” To attempt to recreate this process we must resort to the kind of conjectural history advocated by the Scottish moral philosophers of the late eighteenth century. What distinguished man was not only his capacity for reason but his “capacity to imitate and to pass on what he had learned.” The brain enables us to absorb, but not to design culture.
It is this process which sociobiology has neglected. It entails evolution and spontaneous order, a complex interaction of patterns which Professor Donald Campbell has called “downward causation,” which far exceeds any quantitative search for two or three variables. Most of the steps in the evolution of culture occurred when some persons broke away and developed new rules and forms of conduct, not because they were better understood, but because the innovative persons prospered. Property, competition, and other aspects of the market economy developed in this way, and made specialization possible. Man did not deliberately invent his most important institutions, from language to law. Freedom demands a certain discipline in maintaining this market order.
The modern age has witnessed a reemergence of the primordial instincts. Marx and Freud were two of the leaders in this assault. Egalitarianism and the advocacy of liberating the instincts are steps backward. The process of civilization depends on the reassertion of this concept of cultural evolution and the spontaneous order of the market.