Front Page Titles (by Subject) III: Spontaneous Order - Literature of Liberty, January/March 1978, vol. 1, No. 1
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III: Spontaneous Order - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, January/March 1978, vol. 1, No. 1 
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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This set of summaries portrays yet another rival paradigm or framework for viewing human freedom. Thinkers operating within this paradigm view man and society tending toward a spontaneous order as a result of voluntaristic cooperation. Here freedom is conceived as the absence of those social constraints that compromise free will or self-directed action towards goals and values.
Viewing order as the “daughter not the mother of freedom,” this paradigm of spontaneous human order conceives of personal and social good as flowing from individual free choices, voluntary interaction, and contract, rather than from centralized, coercive authority. In the light of this paradigm, those social institutions that deny personal autonomy and rational, voluntary choice, also deny moral, progressive, or creative human life.
Freedom and Knowledge
“F.A. Hayek: Freedom for Progress.” In Contemporary Political Philosophers, eds. Anthony de Crespigny and Kenneth Monogue. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1975, pp. 49–66.
Hayek's classical liberalism defends individual freedom in an ambiguous fashion. His liberalism does stipulate that no one should be coerced by the arbitrary will of another, and does restrict to a minimum the coercive powers of government. But it appears that Hayek does not assert individual freedom as an intrinsic good in itself which is founded in natural rights. For Hayek, individual freedom seems good primarily for utilitarian reasons as a means to assure the social good of attaining material and cultural progress.
Hayek's liberalism is based on the discovery that the enforcement of certain universal rules and the protection of the private sphere of individuals results in a spontaneous order of human activity. This “invisible hand” generated order, (the impersonal mechanism that integrates the incomplete, dispersed knowledge of individuals), is far more complex and uses more knowledge and skills from individuals than any centrally directed order. The irremediable ignorance (or limited knowledge of any individuals), cannot contain and direct all the knowledge and resultant activity that a spontaneous order (catalaxy) accomplishes by dovetailing scattered plans into a finely meshed whole. The economic coordination of the market place and linguistic evolution are two examples of the free and spontaneous orders so generated. Such spontaneous order is open-ended, since we disagree about general ends, needs, and merits. Hayek also rejects a political philosophy based on some particular understanding of man, since human nature itself is indefinite or open-ended.
Hayek finds liberty or freedom necessary because of each individual's limited knowledge. Freedom is beneficial because it allows the pooled knowledge of unfettered individuals to promote the social betterment through material and cultural progress. The important aspect of progress for Hayek is the acquisition and use of new knowledge. Individual freedom gains value primarily from its contribution to the cumulative growth of knowledge (“If there were omniscient men...there would be little case for liberty.”). Hayek believes we should value freedom not so much from the standpoint of the individual as from that of society. People are important as potential contributors to social progress rather than as individuals with natural human rights.
It is crucially important, then, to examine Hayek's view of the “rule of law” in its implications to individual freedom and rights. Rejecting legal positivism and mere legality. Hayek's “rule of law” is a metalegal notion. It seeks to define what “true” law ought to be by devising universal rules that foster a progressive, spontaneous order. True laws, for Hayek, must be general, certain, and equal. They must refer to conduct rather than ends. They serve as the rules of the game to enable a system of free individuals to work effectively. Thus freedom under the law, so defined, is intended to prevent any individual from being subject to another man's will.
Hayek may be criticized for the inadequacy of his “rule of law” to protect individual liberty (certain laws arrived at by majorities may be oppressive to individuals). Hayek is somewhat vague on the limits of majority decisions in lawmaking. He needs to clarify what role discretionary power might play in his impersonal, general, and universal abstract enforcement of laws.
The Case for Government
Anarchy, State, and Utopia. New York: Basic Books, 1974.
A minimal state limited to the narrow functions of protection against force, theft, fraud, enforcement of contracts, etc., is justified. A more extensive state will violate individual rights. On examination we can uncover the limitations of utilitarianism, consequentialism, and redistributivism.
The argument consists of three parts, it: (1) justifies the “nightwatchman state” of classical liberalism and (2) contends that a more extensive state cannot be justified and proposes an “entitlement” theory of justice as an alternative to redistributivism à la Rawl's A Theory of Justice; and finally (3) argues that the minimal state, despite its shortcomings, is inspiring as well as right; the coercive power of the state should not be used paternalistically to prohibit activities of people for their own protection and to force some citizens to aid others.
The entitlement theory holds that protection of property alone justifies redistributive taxation. Any other form of redistribution is unjustified. According to the theory: (1) an individual is entitled to holdings if they were first acquired in accordance with seemingly just principles; (2) property is justly held if transferred to an individual by just means by someone who acquired it justly; (3) a holding is just if acquired in recompense for past injustices in acquisition and transfer.
The Case Against Government
“Nozick on Anarchism.” Political Theory (USA), 5 (1977): 247–256.
Robert Nozick's attempt to refute anarchism in Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974) is invalid and fails to justify the state's coercive monopoly of force in a given territory. Nozick creates bogus “rights” when he invokes “procedural rights” (each person's right to resist, in self-defense, if others try to apply to him an unreliable, unfair, or risky procedure of justice). But even if such “rights” were valid, they would not justify the state monopolizing the protection of these “rights.” In fact, individuals could claim “procedural rights” and apply them to judge the state's “risky” procedures. This would seem to bolster the anarchist case.
Nozick's justification of the state attempts to derive the state through a natural and moral evolution by an “invisible hand” process. This process, in outline, occurs in four states. First, individuals living in a state of nature and possessing Locke an natural rights would naturally evolve protection associations. In a non coercive society, these would take the form of free market services, which would ward off immoral attacks on their rights by criminals. The second stage sees the many associations giving rise to one association of preeminent power in an area. In the third stage, the one preeminent association evolves into an ultraminimal state which “sells” its protection as an economic good but also exercises a monopoly on force. The fourth and final stage of Nozick's evolution of the state sees the ultraminimal state turning into an identically functioning minimal state which makes a “redistribution” of protection to certain independents (nonclients of the ultraminimum state) at cost to the clients.
The crucial and fallacious stage is the third; the transition from the preeminent association to the ultraminimum state. Nozick fails to show how the latter can acquire its monopoly on force without violating individuals' rights. The ultraminimum state claims the right to intervene and prohibit victims from privately enforcing justice claims against its clients because of the above described “procedural rights.”
Nozick contends that one may have a right (to self-defense), but does wrong to exercise it in the absence of nonrisky procedures guaranteeing fairness (i.e., procedural rights). First, however, even if procedural rights are valid rights, they hardly justify the state monopoly. For if it can punish violators of procedural rights, why cannot independent individuals also judge whether the state itself may violate procedural rights? What independent criterion guarantees that the state alone will follow nonrisky procedures?
But secondly, procedural rights are, in fact, a bogus concept which asserts rights to violate other rights or individuals. If individuals have the right of self-defense and have been injured, whether or not they follow “sound” procedures, they have a natural right to prosecute and punish an actually guilty party. To prohibit a victim from privately arresting and prosecuting his actual assailant is to violate an authentic right.
Community vs. State
“The Modern State and the Search for Community: The Anarchist Critique of Peter Kropotkin.” International Philosophical Quarterly (USA), 16 (1976): 3–32.
Recent scholarship has evidenced a revived interest in examining the merits of anarchism, as witness Robert Paul Wolff's In Defense of Anarchism (New York: Harper and Row, 1970). To further this revival, we can survey the Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin's (1842–1921) case against the legitimacy of the state.
Kropotkin understood the state as a centralized power which controls the life of a society within a territorial limit by placing vital social functions in the hands of a few people. This centralized power uses coercion to allow certain social classes to dominate others. He denied that the state (even the praised parliamentary or representative variety) is the most humane way to organize a good human society.
Overall, Kropotkin's argument challenges us by its claim that the state causes the decline of a fraternal community. He reasoned that the quest for the human values of liberty, equality, fraternity, and justice will succeed only to the extent that mankind substitutes the alternative of communal life for the centralized state. Anticipating Hannah Arendt's views in On Revolution (New York: Viking, 1965), he underlined how state centralism inhibits the public's communal involvement and participation by entrusting public issues to an oligarchy of representatives and bureaucrats. Similarly, Kropotkin warned against the centralized control which Lenin's Communist Party imposed on the Russian Revolution. He believed that such state socialists were engaged in a self-defeating project. They were at cross-purposes by using the hierarchical structures of the anticommunal state to develop communal control of the means of production. It would result inevitably in an economy controlled by a clique of strategically placed government bureaucrats.
The state thus involves the loss of true community. Kropotkin rejected the statist implications of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century political theorists' appeal to the “state of nature.” Postulating an imaginary state of nature in which individuals were in perpetual conflict with one another, these theorists portrayed an equally imaginary political state as peacefully issuing from a social contract. Thus, they imagined the state serving as the stabilizing savior of men from anarchistic chaos.
Kropotkin sought to invalidate a Social Darwinist reading of human nature's penchant for narrow self-interest and violent struggle. He appealed to ethological evidence from the study of animal life, together with a reflective, historical analysis of human society. He did this to prove the naturalness of human beings establishing a decent community without needing state coercion.
Sociability and mutual support, he maintained, rather than cutthroat competition, are central elements in the evolutionary struggle for human survival. Human life by its very nature is not narrowly individualistic or brutally competitive. A communitarian ethics is a natural device for insuring mankind's biological survival. His ethics of community affirm how such a system promotes justice and freedom. Sociability (as an evolutionary “instinct” developed in the lives of humans and animals) constitutes a biological root of moral behavior. Reason, subsequently, developed the “instinct” of sociability to lead to justice and maganimity as corollaries for decent survival.
Kropotkin also argued that a nonstatist community can handle the problem of criminal behavior. Society must shift from the state's primarily punitive to a primarily preventative approach to crime. What is needed is mutual aid and a sense of unity within society. To prevent crime we must encourage truly communal relations among human beings. We must come to know one another fraternally and provide moral support and mutual aid to one other.
Only the future can determine whether Kropotkin's antistatist beliefs are realistic. Can humanity voluntarily develop social structures other than the centralized state to deal humanely with modern problems? We must acknowledge the evils intrinsic to the state and meet the challenge of devising alternative nonstatist solutions to combat crime, poverty, disease, and ignorance. Finally, we must test the possibility of a social order wherein all members can directly and significantly determine public policy.
State and Morality
“Socrates on Political Disobedience: A Reply to Gary Young.” Phronesis (UK), 21 (1976): 185–197.
Despite dissenting interpretations, the argument of the personified Laws in Plato's Crito (51b-c), that the good citizen must always obey the laws, is a misunderstanding. It is reconcilable with Socrates' belief in the Apology (29d) that civil disobedience is permissible if the state were to forbid the philosopher's mission of rational cross-examination.
Far beyond allowing political disobedience in the narrow case of the philosopher forbidden to philosophize, the Platonic Socrates is concerned with deeper, more radical issues: the nature and binding force of political law as such, and the subordination of law to justice.
The apparent legal positivism of the Crito dissolves when we recognize that the speech of the Laws, taken in context, does not advocate blind obedience to do injustice. It calls for a very qualified notion of obedience subject to rational judgment and the norms of justice. In their discussion, Socrates and the Laws both acknowledge justice rather than mere law (49b-c) as the standard to decide the crucial question: should Socrates escape, or should he suffer the injustice of drinking hemlock in obedience to the laws?
Socrates draws a distinction between “doing injustice” and “suffering injustice.” Morally, we can never do injustice but we may be allowed to suffer injustice, as from the state (49e-50a). He argues that we may obey laws in such cases where we suffer injustice, but never when obedience requires our doing injustice.
Other Platonic dialogues clarify the Crito discussion of political obedience. These parallel texts allow us to formulate a coherent Socratic philosophy of law opposed to an amoral legal positivism or voluntarism. In these texts, Plato consistently rejects the voluntaristic conception of law as the subjective will (voluntas) and interest of the lawgiver, in contrast to the rational content of what is willed. For Plato, a law is a true law because it is just; it is not just because it is a law.
Now the problem arises: what if the state does not grasp the standard of justice in framing its laws? Might it not give other unjust but “legal” commands besides the narrow command to abandon philosophy? The Apology teaches that we cannot obey state laws if they conflict with divine commands (Apol. 38a). But it is up to the individual citizen to judge such a question rationally. Plato does not call for blind obedience to any law, but a careful evaluation of each law by the standards of justice, reason, and the good of the governed.
Thus he subordinates law and obedience to justice and philosophy. The Republic I and Gorgias demolish the voluntarist view of law championed by Trasymachus and Callicles. Justice and truth demand that each law undergo the process of cross-examination: the critical analysis by each citizen of any act commanded or forbidden by law. In principle, civil disobedience becomes possible on philosophic grounds. Philosophy, the true mentor of politics, encourages rational discernment of laws, not blind obedience.
Freedom and Creativity
“1776: A Year of Challenge—A World Transformed.” The Journal of Law and Economics (USA), 19(1976): 437–466.
The year 1776 was one of cataclysmic challenges in theology, politics, government, and economics. A variety of great writings challenged the old order of government corruption and mercantilist intervention. Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations attacked government regulation including the mercantilist controls that curtailed the American colonies. Smith urged us to replace government management with self-interest to unfetter economic energies. In the same year Thomas Jefferson wrote his antistatist Declaration of Independence declaring the radical notion of “the right of the people to alter or to abolish” government. How can we explain this year of challenges?
Historically, the world of 1776 was undergoing tremendous economic growth and equally tremendous growth in population. The hundreds of thousands of immigrants who migrated to America in the decades before 1776 were seeking a promised land and new frontiers. They sought to escape the political, economic, and social constraints of the continental state-ridden society.
The British Secretary of State for the Colonies from 1768 to 1772, the Earl of Hillsborough, personified the mercantilism that 1776 challenged. Hillsborough epitomized the old mercantilist order that tried to impede the land development scheme of the Grand Ohio Company because it did not promote the commerce or “great national objects” of Britain. Depopulation of the British Isles was threatened by the settlement of America. Hillsborough compounded his mercantilist intervention with his vested interest as an Anglo-Irish landowner. Through restrictive laws he sought to halt the exodus of Irish to the New World. He wanted to bolster the British mercantile empire by stabilizing the agricultural population in Northern Ireland.
Benjamin Franklin detected the systematic political corruption of Britain in the urban mismanagement of London: this inability to govern amid the swirl of growth symbolized the major problem of the time. Major institutions were inadequate. As dissenters challenged the religious establishment, Adam Smith and others challenged the economic regulations. A new world of large, available land holdings and high mobility undermined the old legal system protecting privilege and questionable property titles.
Now the American question focused the longstanding demands of English reformers (such as the Chathamites and Rockingham Whigs). The burgeoning New World confounded the old British constitution. The once effective British constitution (government by interests and political manipulation) could not satisfy the new economic interests in America. The American crisis of 1776 was part of the major domestic issues facing Britain—economic, demographic, religious, and especially political and constitutional. The American Revolution launched a series of ideological challenges to the heart of the old order. 1776 inaugurated long-delayed reforms in Britain, and ushered a new world of change.
Order without State
“The Problem with Simple Folk.” Natural History (USA), 86 (1977): 26–32.
For an anthropologist, the Tsimihety people of Madagascar prove maddening to describe because they do not conform to the normal models that anthropology uses to classify human societies. The Tsimihety do not betray any metaphysical curiosity; they lack a coherent social or economic system; they appear to be pragmatic, utilitarian, and wary of the constraints of a systematic ordering structure.
Deeper probing, however, reveals that the Tsimihety exhibit a systematically structured social organization, but one seldom studied by anthropologists. It is a society whose members choose to live and work individualistically. Individualism, nonconformity, and freedom characterize their social mores.
The Tsmihety individualistically choose their vocations as either herdsmen or farmers. They live in one village or another, as it pleases them. They have no chiefs or kings. Each villager has an equal say in village affairs; if he dislikes the village ruler, he is free to pass on elsewhere. Such freedom of movement militates against artificially imposed status, hierarchy, or authority. Fiercely egalitarian, the Tsimihety recognize no office of authority to which they owe obedience. Each village is a voluntary union of households, and no two villages are in political alliance. Yet the Tsimihety people's lives are neither chaotic nor “anarchic.” Socially and demographically, they are prospering and multiplying.
In the face of tribal invasion, the Tsimihety flee to the mountains. If that is impossible, they treat the enemy with passive resistance and social boycott. As rugged individualists, some of the Tsimihety accept schooling, others do not. Religion plays only a small role in their lives. There is no trace among them of an orderly kinship system or order of inheritance.
We can best describe this people as “wholeheartedly dedicated to the possibilities of freedom,” refusing to be fettered by the demands of system or symbol. Free from social chaos or disintegration, the Tsimihety have developed a flexible and pragmatic solution to their social life. They choose to retain all their freedom by avoiding any confining metaphysical system that might organize their life in an authoritarian fashion. They view the world piecemeal and are free to interpret it in accord with their own needs.
Scientific anthropology has been unable to devise a model of a liberty-centered society, which could serve to organize and explain the research data collected on the Tsimihety. The lack of a suitable model suggests that anthropology is inadequate in some respects. Given its present paradigm of social systems, anthropology is tempted to ignore data that stretch beyond its limited framework.