Front Page Titles (by Subject) Human Action vs. Behavior - Literature of Liberty, July/September 1978, vol. 1, No. 3
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Human Action vs. Behavior - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, July/September 1978, vol. 1, No. 3 
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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Human Action vs. Behavior
“Hannah Arendt: The Ambiguities of Theory and Practice.” In Political Theory and Praxis: New Perspectives. Edited by Terence Ball. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1977, pp. 141–158.
Hannah Arendt's efforts to resurrect the concept of free human action in the modern world are laudable contributions to political philosophy. Arendt's distinction between human action and behavior reflects a radical split in ways of dealing with men. Behavior denotes predictable regularity in human activity, which is therefore suitable for analysis by social scientists. Human action, on the other hand, is essentially free. It bespeaks the unpredictable, purposeful, and autonomous realm. Indeed, human action creates a “new beginning” unanticipated by any behavioral analysis. For Arendt, behavior is the best study for social science, whereas political theory is best suited to examine human action. Political theory can thrive only in an atmosphere where human action is possible.
Arendt's critique of modernity is that it is characterized by the closing off of action. The impetus of contemporary social systems is to mold people into behavioral patterns that are more easily manipulated and measured by the tools of the social scientist. As a result, human action as political praxis is weakened—together with political theory itself.
The solution to the waning of human action is to recognize the value of a “public space”; that is, human action can flourish only in an environment where diversity and plurality are supported and where men are equal and distinct. Wherever a public space arises, speech is the predominant mode of activity. Since action occurs between free and equal men, persuasion must be employed rather than manipulation, domination, or coercion.
Arendt's notion of the relation between theory and practice is also significant. The theorist is one who seeks meaning in human action. He is also one who revivifies the past by showing its vital connection to the present. Since human action is, by its very nature, free and open-ended, the actors themselves often cannot discern its full meaning. The meaning of action is often found only retrospectively. Yet since free action is rare in the modern world, the theorist is reduced to one who simply reconstructs the past as a reminder to the present. In Aristotle's understanding the theoretical life is self-justified. But until the necessary and liberating public space is created, the theorist must content himself with focusing on the past.
Government regulation casts a wide net, covering the diverse areas of business, agriculture, land use, scientific research, stocks, and banking. Although government justifies regulation with the claim that it promotes the common good and protects individuals from the deficiencies of the market, regulation frequently produces economic dislocations, shortages, gluts, political centralization, vested interests, and bureaucracy.
Historically, the inequities of regulation, by causing class conflict, give rise to criticism and revolutionary ferment in the classes adversely regulated.
The study of regulation embraces its origins, history, justifications, motivations, bureaucratic personnel, and varied consequences. Studies of government planning and regulation may often transcend institutional analyses of the stated goals and techniques to scrutinize the political, economic, and social dimensions.