Monday, October 10, 2011

Sayings Part II.

If no one should take charge of maintaining social order, won't you invite anarchy, every man for himself, golden rule etc? Or do we have an organic order? Some say no:


If there ever were significant numbers of Homo sapiens individuals with cognitive limitations on their capacity for behavioral variability, natural selection by intraspecific competition and predation would have quickly and ruthlessly winnowed them out. In the unforgiving Pleistocene environments in which our species evolved, reproductive isolation was the penalty for stupidity, and lions and wolves were its cure. In other words: No villages, no village idiots.

- John J. Shea, “Refuting a Myth About Human Origins” American Scientist


Great part of that order which reigns among mankind is not the effect of government. It has its origin in the principles of society and the natural constitution of man. It existed prior to government, and would exist if the formality of government was abolished. The mutual dependence and reciprocal interest which man has upon man, and all the parts of civilised community upon each other, create that great chain of connection which holds it together. The landholder, the farmer, the manufacturer, the merchant, the tradesman, and every occupation, prospers by the aid which each receives from the other, and from the whole. Common interest regulates their concerns, and forms their law; and the laws which common usage ordains, have a greater influence than the laws of government. In fine, society performs for itself almost everything which is ascribed to government.
- Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man


The economic problem of society is …the utilization of knowledge which is not given to anyone in its totality… there is beyond question a body of very important but unorganized knowledge which cannot possibly be called scientific in the sense of knowledge of general rules: the knowledge of the particular circumstances of time and place.
If we can agree that the economic problem of society is mainly one of rapid adaptation to changes in the particular circumstances of time and place, it would seem to follow that the ultimate decisions must be left to the people who are familiar with these circumstances, who know directly of the relevant changes and of the resources immediately available to meet them.
Fundamentally, in a system in which the knowledge of the relevant facts is dispersed among many people, prices can act to co├Ârdinate the separate actions of different people in the same way as subjective values help the individual to co├Ârdinate the parts of his plan.
- Friedrich A. Hayek, The Use of Knowledge in Society


The point is that [the agent] is identified with his actions as flowing from projects or attitudes which… he takes seriously at the deepest level, as what his life is about… It is absurd to demand of such a man, when the sums come in from the utility network which the projects of others have in part determined, that he should just step aside from his own project and decision and acknowledge the decision which utilitarian calculation requires. It is to alienate him in a real sense from his actions and the source of his action in his own convictions. It is to make him into a channel between the input of everyone's projects, including his own, and an output of optimific decision; but this is to neglect the extent to which his projects and his decisions have to be seen as the actions and decisions which flow from the projects and attitudes with which he is most closely identified. It is thus, in the most literal sense, an attack on his integrity.

… Such dispositions and commitments will characteristically be what gives one's life some meaning, and gives one some reason for living it… there is simply no conceivable exercise that consists in stepping completely outside myself and from that point of view evaluating in toto the dispositions, projects, and affections that constitute the substance of my own life… It cannot be a reasonable aim that I or any other particular person should take as the ideal view of the world… a view from no point of view at all.
- Bernard Williams, quoted from the invaluable Encyclopedia of Philosophy.


The first thing to ask about an 'organic' ideology that, however unexpectedly, succeeds in organizing substantial sections of the masses and mobilizing them for political action, is not what is false about it but what is true....
- Stuart Hall, The Toad in the Garden: Thatcherism Among the Theorists, in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture (contrasting the question, “What is true about organic society”, with the “highly unstable theory about the world which has to assume that vast numbers of ordinary people, mentally equipped in much the same way as you or I, can simply be thoroughly and systematically duped into misrecognizing entirely where their real interests lie.”)



The gist here is that people naturally associate into social orders based on mutual interest, that we see these organic orders, and that we should examine what makes them work and not let super-smart organizers usurp them with grand theoretical architectures. Bernard Williams argues that an individual’s deep-seated dispositions and convictions lead these projects, not involuntary obedience to a greater good. Voluntary progressive and commercial coalitions funded and administered the first public hospitals, public education, public transportation in this country long before the Federal government jumped to the front and claimed all the credit. Voluntary organic groups also forced the government from enforcing slavery. (William’s observation that organic progress arises from individual conviction was shared by Adam Smith, who criticized slavery (among other reasons) as more costly than free labor because the owner still paid sustenance wages but did not benefit from the slave’s internal motivation to better his lot.)

Like progress in politics, a mass of individual decisions made with knowledge of “particular circumstances of time and place” produced economic progress, with prices as universal language communicating needs, wants, and unwelcome goods and services, according to Hayek. Smith made a moral case for free economies, noting that traders need to be tolerant and open minded, because there’s no profit in limiting your customer base.