Spontaneous observations to promote human justice

Published by Christopher Lingle

“Every individual necessarily labors to render the annual revenue of society as great as he can. He generally neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. He intends only his own gain, & he is, in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was not part of his intention.”

Adam Smith (Wealth of Nations)

Inaugural comments & opening salvos arising from peripatetic peregrinations in a global search for truth, justice, individual rights & freedom….

While entries to this blog might emanate from any location in the world, its heart & soul will reside in Universidad Francisco Marroquín (UFM) in “la zona viva” of Guatemala City. No other university in the world has a clearer institutional commitment to promoting individual freedom than UFM. (“The mission of Universidad Francisco Marroquín is to teach and disseminate the ethical, legal and economic principles of a society of free and responsible persons.”)

Perspective: We will report on & discuss emerging spontaneous orders arising from voluntary interactions of self-interested & free individuals.

We will be guided by the presumption that freedom forms the foundation of human dignity & that only a system of private property ownership can support individual or collective liberty. As such, an open society with a market economy & minimal interference from outside parties, including governments, is seen as generating a self-correcting social order requiring neither direction nor control.

Historical links for the spontaneous emergence of order: Murray Rothbard credited Chinese Taoist Zhuangzi (BC 369 to BC 286) as having first identified the notion of a spontaneous order: “Good order results spontaneously when things are let alone.”

This idea was reworked during the 16th Century by scholars of the School of Salamanca (e.g., Francisco de Vitoria, Domingo de Soto, Martín de Azpilcueta, Tomás de Mercado, & Francisco Suárez).

These Spanish theologians opined on various economic matters taking on new views supported by principles of natural law. In turn, they presaged important contributions often associated with the Scottish Enlightenment. For example, they deemed that merchants act in a way that serves the general good as expressed in Adam Smith’s “invisible hand”.

Similarly, they saw a natural order arising from free movement of people, goods, & ideas so people could interact to increase “brotherly connections” to support a free-market economy.  And they laid groundwork for Adam Ferguson who articulated that most critical institutions of mankind evolved from “human action, but not the execution of any human design.”

Among the institutions or systems that evolved spontaneously from coordinated actions of independent humans are the free-market economy, languages, law, money, & Wikipedia.

Austrian economists (e.g., Carl Menger, Ludwig von Mises & Friedrich Hayek) refined & applied spontaneous order as the centerpiece for their social & economic thought. They saw that extensive human liberty is necessary to allow human interactions leading to the discovery of social arrangements that best serve an entire community.

Policy implications: Individual market participants use dispersed information of greater detail & accuracy & deliver more benefits to a community than decisions made by centralized authorities. In particular, spontaneous order within a market economy leads to more efficient & superior resource allocation than under any designed system.

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