Law and Disorder

Unlike the order of physical nature, the spontaneous order of human nature is not geometrical—as statists like Hobbes thought. It is not so much a system of pulleys and levers as a whorl of snowflakes. We like to think this means chaos, but for a long time now, science has come to see chaos as not the absence of order, but a more complex kind of order.

There is a pattern even in what we call chaos, just as there is a pattern in the formation of clouds, the shape of mountain ranges, or even the movement of waves. Why would we expect human society to be any less organic in its functioning? Why would we not expect it to exhibit the same complex self‐organization that snowflakes show? And, on the other hand, isn't it likely that a society that is ordered too mechanically will not function as it should? A dynamic living society needs to have the organization that corresponds to the real sentiments and wills of its members. But a bureaucracy handing down regulations substitutes a rigid, destructive order for the living fabric of human interactions.

Looked at like that, the hurly‐burly of a free market seems to be closer to the patterns of nature than the simple‐minded schemes of pundits. In a free market—in theory at least—each actor acts from his own needs and goals and from his perception of the needs and goals of a handful of others. He expresses this through the mechanism of pricing. The price feeds back to everyone whatever he needs to know about the needs and wishes ...

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