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> Why is spontaneous order desirable? Pandemics are spontaneously ordered too.

I don't think it's a question of what is "desirable", but rather a question of what is inevitable.

Sure, bacterial/viral/parasite outbreaks are part of natural systems, and have their own spontaneous order, but the way their host systems react and respond is also a manifestation of spontaneous order.

In modern society this is true whether we're talking about planned/centralised economies or more laissez faire ones. I.e., even in a relatively centralised society like China, grassroots decisions and actions still play a highly significant role in overall activity, including in the pandemic.

It's a subject of ongoing study and debate as to the effectiveness and efficiency of centralised attempts to control organic processes.






> I don't think it's a question of what is "desirable", but rather a question of what is inevitable.

inevitable is a smart way of pushing something you want to happen though. The famous quote from Margaret Thatcher “there is no alternative” is tge best example of that.

Also, as twentieth century shown us, their is nothing really impossible for a sufficiently motivated government, sometimes for the better but often the worse (from “landing on the moon in a decade” to “eradicate the Jews”).


> inevitable is a smart way of pushing something you want to happen though

Sure but that's not what I'm talking about. As I said in the comment, whether it's Thatcheresque “market fundamentalism” or some form of extreme central planning, there will still be a spontaneous order at the grassroots level. Individuals and groups will always respond organically to their conditions. The only question is how much governments can influence it, and how beneficial are their attempts. But that doesn't change the inevitability of some form of spontaneous order.

> [there] is nothing really impossible for a sufficiently motivated government

Programs like the "war on drugs", the "war on cancer", the "war on obesity" and the "war on terror" would suggest otherwise, and demonstrate that vast interventions can be not only hugely wasteful but can have precisely the opposite of the desired effect.


> Programs like the "war on drugs", the "war on cancer", the "war on obesity" and the "war on terror" would suggest otherwise

Because declaring “war on something” isn't political action in itself, it's electoral communication. How many times did the US government perquisionned Ivy league colleges or trading desks to seek cocaine? Why not ? And why are the US still cooperating with Saudis and other gulf states if they really cared about terrorism? And for the health issue wars you mensionned, the government has zero political will to shut down the huge agro-industrial complex which has a big responsibility in both.

Hitler once said to somebody complaining about the inflation risk caused by his policies: “I'm gonna send the SA in the grossery shops, and will'll see if there is inflation”.


Clearly it's not true that "there is nothing really impossible for a sufficiently motivated government". Governments can and do succeed at some things, but the scope of things they can do without negative consequences is very limited.

History shows that very clearly, including the examples I suggested (which as you point out were messaging labels, but they all have had real and vast interventions to go with them), that you attempted to refute with more examples of government interventions playing out badly.

To be clear, I'm not any kind of anti-government anarcho-capitalist or anything like that. I'm from Australia and am supportive of the mixed economy we have here.

Also, please stop blithely invoking 1930-40s Germany as an example of governments achieving intended outcomes. It's not what I come to HN for, it makes my skin crawl, and even if you insist on a dispassionate evaluation of that system, our ability to determine how it would have played out long term is obviously very limited, but even then we know for sure it was horrific and not at all the kind of thing that should be described as "desirable", which is the very word that kicked off this subthread.


Adding to this, the subthread that followed on from my comment ends up illustrating the point quite well: the harder governments try to override spontaneous order, the further they go down the path to totalitarianism, which I hope people here would agree is not "desirable".

Which is not to say there is no legitimate role for government. Hayek himself identified pandemics and a social safety net as legitimate cases for government intervention.




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