At the heart of libertarianism is liberty. From liberty arises spontaneous order.

Spontaneous order is an idea that says order will arise naturally amid chaos. The way I see it, spontaneous order really happens when a society organizes itself to confront an issue. The term society that I am using here comprises purely of civil society with not participation of the state.

In its purest sense, I strongly believe spontaneous order is part of anarchism.

Spontaneous order does not always work though. When spontaneous order does not work, it is a situation which I think could be described as market failure. Of all models, anarchism is the one most susceptible to market failure. This is the reason why the state of anarchism is unstable. While it may exist at one point in time, it will eventually succumb to some sort of stable order, be it autocratic or democratic, voluntarily or otherwise.

While I have that sorted out in my mind, I am currently trying to figure whether laws enacted by a state is part of spontaneous order. Could actions by a state or any authority with policing power be part of spontaneous order?

I believe it could, with a restriction. The establishment of the state, at least the democratic ones, is spontaneous order.

Emergence of a democratic state is a result of cooperation between free individuals to establish order. For a democratic state, all decisions by state originate from the individual citizens that form the state. Therefore, transitively, any decision by the state resulting from cooperation of free individuals is spontaneous order.

The legitimacy of the reasoning however depends on the democratic nature of the state. The democratic aspect is also one of the factors that legitimize the state’s existence. Any violation of any democratic process invalidates the legitimacy of the reasoning as a whole. That invalidation in turn makes any state’s decision after the violation as non-spontaneous order.

3 Responses to “[1030] Of the state and spontaneous order”

  1. on 07 Jan 2007 at 09:44 Wan Saiful

    The above is a very interesting entry!

    Quote: “The establishment of the state, at least the democratic ones, is spontaneous order.”

    I don’t think this is true. States are created always by force of some sort. Although what you say may be the ideal, the reality is that, historically, no state has come into existence via spontaneous order. If Iraq does become the youngest member of democracy club, it too was created by force. In practice, I think spontaneous order assumes the existence of a state in the first place.

    Quote: “For a democratic state, all decisions by state originate from the individual citizens that form the state. Therefore, transitively, any decision by the state resulting from cooperation of free individuals is spontaneous order.”

    I read somewhere a while back that, when Lincoln said “Government of the people, by the people, for the people”, he was probably referring to two very different models of democracy. Assuming that all democratic governments are ‘of’ the people, then ‘by’ the people refers to direct democracy in which each citizen can take partin ALL decision making process. ‘For’ the people, on the other hand, refers to representative democracy, one in which citizens elect representatives into parliament.

    Your statement would be true if we practice direct democracy. But this is not possible in societies larger than ancient Greece, and, so, representative democracy is what we have now.

    Decisions made via representative democracy is not necessarily spontaneous order as it involves the balancing of politicians’ self interest with the interest of society. More importantly, party politics mean that politicians do not always refer back to the people, nor do they negotiate among themselves. Party whips take care of many important decisions, thus making democracy differ just slightly from authotarian rule. This is perhaps more true in a country like Malaysia compared to here in the UK, but I think it happens everywhere.

  2. on 07 Jan 2007 at 13:27 Hafiz

    Good day Wan Saiful!

    I don’t think this is true. States are created always by force of some sort. Although what you say may be the ideal, the reality is that, historically, no state has come into existence via spontaneous order. If Iraq does become the youngest member of democracy club, it too was created by force. In practice, I think spontaneous order assumes the existence of a state in the first place.

    Yes, it is an ideal situation when the state is formed democratically. Which means the society comes together and vote and agree to be bound by the result of the voting.

    Nevertheless, we have to differentiate type of forces. One is coming from the above i.e. state or foreign origin. Two, force from the below, i.e. the civil society itself. The latter force would be part of spontaneous order. For instance, local rebellion against foreign occupation could be part of spontaneous order.

    In case of Iraq, the establishment of the American backed govt is not spontaneous order. The resistance, if it came from local source would be part of spontaneous order instead.

    In practice or in theory, I do not believe spontaneous order assume the existence of the state. Or dis-existence for that matter. The state of the state, so to speak, does not affect the definition of spontaneous order. The state of the state however does affect whether the state is formed by spontaneous order or otherwise.

    I read somewhere a while back that, when Lincoln said “Government of the people, by the people, for the people”, he was probably referring to two very different models of democracy. Assuming that all democratic governments are ‘of’ the people, then ‘by’ the people refers to direct democracy in which each citizen can take partin ALL decision making process. ‘For’ the people, on the other hand, refers to representative democracy, one in which citizens elect representatives into parliament.

    Your statement would be true if we practice direct democracy. But this is not possible in societies larger than ancient Greece, and, so, representative democracy is what we have now.

    Decisions made via representative democracy is not necessarily spontaneous order as it involves the balancing of politicians’ self interest with the interest of society. More importantly, party politics mean that politicians do not always refer back to the people, nor do they negotiate among themselves. Party whips take care of many important decisions, thus making democracy differ just slightly from authotarian rule. This is perhaps more true in a country like Malaysia compared to here in the UK, but I think it happens everywhere.

    Yes, you are right. But it is possible to practice direct democracy. Two examples in modern times are the referendum on Quebec independence and the rectification of the EU constitution in France and the Netherlands.

    Still, it is impractically and in reality, it is a trade-off between efficiency and spontaneous order. But statistically speaking, if the sample is purely random, assuming representative democracy, if it is done properly, could be part of spontaneous order. With one caveat though: proportional representation.

  3. […] than capable to play roles played by statist state as effective if not better. It is part of the spontaneous order doctrine so close to the heart of […]

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

*