Anarchy as an Organizing Principle

| Total Words: 763

The recent spate of accounting fraud scandals signals the end of an era. Disillusionment and disenchantment with American capitalism may yet lead to a tectonic ideological shift from laissez faire and self regulation to state intervention and regulation. This would be the reversal of a trend dating back to Thatcher in Britain and Reagan in the USA. It would also cast some fundamental – and way more ancient – tenets of free-marketry in grave doubt.

Markets are perceived as self-organizing, self-assembling, exchanges of information, goods, and services. Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” is the sum of all the mechanisms whose interaction gives rise to the optimal allocation of economic resources. The market’s great advantages over central planning are precisely its randomness and its lack of self-awareness.

Market participants go about their egoistic business, trying to maximize their utility, oblivious of the interests and action of all, bar those they interact with directly. Somehow, out of the chaos and clamor, a structure emerges of order and efficiency unmatched. Man is incapable of intentionally producing better outcomes. Thus,...

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