Hayek – Evolution and Spontaneous Order

Hayek – Evolution and Spontaneous Order

Ladies and Gentlemen in the hope to be able
to offer something which will be of interest not only
to economists but also to natural scientists generally.
I have chosen a problem to discuss which although it arose
from my study of economic problems seems to me to apply
in a much wider field in fact everywhere where the increasing
complexity of the phenomena of which we have to deal
forces us to abandon the hope of finding simple explanations of
cause and effect and have to substitute an explanation of the
evolution of complex structures I like to speak in this
connection of the twin problems of the spontaneous formation
of orders and evolution. There is usually an evolutionary
process by which alone we can account for but account
for a very limited extent the existence of certain types
of structures. In this sense I can agree with what sir John
Hicks said yesterday that the degree to which in these
sciences we can make predictions is very limited what
I like to say in this connection is that we are confined
to pattern predictions to the likelihood of the formation
of certain structures without ever being able to make
various special prediction of particular events. In
this sense as Sir John Hicks indicated we are sciences
of a certain order that we have in common with such an
enormous field as the biological theory of evolution which
on the strict tests which John has yesterday suggested would
also not be a science since it is not able to make specific
predictions and the same is true in our fields. Now the whole interrelation between the theory
of evolution and other accounts of the existence and formation
of complex structure of interaction has a very complex
and paradoxical history and I will allow myself even if it
delays the length of my lecture to tell you little about the
historical evolution which in itself has had profound effects on our attitude to these phenomena. Of course in recent times the application
of evolution to social phenomena has been rather unjustifiably discredited
when social scientists had to learn from Charles Darwin and developed
something known as Social Darwinism as if the idea of evolution were originally
an idea of the biological sciences while in fact there is a much older tradition
of evolution in the study of society and it can be demonstrated that it was Darwin who borrowed it from the social sciences and
not the other way around. There is another deep connection on which
I want to say a few words that our attitude to all partial phenomena
particularly our judgement of various moral views is very closely connected
with an age old tradition which starts in antiquity with no less a person
then Aristotle who has given us a wholly a-evolutionary conception
of social institution which through its effect on St. Thomas Aquinas has become the attitude of a large part of
Christianity towards everything which amounted to a growing
development of civilisation because he had defined as good what was necessary
to preserve an existing order without ever asking himself the question how was it ever possible that
if all our duty was to provide for the preservation of what is that mankind
ever greatly developed. It has even been asserted by a modern economic
historian that Aristotle could not have seen the problem
of evolution and the problem of the connection of evolution
with a operating market economy because at the time when he lived the market
economy as we call it as a result of evolution did not yet exist. Now on two points I can give you rather interesting
brief evidence since my assertion that Aristotle did not
possess any conception of evolution which prevented him from ever
understanding social problems has remarkably been confirmed by the grand
latest history of the biological sciences, one of the greatest history of any
modern science which I have recently come across Ernst Mayr’s
The Growth of Biological Thought. In which he to my great satisfaction this
has been a part of my argument for a long time explicitly argues this idea that
the universe could have a development from an original state of chaos
that higher organism that evolved from lower ones was
totally alien to Aristotle’s thought to repeat Aristotle
was opposed to evolution of any kind. Now that had a profound
effect on his views about society which we have inherited
from him. A view which I have always suggested that
which was good that served the preservation of existing institutions
that he never asked himself how in fact in his
very lifetime Athens had about doubled in size a largely increased
population had arisen but he detested the market as so many
intellectuals did. But I will just give you another illustration
of how lively the market at the time was which comes from
a contemporary of Aristotle one of these writers of comedies
of his time of whom only fragments are preserved but that particular
one is especially amusing because Mr Euboulos as his name was
was even then common attitude of the intellectuals to commercial
affairs expressed his contempt for the role of the market in a few
lines that have been preserved in which he tells us you will
find in Athens things of all sorts and shapes for sale in
the self same place figs, summoners, grapes turnips pears apples
witnesses sausages, honeycombs, roses, medlars, chickpeas, water
clocks, myrtle, lambs, bluebells, laws, impeachments, lawsuits, curds,
bee stings and the ballot box. Now that in a society in which
the comedians could make fun about the market in such a form clearly
the market was most active. Now why did Aristotle not see it and
what effect had it well the fact is that at that time the idea
of evolution had hardly yet arisen in any field except two and the
original insight of man and the fact that his institutions have gradually
grown not as the result of intellectual deliberate design but
as a matter of slowly growing tradition existed even then in two
fields law and linguistics. At least the ancient Roman students of law
and linguistics were fully aware that these institutions had not been
deliberately designed by the human mind but had grown by a process
of evolution. And that was a concept of evolution remained for the next
two thousand years. But in the eighteenth century things began
to change. A first remarkable instance is at the very
beginning of the eighteenth century when a man – a Dutchman
living in England called Bernard Mandeville began to study the
formation of institution and already pointed out the four paradigms
or paradigmater as I still prefer to call them of these phenomenon the
two classical ones of law and language but adding to them morals
money and the market. David Hume was a great figure who took over
from Mandeville this idea and created the tradition of Scottish philosophers
and particularly and basically relevant to what I shall have
going to say that the deep insight that human morals are not
the design of human reason an insight of double importance it followed
for him that if human morals were not the design of human reason
it also followed that reason science did not allow us to judge human
morals you could never derive moral conclusions from purely
factual statements an idea which is nowadays mainly usually ascribed
to Max Weber but which ever since the time of David Hume was
well established. But in this connection of course he arose
the problem what were our morals really due too and the conclusion
from his principle is not that science has nothing to say about
morals at all but that the questions that we can legitimately
ask are rather limited a question which we can still ask which we
can demand an answer from science is what are the morals which we have
inherited due to? How came it about that we developed those
morals and never others? And certainly and clearly connected with it
a certain question which is also a scientific question what have
these morals done to us? what has been the effect of mankind developing
this particular kind of morals as a field in which I as an economist
had to pursue these problems worthy of enormous importance is
the field of the morals of property honesty and truth there are moral
rules that are not the creation of human design which on the
union terms we can not scientifically say whether they are good or
bad. Unless we look at them from the point of view of what effect
they had on the development of humankind of the number of humans and of
their civilisation This remains a basic question. At the same time we must
be aware that the very tradition of several or as we usually say private property
is that part of our morals which is the most disputed and disliked and that is due to the fact – politically opposed
– and that is due to the fact that it truly is a tradition which is neither
natural in the sense that is innate in our physical make up nor artificial
in the sense of being deliberately made by human reason because
as the Scottish philosophers of the eighteenth century so clearly understood
man had never deliberately made his society. Indeed when we look back
at history we find that these traditions never rationally justified were
preserved in a variety of groups of communities because they were confirmed
by supernatural beliefs not scientific reasons but beliefs which I think
I should put respectfully to call ceremonial truths or they are not truth
in the sense of scientific truths demonstrable truths but truths in the
sense of making men actually do what was good for them good for them in
the sense of helping them to maintain even larger numbers of themselves
yet without being able to give the actual reasons why they ought to
do them truths which stand between the natural insights which are
innate in us and the rational insights which we construct from
our reason but which belong to the intermediate field of
tradition which is a result of a product of selective evolution
in many ways similar to the selective evolution of
which for the first time we got a full theory developed
by Charles Darwin and the Darwinian school but then fundamentally
respects different function. I referred before that
it was a great misfortune that the social scientists about
a hundred years ago had to borrow the idea of evolution from
Charles Darwin and borrowed with it the particular mechanism
which Charles Darwin or rather Neo-Darwinism later
had provided as an explanation of this process of evolution
which is very different from the mechanism of cultural evolution as I shall call it now that was a misfortune
and a quite unnecessary misfortune due to the fact
that is seems that by that time the social scientists had
forgotten what was a much older tradition in their own field
and weren’t even aware that Charles Darwin developed his
ideas largely by learning of the idea in the other field I
believe recently it has even been shown that the crucial idea
came to Darwins mind in eighteen thirty eight when he was reading
what book? The wealth of nations of Adam Smith which
of course was a classical exposition of the Scottish idea
of evolution and which seems to have been the decisive
influence even on Charles Darwin Darwin himself admitted
that he was influenced by the school but he usually mentions
Malthus as an influence which he recollected but his
notebooks now show that what he was reading at the critical
moment seems to have the Wealth of Nations of Adam
Smith. Now the result is that this first great success
in developing an actual theory of evolution in
first the field of biology made people believe that
this example had to be followed. Now I might just
insert here another illustration of my story which
I have only just recently discovered but which perhaps
much more clearly then anything else confirms my
basic assumption that the conception of evolution
derives from the study of society and was taken over
by the study of nature I can demonstrate very
easily that the term genetic which today is the exclusive term for biological evolution was actually
coined in Germany in the eighteenth century by a
man like Herder, Wieland and Schiller and was used
in the quite modern term by Wilhelm von Humboldt long time time
before Darwin The Humboldt passages are so interesting that
I will even quote some Humboldt spoke in eighteen thirty
six about the fact that the definition language can only
be a genetic one and goes on to argue that the formation of
language successively through many stages like the
origin of natural phenomena is clearly a phenomena of
evolution and all that was ready in the theory of languages
thirty years before Darwin applied it to the natural
sciences yet it had been forgotten or at least ignored
outside the two classical instances of language, law
and I may now add economics including the market and
money. And when it was reintroduced by the social
Darwinists all the parts of the explanation of the mechanism
were also taken over. So my next task will be clearly
to distinguish what the social theories of evolution
and the biological theories of evolution have
in common and what they do not have in common. We shall
begin with the must more important differences before
I turn to the crucial but very confined similarity between
the two as the differences are the following and
are now concentrating on the account of the mechanism
of biological evolution given by neo Darwinism
Darwin was on some of these point still himself not
quite sure particularly on the first point I shall
mention. Cultural evolution depends wholly on the transmission of acquired characteristics exactly what is
absolutely excluded from modern biological evolution
if one were to compare cultural evolution with biological
evolution you would have to compare it with Lamarckian
rather then with Darwinian theory. Number two the transmission
of habits and information from generation to
generation in cultural evolution is of course not only passed
from the physical ancestor to the physical descendants
but in the sense of cultural evolution all of
our predecessors may be our ancestors and all of the next generation
may be our successors it not a process preceding
from physical parent to physical child but proceeding in
a wholly different manner. Thirdly that perhaps is even more important
the process of cultural evolution undoubtedly rests not on
the selection of individuals but on the selection of groups
biologists still dispute I believe what role groups selection
plays in biological evolution there is no doubt
that in cultural evolution group selection was the central
problem that where groups which had developed certain kinds of
habits even certain kinds of complementarities between different
habits in the same group which decided the direction of
cultural evolution and in that respect it is fundamentally different
from biological evolution. Now this implies what I shall call
number four perhaps it then implied that of course the transmission
of cultural evolution is not of innate characteristics but is all
the be learned in the process of growing up the contribution of natural
evolution to this is a long period of adolescence of
man which gives him a long chance of leaning but what is transmitted
in cultural evolution is taught or learned by
imitation now that has produced a immaterial structure of
beliefs and opinions which recently Sir Karl Popper
has just given the name of world three, a wealth
of structures which exist at any one moment only because
they are known by a multiplicity of people but which yet
despite of their immaterial character can be passed on from
generation to generation and finally cultural evolution
because it does not depend on accidental variation in their selection
but on deliberate efforts which contribute to it is infinitely
faster then natural evolution can ever be. That in that time of
ten or twenty thousand or perhaps forty thousand years that modern
civilisation has grown up man could have developed all that he has
developed by the process of biological evolution is wholly out of the
question in this respect the much greater speed of cultural evolution
is decisive now having got here you will ask what similarity there remains
they seem wholly different altogether there are two fundamental similarities
between the two which justify up to a point the application of the
same name ‘evolution’. The first is that the principle of selection
is the same in biological evolution and in cultural evolution
what is being selected is what contributes to assist
man in his multiplication it assists him in growing
in numbers just as those physical properties which helps
individuals to survive those cultural properties which
are being selected are those which helps the group which
has adopted it to multiply faster then other groups in
this form gradually to displace and take the place of
the other. And there is a second close similarity which
is very important but generally not understood and
it may even surprise you at first when I mention it both
biological evolution and cultural evolution do not know
any laws of evolution laws of evolution in the sense of
necessary stages through which the process has to pass this
is a wholly different conception of evolution which asserts since
Hegel and Marx and similar thinkers that they discovering laws
or sequences of stages through which the evolutionary process
must pass. There is not only no justification for such
an assertion much worse they are in conflict with the other
ideas of evolution both biological evolution and cultural evolution consist in a mechanism of adaptation
to unknown future events now if this is an adaptation to unknown future
events it is wholly impossible that we should know laws it must
follow because this development is by definition determined by events which
we can not foresee and not know. And that brings me to what ought to have been my central subject but for which I am afraid
I do not have as much time now as I would like
to have what is the essential subject of the cultural evolution to which I have attached such importance as I indicated before there are two general characteristics which all civilisations which have survived and expanded have so far possessed and against which all revolutionaries have at all times protested this is the tradition of private or as I prefer to call several property and the tradition
of the family I haven’t time here to consider
any further the tradition of the family it would
be a much more difficult problem because I believe there are changes in our factual knowledge
which will probably lead to fundamental changes
in the tradition of the family so I will confine
my self wholly to the proposition of private property
which of course is that tradition against which
for two thousand years all revolutionaries have directed their efforts. Nearly all religious reformers
with very few exceptions invented a new religion
which abolished several property and usually also the family but none of these reformers or
none of these revolutionary religions which constantly
crop up have ever lasted for more then a hundred
years and I think the most resent one of that type
which we also must regard as such a religion opposed
to property and the family that of communism
has not yet lasted for its hundred years and I very
much doubt whether it will reach its hundred years. But all the great religions which have come
to expand and to be held by an ever increasing
part of the world have these two things in common
that they affirmed private property and the family
not only the three monotheistic religions rather the two or three
great eastern religions all agree on these two features and my contention is that it is because they
affirmed and preserved those traditions in their groups
that these groups were selected for indefinite
expansion because they made possible the multiplication
of the people who obeyed moral rules dictated
by them. Now such religious support was indispensable
because if it is true what is my main and starting
contention that the morals of private property and those
and those of the family are neither natural in the sense
of innate nor rational in the sense of designed it is
a great problem why any group should long enough stuck
to a habit in order to give the process of chance of
it to expand and select only groups which for long periods believed in what I have meant to call symbolic
truth I could not remember the word a moment ago. Only traditions which succeeded in making
call to certain symbolic truth would be lead to
maintain moral rules whose advantages they never understood it implies the assertion that the institution
of private property was never due to the fact that a
smaller proportion of a population who could see how private
property benefited them defended their interest it had only exist
a much larger numbers then those who knew that they benefited
from private property supported these beliefs and it was
possible only due to religious beliefs which taught it to
them. This is what I meant before when I said we
owe civilisation to beliefs which in our modern opinion we
no longer regard as true which are not true in the sense science
scientific truth but which nevertheless were a condition for
the majority of mankind to submit to moral rules whose functions they
did not understand they could never explain in which indeed to
all rationalist critics very soon appeared to
be absurd. Why should people respect private property
if this private property seems to benefit only the few people who have
it in societies where very soon very much larger numbers existed
then those
in the primitive agricultural societies still
a majority who owned the instruments of their production. That
creates a situation which is historically very interesting did mankind really owe its civilisation to
beliefs which in the scientific sense were false beliefs and further to beliefs which man very much
disliked because I can really not very much doubt that
if my thesis is true mankind was civilised by a process which is
intensely disliked by being made to submit to rules which it
neither could understand nor liked but I believe that this is perfectly
true and I believe I can claim that before the birth of the science
of economics before the eighteenth century began to explain why the
market society could arise only on the basis of institution of
private property it would have been impossible for mankind ever
to multiply as much as it did and equally it was only in
the eighteenth century essentially David Hume Adam Smith
and his contemporaries who did clearly see that the mechanism of
selection was that those groups were selected which thanks to the institution
of private property were able to multiply faster then others now
this is of course a criterion which again has become very unpopular and
which only the economists and only some of the economists understand at the present
time the general attitude of the other is to think that the multiplication
of mankind is a great misfortune that nothing we have to fear more then a too
rapid multiplication of mankind and we are constantly painted the horror of a
society in the near future which will be a society of standing room only. Now there are several things to be said about
this I must abbreviate it or this could be a subject of another very
interesting lecture The first is that the fear of an increase
of population leading to impoverishment is wholly unfounded
and it is never in history yet happened that an increase
of population led to people becoming poorer the contrary
impression is due to the fact that the concept of poor and
rich is mentioned in terms of averages not in terms
of individuals it is true that economic progress based on
the private property and the division of labour leads to a faster
increase of the poor then of the rich with the result
that average incomes may indeed fall as a result of the
population but nobody need to have become poorer for
this reason it only means that the poor have increased
more then the rich that therefore the average is brought
down but nobody has been pulled down by the result
of this development An explanation of this both of
the actual fact and the mistake which derives largely
from Malthus is that with an increase of population human
labour must also be subject of decreasing returns. That would be true in a world like the one
on which Malthus was largely thinking where human labour
was uniform and all people or nearly all people
were working in agriculture and that such a society indeed
an increase of population would lead to reduction of the
product per unit of labour but the great benefit of an
increase in population is that it makes possible a constant differentiation of human activities an increase
in the quantity of man is not an increase in the
number of one factor of production its a constant growth
of new additional and different factors of production which in collaboration can produce much more
it seems indeed that in a way the increase of
population leads to an increase in civilisation brings increasing rather then decreasing returns. Let me repeat there is no evidence that ever in history an increase of population has lead to a real impoverishment of the existing population. There are two or three special cases which
I must mention it has of course happened that when
other circumstances destroyed the source of income
which made an increase of population possible great
poverty resulted the classic case of course being
Ireland in the nineteenth century which on the potato
had to increase its population to something like
four times what it had been before when the potato
disease struck removed the source of the income and
led to the result of this greatly increased population
could no longer be nourished Another case which
we must consider separately and that I think ought
to give us cause to serious reflection that there
are instances and we are now creating instances when increase
of local population is due not to an increase of that
population to produce more but to foreign help and that
in instances they are probably they will never be space
or food for a larger home produced population in these
places I can give you as instances the much quoted
instance of the region immediately south of the Sahara
the so called Sahel regions which are clearly not
able now to feed their population and which we are exhorted
to help to feed with the result of course that we
cause their further increases in population which will
be our responsibility because for all one knows they will never have an opportunity in their own
region to produce enough I think it raises extremely
serious problems for our present policy of help to
some underdeveloped countries All this changes
of course our attitude to policy in a great many ways but the crucial one is still the one
towards the necessity and essential condition of the
institution of several property and particularly in the
means of production as an indispensable instrument of preserving the present population of the mankind Half
the mankind at least officially we are told believes in
the opposite believes that it is by abolition of the institution
of several property that we not only can still
maintain the present population but that we can provide
for it better then we did now if what I am said is
right if it is true what I could only hint at that
several property is the indispensable basis of that utilisation of widely dispersed knowledge on which the
market economy rests it means that the opposite view chiefly that
represented by communism would lead not to an improvement of the population
but probably bring it about that half something like half the present population of the world would die we have various significant illustrations of this quite a number of countries who were
great exporters of food so long as they were operated on a market
economy not only Russia but also Argentina and others are already no longer able themselves to maintain their own population which has not increased a great deal nothing like as much as the population in the west but the final conclusion is therefore what seems to be a
political conclusion a conclusion about the consequences of two
alternative ethical systems to which the two half’s the world now adhere if it is true that we can maintain even the present population of the world only by relying
on that whole system of market economy resting
on the several properties in the instrument of production and that its abolition would lead to something
like a large proportion of mankind dying of hunger
that would seem and undesirable result. Even if the scientist is not allowed to call
it undesirable I can say a result which most people would
not desire if they knew it and the last conclusion which
I am afraid I will draw even at the risk of totally discrediting this
glorious meeting of scientists here that the contrary view which
believes that we can do better in maintaining the present population
of the world by abolishing several property is well meant
but very foolish.


  1. darsox64 says:

    mp3 plz

  2. Malthus0 says:

    @stretchyrubberbands Subtitles ready.

  3. grraadd says:

    @Malthus0 oh nice – now translation (although not perfect) will be possible 🙂
    If you would send me that file I would – after some time… – make a professional translation for you. I can't upload such long videos, so you would have to add another subtitles to your video.

  4. Tabel Cloth says:

    i hate to be picky but the white and black captioning on the background of black and white titles makes the closed captioning nearly impossible to read… 🙁

  5. Malthus0 says:

    @poninonis You can move the subtitles. Just click, drag & drop somewhere less white. By the way thanks for alerting me to this problem I would not have realised otherwise.

  6. Tabel Cloth says:

    @Malthus0 awesome!!! i didn't know that! thanks :——)

  7. runelord37 says:

    @JosephHuntington LMFAO.

  8. Mahacanda says:

    Where can I find an mp3 of this? It's fantastic!

  9. grandeoliba says:

    Hey did you transcribed this video? I want to make a .pdf with the subject, can I? Thanks.

  10. Malthus0 says:

    Yes I did. I will send you a PM.

  11. fictionalstickman says:

    Hey, would it be possible for you to send me a transcription also, or point me towards where I could find a transcription online, if you have time? Thanks so much for uploading this, really interesting!

  12. Malthus0 says:

    You can copy the transcript from bellow the video(underneath the views & next to statistics). You will have to remove the time from it though, as you can't highlight the text without it.

  13. Malthus0 says:

    You can copy the transcript from bellow the video(underneath the views & next to statistics). You will have to remove the time from it though, as you can't highlight the text without it.

  14. Malthus0 says:

    You can copy the transcript from bellow the video(underneath the views & next to statistics). You will have to remove the time from it though, as you can't highlight the text without it.

  15. fictionalstickman says:

    Many thanks!

  16. Assaf Wodeslavsky says:

    Hayek said so many foolish comments that I don't know where to begin destroying him. I'll just mention:"no evidence that population growth caused population to become poor… Except for Ireland, Africa and other examples THAT we must review and explain away"! What an idiot?!

  17. mrkingcat2 says:

    to the desciption of vid – no it does not – although I'm a large fan of Frederick Von Hayek his logic seems to be flawed in this case. sentient beings are using thier intelligence (at times misguided though it may be) to allow a free trade to function. it is not out of a random unguided process but guided one by many intelligent Minds

  18. Crypto Jensen says:

    Amazing Hayek.

  19. Crypto Jensen says:

    A genius

  20. Crypto Jensen says:

    Don't be a fool, listen to the wisdom of Hayek. Private property is the only way to freedom.

  21. Crypto Jensen says:

    There is no figure who had more of an influence, no person had more of
    an influence on the intellectuals behind the Iron Curtain than Friedrich
    Hayek. His books were translated and published by the underground and
    black market editions, read widely, and undoubtedly influenced the
    climate of opinion that ultimately brought about the collapse of the
    Soviet Union

  22. Daniel Cordoba says:


  23. nick page says:

    As soon as anyone calls a great thinker an idiot instead of giving a counter point tells us who the idiot is

  24. Christopher Robbins says:

    Hayek (if you get listen carefully though his thick Viennese accent) is one of the great teachers and explicators of the power and advantage to free markets and private property and the dangers of centralized governments.  If you wanna read three great thinkers on these subjects read: John Locke, Adam Smith and Hayek.

  25. Thomas Huth says:

    Yes, he made some goods points. And we agree in principle on “capitalism” over “ socialism”. But beyond that he spoke much nonsense and was full of wishful thinking: you have to adjust reality to my theory “ of the market”. Just think of a local markets of agricultural products for example. Soon there will be an evolution to organize and “ regulate” this market!! Order and regulation is the outcome of his so called “ spontaneous order”. He was and is overrated for ideological reasons. He was not that genius. But a very good economist though. The best is book on capital theory. Pure theory and then on head of his time. His “ Social philosophy “ is by far too radical and lacks common sense. Hayekian politics is the seed to radical left nonsense harvest. See reality now. His ideology should be buried as soon as possible.

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