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When Orders Emerge


Econlib has long been known for its emphasis on emergent, or spontaneous, order. (Which term do you prefer???) Still, it can be a tricky concept to explain. We hope this month's QuickPicks provides plenty of resources to help you get your head around this sometimes nebulous concept.

This month we've included some Picks from our sister site, AdamSmithWorks, which also has a monthly resource collection available. And don't miss our favorite titles from Liberty Fund Books at the bottom of this email. Connect with all of us on social media, and/or drop us a line at econlib@libertyfund.org. We love to hear from you!

Podcast: Emergent Order
Why is it that people in large cities like Paris or New York City people sleep peacefully, unworried about whether there will be enough bread or other necessities available for purchase the next morning? No one is in charge--no bread czar. No flour czar. And yet it seems to work remarkably well. Don Boudreaux of George Mason University and Michael Munger of Duke University join EconTalk host Russ Roberts to discuss emergent order and markets. 

Cities, Planning, and Order Without Design
Urbanist and author Alain Bertaud of NYU talks about his book Order without Design with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Bertaud explores the role of zoning and planning alongside the emergent factors that affect the growth of cities. He emphasizes the importance of cities as places for people to work and looks at how preferences and choices shape cities. Bertaud also reflects upon the differing perspectives of urban planners and economists.

Russ Roberts: The Hidden Harmony of Everyday Life
Roberts speaks on harmony in the work of Adam Smith in this lecture for AdamSmithWorks.
 
The Tradition of Spontaneous Order
The simplest way of expressing the major thesis of spontaneous order is to say that it is concerned with those regularities in society, or orders of events, which are neither (1) the product of deliberate human contrivance... nor (2) akin to purely natural phenomena...
 
The Economics of al-Qaeda
Before we can argue for effective policy, we must understand al-Qaeda as an emergent order in which the willing participants are voluntarily choosing to advance the mission of the organization to effect change important to them. If we know the “why” we can ask questions about what policies could help alter the incentives those individuals face.
Podcast: Ants, Humans, and Emergent Order
Deborah M. Gordon, Professor of Biological Sciences at Stanford University, is an authority on ants and order that emerges without control or centralized authority. The conversation begins with what might be called the economics of ant colonies, how they manage to be organized without an organizer, the division of labor and the role of tradeoffs. The discussion then turns to the implications for human societies and the similarities and differences between human and natural orders.
 
paper TOWELS or PAPER towels
Language as an emergent order has also long been a theme of political economy, but John McWhorter’s engaging examples and explanations breathe new life into the subject. In thinking of language as an emergent order, what does it have in common with the emergent order of markets? How do they differ? What are the feedback loops in language evolution?
Virginia Postrel on Why Culture Matters

That culture matters isn’t controversial. The real issue is that most libertarians simply aren’t terribly curious about how culture works. They treat it as an instrument—a tool for promoting or hampering the advancement of their political ideas—rather than a phenomenon worthy of its own careful observation and analysis.

But culture is not a tool. It is not a machine. It is an emergent order, as complex, dynamic, and intellectually interesting as the economy—and thoroughly entangled with it.

Spontaneous Order in Adam Smith
The idea that we could explain social outcomes as the unintended result of people behaving according to discoverable rules rather than the good or bad intentions of particular individuals was... the beginning of real social science.
 
Our friends at Liberty Fund Books asked us for our favorites... Here they are, and you can save 30% all of them through March with promo code ECONLIB5.
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