The Breakdown of Spontaneous Order: Smith and Hayek Diverge


In papers on the history of thought, writers often lump Adam Smith and F. A. Hayek together. Both Smith and Hayek are classical liberal, free-market economists. Each emphasized the spontaneous order that develops without any person planning the order. They also discuss the benefits of such spontaneous orders. Yet, as with any two great thinkers, Smith and Hayek had important differences. This paper adds to the literature by clarifying one such difference. Smith believes that on some margins, particularly education, ends that are not achieved through the spontaneous order should be promoted by governmental action. Hayek is skeptical of the ability and benefit of picking particular ends to promote through government intervention. For Hayek, the beneficial attribute of a spontaneous order is its general application.

New York University Journal of Law and Liberty