Hayek on the Impossibility of Designing Society

This week in my online classHow the World Works – an Introduction,” I introduced a few basic economics concepts — starting with the easy to understand law of demand and supply. We call it a law but it is not the same sort of thing we call laws in the natural sciences. Social sciences are qualitatively different from the physical sciences like physics and zoology. Societies are not machines made of inert matter engineered by designers; societies are ecosystems of organisms that have minds which have volition and act purposefully to achieve their goals.

Social engineering — the deliberate transformation of an entire society according to some design — is doomed to failure because people are not inanimate objects that can be manipulated at will. The basic difficulty boils down to a lack of knowledge and the open-ended nature of the future. Nobody has the required knowledge of the present conditions of every person in society and the future state of the society. Continue reading “Hayek on the Impossibility of Designing Society”

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