Home > Uncategorized > Are Hayek’s essential "market morals" breaking down? Hmm … Is peace breaking out, or are things getting ugly?

Are Hayek’s essential "market morals" breaking down? Hmm … Is peace breaking out, or are things getting ugly?

[Apologies for the weird font sizes – guess I’m too old to figure out the html stuff that creeps in when I cut and paste!]

I wanted to post a few additional and somewhat scattered thoughts I have had relating to the 1986 essay of Hayek that I recently stumbled across, “The Moral Imperative of the Market”.

What morals do we end up with as “market morals” are eroded?  In larger communities, the morals of a cynical or self-deluded selfishness and self-justification, accompanied by growing tribalism, insularity, suspicion, hostility, avarice, prejudice, jingoism and intolerance.

As the market breaks down, so also do market dynamics of broad exchange and sophisticated institutions, and things become each man for himself, finding friend and families to hunker down with, a hardening towards and less concern for others – who indeed may be viewed as either a threat or as fair game.

IOW, it’s the same load of aggressive, selfish and narrowly tribal stuff that once was ESSENTIAL to bands of humans when when we lived in a state of Nature and life was brutish and short, and that I’ve been giving other members of this and other communities grief over ever since I was marooned on these fertile but once hostile shores:

Cooperation comes naturally to man – among those we feel we can trust – but within limits, as so too does suspicion come naturally as to “others” who look like they might pose a threat. In building extended markets, we are always struggling with our predilection to form “Bands of Brothers”. In doing this work, we are always making use of our sophisticated yet at times quite reflexive native endowment.

As I noted a couple years back (you know, in ancient times when Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize) in a comment to libertarian science correspondent Ron Bailey at Reason Online:

you forget what evolutionary psychology, Ostrom and Yandle have explained to us so well about how our innate moral sense drives and underpins mankind’s success as a species by enhancing our ability to cooperate and to overcome commons issues.
Ostrom: http://conservationcommons.org/media/document/docu-wyycyz.pdf
Yandle: http://www.fee.org/publications/the-freeman/article.asp?aid=4064

Our long history of developed rules and institutions (informal and formal now overlapping) are based on our moral sense and the effectiveness of these rules depends critically on our moral investment in accepting their legitimacy – witness our views on murder, theft, lying and “not playing by the rules” – and in voluntarily complying with them.

Our moral sense reinforces our judgments about when rules/institutions are not working and the need to develop new ones in response to changing circumstances and new problems.  When we see a problem that we think requires change, it is unavoidable that we respond to the status quo, the behavior of people within it and the need for change with a moral sense. 

This is simply a part of our evolutionary endowment.  (Of course, other parts of our endowment accentuate our suspicions of smooth talkers and help us catch free riders and looters and to guard against threats from outsiders.)

Let all of us here at LvMI (and any strangers!) please be aware of our predilections, while we continue with the hard work of building strong, vibrant and open free societies.

I know, comrades, that you’re all dying for links to some of my relevant posts, which I certainly won’t begrudge to you :

Snicker-snack! We hold these truths to be self-evident: That WE’re right, and THEY are stoopid, deluded, evil AND cunning, out to destroy all that is good and holy

Bill Gates, Roger Pielke, Avatar & the Climate (of distrust); or, Can we move from a tribal questioning of motives to win-win policies?

I Can’t Stand Cant, Or, LeBron James and our Collectivist Scorn of “Collectivists”

Nick Kristof on politics: why we conclude that I’m right, and you’re evil (with a handy-dandy listing of a number of earlier fun posts!)

And a clip of a comment I made to Stephan Kinsella a little while back:

Austrians seem to act as if the love of reason requires a surrender of it in favor of the comforting distraction of a self-satisfied echo chamber of a type that would warm the cockles of any like-minded religious “alarmist” cult.

Mind Games: Bret Stephens of The Wall Street Journal panders to “skeptics” by abjuring science and declaring himself an expert on “mass neurosis”

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