Thus, it is with some interest that I note Chris Dillow's use of the Hayekian "cosmos" and "taxis".
In the Speccie, Fraser Nelson quotes Phil Collins, a former Blair speechwriter: “the key dividing line in politics is ‘no longer between left and right’ but ‘between liberal and authoritarian’.”
I’d prefer to express this slightly differently, using Hayekian terms. The dividing line is between those who favour what he called “taxis”—a consciously man-made order—and those who favour “cosmos”, the order that arises spontaneously when free individuals are left to themselves.
The difference between this and Collins’ dichotomy matters. Those of us who are sceptical of state interference don’t necessarily favour anarchy and disorder, but rather believe that freedom produces its own order.
Of course, any society will contain bits of both cosmos and taxis. The question is which bits should preponderate.
Supporters of cosmos include not only free market economists but also:
- Those who favour free migration on the grounds that the market, not the state, will limit inflows;
- Those who are relaxed about the breakdown of the nuclear family, believing people choose the best family structure for themselves;
- Supporters of the legalization of drugs, who doubt that such a policy would lead to greater addiction;
- Thinkers such as Bill Easterly, who believe developing economies will thrive best (pdf) if they adopt freedom rather than the advice of “development experts”;
- Enthusiasts for “web 2.0”, the wisdom of crowds and the power of unstructured groups;
- Philosophers such as Paul Feyerabend, who have advocated greater anarchy in scientific methods.
And, of course, your humble Devil's name might be added to that list, for I do indeed believe that freedom will produce its own order (and, of course, I believe that that order would be more beneficial for everyone).
And advocates of taxis are not only opponents of these positions, but also, variously, bosses (who believe in top-down management); paternalists who fret about binge-drinking and the “obesity epidemic”; and those leftists who moan about the “anarchy” of the market.
Of course, for most of Hayek’s life, the cosmos-taxis distinction mapped closely to a left-right distinction. The left (Stalinists and social democrats alike) favoured central planning—taxis—whilst the right favoured the invisible hand, cosmos. But as the above list shows, today the mapping is less clear. When lefties like me agree with classical liberals like Tim, it’s because we both support cosmos.
Indeed. An interesting concept and one that sums up my beliefs quite succinctly; I believe in small (almost non-existent) government but not because I am an anarchist but because I believe that people will organise themselves, along the lines that they wish to organise, and thus be happier for it. I do not believe that anarchy would be the result.
So, yes, you might call me part of the cosmos.