Many of the arguments surrounding ‘pure’ democracy and the eventual inclusion of everyone into an arrangement of equal political representation (one voice, one vote) can be fruitfully analyzed from a Hayekian perspective.
Many radical ideologists and idealists driving political change claim the above as justification for having eroded current institutional arrangements, of course.
This isn’t necessarily because such folks don’t have knowledge (we all have some knowledge, despite a collective madness usually residing in crowds, and despite everyone in a crowd knowing many different things even if they chose not to exercise such knowledge while in the crowd).
Rather, as Hayek offers, it’s because the knowledge simply doesn’t exist to run an economy from a central point, nor design and encompass a language from the top down, nor rationally plan how everyone ought to live through collective committee and/or pure democratic representation. Such an ideal, thus, will never be realized.
Often, such idealism travels accompanied by undue faith in rationalism where claims to knowledge are used to defend one’s personal beliefs, interests, reputation and ideological commitments: As though it were all purely ‘rational,’ when, in fact, the reasoning comes later.
Often, undue weight is placed in scientism, where relatively limited understanding of recent scientific findings are pressed into service for political and ideological goals. Obviously, such activity often leads the sciences become a tool to engineer and plan people’s lives in the political realm, rather than trying to figure out how nature works, or engineer systems that can understand and manipulate the natural world. Often the appeal is made to ‘truth-by-consensus’
Now, of course, this doesn’t discredit the work of all economists, scientists, Dr. Johnson’s dictionary (but probably Esperanto), nor the importance of Statesman to have specific wisdom, knowledge and experience.
But, as to the reasons given for constant radical change towards pure and equal representative democracy in the area of political philosophy, Hayek has much to offer.
On this site see:Friedrich Hayek Discussion On Bloggingheads. Bruce Caldwell discusses his then new book on Hayek.
-Via a reader, via bloggingheads: Thomas Leonard and Glenn Loury discuss ‘The Power Of The Progressive‘
Glenn Loury via the comments:
‘Hayek’s argument against planning was rooted in his views about how to assimilate the knowledge relevant to economic decisions that, necessarily in a modern society, is dispersed among millions of distinct individuals. What feasible mechanisms of social action would allow this diffused information to be most efficiently brought to bear on decisions about the use of scarce resources? How can the actions of myriad individual producers and consumers be so coordinated as to exploit most effectively the specialized knowledge which each possesses about their respective circumstances?
His answer, of course, was that central planning could not improve upon — and invariably would lead to outcomes much worse than — what can be achieved via the price system operating within competitive markets where institutions of private property and freedom of contract are respected, and where individuals enjoy liberty to puruse their own best interests, as they understand them.
This, I wish to insist, is a profound insight into the functioning of economic systems which — though subject to qualification and exception — is largely a correct conclusion with far-reaching implications for the design of economic institutions and the conduct of public affairs. To my mind, the world’s history since publication of The Road to Serfdom has largely vindicated Hayek’s concerns…