Thursday, June 25, 2015

Economic Design: Fact or Fiction?

Don Boudreaux posted recently, about economic "myths" which he believes non-economists (such as myself) are prone to. While most elements of his list were reasonable enough, anyone who has regularly kept up with this blog, knows that I take exception to this assertion on his part, regarding design:
The myth that workable, productive and sustainable complex social orders must be the result of human design (or that human design can improve the workability, productivity, and sustainability of complex social orders).
A propensity for design, is an integral part of the human mind. What institutional structure does not benefit from design? Even so, today's marketplace scarcely benefits from the economic freedom which Boudreaux's "leave well enough alone" quote implies. No one can afford to pretend that free markets exist for knowledge based services formation, and new design elements are needed in order for this to happen. There are too few choices as well for building components, in living and working environments of all kinds.

Granted, Boudreaux regularly emphasizes the problematic nature of government planning and intervention. But few government interventions occur, which are not agreed to and encouraged by the special interests which seek those designs to begin with. Rather than insisting that structural economic design is either 1) not "helpful" or 2) not happening (!?!?), let's get real about what is actually occurring. If design is fact and not fiction, then why not extend the possibility of conscious design to those who are not quite so strong and powerful? Let's don't pretend it's not possible to do so.

Only consider the degree to which individuals and groups use design (regulation, zoning, law) to exclude those who may not appear strong enough to maintain similar sets of responsibilities. When this process goes too far, too many are left outside the preferences which are built up over time, in primary equilibrium. Those who end up left out of prosperous regions and cities, consequently need better defined means to make a life for themselves. Why not give them the chance to do so? Economic design is a natural part of life. Let's not pretend this is not true.

Little about the marketplace is as spontaneous and naturally provisional of economic freedom as some imply - a fact which has tremendous bearing on economic realities. Where possible, groups can design for greater inclusivity. But when communities understandably put up resistance, those who are excluded, need a chance to build environments where they can design better means for survival. What's more, they need the right to do so in circumstance where they pose no threat to the structural preferences which others hold.

Even though I am a proponent of intentional design, no one should mistake the sentiments of this blog as attempts to impose structural change where it is not wanted. In the long run, force all too often leads to repercussions which never quite go away. Rather, the goal for any nation which seeks to make room for growth, should be to make room for differences in economic design. Few other goals for decentralized decision making, are more important.

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