The Voluntaryist Reader

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By Aristippus

FA Hayek’s final work, The Fatal Conceit (1988), is in essence a lengthy argument against what its author calls ‘constructivist rationalism’.  By that term he means the assumption that cultural evolution occurs not by a process of natural selection as in biological evolution, but instead as the result of deliberate design guided by human reason (p. 22).  In the constructivist framework, societal, economic, and political institutions are assumed to have developed as the result of a guiding mind or minds.  Such a view, Hayek argues, smacks of a fatal conceit.

Throughout the above mentioned work, Hayek demonstrates that in many areas, the constructivist assumptions are not warranted, and that the existence of various social institutions can be understood as resulting from the interplay of acting individuals without a single guiding force – that is, as a result of human action, but not of human design.  He refers to…

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