July, 2007

Coordination without Command

  • Peter Leeson

    Senior Fellow, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
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How far can one stretch the scope of spontaneous order? Gordon Tullock's important work on the economics of non-human societies shows how these societies are able to coordinate without command despite features economists typically see as limiting the scope of spontaneous order. Using Tullock's insights, Peter Leeson searches for the "human ant nest" - spontaneous institutional arrangements that create human cooperation despite the presence of these obstacles. He finds two significant examples of this, both in precolonial Africa. The first demonstrates the effectiveness of spontaneous order in the face of threats of violent theft. The second shows the effectiveness of spontaneous order in the face of social heterogeneity. These cases suggest a broader scope for spontaneous order than conventional wisdom permits.