In my recent post on the law, I had talked a little bit about law as an emergent order. Commentor Greg G responded:
You have fallen into the trap of simply using the word “emergent” as a compliment for those emergent processes you approve of. Millions of voters select hundreds of thousands of representatives at different levels of government. Different levels of government sometimes make laws that conflict with each other. The elected representatives select many thousand of bureaucrats who participate in determining what the law is. Every single one of these agents has their own decentralized complex set of motives and goals which include calculating to what extent they need to satisfy the desires of the voters.
Greg’s comment deserves a response.
Is the formation of a government an emergent order? Yes. If we go with the classically liberal view of government, government was formed in order to protect individual rights in cases where collective action is the least costly action (other theories of government will work in this same manner; we’ll just change the justification. The only theory that might now work is government by divine right, as that would indicate not an emergent order by human interaction but rather divine intervention). Government emerged to satisfy certain needs in the same way a firm emerges to satisfy certain needs.
Emergent order arrives peacefully; consensually.
Imposed order, on the other hand, is non-consensual. It is imposed by force. Libertarians and classical liberals tend to identify government as the perpetrator of imposed order. While government is a perpetrator (and perhaps the largest), the problem is not isolated to government alone. For example, a man who mugs another is imposing order: he is imposing the forcible transfer of goods/currency from one person to another.
When it comes to government, we must be very careful about how we apply classifications. It’s a complex question, and I’m not sure I understand it fully. For example, let’s say that, on a constitutional level (that is, when designing the government), the group unanimously agrees that any legislation passed only needs 51% approval. So, we have an emergent order on how things work. Using that simple majority, the government makes rules. Are these rules emergent order or imposed order? I suspect there is a justice element to the answer. I also expect there’s a discussion on whether or not the decision-maker is exceeding his mandate.
As with my piece the other day, these are rough ideas which I will need to fill out going forward. Comments appreciated and encouraged.