The Hayek Memorial Pathway

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The picture above is what I like to call the Hayek Memorial Pathway located on GMU’s Fairfax campus.  This pathway is the result of thousands of students deciding to go the shortest path rather than the long paved path.  In other words, this path is a spontaneous order; the result of human action but no one person planned such a path.

4 thoughts on “The Hayek Memorial Pathway

  1. Why wasn’t it planned? It was very visibly predictable. Those cases are called opportunities. On a safety note, we used to have to look for those easy shortcuts to keep pedestrians from getting hit by fork trucks in the factory. Newbie engineers sometimes even laid out exits to restrooms or offices into heavy traffic areas with no room for guardrails to separate vehicle from people. Irrelevant? Maybe. Hopefully interesting though.

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    • Very interesting. And a good question, too. I can’t answer why this wasn’t planned. In retrospect, it seems obvious that the pathway would develop like this, but was it obvious at the time? Maybe the campus designers thought students would rather more green space than a quick walk around campus? Maybe they expected some, but not as many, people to use the grass? Who knows. But that’s the great mystery of spontaneous order: you never know how it will develop!

      I also think your comment re: the factory floor is important. it shows the various foibles that can affect our decision-making process and why experience is so important. Also an important way of showing how firms can internalize costs (the firm is willing to take the cost of perhaps reduced work time in order to make sure the costs of accidents are reduced). Obviously, with diffused knowledge there is also diffused information and the “pure” spontaneous order approach may not be ideal (eg if a new person comes to your factory, they might not know they’re walking in a high traffic zone, so signs saying so are welcome).

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