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I, Joy

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05/20/2021Daniel Klein

Unfortunately, this oldest and most general result of the theory of social phenomena [viz., the spontaneous coordination of individual efforts] has never been given a title which would secure it an adequate and permanent place in our thinking. The limitations of language make it almost impossible to state it without using misleading metaphorical words. The only intelligible form of explanation for what I am trying to state would be to say—as we say in German—that there is sense [Sinn] in the phenomena; that they perform a necessary function. But as soon as we take such phrases in a literal sense, they become untrue. It is an animistic, anthropomorphic interpretation of phenomena, the main characteristic of which is that they are not willed by any mind. And as soon as we recognize this, we tend to fall into an opposite error, which is, however, very similar in kind: we deny the existence of what these terms are intended to describe.

—Friedrich Hayek (1933, p. 27)

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Author:

Daniel Klein

Daniel Klein is Professor of Economics and JIN Chair at the Mercatus Center.
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