Hayek praised; Hayek scorned…
This article by David Beito called “Hayek in Tuscaloosa” takes an altogether too rarely publicized view of major events such as the tornadoes that tore through Alabama some weeks ago. In short, F.A. Hayek’s theory of “spontaneous order” explains how effective aid got to affected people.
Under this theory, which is incredible in that it expresses the incomprehensible with great clarity, Hayek would have predicted certain events that would follow a disaster such as these tornadoes. Among them would be an uncoerced, non-organized, yet somehow highly effective response, bringing in elements from across a broad swath of society.
Hayek would have expected that, despite this lack of top-down, centralized order, people would not be rendered paralyzed and ineffective, which they were not (compare the similar response to the tsunami in Japan). Hayek would have also expected that such decentralized and disinterested help would be far more effective than anything the government could mandate (contrast the dissimilar response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans).
However, when the Wall Street Journal published a version of the article, called “Talk Radio Rides to the Rescue in Tuscaloosa,” they omitted all reference to Hayek, choosing instead to focus on the efforts of talk radio. I would imagine that this reflects the different readership bases of Reason and WSJ, but it is truly a pity that the article was stripped of reference to the man who was the impetus behind its central idea.
In any case, let’s not forget that decentralization of response to problems is not equivalent to failure to address problems. That message should be shouted from the rooftops, regardless of whether Hayek’s name ever comes up.
And in case you’re interested in more top-down vs. bottom-up Hayek-goodness, maybe this would be a good time to check out the Fight of the Century, Round Two. Or to check it out again.