The rules of abstraction

The rules of abstraction Friedrich Hayek’s work on spontaneous order suggests that the emergence of a spontaneous order requires the existence of abstract rules of conduct. But how much abstraction is required? Abstraction exists on a gradient, from the highest specificity (pertaining to particular persons and narrowly defined circumstances) to the highest generality (pertaining to all persons in all circumstances). If rules create order by coordinating expectations, either end of the spectrum is undesirable; the most specific and the most abstract rules fail to provide decision makers with useful guidance. This article argues that rules that foster coordination must be characterized by an intermediate degree of abstraction. This conclusion will be explained and applied to law, language, and etiquette in order to draw out the similar character of rules across various contexts. The article concludes by discussing four properties that rules of intermediate abstraction must also possess to foster spontaneous order. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Review of Austrian Economics Springer Journals

The rules of abstraction

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Publisher
Springer US
Copyright
Copyright © 2008 by Springer Science+Business Media, LLC
Subject
Economics; Public Finance; Political Science; History of Economic Thought/Methodology
ISSN
0889-3047
eISSN
1573-7128
D.O.I.
10.1007/s11138-008-0064-2
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Friedrich Hayek’s work on spontaneous order suggests that the emergence of a spontaneous order requires the existence of abstract rules of conduct. But how much abstraction is required? Abstraction exists on a gradient, from the highest specificity (pertaining to particular persons and narrowly defined circumstances) to the highest generality (pertaining to all persons in all circumstances). If rules create order by coordinating expectations, either end of the spectrum is undesirable; the most specific and the most abstract rules fail to provide decision makers with useful guidance. This article argues that rules that foster coordination must be characterized by an intermediate degree of abstraction. This conclusion will be explained and applied to law, language, and etiquette in order to draw out the similar character of rules across various contexts. The article concludes by discussing four properties that rules of intermediate abstraction must also possess to foster spontaneous order.

Journal

The Review of Austrian EconomicsSpringer Journals

Published: Aug 26, 2008

References

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