Recently, I have read a paper by some libertarian economists that defends a modified version of Hayek's argument. They identify themselves as taking a position that is opposite to mine. Here I will offer my assessment of that paper, but I will respect the anonymity of the authors.
My first question is about whether I am right to see their position as a modified version of Hayek’s argument about the appeal of socialism as rooted in an atavistic instinct. That they are agreeing with Hayek is suggested by their quoting from Hayek in The Fatal Conceit as observing that “man’s instincts” were not made for modern civilization, because they were adapted to “life in the small roving bands or troops in which the human race” evolved (6). But while the authors agree with Hayek that human beings have the atavistic socialist instincts that are adaptive only for small foraging bands, they seem to disagree with Hayek’s claim that the propensities for market exchange that make modern civilization possible are purely cultural and not at all instinctive, because there was no trade in the environments of evolutionary adaptation (see The Fatal Conceit, 34, 67, 70, 80-81, 118-19, 130, 134; The Constitution of Liberty, 40). And yet while Hayek generally assumes that trade did not exist at all until the last few thousand years of human history, he sometimes admits that there is some evidence of trade going back hundreds of thousands of years (Fatal Conceit, 11, 16-17, 29, 38-45, 60, 133). This is the point developed by the authors—that the evidence for trade going back hundreds of thousands of years suggests that market exchange is genetically instinctive and not purely cultural, as Hayek generally claims. And yet their claim is that socialist benevolence emerged millions of years earlier in the mammalian protohuman ancestors of human beings, and therefore we can infer that socialist instincts are more hard-wired than market instincts (5-6, 26, 28-29). This pushes the authors closer to my position—that the “propensity to truck, barter, and exchange” is an instinctive inclination of human nature that can be fostered by the human culture of bourgeois virtues.