The title of my presentation was "The Darwinian Evolution of Smithian and Hayekian Liberalism." A large part of my presentation was an argument against Friedrich Hayek's Freudian theory of capitalism as requiring the cultural repression of the evolved instincts of human nature that favor socialism. Hayek agreed with Karl Marx and Lewis Henry Morgan that originally human beings lived in primitive communism. As I have indicated in many posts on this blog, I think Adam Smith was closer to the truth in his claim that the commercial society is rooted in "a certain propensity in human nature"--"the propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another"--and that this natural propensity to trade must have appeared among our prehistoric ancestors.
We had a lively discussion of this issue in the seminar. Afterwards, Klein sent me these comments:
I agree with Hayek that there can be some tension between "two worlds"--the world of intimate, face-to-face interactions in families and small groups and the world of impersonal and abstract interactions in the extended order of markets. But I don't agree with Hayek's claim that while the first world is part of our evolved instinctive human nature, the second world is a cultural invention that requires the repression of the first world's instincts. I believe that the evidence for trading networks among our prehistoric ancestors appears hundreds of thousands of years ago, and therefore the propensity for trading and reciprocal exchange is probably instinctive for us.
While Hayek generally assumed that trade did not exist at all until the last few thousand years of human history, he occasionally admitted that there was some evidence of trade going back hundreds of thousands of years (Fatal Conceit, 11, 16-17, 29, 38-45, 60, 133). He wrote: "Some specialization and exchange may already have developed in early small communities guided entirely by the consent of their members. Some nominal trade may have taken place as primitive men, following the migration of animals, encountered other men and groups of men" (38). This weakens his claim that trade was a recent cultural invention with no instinctive roots.
Klein questions my interpretation of Hayek as arguing that the liberal social order is rooted in purely cultural traditions that are contrary to human instincts. But in his "Three Sources of Human Values," Hayek seems clear in affirming that liberalism must be grounded only in human tradition, and not at all in human nature or human reason. He wrote:
"The transition from the small band to the settled community and finally to the open society and with it to civilization was due to men learning to obey the same abstract rules instead of being guided by innate instincts to pursue common perceived goals. The innate natural longings were appropriate to the condition of life of the small band during which man had developed the neural structure which is still characteristic of Homo sapiens. . . . It would probably be more correct to equate these 'natural' instincts with 'animal' rather than with characteristically human or good instincts. Indeed, the general use of 'natural' as a term of praise is becoming very misleading, because one of the main functions of the rules learned later was to restrain the innate or natural instincts in the manner that was required to make the Great Society possible. We are still inclined to assume that what is natural must be good; but it may be very far from good in the Great Society. What has made men good is neither nature nor reason but tradition. . . ." (Law, Legislation, and Liberty, vol. 3, p. 160)If the Great Society--the liberal social order--requires a cultural repression of human nature, because it cannot satisfy the natural human desires, why would we want to prefer this to a socialist social order that conforms to human nature?
I have written many posts on Hayek's atavism thesis. One post includes links to the others.