Thursday, August 30, 2012

Would There Be Spontaneous Order in Heaven?

I am currently in a conversation with a Pastor about whether Christians should be anarchists (yes, this is under the pretense that I'm a Christian.... did I tell you I was writing a book and am doing research??).  To read a very good article about this, don't miss Joe Sobran's inspiring piece.  The following is a succinct summary of the conversation:

Pastor: So why do you think God instituted the whole idea of government in the first place?

Me: I'm not sure.  I don't think for social order though.  Spontaneous order, as described by Adam Smith (the invisible hand via the price system) and F.A. Hayek is responsible for social order.  Man-made institutions such as the Federal Reserve distort the signals the make spontaneous order effective.  

God may have instituted government as a punishment for a lack of faith.  

Pastor:  if it was punishment for a lack of faith, then why would he institute the same governmental order in his heavenly kingdom and in the church here in earth?
Incidentally, Newton's laws of physics attest to the fact that there is no such thing as spontaneous order, only of spontaneous disorder...

Me: Yes, but spontaneous order comes not out of random spontaneity, it comes from individuals planning their lives with what localized information they have.  Information and knowledge are dispersed.  Different tasks require different skill sets.  Unfortunately resources are scarce so we all have to share them.  What is the mechanism for sharing scarce resources?  There are several:  

1. A command control economy- Men plan the lives of others claiming that they have certain knowledge that will make the lives of dispersed individuals better.  This doesn't work for several reasons (one of which economist Ludwig von Mises writes in "Economic Calculation in a Socialist Commonwealth" in which he dispels the notion of rational centralized allocations of scarce natural resources).  

2. A free economy.  Individual, within the institution of a system of property rights, buy, sell, and trade items and services on a market.  The spontaneous order comes when thinking and planning individuals seek out their own self interest in a society with scarce resources in which others are doing the same.  As Adam Smith says, the baker doesn't bake out of the goodness of his heart, or some moral dictate to be altruistic, but in an effort to exchange his goods.... but as a result of the fact that if he trades his goods with other people he is able to consume more than if he produced everything himself. 

The price system is key here.  When prices and profit margins increase in one sector of the economy, resources flood that sector, which increases supply and decreases price.  Both producers and consumers win .  This spontaneous order meets the desires of other market participants.  

Without this mechanism there is no rational way to distribute scarce goods.  

So the crux of Ludwig von Mises argument against socialism (the public ownership of the means of production) is that this destroys the price system which allows a rational allocation of scarce resources in an economy.  When Capital Goods (goods that produce consumer goods or other capital goods) are owned by the public they are not traded on the market and prices are not generated.  Public Policymakers have to give their best guess at where resources should go.... and because of Hayek's observation above (knowledge is dispersed, etc) this is impossible.  Knowledge is often momentary and is never static (this is different than absolute truth... what I mean is, a worker often has to vary is methods of production to account for unintended variables).  

The more society expands scientifically the more it becomes impossible to centralize knowledge and use this knowledge to direct the economy.  

In heaven, however, resources are not scarce.  In a heavenly society none of this would matter.

So my conclusion???  No, there wouldn't be spontaneous order in heaven (except maybe in language, culture... but then again, probably not that either).  Heaven would be horrifically homogeneous.  


  1. Biblically, God created order, spontaneity, diversity, the price system. He also created all the laws of the universe under which those things operate. God is perfectly intelligent and creative and loves everything perfect, beautiful, and just. Everything on earth matters because from Him, through Him, and to Him are all things (Rom. 11) God is not subject to the order He created. He is capable of creating new things, in the new heavens and the new earth, far beyond anything we can ever conceive of.

    1. Yes. That is why I concluded that there wouldn't be spontaneous order in heaven. That doesn't mean I concluded that there wouldn't be ORDER in heaven. With perfect knowledge... he can be the ultimate central planner... not to mention the fact that resources would be infinite, etc.

    2. If God can design and allow for spontaneous order on earth, there's no knowing what he could do in heaven. Up to that point, you make good points. For the record though, I have no idea what this pastor is saying when he says heaven will have a government similar to earthly government. I think the closest thing the Bible says to anything about government in heaven is that God's people will judge angels.

  2. Spontaneous order can exist only where resources are limited (time, physical stuff, etc). I don't think heaven would fall under that category.

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