Need to know

Brain Science Biology Psychology
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At the moment I’m reading the fascinating book about the brain, Incognito – The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman. One of the big takeaways for me so far is that the Extended Order, to continue briefly on the post from last week, could be seen as a mirror of our unconscious in the outside world. Our subconscious is a vast network of neurons and memories all stored away and relatively inaccessible to our comparatively limited conscious minds. It’s full of rules and regulations on how the body works, much as the Extender Order controls society with its rules and traditions.

The subconscious, and indeed the Extended Order, is so vast there is no way the conscious mind could ever hope to know all that goes on in there. Indeed, even our explicit memories, those we can access readily, tend to be locked up until we need them. And so the brain operates on a need to know basis. As matters arise in our daily life, so we tap into the stores of memories, both implicit (gut feelings) and explicit (autobiographic) memories.

All the time new contexts and situtions present themselves to us and we seek relevant information depending on what we want to know. Hayek argues that this is why trying to control trade/commerce/economics will always fail, as those put in control of trying to order such enterprises can never hope to know all things in all circumstances.

Always better to defer and decentralise to those that can specialiase in specific situations in specific circumstances in more local settings. Making arbitrary, central decisions that try to cover too many different circumstances will always be doomed to fail.

On the Extended Order

Board Empty Rule Instruction
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I keep waffling on about the Extended Order, but what on earth do I actually mean by that?

In my mind, following on from Hayek, who developed the idea extensively, the Extended Order is the laws, traditions and rules of society. More often than not these rules are deeply ingrained within us through our parents and family from birth, and we play by these rules primarily at a subconscious level.

This order is controlled by no-one; it could never be because it is vast and complex. Within it there are groups of often competing sets of beliefs; religion, trade, economics and politics all emerge within the extended order. I read recently that once a population reaches a million it starts to develop notions of religions. I’d say that you probably don’t need that many people for them to start figuring out how they can work and live together, and a fledgling extended order starts to develop.

As Hayek likes to point out, these rules and traditions exist develop somewhere between reason and instinct. By this he means that if we based the rules purely on reason or instinct alone, the logical and primal aspects of our brains would negate much of the positive good that comes from the extended order.

The extended order is irrational and evolutionary. As culture changes, so old ideas drop away and new ideas (that work) come to stay. It’s interesting to watch recent developments in regards to gender and feminism and multiculturalism, as people push and prod at our long held beliefs. Over time, the order will change to either accept these newer ideas, or they will drop away from lack of use as newer challenges come along.

Capitalism vs. Greed

Dollar Exchange Rate World Economy
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The newspapers love to make a splash about greedy capitalists, who have overstepped the mark, got carried away with their wealth and abused their ‘power’.

Many, particularly on the left, like to pick on the immoral capitalists, lumping most business people into this rather broad brushstroke.

I do think that they are, as ever, labouring under false assumptions. There seems to be an almost puritanical basis the idea that anyone who tries to make a living as an entrepreneur is somehow evil and not to be trusted. Another message that falls neatly into the emotional argument camp.

Yet, I would argue that while socialism is an ideal that can, should you wish, be sought after, the assumption that capitalism too is an ideal, is patently wrong.

For me, capitalism – the desire to make enough money to provide for your family and, if possible, work within the wider community to share your talents to bring growth and prosperity to all – is nothing more than the result of humans simply doing what humans need to do to survive and, if left alone, would just do anyway without any zeal or guidance to pursue it. It evolves over time, always flexible enough to cope with the changes the arise in life.

Left-wing thinking is fundamentally the attempt to control that process. The intellectual observes many facts (but never all) and concludes that the extended order of our society must have a some kind go guiding hand. It would be illogical to think otherwise. If you reject God from the equation then, rationally, it must be humans controlling things.

And so the intellectuals look for the underlying structures, find some that look promising, and start to tinker, without the means or the full understanding to really appreciate what they are doing. When they see people actively chasing money or power as a cause in itself, they assume that this activity must be an underlying principle of capitalism, when it is nothing more than misguided fools abusing their success and authority.

These fools may be motivated by greed or selfishness, yet they are really no different to those more socially minded types who try to control society. These greedy fools often use the authority of their wealth and status to coerce people to do their bidding, much as the power invested in the structures of socialism is rife with abuse. These are not the motives of the average person, who simply wants to get by, live their life and see their family and friends prosper, the main driving force behind the extended order.