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Spontaneous Order and the “Un-tragedy” of the commons : From the Scottish Enlightenment through Hayek to Jane Jacobs and Elinor Ostrom

April 1, 2021 at 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm SAST

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“Unfortunately, many analysts – in academia, special-interest groups, governments, and the press – still presume that common-pool problems are all dilemmas in which the participants themselves cannot avoid producing suboptimal results, and in some cases disastrous results.” ~ Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons

The tragedy of the commons is all too common. From climate change to space junk to overfishing to freedom of speech, we are all too aware that all too often when no one is in charge, everyone loses out. At the same time, we also know that one-size-fits all centralised solutions come with serious side effects and unintended consequences of their own… Is there a middle way to break this deadlock?

In this salon, we take a journey from the Scottish Enlightenment and Adam Smith’s “invisible hand”, through to Friedrich Hayek and Elinor Ostrom (and Jane Jacobs) to unpack the evolving ideas around emergent norms vs more centralised institutions, to see if we can, indeed, get more “order” with less “law”.

We debate the unintended consequences from well (or less well) intentioned attempts to regulate common goods, and the alternative ideas and compromises that suggest perhaps focusing on ends rather than means will yield more desirable results.

Can we ever hope to manage chaotic systems or messy human problems with centralised solutions?

Are groups capable of avoiding the tragedy of the commons without requiring top-down regulation?

Can we get better results with less rules?

Is the idea of an “invisible hand” naive – or even dangerous?

How do we avoid the tragedy of the commons – not only with scarce physical resources but also with common ideals  such as liberty and freedom of speech?

These are the questions we are asking you to help us (@bronwynwilliams and @PeterIsztin) answer at the Spontaneous Order Dead Economists Society Salon.

The “un”tragedy of the commons

Do you believe in sharing?

Beyond the invisible hand

The invisible hand is shaking

The “No-good-bad idea”

In defence of spontaneous order

Jane Jacobs and the life and death of cities



April 1, 2021
8:00 pm - 10:00 pm SAST
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