Discussion and the Evolution of Institutions in a Liberal Democracy: Frank Knight Joins the Debate

19 Pages Posted: 9 Apr 2007

See all articles by Ross B. Emmett

Ross B. Emmett

Arizona State University (ASU) - Center for the Study of Economic Liberty; PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

Date Written: August 30, 2006

Abstract

Two central figures of the defense of classical liberalism against the onslaught of socialism in the mid-twentieth century were F.A. Hayek and Frank H. Knight. Despite their shared purpose and intellectual common ground, Knight criticized Hayek's understanding of liberalism severely. The paper explores that criticism, arguing that the roots of Knight's criticism lie in his insistence on a pluralistic defense of free society. For Knight, a defense of free society requires an understanding of evolutionary change in human society based on more than just a theory of the evolution of institutions, which is what he interpreted Hayek to provide. In a free society, change occurs through the discussion among free individuals of their social problems, which ultimately is a discussion about how they can construct a society closer to their ethical ideals.

Keywords: Frank H. Knight, F.A. Hayek, institutional evolution, evolutionary theory of society, liberalism, ethics

JEL Classification: B25, B31

Suggested Citation

Emmett, Ross B., Discussion and the Evolution of Institutions in a Liberal Democracy: Frank Knight Joins the Debate (August 30, 2006). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=979222 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.979222

Ross B. Emmett (Contact Author)

Arizona State University (ASU) - Center for the Study of Economic Liberty ( email )

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PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

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