If you have read my previous post on constitutionalism, containing extensive quotes from the first volume of Hayek’s Law, Legislation & Liberty – and quite a few from his footnotes as well – you would surely have felt that this book is quite peculiar, and indeed it is.
For example, right at the outset, I quote the opening paragraph of his “Introduction,” in which he writes in plain words that Montesquieu and the Founding Fathers of the US Constitution “failed” in their attempt to “limit” government – and then, as I point out immediately thereafter, we have to struggle through 85 pages of dense text to find out exactly why.
Again, the second paragraph of the “Introduction” speaks of a “conception of democracy” in which the “will of the majority is unlimited” – but there is absolutely nothing in either the “Introduction” or even the first three chapters discussing this issue. The devastating quotes on Rousseau and the other from Aristotle’s Politics are all from his footnotes. And, here again, the fact remains that the actual text is 150 pages long – while the footnotes, appended at the end of the book and thus a cause of great inconvenience to the serious reader, are a full 40 pages in length! Further, all the real meat is in these footnotes. The book itself is of very peculiar design – almost square in shape, with just about 40 lines per page. The length of the text could barely exceed 60,000 words – and each page has at least three or four numbered superscripts indicating footnotes. If these footnoted quotes had been incorporated into the text, and only their sources indicated in the notes, the book itself would have been far weightier.
Hayek’s chapterisation is equally peculiar – considering the fact that the very title of the book indicates “law” and “legislation” are very different things; and further, it is only because we do not know why they differ, and have different purposes, that we have been steadily losing all our liberties. Thus, Hayek discusses legislation in the sixth and last chapter; the “law of liberty” in the fifth; and the “changing concept of law,” which is also the “changed conception of democracy,” in the fourth. He opens with a chapter on “reason and evolution” – which is redundant, since we do not need to focus on anything other than how human beings like us think and act. How our pre-human ancestors thought, or how our species may evolve in the future, are irrelevant. Thus, we arrive at the very crux of the Hayekian mode of thought – and that is, a total neglect of the epistemology on which Ludwig von Mises built his Science of Economics, and which he dubbed The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science. This, Mises’ last book, was published in 1962, when he was well over 80. Hayek’s Law, Legislation & Liberty is dated 1973, the year in which Mises died, at the age of 92. Interestingly, Hayek received the Nobel Prize in Economic Science the following year; and, even more interestingly, L, L & L is published by the University of Chicago Press, the ideological headquarters of “positive economics” – which is all about “measurement.” An added fact is that Hayek has written almost nothing on Economics after 1973 – preferring to write on law, on the history of ideas, and so on.
There is very little biographical information available on Hayek – other than Hayek on Hayek, an entire volume-length interview with the great man. In this, Hayek admits to having made two mistakes in his life – the first, of not penning a critique to Keynes’ General Theory; and the second, of not having done the same to Milton Friedman’s Essays on Positive Economics. Yet, he never corrected himself – as I will proceed to show below.
Margit von Mises’ My Years with Ludwig von Mises concludes with the full texts of two “tributes”: the first, a tribute by Mises to Hayek which was written to be presented at a Banquet in Hayek’s honour in Chicago, in 1962; and the second, a tribute by Hayek to Mises, which was delivered at a Party in Honour of Mises in New York, in 1956. Both are very “revealing” – and it is particularly notable that the first tribute, by Mises to Hayek, was not read out at that Banquet, nor even handed over to Hayek – or, to be more precise, this is what Hayek told Margit!
Mises’ tribute to Hayek records certain important steps in Hayek’s career: first, his “opportunity” to spend a year and more as a secretary to Professor Jeremiah Jenks of New York University, an “eminent expert in the field of international monetary policies”; and second, his subsequent appointment as the head of the Austrian Institute of Business Cycle Research. What is not mentioned – and should be in this post – is that the former appointment was arranged for Hayek by Mises; further, the latter was also secured for him by Mises, for it is Mises who is still remembered as the “founder” of this Institute.
“Business Cycle Research” is all about the periodic “booms and busts” caused by central bankers when they artificially lower interest rates, or by other means increase the money supply. Mises’s Theory of Money and Credit (1912) had already established him, in Austria at least, as the master of this subject. What is of great relevance at this stage of our discussions is the following sentence from Mises’ tribute, one that speaks volumes about Hayek the Young Economist, the one he personally trained and then appointed, in 1927, as the first head of his Institute of Business Cycle Research: “He published several excellent essays on the problems of money, prices, and the trade cycle.”
[In 1931, Hayek went on to become Tooke Professor of Economic Science and Statistics at the “Fabian Socialist” London School of Economics.]
Mises’ tribute to Hayek continues with a very long discussion on how he became “well known overnight”: and that is, as the author of The Road to Serfdom, which is what ought to be called “popular writing.” Towards the end, Mises’ commends his “monumental treatise” The Constitution of Liberty. Nothing more on Hayek the Economist.
And then, in the final paragraph, Mises writes the following: he is “certain” that in the future Professor Hayek “will have much more to say about epistemology, about capital and capitalism, about money, banking and the trade cycle…” The year in which these words were written: 1962.
In 1973, Hayek ignored, or even avoided, Mises’ epistemology in the first volume of L, L & L. The second volume of this three-volume series was published in 1976, by which time Hayek was a Nobel laureate, and Mises had passed on. This second volume is sub-titled “The Mirage of Social Justice” – and thus has very little to do with either law or legislation or even liberty. Further, the “real mirage,” for an “economist” at least, is the Keynesian “funny money” that funds all this phony welfarism, which Mises felt nothing but scorn towards, which he dubbed “Keynes’ attempt to cheat the working classes,” and as for Keynes himself, the great Mises, author of The Theory of Money and Credit (1912 – which means this is its centenary year) wrote that all Keynes had accomplished is the “bringing back of errors which had been systematically weeded out by the classical economists centuries before him.” Jean-Baptiste Say's "Law of Markets," for example, dating back to the 1820s, disproves Keynesian claims, such as their grave theoretical as well as historical error, in asserting that increasing the supply of "funny money" serves to "stimulate aggregate demand." Here again, it was another of Mises' scholars, WH Hutt, to pen a very comprehensive "Rehabilitation of Say's Law" - one that pours hot oil into every Keynesian's ear.
Interestingly, Volume 2 of L, L & L begins with a quote from Walter Lippman’s An Inquiry into the Principles of a Good Society. When this book was launched in Paris in 1938, Mises, then in Geneva, was invited to attend – as Margit notes in her Memoirs, for she was there with him. Lippmann was an enemy of laissez faire and what he disparagingly called “Manchesterism.” Mises was his severest critic! Which is why, after this conference on Lippman’s book, an International Centre for the Revival of Liberalism was established – in Paris. What is even more noteworthy is that Professor Hayek of the LSE came to Paris to attend this meet – and this was the first time Margit met him.
The only worthwhile bit in this second volume of L, L & L is a very well deserved swipe at the United Nations’ “Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.” This is concealed, however, in the table of contents, where it appears as “Appendix to Chapter 9 Justice and Individual Rights.” Again, all the real meat is in the footnotes – such as a long quote from the UNESCO Committee on this Declaration, which says it was a “compromise between liberalism and Marxism”! Another footnote says that the British representatives on this “Universal Declaration” included Professor Laski of the LSE, the Fabian Socialist who admired Stalin. There is also a quote from one of Laski’s books saying that the “Hitlerite State was also a Rechtstaat” because the Führer obtained all his dictatorial powers “by law”!
Volume 2 of L, L & L is designed and laid out exactly as the first: the identical square shape; the actual text barely 150 pages in length; and footnotes of 40 full pages with lots of dynamite in them appended at the very end of the book. University of Chicago Press, once again.
To conclude: Hayek ignores epistemology altogether, so he never refutes Friedman’s “positivism.” Further, Hayek never refutes the deep errors of Keynes. The two great mistakes on his life, to which he admits in Hayek on Hayek, he never corrects.
Yet, in 1927, when Mises appointed him as the first to head his Austrian Institute of Business Cycle Research, Friedrich August von Hayek had already “published several excellent essays on the problems of money, prices, and the trade cycle.”
Hayek, of course, dropped his “von” while in England. Mises never did.
Next: Hayek’s tribute to Mises
Let us now turn to Hayek’s tribute to Mises. The occasion was the 50th anniversary of Mises’ doctorate, and the celebration was made all the more joyous because the University of Vienna had honoured Mises by “renewing” his doctorate diploma, with the following citation, which Hayek, who began by saying he was “probably the oldest of his pupils” in the gathering, read out:
The Faculty of Law of the University of Vienna, resolved at its meeting of December 3, 1955, to renew the doctor’s diploma conferred on February 20, 1906, on Ludwig von Mises “who has earned the greatest distinction by his contributions to the economic theory of the Austrian School, has greatly added to the reputation of Austrian science abroad, and who has also done most beneficial work as Director of the Vienna Chamber of Commerce and to whose initiative the foundation of the Austrian Institute of Economic Research is due.”
Hayek then proceeds to heap fulsome praise upon Mises’ Theory of Money and Credit (1912) – but he omits “credit” from its title, referring to the book as The Theory of Money. He says it ought to have saved civilization from inflation, but could not. He then says one of the reasons for the failure of this book to achieve practical results was a “curious review” it received from John Maynard Keynes, only because, as Keynes confessed, he did not understand German too well!
Note that Hayek does not offer any reason why he – who not only knew German, but had also mastered this 1912 book by Mises, did not review the book himself.
Hayek then heaps praise on Mises’ work of 1922 – the German version of Socialism. Much space and time devoted to this book, which he calls Mises’ second magnum opus.
Finally, he turns to Mises’ third magnum opus, and that is Human Action. He refers to its first appearance in German in 1940. And then to its reappearance in English ten years later, by which time Mises had migrated – or is “escaped” the right word? – from Switzerland to the US. Most curiously, Hayek does not have much of what might be called “real, heartfelt praise” for this magnificent as well as comprehensive “Treatise on Economics.” The year is 1956 – Mises’ Theory and History would appear the following year – and all that Hayek can do is grudgingly say, about Human Action, “it is still too early definitely to evaluate its significance.”
I think it would be best to conclude this section, on Hayek’s “tribute” to Mises in 1956, with the following quote from a letter that Mises wrote Hayek soon after arriving in New York. In this letter, dated 1941, Mises tells Hayek:
It seems that the age of reason and common sense is gone forever. Reasoning and thinking have been replaced by empty slogans.
Let us now turn to Ludwig von Mises:
There are many sources of information on the life of this Great Economist and Teacher: for one, there is the magnificent, unputdownable biography by Jörg Guido Hulsmann; there are Margit’s Memoirs, which I have referred to above; and then, written by Mises himself, are his Notes and Recollections.
It is in Margit’s Memoirs that the exact words as well as the context of what Mises thought of money; or, to be more precise, of his personal interest in “earning money.” I quote the relevant section below:
One day Lu told me he had been offered a high position at the Credit Ansalt, the foremost banking institution in Vienna, but that he had decided not to accept it. When I asked him the reason for his refusal, he told me that a great “crash” would be coming and he did not want his name in any way connected with it. He preferred to write and teach. “If you want a rich man,” he told me, “don’t marry me. I am not interested in earning money. I am writing about money, but will never have much of my own.” [Margit’s italics.]I did not need to assure him how I felt. When the stock market crashed in New York in October, 1929, the effect was worldwide. An international depression followed, world trade was seriously affected, and in 1931, on May 11, the Austrian Credit Ansalt went into bankruptcy, exactly as Lu had told me beforehand. The Austrian government tried to save the bank and appealed for help abroad. France promised support, but under impossible conditions. At the last moment England helped Austria with a loan of 150 million Austrian schillings to the Austrian National Bank. But the Credit Ansalt could not be saved. The newest crash led to a financial crisis and a panic in all Central Europe.
[Note: Mises’ Austrian Institute of Business Cycle Research, with Hayek at its head, was established 2 years prior to this crash, in 1927.]
Next: There is this very revealing quote on Mises’ “nature,” as told to Margit by Dr. Weiss von Wellenstein, secretary general of the Central Association of Austrian Industry, who was a friend of them both. He said the following to her when she went to visit him alone, to tell him that she was moving to Geneva to marry Ludwig and spend her future with him. Dr. von Wellenstein told her:
You are going to marry the greatest mind Austria has produced in this last century, but I don’t believe you are fully aware of the difficulties that lie ahead of you. Ludwig von Mises is not easy to handle. He is obstinate, will never change his mind once he is convinced he is right, and he will rather have an enemy than make concessions or deviate from his convictions. Your life won’t be easy; I do wish you luck.
But then, Margit being Margit, immediately writes: “How little did he know how well I knew what he had told me – and much more!”
Towards the end of her wonderful book, from which I could easily fill in much more on Mises, there is this record of a conversation she had with Fritz Machlup on Mises’ “stubbornness.” The context in which this stubbornness had made its appearance was rather trivial – her plan to install an air-conditioner in his study, where he spent almost all his days, because she felt the summer heat of New York would affect his health adversely, since that city is “tropically hot in summer and arctic cold in winter.” Mises “stubbornly” resisted the air-conditioner – because it was too noisy for him! Machlup was another of those who had attended Mises’ privat-seminars in Vienna, and then migrated to America and become a well-known Professor of Economics – and about whom more later. Machlup then said the following to Margit: “With a man like Ludwig von Mises you don’t call it stubbornness – you call it character.” [Margit’s italics.]
Now, as most economists know, Hayek established The Mont Pelerin Society in the 1940s. This society is still in existence. Mises attended a few of their meetings – and there is an audio tape of what must have been his last speech to them on the Mises Institute website, in which he concludes by saying he is a “dissenter.” After which he adds, “I will always remain a dissenter.”
Margit records a very disturbing incident that happened at what must have been this same meeting of the MPS, the last that Mises attended, and it occurred when this very same Fritz Machlup was addressing the gathering. Towards the end of Machlup’s speech, Mises seemed to appear “very excited.” Mises seemed “shocked by what Machlup was saying.” After the talk, Machlup came towards them, said “something conversational” to Margit, and then he “put his arm around her shoulder.” But Mises pulled her away and even told her “not to ever talk to him again.” Back in their room, Mises told Margit, “He was at my seminar in Vienna. He understands everything. He knows more than most of them and he knows exactly what he is doing.”
It seems Mises lived to see many of his disciples turn into “apostates.” Lionel Robbins also attended his Vienna seminars; he knew German well; and then turned into a Keynesian – and into a peer as well: Lord Robbins. The LSE Library is named after him.
Margit notes that Mises had set very high hopes on Israel Kirzner, who attended his New York seminars, and to whose book Mises had penned a very laudatory foreword. But then, as Salerno’s “Mises and Hayek De-Homogenised” records – he has turned into a Hayekian!
I myself became aware of this “intellectual divide” between Misesians (and the Mises Institute) and the Hayekians when I read Hulsmann’s biography. There, I first found reference to Hayek’s roots in the ideas of Friedrich Weiser. Salerno’s paper outlines the rift between these groups very well – and the following brief quote ought to suffice for now:
The Hayekian paradigm stresses the fragmentation of knowledge and its dispersion among the multitude of individual consumers and producers as the primary problem of social and economic cooperation and views the market’s price system as the means by which such dispersed knowledge is ferreted out and communicated to the relevant decision-makers in the production process.The other paradigm is the “Misesian” paradigm, so called because Ludwig von Mises was the first to systematically expound it. This paradigm represents a development of Böhm-Bawerk’s thought and focuses on monetary calculation using actual market prices as the necessary precondition for the rational allocation of resources within an economic system featuring specialization and the division of labour.
At this point, let me say a few words on my own intellectual development – words that the relevant here, because I have very often used the Hayekian concept of the fragmentation of knowledge, with devastating effect, that too, against socialist central planners, and also against centralized State-sponsored “education.”
I began my long innings as a “free market economist” as a follower of Peter Bauer. The very first formal paper I presented, at the first Freedom Workshop conducted by Liberty Institute, in 1993, was titled “Bauer Power: Getting the State OUT of Development.”
At their second such workshop the following year, my paper, which was a collection of my published newspaper columns arranged in a logical sequence and preceded by some explanatory notes, was titled “For a Second Republic.” It is at this second workshop that I first encountered the works of Frederic Bastiat, beginning with The Law, to which I had the honour of penning a foreword when Liberty Institute republished this essay some months later. Barun Mitra, founder of Liberty Institute, then obtained for me the three-volume collection of Bastiat’s complete works – and my writings as a freelance journalist became even better, and much more varied as well.
Both these workshops were attended by Parth Shah, then teaching Economics in a US university. He established his Centre for Civil Society only in 1997. Till then, Liberty Institute was the only “libertarian think-tank” in India – and, as Barun once told me, “We exist for people like you,” I made very good use of his little library.
From this library, during those early years, I borrowed a thick volume titled “Champions of Freedom” published by Hillsdale College, and edited by Richard Ebeling. I forget the sub-title of this book – but it was entirely devoted to “Austrian Economics.” I must have kept this book with me for years, reading and re-reading it many times over. It made me aware of all that is wrong about “mathematical economics,” about “measurement,” statistics, and “positivism,” though my favourite essay in that volume always remained Carl Menger’s one on the “theory of the origin of money.” I became a Mengerian. I then borrowed his Principles of Economics (1871) – where this essay originally appeared. Later, I borrowed his second and last book – on “methodology in the social sciences” (1883). It had a foreword by Lawrence White, about whom more, later.
I ought to also add that both these Liberty Institute workshops were attended by Professor RK Amin, who spoke on “private money” – something that fascinated me, because this alone could rid the world of the curse of Keynesianism. Professor Amin and I had long chats in private on both occasions – during which I also learnt a great deal about the Swatantra Party, the only “free enterprise” party in India during the Nehru era, and which lasted till Indira Gandhi’s “emergency.” Professor Amin had been elected MP on a Swatantra ticket during those early years – and he told me of many of their errors as well as the foibles of their leaders. But it was “private money” that I found most inspiring about him – and this is what made me start off my journey into “Austrian Economics” with Carl Menger.
In August 1997, Parth Shah officially inaugurated his Centre for Civil Society (CCS). Within a few months of that, I was invited to join the editorial team of The Economic Times. The Internet did not exist in India then. It is Parth Shah who introduced me to the Hayekian “theory of knowledge” – and this was at a talk he delivered for students on the very Hayekian concept of “spontaneous order.” He also once told me that the “personalized number plate” on his car while he lived and taught in a US university said “Hayek.”
As I said, the Internet did not exist those days in India – and so I never did get to read the actual Hayek essay on “the use of knowledge in society” till many, many years later. But I found the idea that the division of labour is also accompanied by this “fragmentation of knowledge” fascinating in another context: and that is, as a means by which to show that knowledge cannot ever be centralized, as in the mind of a central planner; to show that a great deal of knowledge we find in markets does not come from formal, classroom “education”; or that a great deal on knowledge that people already possess is actually being legislatively banned from markets, as in the case of music and dance. In all my essays and columns, I have never written one word suggesting that the “coordination problem” can be solved by knowledge.
As for Friedrich Weiser: many years ago, one fellow handed me his Natural Value to “study.” I found both the title as well as contents impossible for my mind to accept – for to my mind value was not natural in the object being valued; rather, it is something that lies inside the mind valuing the object: “Value is Subjective.”
I have also been for well over a decade now a subscriber to the Mises Institute’s Daily Article. During the early days, there would be only one article from them in my mailbox every day – and it was my daily delight. Nowadays there are four! And I often do not have the time to read them all. So, through these articles, I have for long been reading much about Mises, and also about Rothbard, including important extracts from their works. Thanks to them, my mind remained inoculated against errors.
Between 2005-2007, I took the decision to give up writing “popular essays” and pen a scholarly treatise instead. I then researched, contemplated and finally wrote Natural Order: Essays Exploring Civil Government & the Rule of Law. I did not feel I could write on Economics proper; but I definitely could on this vast area, one that most economists neglect. My error in this work, in the very first essay, is entirely Hayekian, based on the opening chapter of his last book, Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism, which is titled "Between Instinct and Reason." This book was presented to me at the second Liberty Institute workshop - and it led me astray, as I now point out online. What put me back on track was Mises' epistemology. The best exposition of my corrected views, based on Mises' epistemology, are in this recent blog post.
Let me now tell to of how and why I turned all my energies towards the serious study of Ludwig von Mises' "Science of Economics."
Let me now tell to of how and why I turned all my energies towards the serious study of Ludwig von Mises' "Science of Economics."
When India’s only literary agency rejected Natural Order, as also the handful of publishers I subsequently contacted, I decided to climb a different mountain, and to finally begin a thorough study of the works of Ludwig von Mises: that is, a study of Austrian Economics proper, from beginning to end.
Of course, I began with Human Action, the first 150 pages of which are all about his epistemology. I found it fascinating, if difficult. I then read his earliest work on the matter – Epistemological Problems of Economics, published in the 1920s. Thereafter, I read The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science, his last book, dated 1962. Then, I read all three all over again! Sometime then, one good fellow gave me his copy of Mises’ Theory and History (1957). I have read all these many times over during the past few years, drawing great comfort from a statement made by some great professor of yesteryears that “economists usually get interested in epistemological matters after the age of 65” – while I had begun to do the same before turning 50!
Finally, let me turn to Lawrence White, Hayek Professor of Monetary History, who also features in Salerno’s “de-homogenisation of Mises and Hayek.” I met him at the student seminar organized by CCS many years ago. He spoke on the origin of money – but he barely scratched the surface of Menger’s essay of 1871, which is about how “hard, commodity money” comes about.
Subsequently, I was shown the video of a student interviewing him on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the publication of Human Action. The student asked Professor White: “Professor, is this book still worth studying?” The Hayek Professor of Monetary History answered: “Yes, it is definitely worth studying – but omit the first 150 pages!”
Finally, let me turn to the great Bruno Leoni:
I read Bruno Leoni’s Freedom and the Law long before I read Hayek’s L, L & L. This wonderful book is actually the transcript of a series of lectures Leoni delivered somewhere in the US, at a conclave of eminent scholars, among whom was Friedrich Hayek. There is a foreword to the book by the man responsible for recording Leoni’s lectures, who was also responsible for the accuracy and veracity of the transcripts. There, I read that Leoni had since passed away – but not how. I read that he was indeed one of those busy, multi-faceted men – a practicing lawyer; a professor of law; editor of a law journal; and that he was even President of Hayek’s Mont Pelerin Society, nad had served in that capacity for two or more terms, when he suddenly died. It seems he only wrote in Italian – and this was the only work of his in English.
The lectures by Leoni were lucidity itself – and must have been a delight for all who attended them. He speaks like one of those great Continental scholars – quoting Bastiat in French; Dante in Italian; and Latin and Greek sources in the original, of course. Much of his talks were on “qualities” that good law is supposed to possess, like “certainty,” the idea that the good law is unchangeable, an ideal that has gone out of the window with legislation. He also reveals a deep understanding of Misesian Economics, quoting Human Action, for example, to show how just as central planning cannot work, so too it is with centralized legislation. He shows that just as markets are where buyers and sellers interact in pairs, so too it is with law – and with all legal disputes. He uses the loaded term “inflated legislation” to describe the mess that modern democracy has inflicted upon mankind – while destroying legal order.
Now, in Margit’s Memoirs, there is much about Bruno Leoni – and how he was a very good friend to them both. She also makes it clear how he died – that he was “brutally murdered.” This fact is not mentioned in the book Freedom and the Law – and my copy was published by Liberty Fund.
And as for Hayek’s L, L & L Vol. 1: There is one mention of “the late Bruno Leoni” in a longish footnote. It says:
The case for relying even in modern times for the development of law on the gradual process of judicial precedent and scholarly interpretation has been persuasively argued by the late Bruno Leoni, Liberty and the Law (Princeton, 1961). But although his argument is an effective antidote to the prevailing orthodoxy which believes that only legislation can or ought to alter the law, it has not convinced me entirely that we can dispense with legislation even in the field of private law with which he is chiefly concerned.
So, let me conclude with some real meat from Hayek’s footnotes (to Vol. 2 of L, L & L this time). “Legal positivism” is the notion that law and legislation are the same; that legislation is law, because it is “legally made.”
From E. Brunner, Justice and the Social Order, (new York, 1945): “The totalitarian state is simply and solely legal positivism in political practice.”
A long footnote begins with Aristotle’s Politics, wherein his demand that “reason” and not “will” should govern, “this clearly means that abstract rules and not particular ends should govern all acts of coercion.” The footnote finally ends with the following bombshell from none other than GFW Hegel (Grundlinien der Philosphie des Rechts, para. 258, in Leipzig edn, 1911, p. 196) wherein Hegel “credits Rousseau to have established the will as the principle of the state.”
Finally, a real gem from the Scottish Enlightenment: Adam Ferguson, An Essay on the History of Civil Society (London, 1767) p. 187: “Nations stumble upon establishments, which are indeed the result of human action, but not the execution of any human design.” This quote from Ferguson is followed by the following extract from Duncan Forbes’ introduction to a recent edition of this classic work (Edinburgh, 1966) p. xxiv:
Ferguson, like Smith, Millar, and others, has dispensed with the “Legislators and Founders of States,” a superstition that Durkheim thought has hindered the development of social science more than anything else, and which is to be found even in Montesquieu…. The Legislator Myth flourished in the eighteenth century, for a variety of reasons, and its destruction was perhaps the most original and daring coup of the social science of the Scottish Enlightenment.