Knowledge and Coordination: A Liberal Interpretation


Too often in economics the understanding of how things work by and large—not axiomatically or categorically—and the idea that we generally cannot know the economic system well enough to intervene into it beneficially are done less than justice. Yet they were Adam Smith's central messages for public policy, and they authorized a presumption of liberty, thus exceptions to liberty should be treated as exceptional and bear the burden of proof.

In Knowledge and Coordination, Daniel ...

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Knowledge and Coordination: A Liberal Interpretation

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Too often in economics the understanding of how things work by and large—not axiomatically or categorically—and the idea that we generally cannot know the economic system well enough to intervene into it beneficially are done less than justice. Yet they were Adam Smith's central messages for public policy, and they authorized a presumption of liberty, thus exceptions to liberty should be treated as exceptional and bear the burden of proof.

In Knowledge and Coordination, Daniel Klein reexamines the elements of economic liberalism. He interprets Friedrich Hayek's notion of spontaneous order from the aestheticized perspective of an allegorical Smithian spectator. Klein addresses issues economists have had surrounding the notion of coordination by distinguishing the concatenate coordination of Hayek, Ronald Coase, and Michael Polanyi from the mutual coordination of Thomas Schelling and game theory. Clarifying the meaning of "cooperation," he resolves debates over whether entrepreneurial innovation enhances or upsets coordination. Entrepreneurship is interpreted in terms of discovery, or new knowledge. He points out that beyond information, knowledge entails interpretation and judgment. Rejecting homo economicus, Klein offers a distinctive formulation of knowledge economics, entailing asymmetric interpretation, judgment, entrepreneurship, error and correction. This richness of knowledge joins agent and analyst, and meaningful theory depends on tacit affinities between the two, even common contacts with an allegorical spectator. Knowledge and Coordination illuminates the recurring connections to underlying purposes and sensibilities, of analysts as well as agents.

Knowledge and Coordination is an imaginative and insightful take on how, by confessing the looseness of its judgments and the by-and-large status of its claims, laissez-faire liberalism makes its economic doctrines more robust and its presumption of liberty more viable.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The best book on Smithian economics, or for that matter Austrian economics, in many years."—Tyler Cowen, author of Discover Your Inner Economist and Create Your Own Economy

"A profound, brilliant book that returns Adam Smith to the centre of the classical liberal worldview. It should provoke a paradigm shift among classical liberals and libertarians."—Sam Bowman,

"Daniel Klein is one of those original thinkers that stands him out from the crowd of overly-safe players who dominate in academe... His recent thinking, expressed in his new book, Knowledge and Coordination: A Liberal Interpretation, is typical of his, on and beyond the frontier of accepted doctrine."—Gavin Kennedy, author of Adam Smith: A Moral Philosopher and His Political Economy, and Adam Smith's Lost Legacy

"Klein seeks to show that the best in economics from Marx and Mill to Hayek and Samuelson is 'Smithian'—that is, humanistic and scientific, historical and analytic, sympathetic and impartial, and above all 'liberal' in the root sense, suited to a free human. He succeeds brilliantly."—Deirdre McCloskey, author of Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce and The Cult of Statistical Significance

"Some books explain and defend principles with clear formulations and precise analysis; some books illustrate principles with vivid examples. Knowledge and Coordination does both. It is an engaging narrative exploring Adam Smithian spontaneous order that is enriched by genuine economic analysis, framed by personal history, and punctuated by compelling examples. It somehow manages to combine a plausible reinterpretation of Smith with an integration of Smith's insights into contemporary economic thought, while maintaining the reader's interest with fascinating stories and allusions from numerous sources. Klein has accomplished what some might have thought impossible: He has told a story about economics that is humane, compelling, enlightening—and interesting. There is no other book like it. You may think you know Adam Smith or modern economics, but you have not intellectually lived it until you have read Klein's book."—James R. Otteson, author of Adam Smith's Markeplace of Life

"Daniel Klein is a brilliant economist whose new book is a must read, not only for economists but for social scientists in general. What sets Klein apart from other economists is first and foremost his economic imagination; and he constantly surprises the reader with new angles and new ideas. What do Somerset Maugham, Soren Kierkegaard and Israel Kirzner have in common? Read Knowledge and Coordination for an answer!"—Richard Swedberg, author of Max Weber and the Idea of Economic Sociology and Principles of Economic Sociology

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199355327
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 11/1/2013
  • Pages: 374
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel B. Klein is Professor of Economics at George Mason University, and Associate Fellow at the Ratio Institute in Stockholm. He is the creator and chief-editor of the scholarly journal Econ Journal Watch.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments/A Note about Citation Practice

Some Smith-Hayek Homiletics
1. Rinkonomics: A Window on Spontaneous Order
2. Discovery Factors of Economic Freedom

About This Book
3. From a Raft in the Currents of Liberal Economics

The Two Coordinations
4. Concatenate Coordination and Mutual Coordination
5. Joy and the Matrix of Concatenate and Mutual
6. Light Shed by the Two Coordinations

Asymmetric Interpretation
7. Discovery and the Deepself
8. Experiment on Entrepreneurial Discovery
9. Let's Be Pluralist on Entrepreneurship
10. Knowledge Flat-talk: A Conceit of Supposed Experts and a Seduction to All

Studies in Spontaneous Order
11. Urban Transit: Planning and the Two Coordinations
12. The Integrity of You and Your Trading Partners: The Demand for and Supply of Assurance
13. Outstripped by Unknowns: Intervention and the Pace of Technology

Rethinking Our Way
14. Unfolding the Allegory of Market Communication and Social Error and Correction
15. Conclusion: Liberalism These Past 250 Years

Appendix Chapters
16. Owning Up to and Properly Locating Our Looseness: A Critique of Israel Kirzner on Coordination and Discovery
17. Some Fragments
18. In Defense of Dwelling in Great Minds: A Few Quotations from Michael Polanyi's The Study of Man


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