Spontaneous Orders and Experimental Economics


This conference linked together the findings from experimental economics with the concepts of spontaneous order discussed by thinkers from the Scottish Enlightenment and further expressed later by Hayek. The format involved both readings and short demonstration experiments.


From Liberty Fund

The Theory of Moral Sentiments

by By Adam Smith
Edited by D. D. Raphael and A. L. Macfie

The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith’s first and in his own mind most important work, outlines his view of proper conduct and the institutions and sentiments that make men virtuous. Here he develops his doctrine of the impartial spectator, whose hypothetical disinterested judgment we must use to distinguish right from…

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An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (vol. 1)

by By Adam Smith
Edited by R. H. Campbell and A. S. Skinner
William B. Todd, Textual Editor

First published in 1776, the year in which the American Revolution officially began, Smith’s Wealth of Nations sparked a revolution of its own. In it Smith analyzes the major elements of political economy, from market pricing and the division of labor to monetary, tax, trade, and other government policies that…

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Additional Readings

Bart J. Wilson, Taylor Jaworski, Karl E. Schurter, and Andrew Smyth. “The Ecological and Civil Mainsprings of Property: An Experimental Economic History of Whalers' Rules of Capture.” Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization (January 2012): 1-40.

Hayek, F. A. Law, Legislation and Liberty, Volume 1: Rules and Order. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978.

Hayek, Friedrich A. The Essence of Hayek. Edited by Chiaki Nishiyama and Kurt R. Leube. Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1984.

Hayek, Friedrich A. “The Use of Knowledge in Society.” The American Economic Review 35, no. 4 (September 1945): 519-530.

Hayek, Friedrich A. The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek, Volume I: The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism. Edited by W. W. Bartley III. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988, 1989, 1991.

Hume, David. A Treatise of Human Nature. Edited by David Fate Norton and Mary J. Norton. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Jevons, William Stanley. The Theory of Political Economy. London: Macmillan & Co., 1888.

Kimbrough, Erik O., Vernon L. Smith and Bart J. Wilson. “Exchange, Theft, and the Social Formation of Property.” Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 74, no. 3 (June 2010): 206-229.

Kimbrough, Erik O., Vernon L. Smith, and Bart J. Wilson. “Historical Property Rights, Sociality, and the Emergence of Impersonal Exchange in Long-Distance Trade.” American Economic Review 98, no. 3 (June 2008): 1009-1039.

McCabe, Kevin, Mary Rigdon, and Vernon Smith. “Positive Reciprocity and Intentions in Trust Games.” Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 52 (2003): 267-275.

Rigdon, Mary, Kevin McCabe and Vernon Smith. “Sustaining Cooperation in Trust Games.” Economic Journal 117 (July 2007): 991-1007.

Smith, Vernon L. Economic Inquiry. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1982.

Smith, Vernon L. Rationality in Economics: Constructivist and Ecological Forms. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.