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Hayek Enriched by Complexity Enriched by Hayek

Revisiting Hayek’s Political Economy

ISBN: 978-1-78560-988-6, eISBN: 978-1-78560-987-9

Publication date: 30 November 2016


Certain elements of Hayek’s work are prominent precursors to the modern field of complex adaptive systems, including his ideas on spontaneous order, his focus on market processes, his contrast between designing and gardening, and his own framing of complex systems. Conceptually, he was well ahead of his time, prescient in his formulation of novel ways to think about economies and societies. Technically, the fact that he did not mathematically formalize most of the notions he developed makes his insights hard to incorporate unambiguously into models. However, because so much of his work is divorced from the simplistic models proffered by early mathematical economics, it stands as fertile ground for complex systems researchers today. I suggest that Austrian economists can create a progressive research program by building models of these Hayekian ideas, and thereby gain traction within the economics profession. Instead of mathematical models the suite of techniques and tools known as agent-based computing seems particularly well-suited to addressing traditional Austrian topics like money, business cycles, coordination, market processes, and so on, while staying faithful to the methodological individualism and bottom-up perspective that underpin the entire school of thought.




I am grateful to Professors Alan Kirman and Nick Vriend for conversations in the Spring of 2014 on the topic of this essay, in Aix en Provence and London. For comments at the symposium I thank Nigel Ashford, Pete Boettke, Bruce Caldwell, Alexander Gill, Abigail Hall, Roberta Herzberg, Mike Munger, Mario Rizzo, Hilton Root, Scott Scheall, Danny Shahar, Solomon Stein, Viktor Vanberg, Karen Vaughn, Wolf von Laer, and Larry White. Errors of both omission and commission are my own.


Axtell, R.L. (2016), "Hayek Enriched by Complexity Enriched by Hayek ", Revisiting Hayek’s Political Economy (Advances in Austrian Economics, Vol. 21), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 63-121.



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