Freakonomics discusses emergent order

The latest Freakonomics podcast, What do skating rinks, Ultimate frisbee and the World have in common? is worth listening to. It’s about emergent order.

It touches on several topics I write about here, like Why do you stop at red lights? It turns out that how we stay relatively safe on skating rinks is similar to why we stop at red lights.

I have a few comments about this podcast, so far.

They discuss the sport of Ultimate frisbee because it is a self-policing sport that is just now starting to use refs. They discuss that the self-policing has worked because of morality. I think it’s because of the Golden Rule.

I give former soccer player and ESPN analyst, Alexi Lalas much credit for pointing out that 80% of soccer is self-policed and refs become more important as the stakes go up. Good observation. I do think ‘morality’ or the Golden Rule is less likely to be observed as the stakes for violating it goes up.

I also be Lalas credit for humor. He introduces himself as a proud ginger who carries the mutant gene. As a fellow ginger, I found that funny.

They also talk to Senator Bill Bradley and they let him perpetuate a straw man. Bradley says that the Tea Party wants to get rid of government, then goes down the list of what government does. It’s a straw man because few people want to ‘get rid of government’. They just want to scale it back.

Bradley also provides a good example of what I’ve been writing about in my bottoms-up vs. top-down posts. Bradley makes the mistake I wrote about in the first of that series, he categorizes things as ‘government’ vs. ‘private’ rather than ‘bottoms-up vs. top-down’.

Bradley says there has to rules and authority, in sport and the world. What he doesn’t seem to appreciate is how those rules come about. He seems to think they come from the authorities. But, more often than not, they evolve out of playing of the game.

I still have a few minutes left to go in the podcast, but I was surprised to hear the economist, Steven Levitt, say he doesn’t know much about Hayek. I give Levitt credit for admitting it and not having a strong opinion about him. He sets a good example in that regard.



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