The Good of Order

Order is good (adjective).  Order is a good (noun).  To avoid breakdown, a nation requires civil order and coordinated operations among free persons, who grasp the ideas of both social order and economic order. Free persons must understand what constitutes the good social and economic order and must wisely adapt to the normative exigencies of the order in a spirit of cooperation.

The economy underpins social and cultural structures.[1]  The economy is a set of schemes of recurrence depending upon humans cooperating.

A series of ecologies (in which abstract relationships are complemented by concrete probabilities) can form chains of sequential dependence, with prior ecologies grounding the probability of the emergence of the next….Human communities devise their own schemes of recurrence: the commonly understood and commonly accepted ways and means of cooperating.  Among them are the firms that keep producing goods and rendering services and no less the households that purchase the goods produced and the services rendered.  Such is the economy, which is a structure resting on the ecologies of nature and underpinning social and cultural structures. [CWL 15, 3-4]

Understand the idea of the good of order.

We return to the idea of the good of order.  For, as we said above, 1) persons, 2) interpersonal partnerships, 3) cognitive and appetitive habits, 4) many coordinated operations among many persons, 5) a succession and series of particular goods, are, as it were, organically interconnected. All these elements taken together constitute an intelligible good of order. [CWL 12, 505]

There’s the good of order.  The good of order is very well represented negatively by an economic depression.  In an economic depression there is no lack of material, there is no lack of capital, there is no lack of people willing to work, and there is no lack of people willing to buy, but things don’t run, they don’t work.  You can prime the pump, and you get a single burst of water going round, but it doesn’t keep going round as when the economic system is functioning properly. You can keep priming and repriming and build up an enormous national debt, and things still aren’t clicking. … What is lacking is a good of order.  And what is this good of order? It is the dovetailing of one thing with another that you have when the economic system is functioning properly. A makes shoes, B wants shoes and makes something else, and the whole thing clicks together and it works.  The difficulties, of course, why the thing periodically does not work, the reasons for that are more complex.  But there is a good of order. … Again, you have the good of order in a family, a family as an institution. … There is a good of order of the polity, the state.  These objective schemes of recurrence – you have a good breakfast this morning, you have a good breakfast the next morning, and you keep on having a good breakfast every morning; you have a job to do that interests you today, and you’ll have it tomorrow and so on. … and the good of order is when the whole thing clicks together.  It is good in the intelligible sense.  It is the object of an insight.  (CWL 5, 378-379;  Please read these and following pages in CWL 5 in full.)

Thus it is that in the history of human societies there are halcyon periods of easy peace and tranquility  that alternate with times of crisis and trouble.  In the periods of relaxed tension, the good of order has come to terms with the intersubjective groups.  It commands their esteem by its palpable benefits; it has explained its intricate demands in some approximate yet sufficient fashion; it has adapted to its own requirements the play of imagination, the resonance of sentiment, the strength of habit, the ease of familiarity, the impetus of enthusiasm, the power of agreement and consent.  Then a man’s interest is in happy coincidence with his work; his country is also his homeland; its ways are the obviously right ways; its glory and peril are his own. [CWL 3, 216/241]

Economic break-down and political decay are the breakdown and decay of the good of order, the failure of schemes of recurrence to function.

In civil community there has to be acknowledged a further component, which we propose to name the good of order.  It consists in an intelligible pattern of relationships that condition the fulfillment of each man’s desires by his contributions to the fulfillment of the desires of others, and similarly, protect each from the object of his fears in the measure he contributes to warding off the objects feared by others.  This good of order is not some entity dwelling apart from human actions and attainments. … much … Again, economic break-down and political decay are not the absence of this or that object of desire or the presence of this or that object of fear; they are the breakdown and decay of the good of order, the failure of schemes of recurrence to function.  Man’s practical intelligence devises arrangements for human living; and in the measure that such arrangements are understood and accepted, there necessarily results the intelligible pattern of relationships that we have named the good of order. [CWL 3, 213-214/238-39]

Now the general theorem of continuity is that this (organic whole) has a nature that must be respected. … to violate this organic interconnection is simply to smash the organism, to create the paradoxical situation of starvation in the midst of plenty, of workers eager for work and capable of finding none, of investors looking for opportunities to invest and being given no outlet, and of everyone’s inability to do what he wishes to do being the cause of everyone’s inability to remedy the situation.  Such is disorganization.  Continuity, on the other hand, is the maintenance of organization, the stability of the sets and patterns of dynamic relationships that constitute economic well-being in a society. [CWL 21, 74]

From the viewpoint of intelligence, the satisfactions allotted to individuals are to be measured by the ingenuity and diligence of each in contributing to the satisfactions of all; from the same high viewpoint the desires of each are to be regarded quite coolly as the motive power that keeps the social system functioning. [CWL 3, 214/238-39]

The practical common sense, operative in a community, does not exist entire in the mind of any one man.  It is parceled out among many, to provide each with an understanding of his role and task, to make very cobbler an expert at his last, and no one an expert in another’s field.  So it is that to understand the working of even a static social structure, one must inquire from many men in many walks of life and, as best one can, discover the functional unity that organically binds together the endlessly varied pieces of an enormous jig-saw puzzle. [CWL 3, 211/236-37]

Certain intersubjective and social elements work as a friction against the achievement of the existence of the good of order:

  • individual bias [CWL 3, 218-222/244-47]
  • group bias [CWL 3, 222-225/247-50]
  • general bias in favor of commonsense against the abstract and universal [CWL 3, 225-242/250-67]
  • the bureaucracy as an institution

The excellence of the exchange solution becomes even more evident when contrasted with the defects of a bureaucratic solution.  The bureaucrat … (gives the people) what he thinks is good for them, and he gives it in the measure he finds possible or convenient; nor can he do otherwise, for the brains of a bureaucrat are not equal to the task of thinking of everything; only the brains of all men together can even approximate to that. … when a limited liability company has served its day, it goes to bankruptcy court; but when bureaucrats take over power, they intend to stay. … when the pressure of terrorism (by the goons of the bureaucrats) is needed to oil the wheels of enterprise, then the immediate effect is either an explosion or else servile degeneracy. [CWL 21, 34-35]




[1]For a more detailed treatment of the good of order see CWL 5, 47 ff.