[star]The American Mind[star]

April 16, 2004

Hayek's Spirit Takes Over Stephenson

When Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver came out last year geeks, webloggers, and sci-fi freaks were excited. Because of my connections I got a copy of the book a week before it was released. I got about half-way through (400+ pages) and quit. It's one of the rare occasions where I couldn't finish a book. If anything, I will myself to get to the end, just to say I finished it. With Quicksilver, so many lengthy sidebars, tangents, and details bored me so I moved on to something else.

I'm now a little bothered with not finishing Quicksilver because the next book in The Baroque Cycle, The Confusion has just been released. In this book, Stephenson gets into the economic history of 17th century Europe. He talks to Wired News about the economy back then in particular and economies in general:

Very generally, it has to do with the flow of metal around the world. That's important because money is a sort of medium for the exchange of information. When the price of cloth went up in Antwerp, it was because the system of international trade, in some fashion that's too complex for us to understand, was transmitting information about the supply/demand balance. Money makes that kind of information flow better. [Emphasis mine.]

Those thoughts are practically Hayekian. There's the idea of the economy as an undesigned order that transcends any individual mind. Then there's the idea of money as a highly efficent communications mechanism. (Hayek calls the role of prices a "system of telecommunications" in his essay "The Use of Knowledge in Society.")

Sadly, I'm not willing to re-start a 900+ page novel just to then jump into a 800+ page sequel when I'm getting all the Hayek I want in Bruce Caldwell's Hayek's Challenge.

"Clearing Up The Confusion"





Posted by Sean Hackbarth in Economics at 12:37 AM | Comments (0)