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Spontaneous Order and 'Traffic Lights'

The “spontaneous order” referred to in an article entitled The Praxeology and Ethics of Traffic Lights, Justin T.P. Quinn, Oct 6, 2010 http://mises.org/daily/4745 is a reflection of self-organization as characterized by systems science. This process is a core requirement for a system to be able to create value which is known as its emergence. Self-organization evolves through ongoing feedback loops providing that a vertical hierarchy, the government/policy actions, affects principally only the system size, shape, and boundaries and not the ongoing exchanges of the people in the trenches, the horizontal hierarchy, that has the capacity to create the “spontaneous order.” (Traffic lights do suppress spontaneous order and almost totally migrate the alertness of the driver from optimizing the flow through the intersection to the dependence on the changing traffic light colors and presuming by default that others will do the same).

The argument that there is no need for government is being supported by an example of the emergence of spontaneous order within a traffic intersection: who enters first is allowed to proceed and so on. That is generally true, presuming a rational decision process among the drivers, but this example does not incorporate the fact that it was likely the government or some larger organization that built the roads and created the intersection. Someone else planned and constructed the roads, the intersection’s angles, the number of lanes, etc. The spontaneous order did emerge but it happened within the larger framework set up by someone else besides the travelers entering the intersection. Using this discussion point as well as the ones in the above paragraph, we can see that the spontaneous order emerged because people were free (no traffic lights) and able to organize themselves but this happened within the larger construct of an intersection. Both the vertical and the horizontal hierarchies are necessary but with the mandatory dual focus on system optimization, that is the ability for a system to create value and continue to evolve through adaptation.

There are numerous other important features that must be present for a system to be well functioning, be it our health care or cancer cell behavior in our bodily systems. For further clarification, please see references below:

Janecka IP: Is the U.S. Health Care an Appropriate System? A strategic perspective from systems science. Health Research Policy and Systems 2009, 7:1 (Highly Accessed) http://www.health-policy-systems.com/content/7/1/1

Janecka IP: Cancer control through principles of systems science, complexity, and chaos theory: A model. Int J Med Sci 2007; 4:164-173. http://www.medsci.org/v04p0164.htm