Voluntary Cooperation and Unlimited Democracy

  • Lorenzo InfantinoEmail author


This chapter re-examines the link between the gnoseological premise of ignorance and liberty, formal legal equality, the “government of law”, individual freedom of choice and voluntary cooperation.

This chapter also returns to the critique, hinted to in the opening chapter, towards homo oeconomicus, which is also often imported in political science and sociology. Such figure is tightly connected to the utilitarian tradition, but is in conflict with that cultural orientation that is typical of the “Darwinians before Darwin,” namely the likes of Mandeville, Montesquieu and exponents of the Scottish Enlightenment. Homo oeconomicus is an actor who has all the “relevant data” available. And his permanent task is to “maximize” results. This is a consequence which is consistent with the endowment of knowledge attributed to the actor. The basic question, which is that of the ignorance and fallibility of each individual, is thus completely avoided. And this erases the fact that competitive allocation of resources is, “like experimentation in science, first and foremost a discovery procedure [… and] cannot be said of competition any more than of any other sort of experimentation that it leads to a maximization of any measurable results. It merely leads, under favorable conditions, to the use of more skill and knowledge than any other procedure” (Hayek). This means that we compete because we do not have the knowledge we need. And, under these circumstances, we cannot maximize any advantage. We can try to achieve our priority goal, which is to cooperate with one another, in order to alleviate our condition of scarcity.

If competition has such a meaning, we can understand that, in a social system that sees competition present, everywhere minimizes the power of one individual over another. If merits do not explain the social positions occupied by subjects, it means that cooptation from conformity has prevailed over the competitive process. By revealing which of us performs best, competition attributes varying levels of personal freedom. But lack of competition, by preventing or distorting such “discovery procedure,” produces arbitrary power.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Guido Carli Free International UniversityRomeItaly

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