Collective action, institutional design and evolutionary “blindness”

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. 1.

    As Hayek (1967: 32) summarizes it, the basic proposition of Darwinian evolutionary theory is “that a mechanism of reduplication with transmittable variations and competitive selection ... will in the course of time produce a great variety of structures adapted ... to the environment and to each other.”—See also Campbell (1974b: 143): “There are three major components to the model: (1) Variations, a heterogeneity of alteration on existing form. (2) Systematic selection from among the variations. Systematic elimination. (3) Retention, preservation (and, in many systems, multiplicative duplication) of selected variations.”

  2. 2.

    Popper (1972: 261): “All this may be expressed by saying that the growth of our knowledge is the result of a process closely resembling what Darwin called ‘natural selection’; that is, the natural selection of hypotheses: ... a competitive struggle which eliminates those hypotheses which are unfit. This interpretation may be applied to animal knowledge, pre-scientific knowledge, and to scientific knowledge.”

  3. 3.

    Campbell (1974a: 422): “In going beyond what is already known, one cannot but go blindly. If one can go wisely, this indicates already achieved wisdom of some general sort.”

  4. 4.

    See also p. 29 of Ostrom’s paper: “For rule configurations to evolve, there must be processes that (1) generate variety, (2) select rules based on relatively accurate information about comparative performance in a particular environment, and (3) retain rules that perform better in regard to criteria such as efficiency, equity, accountability, and sustainability.”

  5. 5.

    Campbell (1974b: 42): “If one is expanding knowledge beyond what one knows, one has no choice but to explain without benefit of wisdom (gropingly, blindly, stupidly, haphazardly.”


  1. Campbell, D. T. (1974a). Evolutionary epistemology. In P. A. Schipp (Ed.), The philosophy of Karl R. Popper, La Salle (pp. 413–463). Illinois: Open Court.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Campbell, D. T. (1974b). Unjustified variation and selective retention in scientific discovery. In F. J. Ayala & T. Dobzhansky (Eds.), Studies in the philosophy of biology (pp. 139–161). London: MacMillan.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Hayek, F. A. (1967). The theory of complex phenomena, studies in philosophy, politics and economics. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Hayek, F. A. (1973). Rules and order (law, legislation and liberty) (Vol. 1). London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Popper, K. R. (1972). Objective knowledge. An evolutionary approach. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Vanberg, V. J. (2013). Darwinian paradigm, cultural evolution and human purposes: On F. A. Hayek’s evolutionary view of the market. Journal of Evolutionary Economics. doi:10.1007/s00191-013-0305-9.

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Viktor J. Vanberg.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Vanberg, V.J. Collective action, institutional design and evolutionary “blindness”. J Bioecon 16, 99–104 (2014).

Download citation


  • Collective Action
  • Human Agent
  • Spontaneous Order
  • Human Intentionality
  • Alternative Trial