The Use of Knowledge in Society

Hayek's article argues against the establishment of a Central Pricing Board (advocated by Lange) by highlighting the dynamic and organic nature of market price-fluctuations, and the benefits of this phenomenon. He asserts that a centrally planned market could never match the efficiency of the open market because any individual knows only a small fraction of all which is known collectively. A decentralized economy thus complements the dispersed nature of information spread throughout society. In Hayek's words, "The marvel is that in a case like that of a scarcity of one raw material, without an order being issued, without more than perhaps a handful of people knowing the cause, tens of thousands of people whose identity could not be ascertained by months of investigation, are made to use the material or its products more sparingly; that is, they move in the right direction." The article also discusses the concepts of 'individual equilibrium' and of Hayek's notion of the divide between information which is useful and practicable versus that which is purely scientific or theoretical.

Friedrich Hayek
Publisher: American Economic Association
Published in: American Economic Review
1945 XXXV, No. 4. Pages 519-30