August von Hayek and the Institutions of the Liberal StateJune 27, 2021
Liberalism limits the deliberate control of the basic level of society to the application of general rules, such as those necessary for the formation of a spontaneous order, the details of which we cannot know in advance.
The development of societies requires that we create the conditions suitable for this. The nature of the social order is rather similar to many other orders in nature that we could not build, but which we allowed to develop by providing favorable conditions. For example, we can never get a complex crystal by putting the atoms together one by one, but it is easy to create the conditions under which the atoms will arrange themselves to form crystals.
The task of government is to use its coercive power to generate income, to create a framework through which individuals and groups can successfully achieve their mutual goals, and sometimes to provide services that, in one way or another, the market cannot supply.
For Hayek, the size of the public sector is not the criterion of its legitimacy. Legitimacy depends entirely on whether the government’s use of force is limited to rules, whether the rules it enacts have equal application and help the smooth functioning of the social order.