Spontaneous Order in Action

Here is a video of an intersection. The footage on the left is without traffic lights due to a power outage, and the footage on the right is the same intersection the following day when the traffic lights are restored. Just amazing!

(ht to the LRC blog)

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13 Comments on “Spontaneous Order in Action”


  1. A very interesting video. But note the wildly overblown conclusion in the comments section at YouTube!


    • Yes, I noticed. I think that this is the one that you’re probably talking about: “Proof that left to their own devices, without regulations´╗┐ and restrictions, people can pretty much look after themselves”.

      That seems like quite a leap to me.

      • gcallah Says:

        Yes, what we’ve got is a single case where some regulation *may* have proved to be otiose. Interesting, suggestive? Yes. Worth exploring whether more such cases exist? Yes.

        “Proof” of anything? No.


      • That is almost exactly how I read that statement, as well.

  2. gcallah Says:

    And note it really has nothing to do with state versus non-state solutions: private roads often have stop signs and speed bumps and parking lots have one-way lanes and stop signs and so on.


    • Exactly! There will be rules in either case, thus regulation and restrictions, regardless of whether it is public or private. People often get lost in their ideological fury that they forget that we aren’t necessarily talking about the absence or presence of regulation and restriction, but rather how it should be undertaken.

      However, I do remember a similar case in Europe about a year or so ago, where a city removed both lights and signs, and supposedly had a positive outcome. I cannot remember the particulars, but I remember thinking that it was interesting. While it certainly reminded me of Hayek, as well as certain aspects of chaos theory, something that you wrote for ‘ThinkMarkets’ also comes to mind. I cannot remember exactly what it was.

  3. sharon Says:

    pretty darn amazing!!!


  4. [...] Joseph Fetz’s blog┬áalerted me to an interesting video comparing the same intersection in New Zealand on a day when its traffic light was out versus the next day with the light back in operation. The video certainly illustrates the fact that people’s ability to achieve spontaneous order can be greater than one might suspect at first: many people would guess that the day without the light would be chaotic by comparison to the one with it, but traffic actually seems to flow better with the light off. [...]


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