This essay was first published by the Library of Economics and Liberty (“Econlib”), September 5, 2005, and is reprinted here with their kind permission.
You’re sitting in your house and it seems unusually chilly for a hot summer day. The air conditioning is roaring away. You get up and check the thermostat. When your suspicions are confirmed-someone has turned the thermostat way down-you know what to do. You adjust the dial to a more comfortable setting and go back to your reading.
Or suppose you’re heading out to run some errands and when you open the door, it’s raining. There’s no switch to turn to off, no dial to set to “dry.” You go back inside and grab a raincoat or an umbrella.
It’s easy to divide the world we experience into these two types of phenomena-things like the temperature in your house that are the result of human activity and human intention and things like the rain outside that are not the result of human activity or human intention.
But there is a third category of experience-phenomena that are the product of human action but not of human design.
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The views expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of the Nassau Institute (which has no corporate view), or its Advisers or Directors.