Like most seemingly simple questions, the one that provides the title for this paper does not have a simple answer. Asking the question, however,allows us to explore the issues surrounding both the concept of spontaneous order and the social institution of the family in ways that advance our understanding of both. What this paper argues is that the answer is twofold:“It depends” and “Maybe.” The “it depends” part refers to whether we are talking about the institution of the family as it has existed through time (what we might call the “macro” view of the family), or we are talking about the operation of individual families (or the “micro” view). This paper argues that if we are looking at the institution of the family through time, it is undoubtedly a spontaneous order, as its evolution has followed an unplanned but orderly process. However, if we are looking at how individual families operate, the answer is “maybe.” The “maybe” is not so much a matter of ambiguity as it is the observation that individual families may be undergoing a change in which an increasing number are taking on more of the characteristics of spontaneous orders. This would be in clear contrast to the ways families have operated for most of human history, which is much more like what Hayek would call an “organization” or “made order.” This paper explores this transformation in more detail and offer an explanation of the changes in the “micro” family that is rooted in the longer-term historical evolution of the “macro” family.
Find article at Studies in Emergent Order.