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Can you give me a quick summary of Hayek's "use of knowledge in society" essay?

In his essay "The Use of Knowledge in Society," economist Friedrich Hayek argues that the fundamental problem of economic planning is not about resource allocation, but rather about the effective utilization of knowledge.

Hayek believes that knowledge is decentralized – it is dispersed among many individuals and organizations throughout society. No single individual or central planning body can possess all of this knowledge, which includes detailed information about individual preferences, local conditions, and technical procedures.

In a free-market economy, prices act as a mechanism for communicating this dispersed knowledge. Changes in market prices reflect changes in supply and demand, giving entrepreneurs the information they need to reallocate resources efficiently. A high price signals that a good is in high demand or short supply, encouraging producers to produce more of it. Similarly, a low price signals that a good is in low demand or oversupply, leading producers to produce less of it.

In contrast, a centrally planned economy lacks this kind of price mechanism. Without the ability to process and apply the totality of society's dispersed knowledge, central planners can't efficiently allocate resources. Hence, Hayek argues that the free-market price system is a more efficient way to coordinate economic activities than central planning.

Hayek's argument is essentially a defence of the free-market system and an explanation of its superiority in terms of information processing and utilization. This essay is considered one of the foundational works in the field of information economics.

Does anyone write about the related aspect to this of specialisation also being about the distribution of knowledge from the edges?

Yes, the concept of specialization is indeed closely related to the distribution of knowledge in society, and many economists and sociologists have written on this topic.

The division of labour and specialization allows societies to function more efficiently because individuals and businesses can focus on what they do best. This principle was notably discussed by Adam Smith in "The Wealth of Nations," where he explained how the division of labour in a pin factory could greatly increase output.

With regard to the distribution of knowledge, the concept of specialization implies that different individuals and groups within society will develop different kinds of expertise. This is closely aligned with Hayek's emphasis on the dispersed nature of knowledge within society.

In contemporary times, economists and other social scientists continue to discuss these issues. For example, the field of knowledge management examines how organizations can best utilize the distributed knowledge of their members. In the field of economics, the concept of "information asymmetry" describes situations where one party to a transaction has more or better information than the other, which can lead to market failures.

There's also been substantial work in sociology and anthropology on the concept of "tacit knowledge" – knowledge that is difficult to transfer because it is rooted in individual experience or local context. This concept underscores the distributed nature of knowledge and the challenges associated with centralising or aggregating it.

So, in short, while Hayek's "The Use of Knowledge in Society" makes a strong case for the importance of distributed knowledge in economic planning, it is part of a much larger discourse on the role of distributed knowledge and specialisation in society.