Can language be centrally planned and controlled? Friedrich Hayek considered language the archetypal example of spontaneous order, yet many countries adopt a planned-order approach to language, attempting to centrally plan and control it through language academies. I collect original data on the regulation of language across countries and show that countries that adopt a planned-order approach to language also do so in their law and similarly rely on a planned-order approach in their economy. Countries that adopt a spontaneous-order approach to language also do so in their law and similarly rely on a spontaneous-order approach in their economy. This is consistent with the idea that these approaches are driven by an underlying cultural attitude toward the two types of order. I have often wished, that as in our Constitution there are several Persons whose Business it is to watch over our Laws, our Liberties and Commerce, certain Men might be set apart as Superintendents of our Language, to Hinder any Words of a Foreign Coin from passing among us; and in particular to prohibit any French phrases from becoming Current in this Kingdom, when those of our own Stamp are altogether as valuable. (Addison 1711, p. 1).
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I am grateful to Dennis Carlton and to an anonymous referee for their very helpful comments, which significantly improved the paper. I am also grateful to Alberto Alesina, Adam Chilton, Richard Epstein, Eitan Grossman, Yotam Kaplan, Paul Mahoney, David Schorr, and Bernard Spolsky; to seminar participants at George Mason University, Hebrew University, the Panthéon-Assas University (Paris II) Law and Economics Workshop in Florence, and Tel-Aviv University for helpful comments; and to Hebrew University’s Center for Empirical Legal Studies for financial support. Jacob Becker, Elad Eisen, and Noa Zeira provided excellent research assistance.
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