Having examined the conjectural history of the emergence of common moral beliefs we are now able to move on to Hayek’s application of the spontaneous order approach to other social institutions. One of the most significant of these is the concept of private or, Hayek’s preferred term, ‘several’ (Hayek 1960: 450) property. Several property has the function of preventing coercion and disagreement within groups (Hayek 1960: 140). By creating an individual protected sphere, defined by general rules of possession, groups prevent conflict between members over resources. Moreover, Hayek argues, such several property allows a decentralization of effort which encourages the development and utilization of local knowledge (Hayek 1988: 86). Lest we consider this the result of a process of absolutely selfish acquisition, as the development of private property is often described, Hayek stresses that though this may in part be an accurate description of the motivations of the actors, the function fulfilled is quite different. The function of several property is to secure peace within groups and to encourage the exploitation of dispersed knowledge. General rules such as those governing property provide peace and a degree of stability of expectations (LLL vol. 2: 109). Expectations are stabilized if people are provided with a clearly delineated ‘known’ sphere of action, thus reducing conflict and allowing peaceful exploitation of resources. General rules or conventions regarding property and contract are adopted because they fulfil these functions. Even though the persistence of such conventions does not require the conscious realization of this by those who submit to them. Several property is a product, in Hayek’s view, of the process of cultural selection that we examined in the previous chapter. Its peace maintaining and economic efficiency promoting functions mean that groups which adopt it survive and flourish more efficiently than those which do not.