Review: D.C.'s Planet Word Museum Celebrates Language

Libertarians should recognize language as a quintessential example of spontaneous order.


Language is the quintessential example of what Nobel laureate F.A. Hayek called a "spontaneous order": institutions that emerge through the uncoordinated, unplanned actions of many human beings. No one invented English; it bubbled up from below, the result of an infinite number of disparate decisions by people seeking to communicate in the pursuit of their own goals.

Washington, D.C., now has a museum dedicated to just this idea. Planet Word opened in late 2020 with a mission to "inspire and renew a love of words, language, and reading." Its three floors of interactive exhibits are informative and surprisingly functional, given the voice-activation technology on which most of them rely. They explore the origins of words, connections among foreign tongues, banned books, pun-based humor, the way music makes use of alliteration and rhyme, and more.