Two Articles to Refute

For senior scholars with a little spare time, or younger folks who like slaying fallacies, here are two articles to refute.

First, Fareed Zakaria, “The Savior of Europe.” (He’s referring to Mario Draghi, the new head of the ECB.) This is your classic something-for-nothing article: we can create stability, stave off crises, and restore economic health just with a little manipulation by the ECB.

Second, “14 Ways a 90 Percent Top Tax Rate Fixes Our Economy and Our Country,” over at HuffPo.

Comments

  1. Rothbard’s definition of “state” seems reasonable, given a sufficiently robust definition of “taxation”.

    Taxation is the acquisition of revenue through coercion, by force or threat of force. It is theft. To continue using Dr. Rothbard’s own words, he states in The Ethics of Liberty :

    [There] is one crucially important power inherent in the nature of the State apparatus. All other persons and groups in society (except for acknowledged and sporadic criminals such as thieves and bank robbers) obtain their income voluntarily: either by selling goods and services to the consuming public, or by voluntary gift (e.g. membership in a club or association, bequest, or inheritance). Only the State obtains its revenue by coercion, by threatening dire penalties should the income not be forthcoming…
    Like the robber, the State demands money at the equivalent of gunpoint; if the taxpayer refuses to pay, his assets are seized by force, and if he should resist such depredation, he will be arrested or shot if he should continue to resist…(162 – 163)

    Suppose, as head of state, I divide the lands of my kingdom into parcels. I assign each parcel to a lord and entitle each lord to collect rents for the use of the land. Each lord delivers a portion of rents collected to me to finance the forcible defense of these titles. That’s a state. It’s also what Locke calls “dishonest” under the heading “Of Property” in the Second Treatise Of Civil Government.

    If title enforcement agencies compete to enforce these titles, and only these titles, my kingdom is still a state. If these enforcement agencies collect only the fees that title holders will pay and deliver none of their rents to me, even if I collect rents only on lands that I reserve for myself, I still govern a state. Organizing the imposition of my titles this way does not make the state go away. The stipulation implying a state is “these titles and only these titles”.

    Taken at face value, your Kingdom of Brockitania example already presupposes that a State is in place, so I’m not entirely sure what it is you’re trying to illustrate. However, I’ll attempt to analyze the situation from two angles, and perhaps make my notion of the State’s role clearer in the process.

    Let’s first assume that King Martin of the House of Brock is, in fact, the legitimate owner of the property he calls his kingdom. In this case, there’s no need for the 2nd part of your example, as King Martin is simply renting out his rightful property in the manner of his choosing. There is no State here either, unless King Martin or his chosen Lords were to force people to remain within the kingdom and thereby force rent (read: taxes) out of them.

    People living in the kingdom could, should they find King Martin an unsatisfactory landlord, immediately end their association with him and move on. It is therefore in King Martin’s best interest to adjust his “rule” so as to best satisfy his tenants, as our king is also competing with neighboring kingdoms. Thus we slowly but surely come to what is essentially the business of renting property; that we’re using the terms “king” and “lords” is completely beside the point.

    There need be absolutely no coercion involved; so long as King Martin allows his serfs (customers) to freely end their association with his kingdom (business), there is no State involved. Should he foolishly run his business tyrannically, he’ll drive his customers away and the market will deal with his lands thereafter. Whatever may happen at that point, it stands that there hasn’t necessarily been an unjust use of force. No initiatory force, no State.

    Now let us suppose that King Martin is a king in the more traditional sense of the word. First and foremost the legitimacy of his ownership of a piece of land sizable enough to be considered a kingdom is immediately in question. History shows that it’s likely his lands were in large part conquered or acquired through some other coercive means. To take the utilitarian approach and assume that we can simply start looking at the situation from “right now” completely ignores the possibility that there were previous victims of crime, the existence of which may delegitimize King Martin and perhaps the entire House of Brock’s claim on the majority or entirety of the land. This would make the entire example a moot point, as our king is a tyrant who shouldn’t be dividing conquered territories up for anyone but perhaps those to whom he owes restitution.

    But what if the situation described by the 2nd half of your example manifests completely as written (despite what I find to be at least a few ambiguities). What role is the king fulfilling? What roles are the lords fulfilling? If it’s simply a landlord/tenant arrangement, then we’re back to my first analysis with perhaps different legitimate owners for different parcels of land. If it’s something more, then who is doing what? What separates King Martin from his subjects?

    If I grant titles based on Lockean propriety, entitling all of my subjects to govern their own persons and the fruits of their labor, including certain natural resources to which they add value, my state is classically liberal. Even if I keep for myself only the fruits of my labor, my kingdom is still a state. It is a state precisely because my classically liberal rules, and only these rules, prevail. Rents are still the taxes (a.k.a. duties) due the landlords. Proprietors receive these rents because law enforcers enforce only the classically liberal rules.

    I’m not sure why a society which adheres solely to classically liberal rules is a State by default. If by some incredible coincidence every member of the society voluntarily supports every aspect of that society, then what you’d have is a classically liberal anarchy of sorts. Of course, the minute Mr. Smith decides to open a court or provide police services and the classically liberal governing organization uses force to prevent him from doing so – or prevents others from using Smith Law/Security — then it has taken on the attributes of a State. It has initiated force against Smith and those who would freely associate with him. It becomes criminal.

    Paying rent isn’t the same as paying taxes. The former is a business transaction between a tenant and the owner of the rented property, the latter is an armed robbery. A State doesn’t own the property upon which it claims its monopoly of force, and therefore those living within those arbitrary bounds have no obligation to pay their “landlord”. If the State did legitimately own that property – and I don’t think this is actually possible – then the situation would revert to my first analysis.

    We know how decentralized law enforcers behave. They behave like gazelles, cheetahs and hyenas, as God intended.
    I prefer property to the natural order. I don’t pretend that imposing property imposes God’s will or some other nominally “natural” order. God needs no help imposing His will. Neither does Mother Nature, if you make this distinction.

    Decentralized law enforcers don’t behave like gazelles, cheetahs and hyenas. Decentralized law enforcers behave like human beings, which is to say rationally in general. I would once again direct you to For A New Liberty as the chapter on Police, Law and the Courts gives a pretty thorough treatment of this issue.

    I too prefer property to the natural order you’ve been describing through your posts, but the property I desire exists only through homesteading, voluntary transactions or gifts. I don’t want a State, pretending it owns all the property in its arbitrary territorial monopoly, “loaning” to me what is rightfully mine. I don’t want that very same State to run the courts and produce the laws which ought, under proper circumstances, to provide my recourse. It’s because I prefer property that I abhor the State and its unjust use of force.

    If by “imposing property” you mean setting up systems through which property can be protected then I agree that these should be done; in fact, they’ve often come about naturally throughout history. Where you and I seem to differ is generally in the ‘how’, and considering what’s already been accomplished by competing courts – not to mention the ethical implications of the alternative – I have yet to see why a central authority must preside over this crucial aspect of society.

  2. “Your son objects to your use of the land and approaches a court with your recorded will.”

    Correction: Your son objects to the homesteader’s use of the land.

    Also, my sister worked very hard for a very long time to earn her farm, and I would never suggest that she should not govern it freely during her lifetime, but perpetuity is a much longer time.

  3. sweatervest, You aren’t doing the opposite of creating a monopoly of final jurisdiction. You assume that competing courts/police enforce specific rules, not just any rules. Any system enforcing these specific rules, even if law enforcement agencies compete to enforce the rules, is your state. That’s my claim anyway.

    Let’s be specific. Suppose we have competing courts/police. You own a parcel of land, and before your death, you express your wish that the parcel of land remain in its natural state, as a nature preserve, in perpetuity. After your death, a man claims this parcel of land as his homestead. He begins cutting trees and tilling soil and such.

    Your son objects to your use of the land and approaches a court with your recorded will. Your son naturally chooses a court that enforces wills like yours.

    The homesteader prefers a different court that does not enforce wills like yours.

    Which court hears the case?

    If both courts hear the case, does an appellate court resolve a conflict? If so, who chooses this appellate court?

    I’m not wondering if anarchy “works”. I’m denying that “anarcho-capitalists” are anarchists. They are minarchists. I’m also a minarchist, so we aren’t far apart, but an-caps essentially deny the state that they advocate, and this denial is perilous. The last thing a minarchist should deny is the minimal coercion that he advocates. A minarchist must frankly confront this coercion and continually question it.

    If any government is an “anarchy internally”, you’re talking in circles. If any government is an anarchy, then the whole idea is meaningless.

    But anarchy does work. Nature is an anarchy, but the natural order does not include what people commonly call “property”. It does not protect a creature’s right to the fruits of his labor, for example.

    If a cheetah kills a gazelle, he had better eat it quickly or hide it; otherwise, hyenas will take it from him. If hyenas do take it, he has no recourse to any court.

    The hyenas are not thieves, any more than the cheetah is a murderer. Natural possession is not evil in my way of thinking, and it’s not a war of all against all, but it is not property.

    By the way, my sister is a veterinarian in a rural community, and she owns a small “farm”. It’s more like her private playground, where she keeps horses for recreation, but she calls it a “farm”. It was a working farm, or part of a farm, in the past.

    My sister has no children and wants her land to be a nature preserve after her death, just as I describe above. I’ve had this debate with her, so it’s not merely hypothetical. I’m not saying that the homesteader is right or wrong. I’m only saying that people disagree about these things.

    • Mr. Brock, I hope this post doesn’t appear as my sidestepping the one addressed to me previously. I’ve read through it and think it deserves a well thought out response that, at the moment, would take more time than I have available. However, after quickly reading through your reply to sweatervest as well, I’d like to briefly address at least one trivial semantic issue which seems to be unnecessarily causing some problems: the definition of a State.

      LewRockwell.com has in its archives the transcription of a talk Dr. Rothbard gave entitled Society Without a State in which he defines the State as:

      that institution which possesses one or both (almost always both) of the following properties: (1) it acquires its income by the physical coercion known as “taxation”; and (2) it asserts and usually obtains a coerced monopoly of the provision of defense service (police and courts) over a given territorial area. An institution not possessing either of these properties is not and cannot be, in accordance with my definition, a state.

      It’s also worth noting that he precedes this definition by anticipating your position:

      In attempting to outline how a “society without a state” – that is, an anarchist society – might function successfully, I would first like to defuse two common but mistaken criticisms of this approach. First, is the argument that in providing for such defense or protection services as courts, police, or even law itself, I am simply smuggling the state back into society in another form, and that therefore the system I am both analyzing and advocating is not “really” anarchism.

      The implications of Rothbard’s definition on your argument ought to be given a more thorough examination than I’m capable of doing at the moment, but I’d at least like to present this now as my working definition of the State so as to streamline later discussion.

      • @ConsentWithdrawn March 20, 2012

        that institution which possesses one or both (almost always both) of the following properties: (1) it acquires its income by the physical coercion known as “taxation”; and (2) it asserts and usually obtains a coerced monopoly of the provision of defense service (police and courts) over a given territorial area. An institution not possessing either of these properties is not and cannot be, in accordance with my definition, a state.

        Even if we all accept Rothbard’s definition of the State, this does not change the discussion much. I don’t think anyone denies that state functions of any kind depend upon these two attributes.

        You concede as much for at least coercion in the example you give in the prior post referring to the ancient Celtic Irish:

        Generally, disputes were settled through freely administered law (see Brehon Law) and those who chose not to play by the rules were ostracized.

        Do you not agree that ostracism is a form of coercion? Does it not follow that your own example of an ancient success story for anarchism (what happened, by the way?) employs the same coercion as that to which you object in the hands of the state? At least in this one of the two criteria, your precious Celtic Irish anarchists qualify as state actors.

        As to taxation, I do not know enough about Celtic Irish history to give a credible example, but I would be surprised if nothing of the kind ever existed, at least in concept. Again, it depends much on how you define “tax”, doesn’t it?

        We are left, nonetheless, with the question of whether the establishment of coercion and monopoly of certain forms of defense are desirable, and/or superior to the anarchist position which claims such social institutions are unnecessary and undesirable. People, reasonable or not, as Brok has already said, do disagree over these questions.

        Unlike anarchists, however, I think people like Mr. Brok and myself at least, have learned much more about anarchism, than anarchists appear to know about the prevailing wisdom of constitutional law, common law, and the economics of law, as we know and experience it. I have repeatedly found that it is nearly impossible to refer to any attribute of these things without encountering denial of their legitimacy, if not complete ignorance of their details, even as a framework subject to debate.

        It is my view that one is better served by a deep understanding of that which he opposes, than to merely steep himself in the rhetoric of opposition.

        Here is how, in the same lecture, Rothbard describes anarchism:

        “On the other hand, I define anarchist society as one where there is no legal possibility for coercive aggression against the person or property of an individual. Anarchists oppose the state because it has its very being in such aggression, namely, the expropriation of private property through taxation, the coercive exclusion of other providers of defense service from its territory, and all of the other depredations and coercions that are built upon these twin foci of invasions of individual rights.

        Please define “legal possibility”; “coercive aggression”; and “invasions of individual rights” and you will see what I mean. You must, I understand from countless other dialogues on this subject here, refer only to your own anarchist framework to define these terms. Therefore you assume your conclusion as a precondition for discussion.

        If I refer to the foundations of property, tort and contract law in terms of the common law meanings, and bridge those meanings to the concepts of self-government, which in fact possess the attributes which Rothbard defines, I see these as a positive development, not a terrible mistake that is the downfall of liberty and freedom. In that regard, I rather prefer the view of Mises, who described government of one of the greatest of human inventions.

        Yet Rothbard uses these terms to distinguish between his view of anarchism and his view of the State by allowing these terms to only be used within his own frame of reference, in which coercion and monopoly of force are presumed to be antithetical to the concept of liberty. I quite disagree.

        Those of us attempting to converse with you (meaning the Rothbardian anarchists who sadly make up the intellectual core at mises.com) from the “outside” cannot effectively do so, because you only allow your own frame of reference to apply meaning to common terms. This is why there has never been a constructive outcome, in my experience, from engaging in such a discussion here. Perhaps Mr. Brok has a new approach. I’m listening.

      • ConsentWithdrawn, You can reply to the earlier post when you have time, but in the post addressed to sweathervest, how is the dispute between the homesteader and the will of the deceased landholder resolved?

        Rothbard’s definition of “state” seems reasonable, given a sufficiently robust definition of “taxation”.

        Suppose, as head of state, I divide the lands of my kingdom into parcels. I assign each parcel to a lord and entitle each lord to collect rents for the use of the land. Each lord delivers a portion of rents collected to me to finance the forcible defense of these titles. That’s a state. It’s also what Locke calls “dishonest” under the heading “Of Property” in the Second Treatise Of Civil Government.

        If title enforcement agencies compete to enforce these titles, and only these titles, my kingdom is still a state. If these enforcement agencies collect only the fees that title holders will pay and deliver none of their rents to me, even if I collect rents only on lands that I reserve for myself, I still govern a state. Organizing the imposition of my titles this way does not make the state go away. The stipulation implying a state is “these titles and only these titles”.

        If I grant titles based on Lockean propriety, entitling all of my subjects to govern their own persons and the fruits of their labor, including certain natural resources to which they add value, my state is classically liberal. Even if I keep for myself only the fruits of my labor, my kingdom is still a state. It is a state precisely because my classically liberal rules, and only these rules, prevail. Rents are still the taxes (a.k.a. duties) due the landlords. Proprietors receive these rents because law enforcers enforce only the classically liberal rules.

        Rothbard doesn’t smuggle in the state by assuming decentralized law enforcement. He smuggles it in by presuming that decentralized enforcement agencies necessarily enforce these specific rules.

        We know how decentralized law enforcers behave. They behave like gazelles, cheetahs and hyenas, as God intended.

        I prefer property to the natural order. I don’t pretend that imposing property imposes God’s will or some other nominally “natural” order. God needs no help imposing His will. Neither does Mother Nature, if you make this distinction.

  4. Mr. Johnson speaks of private wealth as if it’s always and unearned and undeserved. To further his view he uses the example of hedge fund managers that took home billion dollar earnings while leaving behind a trail of economic destruction. This provides him with the moral justification to extract 90% of the earnings from all businesses and high income earners….and only those that are able to thrive in such conditions will truly deserve and earn their wealth….he’s quite certain that only the honest and virtuous will survive because the ruthless and the wicked are taken aback when they file their annual returns and realize they are paying a 90% tax on their plunder.

    Perhaps, in the spirit of M. Johnson’s ideas society should change all rewards and achievements to this standard…maybe for anything to be truly deserved and/or earned we should first:

    - chop 90% of the legs off of a marathon runner before a race
    - labotomize 90% of a students’ brain before an exam
    - drain 90% of the fuel from the space shuttle before it launches
    - confiscate 90% of the assets of a company that intends to compete in the market place.

    Surely, we could all agree that if the maraton runners, the students, the astronauts and the business owners were able to succeed under such circumstances nobody would have the right to say their achievments were unearned and undeserved.

  5. Leaving aside the myriad of issues with a consumption tax, do you really think filthy politicians would create a tax code that strips their own power?

    • No. I also don’t think filthy politicians would create a property code that strips their own power.

      How can political power be limited? The question is salient, but you may not avoid the question yourself. The classically liberal, minarchist solution involves checks and balances. This solution is flawed, but nominal “anarchists” have not convinced me that they actually have another solution.

          • Technically, the politicians codifying and enforcing property rights are decent human beings working in our collective benefit.

            I don’t expect any of these people to be decent human beings working for anyone else’s benefit, megatherion. That’s why I want checks and balances.

      • Without a central authority deciding the bounds of forcible propriety, how do I distinguish “my wealth”, in the theoretical statement above, from conflicting claims? Where does “my wealth” and “your wealth” begin? “Liberty” must not be so simple that it permits someone to enforce practically any line he draws.

        My “wealth” (read: property) begins and ends with my homesteading, acquisitions through mutually beneficial transactions and received gifts, as does your own. Your question essentially implies that without a central authority there can be no property at all, as in your scenario any conflicting claim must either be dealt with by some overarching central force or devolve into Hobbesian war of all against all. This is simply untrue, as many known societies, perhaps most notably the ancient Celtic Irish (They seem to be the most commonly used example), will attest to. Generally, disputes were settled through freely administered law (see Brehon Law) and those who chose not to play by the rules were ostracized. For a more in-depth look at this you may want to read For A New Liberty, (specifically the section on Police, Law, and the Courts) which is available in its entirety on Mises.org. The short version is that a State is not only unnecessary for the provision of law and security (including the settlement of property disputes, of course), but like any monopoly owner supplying goods, will do a particularly bad job at a particularly high cost to you and I.

        It’s dangerous to conflate simplicity with inadequacy; libertarianism is complete in its simplicity. I say this not to dismiss the difficulties in practically applying the Non-Aggression Principle to various situations, but to emphasize that the core of the theory itself — the right that one has to do what he or she will with his or her own property, except initiate force — is short, sweet and the only political ethic conducive to maximum happiness.

        It’s towards a society which holds to this theory that we ‘nominal anarchists’ are working; our answer is to recognize the State for the criminal organization that it is, withdraw our consent, and then help others to do the same. This is how you limit/eliminate political power, which rests squarely on the mass consent of the State’s subjects. What we’re fighting is chiefly a war of ideas, and while progress can be hard to discern at times, organizations such as the Ludwig von Mises Institute stand as powerful reminders of the headway that is being made.

        You’ve admitted that attempting to implement a system of checks and balances is inherently flawed, so why not try the coercion-free approach? Instead of looking to streamline taxation for the State, why not try supporting small but sure steps towards progressively cutting it back into oblivion?

      • You want checks and balances? It’s called a market. The various private police/court producers are checked and balanced by the fact that no one considers it legitimate for any one of them to coerce money out of everyone. If they do so they do so illegitimately and at the expense of their voluntary customers. They check and balance each other through competition for business.

        It makes no sense to speak of “checks and balances” when you are literally doing the opposite in creating a territorial monopoly of final jurisdiction. That is quite literally a consolidation of power and removal of any checks to that power. What possible check could there be on the final arbiter of all conflicts, including those involving itself?

        Also, if you are wondering whether or not anarchy “works”, you already answered in the affirmative by advocating any type of government, for what would that government internally be but a functioning anarchy? There is no government presiding over the government (and if there is what government presides over the government that presides over governments, etc.?), so by expecting a territorial monopoly to successfully manage a society you are admitting that anarchism exists and is functional.

        “Anarchism” means voluntary interactions, the way we all deal with people on an everyday basis all the time.

  6. I favor a progressive consumption tax with higher marginal rates, even approaching 100%, but this tax has few of the effects that Dave Johnson expects.

    A progressive consumption tax is essentially a progressive income tax, but every individual has a tax deferred investment account with unlimited contributions.

    Because the tax applies only to consumption, it speeds the accumulation of wealth through reinvestment rather than slowing it.

    I’m not sure what it does to the “executive crime” rate, but executives receiving windfalls by gaming corporate rules may only reinvest their gains or pay the very high tax rate. Since corporate executives reinvest corporate income anyway, the effects on economic organization don’t seem perilous, and executives capturing corporate income this way would reinvest more freely.

    A progressive consumption tax with high marginal rates decreases state revenue rather than increasing it, since people may avoid the tax by limiting marginal consumption. It doesn’t raise more state revenue for any purpose, but it does empower millions of independent investors to organize more resources, including schools independent of state finance.

    I prefer to limit interest costs associated with state borrowing by ending state borrowing after defaulting on state debts.

    A progressive consumption tax would boost economic growth, strengthen the middle class, organize resources more productively and protect working people, but I doubt that Johnson’s reform would.

    The reform would also reduce concentration of wealth, since it slashes state revenue, and the state itself concentrates wealth most of all.

    By defining political activity as “consumption”, the reform reduces the political influence of the wealthy by taxing it heavily.

    And it rewards hard work and motherhood and stuff too.

    • An even more effective course of action than this is to have absolutely no taxation at all; it has the benefit of both freeing up all of my wealth for mutually beneficial transactions of my choosing, while also bringing institutionalized crime to an end.

      Perhaps I should throw some financial jargon into this post so as to make it seem more erudite…oh, the drawbacks of liberty’s simplicity…

      • Without a central authority deciding the bounds of forcible propriety, how do I distinguish “my wealth”, in the theoretical statement above, from conflicting claims? Where does “my wealth” and “your wealth” begin? “Liberty” must not be so simple that it permits someone to enforce practically any line he draws.

        A progressive consumption tax (advocated by Adam Smith among others) is not a revenue raising measure for the state. It is part of a system of checks and balances limiting the powers of a minarchy.

        Subject to a progressive consumption tax, capitalists may govern means of production forcibly, but they may not organize their capital to channel the produce of countless laborers, laboring synergistically with the forcibly held capital, toward the exclusive consumption of the capitalists.

        In other words, the “private property” of classical liberalism is not simply another name for the titles of feudal lords. Of course, the lords (classical conservatives) always argued otherwise, and their arguments still resonate today.

        • A capitalist may consume the yield of the capital that he governs (capital that others use only with his consent by writ of forcible propriety), or he may reinvest the yield. A progressive consumption tax taxes only the former.

          Suppose Bill Gates receives a billion dollars in a year through his ownership of Microsoft shares and other assets, but he spends only a hundred thousand on his personal consumption, reinvesting the rest of the billion in Microsoft or however he likes. He pays the tax only on the hundred thousand. He pays no tax on the rest of the billion. Compared with the current system, his tax burden is practically eliminated altogether.

          If another man receives $120,000 for his labors and reinvests $20,000, he pays the same tax. Since I am much more like this other man, I certainly don’t want consumption taxed heavily. The point is not to limit consumption, only to encourage the lords of forcible propriety to reinvest the yield of capital they govern, to produce more and better goods satisfying free consumers, rather than consuming the yield.

      • No taxation means no state, a position which you presuppose as favorable.

        If you were completely untaxed in any form, you would be wondering what to choose, and how to secure an investment in it. This requires some form of organized cooperation; i.e. society.

        If this society values the acquisition, protection and conveyance of property, you need property law, torts law and contracts law, and a means of enforcing those laws. You merely presume that in such a world as you advocate, society would function much like it does today (at least the parts you like) if taxation, and the implications of it, simply vanished.

        The question is how? You seem to favor a concept of natural order, while I favor a state of human order, including the right to order our own social institutions. Government, like property itself, is a human device.

        Enforcement entails coercion. I commented on this before. It is not inherently negative, as an examination of self-defense clearly reveals. You hold that coercion is possible without government. I think this is true; in such a world, might makes right, and the fittest, most adequately resourced survive at the expense of those less so.

        The question is, given that men are not angels, (but if they were, I agree government, indeed property would not be necessary) is there a positive alternative to your view that only man in a natural state, what you call anarchism, can be free?

        If you believe in things like natural selection, the accumulation of knowledge, and the like, one has to wonder why, given the head start the Celtic Irish had on the rest of the world, we live in a world that is mostly organized around a concept of government, and not merely tribal groups to whom ostracism is sufficient coercion for all imaginable purposes of social organization?

        If ideas are free, and they compete in a free market of ideas, why do some ideas simply fail to catch on, even if they have already found expression, as you point out, so long ago?

      • Wildberry, I don’t know who you’re addresssing. You don’t seem to be addresssing me. I don’t suppose a stateless order favorable. Freedom from any state is not classical liberty, and I’m not convinced of its utility.

        Yes, coercion is possible without a state, and coercion exists in anarchic nature, but I don’t favor any coercive order as long as it is stateless. I favor classically liberal property rights (always subject to skeptical examination and reform on utilitarian grounds) and the resulting, emergent order specifically.

        Angels are imaginary beings behaving ideally. Men behaving ideally, following some ideal prescription, are men subject to a state.

        Men behaving naturally are like the cheetah preying on the gazelle and the hyenas preying on the cheetah’s kill.

        Natural behavior is not devilish in my way of thinking. It is improper. Lions and hyenas do not respect the bounds of propriety that a minimal, liberal state imposes upon men. These impositions are always debatable. Maybe I shouldn’t favor them. Maybe I’m the devilish one. I can be persuaded on utilitarian grounds.

        I don’t suppose that ostracism is sufficient for all imaginable purposes of social organization, but I do suppose that ostracism is sufficient to police a system of money and credit for example.

        Some ideas don’t catch on because they are counterproductive. Other ideas don’t catch on because they are against the interests of the most powerful coercive forces.

      • @Martin Brock March 21, 2012

        Wildberry, I don’t know who you’re addresssing. You don’t seem to be addresssing me. I don’t suppose a stateless order favorable. Freedom from any state is not classical liberty, and I’m not convinced of its utility.

        Apologies, I was addressing ConsentWithdrawn. (These nested posts kinda suck)

        I believe I understand and support your position.

        I find nothing in your post below to disagree with, and acknowledge also that it is the prevailing view, though not perhaps the controlling view in all cases, at least to the extent I would prefer.

        I have debated with the ancaps here at mises.org ad nauseam, and was really making the point you refer to here:

        Some ideas don’t catch on because they are counterproductive. Other ideas don’t catch on because they are against the interests of the most powerful coercive forces.

        The sentiment here as to why Ancap has not caught on seems to be focused on the second factor, while I tend to focus on the first.

        When the ancap framework is tested against problems and issues that are already mostly satisfactory elements of the common law system, they fail. The default position seems to be either 1) the market will sort it out, or 2) the state itself is the “powerful coercive forces” you refer to, and liberty cannot be achieved until the state is vanquished entirely.

        I strongly disagree, but cannot really engage is a meaningful dialogue, thus far, because the conversation is usually quickly shifted to the apriori existence of the State as the answer to all objections. In fact Ancap is self-contradictory, and does not acknowledge the slightest of accomplishments of the common law or the constitutional framework, but simply oppose the concept of State in principle.

        To summarize this position in the context of IP, Kinsella often repeated, “We have IP because we have the State”. That theme runs throughout, regardless of context. They have the rhetoric of Ancap down cold, and it resonates with much of the clientele here, but it degenerates into a mess of contradictions and omissions if you scratch the surface beyond the most superficial and straightforward applications.

        Therefore I find it no surprise that you have not been persuaded of its utility. There is little to offer in that regard.

  7. I was really looking forward to getting in on the latter article’s comments, but they closed it. Given its stupidity, I imagine the post is being bombarded.

    It’s funny that just a few years ago, I would’ve looked at that post and formulated a response based on what I thought was a “fair” and “efficient” number much lower than 90%.

    After daily readings from many of (the new) Circle Bastiat’s contributors, a few Mises Institute classes, and a steady dose of Rothbard, it would never even cross my mind to argue for any result that involves a state doing anything.

    • I don’t want a state doing much, if anything, but I don’t quite believe that the property I do want is possible without a state. I know that much, if not most, of what’s called “property” these days (including Treasury securities and patent monopolies), much of which I do not want, requires a state.

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