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Saturday, January 31, 2004

YAY, PENGUINS!!!


Check it out! Someday I'll learn how to imbed things properly!

Sunday, January 25, 2004

PEACE AND THE STATE


I'll probably regret using that title, since I'll probably want to use it in another post some other time. Ah, well!

The last post made me think a gain of Rodderick Long's excellent An Open Letter to the Peace Movement. It was the stuff about socialists being no different from terrorists and politicians or generals at times of war that did it.

I am going to reproduce Long's enjoyable and short letter myself, but I'd rather readers simply went over to his blog, 'cause his version is cooler, with neat graphics and stuff.

An Open Letter to the Peace Movement

Dear Peace Activists:

All honour to you. In your opposition to the United States’ impending war on Iraq, you represent a welcome voice for sanity and civilisation, lifted up against the incessant baying of the dogs of war.

But I want to urge you to follow the logic of your position just a bit further.

Much has been said, and eloquently so, about the need, in dealings between nation and nation, to choose persuasion over violence whenever possible. Hear, hear!


But why this qualification: between nation and nation?

If persuasion is preferable to violence between nations, must it not also be preferable to violence within nations?

Suppose my neighbour runs a business out of his home, and I’d rather he didn’t. If I call the zoning board and ask them to shut his business down by force, am I acting like a peace activist? Or am I acting like George Bush?

Suppose I go to the polls and vote to maintain or increase income taxation, or gun control, or mandatory licensing, or compulsory education. Am I not calling upon the state to invade people’s lives and properties? To impose my will, by legalised force, on those who have done me no harm? To choose violence over persuasion? Am I acting like a peace activist, or am I acting like George Bush?

As Ludwig von Mises writes:

It is important to remember that government interference always means either violent action or the threat of such action. The funds that a government spends for whatever purposes are levied by taxation. And taxes are paid because the taxpayers are afraid of offering resistance to the tax gatherers. They know that any disobedience or resistance is hopeless. As long as this is the state of affairs, the government is able to collect the money that it wants to spend. Government is in the last resort the employment of armed men, of policemen, gendarmes, soldiers, prison guards, and hangmen. The essential feature of government is the enforcement of its decrees by beating, killing, and imprisoning. Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom.


To the extent that government initiates force against its people – and every government qua government must do so, since a government that maintained neither coercive taxation nor a coercive territorial monopoly of authority would no longer be a government, but something a good deal more wholesome – every government is waging a war of aggression against its own people. A consistent peace activist must be an anarchist.

It may be objected that in democratic countries, the government represents the will of the citizens; since the citizens are understood to consent to the government’s actions, those actions cannot count as “aggression” against the citizenry. Volenti non fit injuria.

The notion that voting counts in any meaningful sense as “consent” was subjected to devastating criticisms in the 19th century by the English classical liberal Herbert Spencer, in his essay The Right to Ignore the State, as well as by the American abolitionist Lysander Spooner, in his pamphlet No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority. Both works are available online; those tempted to regard majority rule as a form of self-government are invited to consult them.

As peace activists, we understand that aggressive warfare between nations is neither moral nor practical. If violence is to be employed, it must be defensive in nature, and it must be the last resort, not the first. Why would this principle hold good at the international level, but fail at the intranational?

Fellow peace activists: I invite you to join me in the work of the Molinari Institute. The state is the cause and sustainer of war, because the state by its nature is warfare incarnate. Its imperialist aggression beyond its borders is simply an extension of its inherent modus operandi within its borders. There is a peaceful, consensual alternative: Market Anarchism. The object of the Molinari Institute is to see that alternative implemented.

If you love peace, work for anarchy.

Yours in liberty,

Roderick T. Long, President
Molinari Institute
EDUCATION (HEALTH CARE, FOOD, ADEQUATE HOUSING... ADD GOOD OR SERVICE AS YOU FEEL APPROPRIATE) IS A PRIVILEGE, NOT A RIGHT


I came across a good article by Vin Suprynowicz, called A Right to Someone Else's Labor.

Apparently some nut told Vin that free food might be a good idea (Vin must have used the example of free food as ridiculous to explain why "free" health care is ridiculous). Vin's response was,

Well, the lady is free to buy and give away all the food she likes, of course. She doesn't have to wait for anyone to approve her "program." But in fact there is no "free food," and never can be. I doubt the lady really believes all this "free food" will come off the Magic Beanstalks.

Rather, what I suspect she means is that men with guns and sweat stains under the armpits of their uniforms should continue to rassle away something approaching half your earnings and mine under threat of bankruptcy and prison, the better to act on her "philanthropic" instincts.


Be sure, Vin isn't bashing philanthropic sentiments. In response to the suggestion that nobody would think it right to leave a lady in labour to give birth on the streets, simply because she hadn't got the means to pay her obstetrician, Vin says,

Of course helping a woman in labor is admirable -- assuming one knows how. But we esteem and admire the fellow who does this for only one reason -- because he remains perfectly free to not do so. It can't be in any way "admirable" to do something you're forced to do at gunpoint. Nor is it an admirable act of "charity" to hold a gun to the doctor's head and force him to "donate" his services, without paying him his fee. (And make no mistake, that's what all this "I have a right to your services" stuff is about -- paying less than the fee at which the doctor would gladly sell you his services without coercion.)


Libertarians are constantly being harangued about whether or not they think that it is a good idea that people be able to get things, like, for example medical care. They say taxing for medical care is wrong because it is theft, opponents of libertarianism say, "well shouldn't people be able to get medical care?" How is that a valid response? It isn't. Does the fact that people should be able to get it suddenly make it cease to be theft, or make theft suddenly right? people who say that taxation is right because providing medical care is a benefit are no different from terrorists who say that it is just to kill innocent people in order to achieve the revolution, or politicians and generals who speak of innocent civilians in bombing raids as being "collatoral damage," affordable losses if the objective is to be secured. All these people think the end justifies the means. The libertarian, on the other hand, is concerned about the means to that end. Sure, getting health care is good. But you should only use the right means to get it.

It is this argument Vin highlights most clearly when he turns socialist supposed care for workers back against the socialists:

What does it mean, precisely, to have a "right" to someone else's services? How does this differ from slavery, barred by the 13th Amendment in 1866?

If I have a "right" to the services of a doctor whose rates I don't want to pay, how is that "right" to be enforced, in the end, but by a uniformed government thug holding a gun to his head and requiring him to come and deliver my wife's child, thereupon assuring him, "In 90 days or so you'll receive a check for whatever the government decides this service was worth, and you should count yourself lucky to get it, comrade."


This right to health care, or to an education, or to decent housing, or whatever, then, is a legitimisation of slavery. Socialists are supposed to be against slavery.

Couple this with another argument. Socialists generally think that working people should be paid more. Well, if I, as a working person am to be paid more, then I am at least entitled to what I get paid, right? But what happens if somebody claims that they have a "right" to health care, and can't get it unless I give my pay or a portion of it to somebody to pay for providing this fellow with health care? how am I to be entitled to what I get paid (and the more I should be being paid, according to socialists), if some guy is able to take it off me and spend it on health care, whether I want him to or not? The two ideas a plainly at odds with each other. The idea that people have rights to get some sort of good is contradictory with the idea that people have any entitlement to the wealth that they hold. (This goes even further when we realise that the good people claim they have a right to might be needed by somebody else. Suppose that you recieve a council house on the grounds of you pretended claim to a "right to decent housing." Well what right would you have, then, to prevent every homeless fellow in the street from marching into your house? None! You wouldn't even be entitled to what you had a right to!)

It is in this kind of argument that the libertarian defense of capitalism, as opposed to the utilitarian, comes out clearest. It is simply that laissez faire is the only morally acceptable position:

For what does it mean to impose some system other than "the free market"? The "free market" describes a circumstance in which willing buyers and sellers are free to exchange their goods and services at mutually agreed upon prices -- or not to sell if they don't like what they're offered.

The only way to stop people from engaging in this inconvenient behavior is to use coercion -- occasionally, you will actually have to jail or shoot someone to prove you're serious -- to require doctors or farmers or grocers or whomever to deliver their services when and where and at such a price as you, the new Commissar of Food and Health Care Fairness, may decree.


However, having done a bit of socialist bashing here, I'd like to do some conservative bashing. The rightness of capitalism and the wrongness of socialism is simply that doing something in a manner different from the free market involves using coercion against peaceful people. The free market means simply people exchanging their goods and services at mutually agreed upon prices, or not doing so if they don't want to. So what if the service is protecting person and property? What if the service is providing adjudication of disputes as to what a violation of person and property consists of, of deciding what the law is and applying it to settle these disputes? If the free market should not also be used in these areas, then something other than the free-market should be. However, that leads us into committing the same moral offenses as the socialist, and so to no moral reason as to why we shouldn't go the whole hog and resurect the USSR or Nazi Germany. If socialism is wrong, then anarcho-capitalism is the only moral alternative. If anarcho-capitalism is not right, then socialism is.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

QUOTE OF THE DAY

This article from Oxfam is my inspiration for choice of quotes today. This quote is from Lew Rockwell's new book, a work that seems worth buying simply for its quotable sentences:

Never have so many rich people who have been given so much by government demanded so much more
(p. 116)

Of course we all know that the Oxfam article is a lie, because states exist to protect the poor from the ravishes of capitalism, and the poor have the most to loose from the abolition of taxation. Right...?
ANARCHISM AND THE RULE OF LAW


I have been involved in a debate on Liberty Forum that is just getting under way. Any way, "Aynfan," has objected to anarchism, so:

No, no, a thousand times no. The only decent society is one with objective laws protecting the rights of individuals against the mob and the bully who will eventually control it, not vague concepts of ‘honor or ‘morality’ that can be molded to suit the exigencies of the moment.


Who watches the watchers? Why wouldn't those protecting individuals use their monopoly on the use of force?

In short, how is the rule of law be maintained, since, if force is to be monopolised? Without distinct, seperate entities from the government able to enforce this objective law, there would be no security for citizens against violations of it by those who claim to be enforcing it. Without "judges" and courts distinct and seperate from the government, there would be no means of judging whether the actions of government are legal according to the objective law.

As Bryan Caplan wrote

The core components of the rule of law, then, are equality before the law, neutrality, and certainty. The rule of law is a normative ideal for what the law should be, not a description of the law that is… I question the assumption that state law could, in principle, conform to the rule of law. State law can never be neutral, because the state judges its own case; can never give equality before the law, because one class of humans - legislators and state-appointed judges - have special law-making powers denied to the rest of mankind; and can never be certain because legislation is always amenable to unprincipled, politically motivated changes.


So, only if there are multiple agencies able to enforce the law in a particular geographic area can we be assured of the rule of law, since only if organisations other government can enforce the law can we be ensured that government, along with everybody elses, is constrained by it. Only if there are multiple organisations, multiple judges of what the law is and how it applies in particular situations, can we be sure that government rulings, or those of anybody else, are legal.

In other words, only if there is anarchy can the rule of law exist.

Monday, January 19, 2004

ROBBED!!!


Well, I've had a great day... NOT! Whilst I was at work, some bastard went through to the staf room and nicked my wallet from my coat pocket, and the assistant manager's mobile phone. They probably would have taken more - my cd player was in the pocket on the other side - if it weren't for the fact that somebody was in the stockroom, so he had to hurry out.

I had to cancel all my debit cards. I lost my cinema membership card, my cheap rail pass, my student ID, a whole bunch of vouchers for Waterstones that my Dad had earned by spending his own money! Needless to say, I spent the afternoon well and truly riled up and ready to punch somebody!

The dil' who took them won't have got much out of them, though. I cancelled my cards about an hour after the theft, and already the bank told me that one card had been retained at an off license where the thief had tried to buy £118 of booze. Obviously his signature didn't match, so the vendor had called for authorisation. The people in the call centre asked to speak with the thief, and he gave them the wrong date-of-birth and said that my Mum's maiden name was Elizabeth! Elizabeth? Does the dick even know what a maiden name is? Its a surname, you a-hole!

So, largely sorted, just annoying. Naturally my mind went back to a question at liberty forum in which somebody asked the anarchists when they had last called the police. The presumption, of course, was that anarchists should never do os. Why? The state has robbed me everytime I earn, and every time I spend money, and just for living in the country, so why shouldn't I have a right to demand something back? (so long as I don't excede what I have paid, plus interest, perhaps like restitution for being robbed?) However, it is interesting to note that the only thing I will be seeing the police for is to get a crime number so that I can get another railcard and cinema card, and possibly for the bank's insurance purposes.

The bank insures card use, so they reimburse what the thief has stolen, compensating me somewhat, and turning the offense into one against the bank rather than one against me. The criminal was spotted, one of my cards taken from him, and his ID given to the bank's fraud department, by the people in the off license. Preliminary investigations were made by the security at the shopping centre I work in. The police were phoned just after 3 pm, and I will have to see them tomorrow, because by the time we closed at 5:30, they still hadn't shown up. So, largely the matter has been delt with privately, though the police will want to arrest the guy (civilians have the same powers of arrest as police, through citizens' arrest, but police frown on having their monopoly encroached upon). So, not a major victory of state v. anarchy, I think!

ROBBED!!!

Well, I've had a great day... NOT! Whilst I was at work, some bastard went through to the staf room and nicked my wallet from my coat pocket, and the assistant manager's mobile phone. They probably would have taken more - my cd player was in the pocket on the other side - if it weren't for the fact that somebody was in the stockroom, so he had to hurry out.

I had to cancel all my debit cards. I lost my cinema membership card, my cheap rail pass, my student ID, a whole bunch of vouchers for Waterstones that my Dad had earned by spending his own money! Needless to say, I spent the afternoon well and truly riled up and ready to punch somebody!

The dil' who took them won't have got much out of them, though. I cancelled my cards about an hour after the theft, and already the bank told me that one card had been retained at an off license where the thief had tried to buy £118 of booze. Obviously his signature didn't match, so the vendor had called for authorisation. The people in the call centre asked to speak with the thief, and he gave them the wrong date-of-birth and said that my Mum's maiden name was Elizabeth! Elizabeth? Does the dick even know what a maiden name is? Its a surname, you a-hole!

So, largely sorted, just annoying. Naturally my mind went back to a question at liberty forum in which somebody asked the anarchists when they had last called the police. The presumption, of course, was that anarchists should never do os. Why? The state has robbed me everytime I earn, and every time I spend money, and just for living in the country, so why shouldn't I have a right to demand something back? (so long as I don't excede what I have paid, plus interest, perhaps like restitution for being robbed?) However, it is interesting to note that the only thing I will be seeing the police for is to get a crime number so that I can get another railcard and cinema card, and possibly for the bank's insurance purposes.

The bank insures card use, so they reimburse what the thief has stolen, compensating me somewhat, and turning the offense into one against the bank rather than one against me. The criminal was spotted, one of my cards taken from him, and his ID given to the bank's fraud department, by the people in the off license. Preliminary investigations were made by the security at the shopping centre I work in. The police were phoned just after 3 pm, and I will have to see them tomorrow, because by the time we closed at 5:30, they still hadn't shown up. So, largely the matter has been delt with privately, though the police will want to arrest the guy (civilians have the same powers of arrest as police, through citizens' arrest, but police frown on having their monopoly encroached upon). So, not a major victory of state v. anarchy, I think!

Saturday, January 17, 2004

QUOTE OF THE DAY: The Libertarian ideal


Over at Liberty Forum a little discussion has been growing about Jerome Tuccille's short autobiographical article. It is this discussion that prompted today's quote.

Jerome Tuccille is a great man. He wrote the definitive insider's history of the early libertarian movement, It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand, a hilarious, often self-parodying view of a disillusioned young man's move through America's Right-Wing, from the Objectivists, to Barry Goldwater, to Birchers, to, at the hieght of his dispare, campaigning with Nixon, only to end up forming alliances with the New Left against the US corporate State and the vietnam war, an anarcho-capitalist.

Jerome is also often confused with his own son, which is his own damn fault, because he gave the poor boy his own name! I first cam across JD Tuccille, jr, at free-market.net, before FM.N's bankruptcy scare, where Tooch (as he was known) wrote the policy spotlights. I can tell you, he inherited the writing gene.

So, the quote I want to give is actually a long extract. It epitomises the late '60s early '70s libertarianism, with its links to the radical left. This is plain in the fact that the whole thing reads like a "drop out" manifesto, viewing the libertarian ideal as a society in which an individual can opt out of the institutions of society, and set up, on his own or with others, his own alternatives, capitalist or peaceful communalist, whatever. It is no wonder that the whole argument between Objectivists and libertarians grew up, when libertarianism at that time meant, pretty much, anarcho-capitalism. Rand wrote,

"I disapprove of, disagree with, and have no connection with, the latest aberration of some conservatives, the so-called 'hippies of the right', who attempt to snare the younger or more careless ones of my readers by claiming simultaneously to be followers of my philosophy and advocates of anarchism... Anarchism is the most irrational, anti-intellectual notion ever spun by the concrete-bound, context-dropping, whim-worshipping fringe of the collectivist movement, where it properly belongs."

Such ferocious opposition warms my heart! So here is the quote from Tooch senior:

Behind it all was a search for the libertarian ideal.

While various people had translated the basic principles of libertarianism into differing schools of political philosophy – ranging from radical libertarianism or anarchism to the more conservative variety of libertarianism, in which a government would be created for the sole purpose of providing defense and a judicial system for its citizens – there were certain fundamental areas in which the most radical and conservative of libertarians could find common ground.

Specifically, a libertarian society was one in which everyone would be free to choose his own life style: to own or not to own property; to work or not to work, for himself, or for others; to trade freely in an open market place, or not to trade at all; to delineate clearly the boundaries of his own autonomy and live privately, or to join in communes or co-operatives or other communitarian structures on a voluntary basis.

It was a society in which each individual would be free from all attempts of interference in his affairs so long as he did not damage the person or property of others, so long as he did not injure the reputation of others through slander, so long as he did not cheat anyone else by fraud in his dealings with them, so long as he did not pollute the environment with harmful elements, so long as he did not violate the terms of any contract he entered into voluntarily.

It was a society in which each individual had the absolute right to self-defense. This included the right to defend himself against any interference in his own affairs, any violation of his freedom – including violations committed in the name of government.

It was a society in which each individual, acting alone or with others, had a right to structure his social institutions as he saw fit – education, housing, police protection, fire prevention, sanitation, justice, defense, economic relief and welfare, and so on down the list; it was therefore a society in which no one would have the right to tax anyone else against his will to make him support any institutions he didn’t believe in.

It was a society in which forcing people to fight for a cause they wanted no part of was unthinkable – the military draft would be considered the severest form of slavery.

It was a society in which all human beings who decided to seek, whether individually or collectively, alternative nongovernmental mean of defending their lives and property; alternative means of educating their children, housing their families, insuring themselves against economic hardship, settling their differences with one another; alternative means of doing anything at all which government does for them – would have the right to withdraw their support from government, to secede from government, to live apart from the jurisdiction of government in a condition of voluntary association.

This was the libertarian society in its most ideal form. These were the values we subscribed to, if only in a vague and hazy form at the time, as we left Manhattan College and points west and continued our search.


Jerome Tuccille, It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand, pp17-19

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

GREAT NEWS!


It seems as though married life, and disappearance from network TV, including losing that prestigious Top of the Pops gig, have not quelled Gail Porter's passion for revealing herself for the benefit of the mass public.

I may have a reason to buy the next copy of Maxim now!
SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT


It seems that there is much rowing about university fees at present. Interestingly, someone I know well once said to me that the government's whole justification for top up fees is ridiculous. The argument we hear from government ministers is that top up fees are the fairer way to fund higher education than general taxation is, because general taxation would force poor people to pay for education their children is not recieving, and which generally goes to benefit the non-poor. My associate said that this must be wrong because such an argument would justify privatising the entire education industry.

Quite! Yes, well libertarians have been using that argument for decades for precisely that purpose. Yes, it does justify privatising the education industry, and most other parts of the so-called public sector. What is interesting, though, is why should the fact that the logic of the argument justifies policies that my associate (and the Labour party) don't want to accept make that logic false? It doesn't make the argument any less true at all. If funding higher education through general taxation forces poor families to pay for the education of non-poor children, without delivering any benefits to the non-university going (or even non-existent) kids of poor households, then such an arrangement is hardly fair. Pointing out that other state services are unfair on precisely the same grounds is not good reason to suddenly start thinking that it is fair after all!

Anarchist communist author, Colin Ward, made precisely the same argument in his classic Anarchy in Action

Today, as the educational budgets of both rich and poor nations get more and more gigantic, we would add a further criticism of the role of the state as educator throughout the world: the affront to the idea of social justice. An immense effort by well intentioned reformers has gone into the attempt to manipulate the education system to provide equality of opportunity, but this has simply resulted in a theoretical and illusory equal start in a competition to become more and more unequal. The greater the sums of money that are poured into the education industries of the world, the smaller the benefit to the people at the bottom of the educational, occupational and social hierarchy. The universal education system turns out to be yet another way in which the poor subsidise the rich. Everett Reimer, for instance, remarking that schools an almost perfectly regressive form of taxation, notes that the children of the poorest one-tenth of the population in the United States cost the public in schooling $2,500 each over a lifetime, while the children of the richest one-tenth cost about $35,000. "assuming that one-third of this is private expenditure, the richest one-tenth still gets ten times as much as the poorest one tenth." In his suppressed UNESCO report of 1970 Michael Huberman reached the same conclusion for the majority of countries in the world. IN Britain, ignoring completely the university aspect, we spend twice as much on the secondary school life of a grammar-school sixth former as on a secondary modern school-leaver, while, if we do include university expenditure, we spend as much on an undergraduate in one year as on a normal schoolchild throughout his life. "While the highest social group benefit seventeen times as much as the lowest group from the expenditure on our universities, they only contribute five times as much revenue." We must thus conclude that one significant role of the state education system is to perpetuate social and economic injustice.

There are, of course, arguments against this view point. One of them is that the rich pay more in taxes, so whilst they get more in public funds spent on taxes, they also pay into them, more. This is possible, but not massively likely. The the non-poor do not pay enormously more tax than the poor do, since income tax cannot collect that much and indirect taxes fall very much on the poor.

Another argument against it that is popular in government circles is that education benefits the whole of society. This is a popular argument in favour of public funding of schooling. It may been seen as an argument against the idea that public funding of schooling is a regressive taxation on the grounds that those that hold this position believe that there are enormous external benefits of education that do not solely go to the consumer, but go to eveyone. Hence, even if the non-poor do get more education than the poor, the poor may benefit.

This argument says that society as a whole benefits from generations of well educated school leavers, most obviously because of the increased productivity they can bring. Of course, the only reason, economically speaking, as to why this might be a case for state intervention (and a very weak one at that) is if this external benefit is so great that it encourages people to free-ride it and so not bear any of the costs. In this case, a person, seeing how much he benefits if everybody else goes to school, realises that he benefits substantially, even if he doesn't go to school himself, and so has no incentive to go. The result of people thinking like this, though, is that nobody goes to school, and so that generation of well educated school children does not appear and neither do any of its benefits. Classic prisoners' dilemma game.

The trouble is that this theory is a crock! Is it really plausible to suggest that I might be much better off not going to school than going, so long as everybody else goes? Is the cost of my paying for my own education? or anybody else doing so voluntarily for me) really more than the additional benefit I would reach if I didn't sit on my butt waiting for the benefits of that generation of well-educated kids to come roling round to me? Of course not. So, no free-rider problem, no lack of demand for education due to major positive externalities, and so no reason to assume that the market would undersupply schooling. David Friedman has one of the best on-line articles regarding education that I have seen. He discusses this very same "a-good-education-system-benefits-society-as-a-whole-and-not-just-student-or-pupils" argument:

It is said that since education increases human productivity, by educating my child I increase the wealth of the whole society, making all of us better off. One obvious problem with this argument is that, if correct, it applies to a lot of things other than education. Physical capital also increases productivity; does it follow that all investments ought to be subsidized? Better transportation allows workers to spend more time working and less time commuting; should we subsidize the production of cars? The argument suggests that everything worth doing ought to be subsidized-leaving us with the puzzle of what we are to tax in order to raise the money for the subsidies.

What is wrong with this argument is that it misses is the way in which the price system already allocates "social benefits" to those who produce them. Building a factory may increase the wealth of my society-but most (in the limit of perfect competition, all) of the increase goes to the investors whose capital paid for the factory. If I use a car instead of a bus to commute, the savings in time is added either to my leisure or my income. If education makes me a more productive worker, my income will be higher as a result. That is why top law schools are able to sell schooling to willing customers at a price of about twenty thousand dollars a year.

Schooling-like a new car-produces non-market benefits as well. But these too go mostly to the student, enabled by education to appreciate more of the riches of the culture he lives in. There may be effects on other people as well, but they are typically small compared to the benefits to the student, and their sign is not always clear. When my child becomes an expert in Shakespeare and quantum mechanics one result may be to enlighten and entertain her friends, but another may be to make them feel stupid. In just the same way, the beauty of my new car may produce the pleasures of aesthetic appreciation or the pains of envy in those who watch me drive it down the street. To base the design of our institutions for schooling on the uncertain effect on such third parties rather than the direct effect on the schooled makes no more sense than to base the design of cars on their value to everyone except the owner.


Murray Rothbard has written,

While in a free private school market most children would undoubtedly attend schools near their homes, the present system compels a monopoly of one school per district, and thereby coerces uniformity throughout each area. Children who, for whatever reason, would prefer to attend a school in another district are prohibited from doing so. The result is enforced geographic homogeneity, and it also means that the character of each school is completely dependent on its residential neighborhood. It is then inevita­ble that public schools, instead of being totally uniform, will be uniform within each district, and the composition of pupils, the financing of each school, and the quality of education will come to depend upon the values, the wealth, and the tax base, of each geographical area. The fact that wealthy school districts will have costlier and higher-quality teaching, higher teaching salaries, and better working conditions than the poorer districts, then becomes inevitable. Teachers will regard the better schools as the superior teaching posts, and the better teachers will gravitate to the better school districts, while the poorer ones must remain in the lower-income areas. Hence, the operation of district public schools inevi­tably results in the negation of the very egalitarian goal which is sup­posed to be a major aim of the public school system in the first place.

Moreover, if the residential areas are racially segregated, as they often tend to be, the result of a compulsory geographical monopoly is the compulsory racial segregation of the public schools. Those parents who prefer integrated schooling have to come up against the geographical monopoly system...

The geographical nature of the public school system has also led to a coerced pattern of residential segregation, in income and consequently in race, throughout the country and particularly in the suburbs. As everyone knows, the United States since World War II has seen an expansion of population, not in the inner central cities, but in the sur­rounding suburban areas. As new and younger families have moved to the suburbs, by far the largest and growing burden of local budgets has been to pay for the public schools, which have to accommodate a young population with a relatively high proportion of children per cap­ita. These schools invariably have been financed from growing property taxation, which largely falls on the suburban residences. This means that the wealthier the suburban family, and the more expensive its home, the greater will be its tax contribution for the local school. Hence, as the burden of school taxes increases steadily, the suburbanites try desperately to encourage an inflow of wealthy residents and expensive homes, and to discourage an inflow of poorer citizens. There is, in short, a break-even point of the price of a house beyond which a new family in a new house will more than pay for its children's education in its property taxes. Families in homes below that cost level will not pay enough in property taxes to finance their children's education and hence will throw a greater tax burden on the existing population of the suburb. Realizing this, suburbs have generally adopted rigorous zoning laws which pro­hibit the erection of housing below a minimum cost level—and thereby freeze out any inflow of poorer citizens. Since the proportion of Negro poor is far greater than white poor, this effectively also bars Negroes from joining the move to the suburbs. And since in recent years there has been an increasing shift of jobs and industry from the central city to the suburbs as well, the result is an increasing pressure of unemploy­ment on the Negroes—a pressure which is bound to intensify as the job shift accelerates. The abolition of the public schools, and therefore of the school burden–property tax linkage, would go a long way toward removing zoning restrictions and ending the suburb as an upper middle-class-white preserve.


Rothbard was writing in the context of the US, but his arguments apply equally well. The UK has similar monopolistic "school district" arrangements, in that secondary schools give priority to those people that live within their catchment areas, and only if there are spaces left do they give them to people that live outside these areas. So again, there is good reason to believe that state interference in education benefits the non-poor at the expense of the poor.

Spending more on education means spending less on other things. People who say that enough is not being spent on education therefore imply that too much is being spent on other things, and that spending on jobs and investment in the areas of the economy producing those other things should be cut. OK, socialists sometimes say, "sure, cut the money spent on bombs and war in Iraq," but this money came at the expense of other things too. Less had to be spent employing people in other industries, and less had to be spent investing in other industries, so that either the arms or the education industry could be funded. I am happy with this - it is inevitable that resources cannot be used to produce every good, but will be allocated to some areas of the economy and away from others. However, the question, at least for a utilitarian, is surely "are resources being used in the most valuable way - are we allocating resources to where they are most valued, and away from where they are valued the least?" This is a question that the defendent of increased state funding for education needs to answer. Is the increased funding to education worth all the lost goods, lower incomes, lost wages, and decreased investment elsewhere? And how do you know.

The definitely not libertarian (he was a student of Marxist GA Cohen) philosopher Jonathon Wolff, in his An Introduction to Political Philosophy", writes

Suppose that a certain good - garlic, say - costs a certain price: 50 pence per bulb. Then a respected scientist publishes a report indicating that consuming a bulb of garlic a day wards off cancer and heart disease. Accordingly, demand for garlic soars. Garlic retailers sell out rapidly, and prices spiral. Huge profits are made in the garlic industry.

The prospect of such profits will prompt new producers to enter the garlic market. Supply begins to rise, and as it does the price falls again, until a new equilibrium is established. Eventually demand equals supply at a price where garlic producers achieve the same profit levels as are available elsewhere in the economy.

This banal example of economic life shows the remarkable powers of markets. First, the price system is a way of transmitting information. The fact that the price of a good rises indicates that the good is in short supply; if the price falls then it is oversupplied. Second, the profit motive gives people a reason to respond to that information. If prices rise in a sector because of increasing demand, this normally means that larger than average profits are to be made, and so0 new producers rush in. If prices fall, because of falling demand, generally profits will fall, and so some firms will leave the industry. IN both cases the equilibrium will eventually be established, where the rate of profit for the industry is roughly equivalent to the average rate of profit for the economy as a whole.

These are the key features of the market: it signals information, and it gives people an incentive to respond to that iunformation by changing production patterns. Nor should we forget the importance of competition in driving down prices, and driving up quality. In combination these factors lead to the consequence that, broadly, in markets people (with money) get what they want from other people.

Many theorists accept that the market can distribute goods to individuals in a way in which no planned economy could match. If I want a certain good and if I have the money I can go and buy it. I can express my preferences in my purchasing behaviour, and others try to make as much profit as they can by responding to them. In the planned economy there are two problems. How will the planner know what I want? It might be common knowledge that people like ice cream, and need socks, but how can the planner know that I prefer vanilla ice cream to chocolate, or plain socks to patterned ones? And why should the planner take the trouble to make sure I get what I want? Real planned economies have been plagued by chronic shortages of some goods, such as winter tights, over-production of others such as low-grade vodka, and a depressing lack of quality and variety in those goods that are available. In order to run an economy as efficiently as the free market, the planner needs a level of omniscience, omnipotence, and benevolence rarely attributed to mere human beings.


If the demand for schooling in a free market rises, then profits to be made from supplying this increased demand also rise. These increased profits attract new suppliers, these suppliers will need labour, land and capital, but since their demand for such would increase, incomes to be made from working in the education industry, or investing in it will rise, attracting new people into it. Obviously, these new increases will come from elsewhere in the economy, but since people would be buying more education, they would be buying less of other things, this causing a drop in demand for those other things, and so fewer profits and less incentive to provide them. The fact that they choose to do this proves that they value increased schooling more than they value other uses of their money, which means that the resources being allocated to education and away from elsewhere are being allocated to where they are most valued and away from where they are less valued. Without the price mechanism, the state has no means of knowing whether its investment in education is more valuable than the resources and jobs and investments it is destroying elsewhere, or less.

Wolff said that their were exceptions to the general superiority of free markets, in the case of market failures. Examples he gave were of positive externalities. I don't agree that such cases justify, either on utilitarian grounds or on grounds of justice, state interference, but that is irrelevent, since we have already seen, with the quote from David Friedman, that these examples of market failure do not apply in the case of education, which is almost a pure private good, with no free-rider problem.

Since firms in the free market are under pressure from competition, they have every incentive to make sure they deliver the greatest benefits to their customers, utilising the least amount of resources. This inbuilt mechanism protecting against wasteage means that education providers in a free market have every incentive to keep their costs as low as they can. A nationalised education system has no such features, since it doesn't have to compete for its revenue to cover its costs, nor actually work to please those that use it, in order to obtain this revenue. Local Education Authorities's tend to absorb any additional funds for schools, and workers in the industry present powerful special interest groups.

And just as Mars prefers to price its chocolates as close to cost as it can and get lots of customers, rather than price them extraordinarily highly and hope that rich people with extreme sweet teeth will cover the company's entire costs, firms in the education industry will tend to price their services within reach of as many people as possible. After all, the car industry doesn't only provide gold plated cars for billionaires.

Of course, many people will talk about the nineteenth century, and people not getting any education before it was compulsory and tax funded. However, firstly, in the early nineteenth century, newspaper sales were very high, conservative were worried about radical literature falling into the hands of the poor (so they imposed the stamp duty, and taxed paper), and so literacy was actually quite high and widespread.

Secondly, one of the most important and prolific writers on the histroy of education before and after compulsion and public funding, EG West, wrote,

Contrary to popular belief, the supply of schooling in Britain between 1800 and 1840 was relatively substantial prior to any government intervention, although it depended almost completely on private funds. At this time, moreover, the largest contributors to education revenue were working parents and the second largest was the Church. Of course, there was less education per child than today, just as there was less of everything else, because the national income was so much smaller. I have calculated, nevertheless, that the percentage of the net national income spent on day-schooling of children of all ages in England in 1833 was approximately 1 percent. By 1920, when schooling had become “free” and compulsory by special statute, the proportion had fallen to 0.7 percent.

As West says, there wasn't universal education, because the national income was too small to provide this. However, his writing seems to suggest that as productivity increased through out the nineteenth century, so consumption of education increased.

This matches contemporary views. According to UNESCO, in developing countries in 1926, 75% of the population were illiterate. In 1948 this had fallen to 52%, and by 1970 it had fallen to 20%. Between 1965 and 1998, the average income of the world's citizen almost doubled, from $2,497, to $4,839. However, this didn't come about through the richest nations multiplying their incomes. During the same period, the the average income in the richest one-fifth of the world's population increased from $8,315 to $$14,623, which is by almost 75%. The average income in the poorest one-fifth, though, more than doubled, from $551 to $1,137. So consumption of education increases as prosperity increases, and so it increases as productivity increases.

So, state education redsitributes money from the poor to the non-poor, misallocates funds, can't plan the provision of the good, relative to other goods, or relative to altranative forms of the good properly without a price mechanism to relveal demand. It is aburden on poor families, and on everybody else, and we would be better off without it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

DENATIONALISATION PART 1: THE FIRE SERVICE


I am proud to say I have notoriety amongst anarchist communists on-line! If one fails to obtain fame, then infamy is always a good runner up!

The who thing stems from an article regarding the fire service that I wrote for the anarchist communist paper Freedom. This occurred in the height of the fire dispute, in which fire people's unions were striking, over Christmas 2002, in resistance to new proceedures the government was trying to impose and in favour of a better pay deal (the fire people apparently would accept the new proceedures if they were paid enough!)

Freedom published their own manifesto regarding the fire service, and I wrote an article in response:

Dear Freedom,

Your manifesto for modernising the Fire Service greatly interested me. I was wondering about the purpose of it: the number of proposals under which your modernised fire service would refuse to put out a fire is suggestive of the possibility that you want to encourage people to organise their own protection against fire, rather than rely on the state. Indeed, you suggest as much in writing “as the government won’t tax the rich to help public sector workers, let the rich fight their own fires.” I was bemused by comments such as this, coupled with the blatant advocacy of state socialist methods of providing schooling (as opposed to education) in the proposal that the fire brigade puts out fires at state schools, rather than private ones. Let’s remind you: State = Bad, therefore, State Schooling = Bad. However, that’s a different debate.

How might protection against fire be provided in an anarchist society; a society with no central authority, with tax raising, law-making powers? Well, here’s one possibility: We are all fairly familiar with bookies; places where we can make bets. So suppose I went into a bookie and placed a bet that my house will burn down in the next year. Obviously, if I win that bet, which is to say that if my house burns down, I will be covered against at least some of the loss, and maybe all of it.

Clearly the bookie will want it to be a safe bet, and so is likely to offer different rates for different circumstances – for instance, he will be more likely to take the bet if I have a fire extinguisher in my house, or an alarm rigged up to the station of some local fire fighters (more on them later). At the same time, in order to reduce what he has to pay, he will be likely to want to arrange his own means of ensuring my house doesn’t burn down. One means would be by paying a fire brigade to put it out for me.

This method allows for people to pool their risks, in this case, the risk of losing a home in a fire. It is also basically how insurance companies operate. During the nineteenth century, fire insurance companies would often put plaques up on buildings offering rewards to any fire brigade that put out a fire in that building. Note: "ANY fire brigade." There wasn’t just one monopoly fire brigade imposed on us from above by the state.

Before people start asking, “Well, what if you can’t get insurance,” I’ll make two more points. First of all, think about how the state impoverishes us any way, with its special privileges to corporations, its restrictions imposed on the efforts of poor people to enrich themselves, its burdens of taxes and regulations, etc. Without these, we would all be richer. Secondly, a historical note: In northerly, forested countries, such as Scandinavian countries, or in Canada, because they are so heavily forested, fires pose even greater hazards than elsewhere. To counter this risk, states proposed the “solution” that everybody has fire insurance – they made fire insurance compulsory. The states did not fund such insurance themselves, they simply said, “whether you can afford it or not, if you want a house, get fire insurance,” much as our state does when we buy cars.

Thus the poor had to find some means of getting insurance, or be further excluded from society. They did this the same way that poor working people have overcome many of life’s worst difficulties – through voluntary co-operation. They formed co-operative fire insurance companies that shared their profits and insured against risks that other, more conventional firms felt were too great to cover.

Co-operative insurance is a widespread phenomenon. For instance, in the UK, up until the creation of the NHS, one of the country’s largest insurance companies was a co-operative, owned and democratically managed by its members. And let’s not forget the Friendly Societies of the nineteenth century that Colin Ward has often told us about – huge organisations, often closely linked to the Trades Unions that essentially provided mutual insurance for their members. Generally covering sickness, unemployment, injury at work, hiring doctors for the Society’s members, and giving old-age support, Friendly Societies were voluntary, voluntarily funded, and democratically run by their members. They were so successful and popular that by 1911 three quarters of the working male population were members, and the rate of increase in membership was such that, were the 1911 National Insurance Act not introduced, everybody the Act covered in 1911 would already be covered by 1926. As it was, the 1911 Act destroyed the Friendly Society movement by giving special privileges to doctors.

So we can see that people can organise their own provision of fire protection, and don’t need a state to do it for them. Right now, there is only one fire brigade: The state’s fire brigade. As with every instance of state socialism, we can see that this has led to nothing more than the continued oppression of the producers in that industry by the ruling classes – this time, placing in the position of “the ruling class” a horde of bureaucrats, civil servants and ministers. Because the state monopolises the provision of protection against fire, it stands as a monopoly buyer of fire brigade workers’ labour, and so can pay them as little as it likes for it, because a fire person is not able to go to a competitor if they don’t like the pittance that the state offers as a “wage.” Likewise, this affects those that are supposed to be benefited by the fire service. For example, Blair insists that the one and only fire brigade should be “modernised.” Well, I don’t remember being asked if I wanted protection against fire from a “modernised” fire brigade. It is possible that the general public prefers a “pre-modern” fire brigade. Or, what is more likely, some would like a fire brigade fashioned and run in one manner, and some would like a fire brigade fashioned and run in another. Take the example of the co-operative fire insurance company. Under this system, people can join whichever co-op they like. Because it wants their membership, the co-op has the incentive to ensure that it provides the type of services that they most want, including contracting the type of fire brigade that members most want. If people prefer a “modernised” fire service, they will join a fire co-op that has contracted such a fire brigade. If they prefer an un-modernised fire brigade, they can join a co-op that has contracted such a fire brigade. In this case, instead of responding to the whims and demands of politicians, the fire protection industry will respond to the needs of those it is meant to serve, who, in addition to being free to pick and choose between fire brigades, and thus influence what type of service is provided in that manner, can exercise democratic control over the industry through co-operative membership. Isn’t that a vast improvement over a state monopoly?

So that’s my proposal: That we tear down this state socialistic fire service that we have now, and replace it with one shaped entirely by voluntary co-operation, which is run by those that use it, and not the politicians.

Richard Garner


Now, my good friend Donald Rooum, with whom I had a great time working in the Freedom Press bookshop, wrote a response to my article. I responded in turn:

Dear Freedom,

I’d like to thank Donald Rooum for his thoughtful reply to my suggestions on how fire protection may be provided sans States. I would like to note, however, that his criticisms were fairly much attacks on straw men. To start with, his claim that a “call for competing fire brigades resembles privatisation freakery” is somewhat off the mark. Privatisation is the process of selling off state “property.” As a notable libertarian theorist and activist in the US pointed out, people don’t have a right to sell what they don’t have a right to own, and the state has no right to even exist, let alone own property. I, like many others, am sceptical about privatisation, and would be more likely to accept the suggestion of the afore mentioned libertarian: State property is not legitimately owned property, and is thus unowned; unowned resources can only become legitimately owned through homesteading them – through being the first to make use of them; hence the legitimate owners of State property (and corporations that derive most of their income from States) are those that work or live on such property. Fire brigades should be taken over by firemen and women, and related workers, not sold off to corporate cronies.

Secondly, Donald notes that “fires should be tackled at once, not preceded by research into which fire brigade covers the endangered building.” This is true, but irrelevant. It also sets up a straw man: It supposes a scenario in which a person notes that his house is on fire, and then chooses to arrange coverage, when in reality such coverage can be secured long in advance. People with health insurance, for instance, don’t wait until they are ill to set up a policy – they do it in advance, on the chance that they may get ill.

Likewise, we cannot, based on deductive logic, tell that it will ever rain again in this country. However, based on inductive reasoning it is reasonable to presume it will. When it will rain again is a different matter. Hence how likely I am to want to spend money on an umbrella depends on how great I think the risk of rain will be in the future. Donald’s assumption that people will only contract protection against fire at exactly the time a fire breaks out is like saying people will only buy umbrellas when it rains. People buy umbrella’s in case it rains.

But, going back to the first point, I must apologise to Donald and admit that this criticism was likely to arise: In my original article I mentioned the fact that there was not a monopoly fire service one hundred and fifty years ago. However, the printed version of the article left this historical detail at that, whilst the original contained some information about how the fire services operated. Fire insurance companies would put plaques on buildings they covered offering rewards to which ever fire service put out the fire. There was no need to research which fire brigade to subscribe to, since any service could help put out the fire, and be paid via the reward.

In a hypothetical world, though, insurance companies may contract fire services. This is because of changes in technology. One hundred and fifty years ago people would hope one of the fire services heard about the fire and came to the rescue. Nowadays, though, buildings can be fitted with alarms that notify fire people in the offices of particular fire services. Insurance companies may have their own contracted services, or they may suggest that the people they cover contract one themselves – the better and more reliable it is, the lower the price of the policy.

Donald may object to the idea of “competition.” However, I see no need for a single uniform fire service. So long as people don’t want to subscribe to a particular service, but prefer another, there will not be a monopoly fire service in a free society. And so long as co-operatives rely on membership to survive, then co-operative fire services will be competing with each other. This is an inevitable outcome of freedom of association and voluntary association. The only alternative would be to force everybody to join one co-operative, and therefore take away the co-op’s need to compete with others for members. That doesn’t sound very anarchistic. And a note to Iain McKay regarding his article – “perfect competition” with a multitude of firms, is a ridiculous notion scarcely called upon by many thoughtful economists nowadays, especially defenders of free markets; the idea of a “perfect market” is totally unnecessary to defend the free market.

Donald’s own historical example of the fire pumps in the seventeenth century is interesting. However, I am a little unsure as to why he thinks that they are “something like an anarchist fire service,” especially compared to my examples and suggestions, which he distinguishes from the “orthodox anarchism” of a “fire service shaped entirely by voluntary co-operation, run by those who use it.” He notes that the fire pumps in his example were set up by the CORPORATION of London. A corporation is a state privilege granted to a particular group of people to shelter them from personal and legal responsibility, especially through limited liability. So first of all this “anarchist like” example involves a public body, formed through legislation via the corporate charter, doing something, namely provide fire pumps. Secondly, no doubt the pumps had to be paid for? With what? Taxes? But taxes are legalised theft. They are nothing but extortion by the State, which says “give us your money or we’ll imprison and maybe even kill you.” So this “anarchist like” fire service was set up by the state, funded by the state, through state robbery. I’m a little unclear on something: Aren’t anarchists against the state? Donald’s example seems more like a suggestion that a Marxist would come out with, in that it involves state enterprise, state ownership, and state funding. It’s state socialist – it is an example of a gang of thieves and murderers who decide to use their loot to provide something which free people can provide perfectly well for themselves with out any need for the thieves and robbers. My own examples and suggestion had nothing to do with the state, but relied almost entirely on voluntary co-operation.

Richard Garner


As noted, Iain McKay, who likes sometimes to call himself "anarcho" and is one of the authors of the famous Anarchist FAQ, had responded to me. However, the article that shows my notoriety on the web is his response to my letter to Donald Rooum. Since Freedom did not want a flame war in their letter pages, I was unable to reply.

But now I got a blog...

McKay writes,

"I read Richard Garner's vision of a future fire service
with some amusement (letters, 25th January). He
argues that fire brigades could get a 'reward' from
insurance companies if they put a fire out. Clearly
they'd try to reach fires insured by companies offering
the highest rewards, so free market competition would
result in several brigades racing to the same fires, the
most lucrative ones. This would be highly inefficient
compared to a non-market approach."


Note the interesting fact that he is happy to accept that offering rewards is a market approach! My first answer to him here, though, is to point out that it was not "my idea" that fire insurance comapnies offer rewards. What I gave was historic fact. Insurance companies in the nineteenth century did advertise rewards on the sides of buildings to whatever company came to put them out. Since it is always good to live as close to the real world as we can, perhaps Mr. McKay could be so kind as to give historic evidence of the actual practicing arrangements that I referred to having the effects that he predicts.

Secondly, the solution could be solved. In my response to Donald Rooum I suggested that insurance companies do away with the rewards, or at least make them supplementary. Instead, alarms may be placed in buildings that notified people in their various fire service stations that there was a fire. Another solution would be to make the task of putting the fire out the exclusive property of whoever arrived first on the scene, who would then be free to contract any other firse services should the need arise.

These methods all answer the objection of the possibility of "several" fire services racing to one fire. As for the claim that "free market competition would result in several brigades racing to the same fires, the most lucrative ones. This would be highly inefficient compared to a non-market approach," well, he needs to explain why it would be inefficient. An efficient economy allocates resoiurces to where they are most valued. The property that people are willing to spend the most money on is the property that is most valuable, so it actually makes sense, from a stand point of purely being concerned with efficiency, that fire brigades rush to the most lucrative firs, as these are, to the best of our knowledge, the ones that it is most valuable to put out.

McKay goes on,

"There's also the issue of those who can't afford to pay
or who can only afford the insurers offering lower
rewards. Fire brigades, of course, wouldn't visit the
first at all, while the second with their minimal
insurance would get help eventually if they're lucky.
All this is without mentioning the delay involved while
brigades check whether they'll get a reward or not, and
whether it would be high enough to make their work
profitable. Lives would be lost, simply because of
market forces. But what are people compared to
profit?"


Suppose that you and I wanted cakes. Now suppose that I had £20 to spend on them and you only had £10. Does this mean that I will get all the cakes? No. It means that I will get two thirds of the cakes, and you will get one third. And this is without even factoring in the basic fact that my simply having more money than you makes me anymore willing to spend it on cakes than you. If I have £20, but only value cakes as much as £8, whilst you value them as much as £9, the market will provide more cakes to you than to me. This is perfectly efficient, as it means that resources, in this case cakes, are being allocated to where they are more valuable.

Likewise with fire brigades. If I have £20 to spend on fire protection, and you have £10, this would not result in me getting all the protection and you getting none. Now withdraw from this hypothetical world in which there is only you and me, and return to the real one in which there are hundreds of thousands of people that may be bidding for fire protection. A rich person can scarcely by all the protection, since, whilst he may have more money to bid with than one non-rich person, since the non-rich (which also includes some of the non-poor) out number the rich, on aggregate, they have more money to bid with. Any firm wanting to sell protection against fire, then, would be ludicrous to exclude any money it could make by pricing out the vast majority of its customers, and all the money they make. McKay is one of those nutters who seriously thinks that he could open a business and set his prices as high as he likes, into the millions, on the supposition that he can still make a living because of the billionaires that could afford what he is selling!

The reason why Mars bars don't cost $100 is because Mars want to make money, and pricing your products above what poor people can afford is not the best way to make money. The fact is that on the free market, competition makes sure that firms do not set their prices above the market price, but will try to keep prices as low as possible, and so the only way for them to make a profit is to make sure that they are using their resources as efficiently as possible by not using them more than they need to, and so cutting costs. The fact is that I am sitting in front of a computer in a tiny bedsit. Computers fifty years ago would not have even fit in my house, let alone this bedsit. Barely anybody could have afforded one. And yet, here we are and I have one. Likewise I, like most people, have a TV. And a mobile phone. Most people, a massive proportion of the population, have these things, that a few years ago, would have been the domain of the rich. Now most people can afford them. And yet, is the public sector costing tax payers less? Each household can get more with their "TV pound" than they could have fifty years ago. Is this true with the public sector? Does the NHS cost the average British household less than it did fifty years ago?... Does the fire service?

Competition will put the best services they can on the market, and strive to make them available to as many people as they can. Good will might do this too, but, unlike Mr McKay, I don't like to rely on abundance of good will when, thanks to capitalism, I don't have to.

Other historical facts are worth noting. I referred to co-operative insurance companies. Iain McKay perposefully ignored this fact. Margaret Digby, in her book The World Co-operative Movement, wrote

"Co-operative insurance of one type or another occurs in some thirty-five countries [she was writing in ther early to mid-twwentieth century] and has taken the shape of 150 national or at least large-scale organisations... In some countries co-operative insurance is worked in collaboration with trade unions, or a trade union may, on its own responsibility establish a co-operative society to provide pensions and death benefits to its members."

Margaret Digby notes the role of co-operative insurance in agriculture, especially in peasant societies such as India or Palestine. In peasant societies, where farms are generally owned by the entire family rather than any head of household, the loss of that head of household is not such a dramatic catastrphe, since other family members can continue to make a living off the same patch of land. For this reason life insurance is not so much a priority as insurance on irreplacable property, such as the house, or the land itself, or machinery, is, since without these things the whole household is more likely to collapse than had it simply lost its head.

"It is, however, just this type of insurance which the ordinary commercial companies are least ready to provide. The risks are considerable and the costs great so long as ordinary methods are pursued. In particular each individual insurance is small, the difficulty of ordinary supervision is almost insuperable, and the risk of fraud consequently great. When, however, the insurance is provided, not by a great urban company operating through paid agents, but by a small local society, of which the officials are volunteers and all the members well known to each other, both these difficulties disappear."

Digby notes, most relevantly, "Insurance against fire is most widespread." So co-operative insurance is not so pie-in-the-sky scheme, but hard solid fact. It occurs in order to provide insurance to those that normal insurance companies couldn't provide for, especially the poor, and does this with success. Co-operatives, huh? Decentralised, local control, in which services are the common property of those that use them, and are managed by popular control and on a face to face basis. No wonder an anarchist like McKay rejected them!

"Richard says he's against state property being sold off
to 'corporate cronies' of the politicians, yet he doesn't
see that his own 'solution' would result in firefighters
becoming serfs to the insurance corporations. After all,
these are huge companies we're talking about, whose
economic clout would far outweigh that of a single fire
station. The firefighters would be squeezed by big
business, just as farmers are squeezed by the
supermarkets.


Firstly, I opjected to privatisation on the grounds that it was the state selling off stolen property, not on the grounds that it may result in some people being "serfs."

Secondly, sure, the insurance companies are big - they are also the product of tax structures that promote reinvestment of corporate income, plus protectionist legislation, so they may well not be as big in a free market.

Thirdly, "oh no, they're big"... so are they necessarily bad? The CNT-FAI was also big. The First International Working Men's Association was big. Trade Unions are big. Therefore they are all big. If big is better than small, then we should lump for inferiority, should we?

McKay's myth about the insurance companies squeezing the "tiny little fire stations" they contract is easily solvable, on the same grounds as the supermarket analogy is: If he thinks that farmers would like to be paid more for their goods, and he can pay them more without charging a higher price to supermarket shoppers than other competitors do, then why doesn't he open his own supermarket and do so? More farmers will choose to sell from him, and so the other super markets he hates so much will lose their suppliers to him, and the problem will be solved.

In a free market, nobody is "under paid," but are paid precisely what they are worth, because if they weren't competitors could offer them a better deal. Other insurance companies could offer fire services better deals if the fire services were actually worth better deals... and worth them [i]to consumers of fire insurance and protection[/i].

McKay continues,

I have to ask what, in Richard's view, makes his
'solution' libertarian? He says the state has "no right
to exist", and so can't sell off resources on the grounds
that nobody has the right to sell "what they don't have
a right to own". But this applies to all property, not
just state property. The current distribution of
property, like the system of property rights itself, is
the product of centuries of state violence, mostly in
support of private power and against communal life.
Why should capitalist firms, such as insurance
companies, be excluded from Richard's tirade?


What is the relevance of this passage at all? "In the future, in a society where there is now state, people might organise insurance companies to pool their risks against fire", "oh, well that can't be right because in the present insurance companies' property has been acquired through state violence"? Can anybody else see the lack of logic? OK, so the present distribution of property is grounded on state violence, much of it for the benefit of private bodies (private as aopposed to...?). This includes capitalists and insurance companies. For this reason the present distribution of property is unjust. Now, could we get back to the topic at hand?

"Property, after all, is theft."

This sentence is meaningless. Theft is taking someone's property without the owners consent, with the intention of permanently depriving them of it. That is the definition of the word. That is its meaning. So "property is taking somebody else's property away without their permission"? What does this mean? property is the act of taking somebody else's property away without their permission? Is "property is theft" meant to be a condemnation of property? No, because the condemnation of it is that it is theft. Is it then meant to be a defense of property? No, because it says that property involves taking somebody else's property? The entire sentence is without meaning.

As Richard claims to be an anarchist, he should know
that property, like the state, has no 'right to exist'. Yet
he talks about 'legitimate property', by which he
means property allowed by law!


How does Mr. McKay know what I mean by "legitimate property"? Also, of course property has no right to exist. Property has no rights at all. "Oh, I'm sorry, chair, I sat on you - I hope you don't retaliate against my violation of your rights"! Property is rights! A property right is the right to decide over a given resource. McKay says that nobody should have any right to decide over any resource!

Richard worries that any 'alternative' to his scheme
would involve forcing everybody to join the same fire
service. But that's not true. A communal and
anarchistic system would just mean everyone getting
their fires put out, regardless of their ability to pay,
just as everyone who sinks is currently 'forced' to be
saved by the Royal National Lifeboats Institution.
How authoritarian!


No, I did not say that any alternative to my scheme would involve forcing everybody to join the same fire service. I said that any attempt to prevent competing schemes would involve forcing people to join the same fire service.

And finally, McKay gives his own vision of the provision of protection against fire in a stateless society:

What would an libertarian fire service look like? In the
short term, the fire brigade should be handed over to
the firefighters and a federation of stations created to
handle joint requirements (such as responding to
fires).


In other words, all fire workers will have to work for a single organisation or not work as fire people at all. How does this differ from the present situation? what is to stop new recruits from being ripped off and exploited by this monopoly? More of the same is the anarchist communist solution to the fire crisis!

Monday, January 12, 2004

QUOTE OF THE DAY


I decided that I would start a record of cool quotes I found. I thought I had found one for today, but then, lo and behold, Eir went and gave me a second. Chuckle delightedly:

"The majority of Americans do not understand liberty. If they did, they would outlaw it immediately." Jack Barbara

"I think a serious stabbing is feels very very bad." Eir
CUTTING THE SILK


Everybody else has had their say about Robert Kilroy-Silk so I thought I would, too. In fact, the best view I have seen so far has been from the people at Samizdata.net. These are a cool bunch of British libertarians, unfortunately pro-the Iraq war, but strong on most other things.

In my view Kilroy-Silk had every right to publish his article. Nobody else had any rights over his mind, so his thinking the crappy thoughts he had about Arabs violated nobody’s rights. As far as I know, nobody else had any rights over whatever he used to write down his crappy thoughts about Arabs, so his writing them down violated nobody’s rights. Other people had rights over the newspaper in which he published his crappy views, but since they either didn’t recognise how crappy they were (or they had agreed in advance to let him write pretty much what he wanted without suspecting he would say a bunch of crappy things), they granted him permission to publish in the newspaper they had rights over. So Kilroy violated nobody’s rights. Since the only thing that the law should do is to enforce and protect people’s rights, and Kilroy violated nobody’s rights, the law should but out and leave him alone. This is all long hand for saying that Kilroy had a right to publish his crappy views since he has a right to freedom of speech. Don’t like it, move to… um… Egypt? Saudi? France?

However, Kilroy may have had every right to publish his crappy article with his crappy views, but the BBC had every right to fire him for doing so. I have no idea of the specifics of Kilroy’s employment at the Beeb, but I bet that, like any other respectable (ahem!) corporation, they had specified to each of their employees in advance that they not do anything to bring the corporation into disrepute. The Kilroy has no right to any future income that the Beeb might have paid him if he had continued in their employment, nor any right to use their facilities in order to broadcast his chat show; just as they had no rights to his services. Each provided these things to the other on the basis that each felt it valuable enough to do so. If the Beeb ceases to value Kilroy’s services, then it is under no obligation to continue consuming them at the expense of those things it has rights over. Sure, they may owe him back-pay and a severance package, but a living? Why?

So, Kilroy published his article, and the Beeb fired him for it, and both were within their rights. So all’s well that ends well! Justice is maintained! As for Kilroy’s views? Well, they were on the ball in some places, and under it in others. Sure, Arab states are generally oppressive, women hating, autocratic regimes with human rights records worse than Blue’s latest album. But Arab states aren’t all the Arab people. States are the ruling apparatus in a society. The rulers are clearly not the same as the ruled, then, so if the state’s are oppressive, evil, disgusting scum, it by no means follows that the populace of that society all are. Sure, Arabs murdered over three thousand people when they flew planes into the WTC, but since every single Arab did not do this thing, we cannot blame every single Arab for it. Likewise, sure, someArabs were cheering in the streets when they heard news of this murder. But were they all? No? There is no logical deduction, then, that allows us to conclude that since some Arabs, especially those in positions of power, are bad, they all are. Kilroy is a collectivist idiot labouring under the delusion that all people are one, and that the state is the same as society. If he were not under these misguided notions then he wouldn’t have been so likely to say such stupid things.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Rodderick Long, a philosopher and anarchist I admire, and who's blog and articles I frequently read, has been engaged in a ferocious debate on the question of anarcho-capitalism. The roots of the debate, I suppose, are Roy Childs' famous Objectivism and the State: An Open Letter to Ayn Rand. I still feel that this is one of the best articles on free-market anarchism that is possible to find, its logic remains unrefuted, and, indeed, all attempted refutations of it can be answered with quotes from it!

However, others do not feel likewise, and one Objectivist-inspired blogger, Robert Bidinotto published an article attempting to refute Childs' article and its defenders. Bidinotto's article was called The Contradiction in Anarchism, a title that is itself a parody of Childs', as Childs' first argument as to why Ayn Rand should be an anarchist was called "The Contradiction in Objectivism."

Anyway, Rod Long posted a response to Bidinotto's argument, called Anarchism as Constitutionalism: A Reply to Bidinotto.

Anyway, Long's article was reposted at Liberty Forum, and little debate ensued.

Bidinotto, meanwhile, replied. He published his Contra Anarchism. Rod responded with what, in my view, is a fine piece - Anarchism as Constitutionalism, part 2.

This piece was also posted on Liberty Forum. This time, however, much debate ensued! The debate centred around myself and "JustStopIt" (JSI). JSI had liked Long's original response to Bidinotto, but disliked this new one. He wrote this e-mail to Long:

I read your debate with Robert Bidinotto with interest. I thought you thoroughly demolished his argument in your first piece. Your insights into the true nature of a constitution are no less than brilliant and I truly appreciated your piece.

You got off base in the second one, though, and he quite rightly took you to task for it. To quote him, "if... they truly have no objection to the idea that actions based on correct views of justice have a right to a monopoly against actions based on a mistaken view of justice, then what he’s describing and endorsing is not anarchism, but government--that is, a legal agency with the final authority to enforce laws". And he is right.

As an anarchist, I do object to this idea. Actions based on correct views of justice do not have a right to a monopoly against actions based on a mistaken view of justice. Over time, correct views of justice will supplant incorrect views. This is healthy and demonstrates the superiority of anarchism, but it is due to the nature of the market and of human beings as acting entities, not due to any inherent right of one system of justice over another.

Until such time as the market resolves this question, both views of justice are completely equal in weight and neither has any right over the other. It is quite possible, in fact, that both views are correct. The market does not recognise the existence of a "best car" and there is no such thing as a best legal system either.

It is not important whether one legal system is superior to another, but rather which one has jurisdiction over a particular case. If a Californian and a Texan have a business dispute, the question is whether California or Texas law applies, not which body of law is superior. Bidinotto is quite wrong. There is no need for a final arbitrator. What's more, there isn't even one under statism. The legal system with jurisdiction is the arbitrator, and it sets the rules as to when a judicial decision is final.

There is, however, a need for a mechanism to resolve jurisdictional disputes. Until 1982, almost the entire purpose of the Canadian Supreme Court was to resolve these questions - to decide whether the provinces or the feds had the right to legislate in a particular area.

Under anarchy, the question of jurisdiction is quite simple to resolve. If you and I have accepted a body of law to govern our interactions and a judge to decide how it applies, then that is the answer. This particular judge has jurisdiction. If we have no such agreement, then we have no business having any dealings with each other. If we interact despite the lack of an agreement, then one or both of us must obviously be a tresspasser. In that case, the law and judge that govern the property on which we meet are applicable.

All cases are covered. There is a judge for every possible interaction. Unless the legal system recognises a right to appeal, he is the final arbitrator. Historically, market-based legal systems have not recognised such a right. Presumably it's not worth it, since market-based legal systems tend to produce competent judges.

All that remains is for other courts to recognise the jurisdiction and the consequence validity of the verdict. No different than under the State.

The final question is that of how to enforce the decision. Market-based legal systems have universally come up with the same answer: those who refuse to accept the decision of a court of law are outlaws. A outlaw is not a criminal, which is someone who the State has decided is culpable of something it defines as a "crime". Rather, an outlaw is someone who is literally outside the law because he refuses to be bound by it. As such, his property and his very life are forfeit.

Most people choose to accept. Either that or head for the hills.

There is no fundamental difference between statist and anarchist legal systems. There can't be because there is no magic in the state; it cannot do anything that the market cannot. Both systems have legislative, judicial and executive branches. Both systems require mechanisms to resolve jurisdictional disputes. And both systems react to someone who refuses to accept the verdict of a judge in exactly the same way.

The difference, of course, is how the law and the judge are chosen.


I curtly responded to JSI's piece,

Needless to say, i disagree with your position and agree with Long's. The idea that forbidding injustice constitutes a monopoly is simply ridiculous.

The point that there should be objective law strengthens, not weaken's the anarchist case against the Objectivists. It is part of why every complaint any Objectivist ever made against anarchism was refuted in Roy Childs' Open Letter.

The Objectivists says, "Oh, but we have to have a government, because we need Objective laws to tell us what aggression is, and when exactly it occurs, other wise we will be subject to anybody's subjective notion aggression, and live in perpetual fear of prosecution."

The answer to this is, fine, so we need an Objective legal code defining clearly what people's rights are and precisely when aggression has been committed. But that still fails to answer the question of whether or not government is compatible with the non-initiation of force, or whether or not "Objectivist" government cannot exist without initiating force. Suppose that Objective law was established - perhaps by the government. Now suppose that a protection agency, never itself initiating force as defined by the Objective law which we now know and can follow clearly, sold protection or retaliatory services to subscibers, using force only against those that violate the Objective law determining what initiations of force really are. What would the government do? If it allowed the protection agency to go about its business, then the government would cease to be a government and merely become another firm competing amongst others for customers on the market for legitimate force. If, on the other hand, it suppressed the competing agency, it would be initiating force against those who are not themselves initiating force. It would also be breaking the Objective law.

Hence, the instituting of Objective laws doesn't help Objectivists at all, because they still need to explain why governments should be exempt from them, or why government itself would not be illegal under them. The only way out is if Objectivist say that an Objective definition of what initiation of force, or aggression, constitutes is if this definition is such that initiation of force is by definition impossible by government. This would be such a question begging solution, though, that it would be no solution at all.

So, concede to the Objectivist, if only for the sake of argument, that Objective laws are necessary to guide the legal institutions of the free society and clearly define and prohibit initiations of force... so what? Government, a monopoly on the use of force over a specific geographic area, would still be unjustified, since it would still have to use violence against those using only legitimate force, however that is defined, in order to remain a government.

Disputes between people as to whether rights have been violated, or between their protection agency, can be referred to courts. We know that adjudication services can be privately provided, because they already are: Arbitration is a common practice.

The Objectivist then objects: But judges verdicts must reflect Objective law. So what. As Roy Childs pointed out, Ayn Rand's epistemology and ethics say that every person is capable of knowing the facts of existence, and that Objective ethics are derived from the facts of existence. Since every mind is capable, then, of knowing the Objective law, we don't need governments to interpret and implement it: Private judges are just as capable as legislatures or politicians.

If opponents of anarchism object that Rand was wrong and that the Objective law is not knowable to everybody, but only some people, for instance, are clever enough to grasp it, then our solution is easy: What is the strange causal factor between being in government and knowing what the objective law says should be? Why is it enough to sit on the legislature to know what the correct view of initiations of force are? This is illogical - there is no reason why simply being on the legislature makes you any more or less capable of knowing the Objective law, and thus capable of applying it in the resolution of disputes. This being the case, whilst we can concede that free market judges may not know what the Objective law should be, there is no epistemological reason to assume that they are less likely to know than people in government.

The only other route out for the Objectivist is to claim that free market judges are just as likely to know what the Objective law is, and yet have less incentive to implement it.


The ensuing debate took up two threads on Liberty Forum - the other being one following a discussion of Rodderick Long's Why Objective Law Requires Anarchism.

Any way, many harsh things were said in the debate, and so, JustStopIt, I apologise is I was too sharp with you.

I will stand by my position, somewhat, though. My position was that we need a universal legal code. This is, contra Bidinotto and contra JSI, not the same as advocating a state or rulers. The classical definition of the state, from Weber, is of an agency with a monopoly over the legitimate use of force in a specific geographic area. Hence competitive provisions of legitimate force still indicates an absence of a state. Confining all uses of force to those which are legitimate is therefore not a contradiction with anarchism.

After all, surely it is a basic premise in the anarchists' beliefs that certain actions ought to be prohibited. The anarchist says that the state cannot exist without doing certain things, and therefore should not exist. This implies that whatever it is that the state cannot avoid doing whilst also remaining a state should, in the anarchist's eyes, be prohibited. For example, Roy Childs' argument is that a state must necessarily initiate the use of force against those who are not initiating the use of force, or else it would cease to be a state. This, Childs argued, implied that the state should be abolished, which further implied that initiations of force should be prohibited.

If free market protection agencies then started doing themselves what anarchists believe the state should be abolished for doing, then how can an anarchist advocate anything other than the suppression of such agencies, or anybody else who engages in, or authorises, such activities? Hence Roy Childs wrote,

The answer to this problem of "objective laws" is quite easy: all that would be forbidden in any voluntary society would be the initiation of physical force, or the gaining of a value by any substitute thereof, such as fraud. If a person chooses to initiate force in order to gain a value, then by his act of aggression, he creates a debt which he must repay to the victim, plus damages. There is nothing particularly difficult about this, and no reason why the free market could not evolve institutions around this concept of justice.

and

Now, if the new agency should in fact initiate the use of force, then the former "government"-turned-marketplace-agency would of course have the right to retaliate against those individuals who performed the act. But, likewise, so would the new institution be able to use retaliation against the former "government" if that should initiate force.

So Childs had absolutely no problem with imposing a basic body of law, binding upon everybody, that forbade the initiation of force, and so confined the use of force to protection or retaliation against initiated force. And he had no compulsion against backing this basic law up.

My position is basically the same as that of Murray Rothbard:

While "the government" would cease to exist, the same cannot be said for a constitution or a rule of law, which, in fact, would take on in the free society a far more important function than at present. For the freely competing judicial agencies would have to be guided by a body of absolute law to enable them to distinguish objectively between defense and invasion. This law, embodying elaborations upon the basic injunction to defend person and property from acts of invasion, would be condified into the basic legal code. Failure to establish such a code of law would tend to break down the free market, for then defense against invasion could not be adequately achieved. On the other hand, those neo-Tolstoyan nonresisters who refuse to employ violence even for defence would not themselves be forced into any relationship with the defense agencies.

Power and Market, pp166-7

and

It is now clear that there will have to be a legal code in the libertarian society. How? How can there be a legal code, a system of law without a government to promulgate it, an appointed system of judges, or a legislature to vote on statutes? To begin with, is a legal code consistent with libertarian principles?

To answer the last question first, it should be clear that a legal code is necessary to lay down precise guidelines for the private courts. If, for example, Court A decides that all redheads are inherently evil and must be punished, it is clear that such decisions are the reverse of libertar­ian, that such a law would constitute an invasion of the rights of redheads. Hence, any such decision would be illegal in terms of libertarian princi­ple, and could not be upheld by the rest of society. It then becomes necessary to have a legal code which would be generally accepted, and which the courts would pledge themselves to follow. The legal code, simply, would insist on the libertarian principle of no aggression against person or property, define property rights in accordance with libertarian principle, set up rules of evidence (such as currently apply) in decid­ing who are the wrongdoers in any dispute, and set up a code of maxi­mum punishment for any particular crime. Within the framework of such a code, the particular courts would compete on the most efficient procedures, and the market would then decide whether judges, juries, etc., are the most efficient methods of providing judicial services...

Of course, in the future libertarian society, the basic legal code would not rely on blind custom, much of which could well be antilibertarian. The code would have to be established on the basis of acknowledged libertarian principle, of nonaggression against the person or property of others; in short, on the basis of reason rather than on mere tradition, however sound its general outlines. Since we have a body of common law principles to draw on, however, the task of reason in correcting and amending the common law would be far easier than trying to con­struct a body of systematic legal principles de novo out of the thin air.

For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto

I posted my view that anarchism surely implies that some things be forbidden whether or not people like that they are forbidden, saying "the fact that anarchists think that states are inherently unjust rests on the presumption that anarchists believe that there are things that nobody should ever be allowed to do, regardless of their world view." However, JSI disagreed: "No. Not this particular anarchist. There is nothing that anyone should be forbidden to do, given that the other interested parties consent.

As the motto of this forum goes, ain't nobodies business if you do."

Now, this position makes no sense to me, since it includes a clear contradiction. I'll come to this later, though. JSI's position, though, is that imposing a libertarian legal code like that Rothbard or Childs' want, which prohibits people from interfering with each other's liberty and property by banning the initation of force, would be wrong, and actually un-anarchistic. He says "the foundation of all law needs to be consent."

This comes across in his dealing with Rothbard. In an interview, Rothbard criticised the David Friedmanite position that JSI is defending:

MNR: I regard fractional-reserve banking as an intervention in the free market, just as any crime against person and property is intervention. In the case of banking, the government is allowing the crime to be committed.

But how do we address the needs of trade argument, those who say that business has a demand for credit? Well, there are many things demanded on the market that are also crimes. There may be a demand for killing redheads. And there is certainly a demand for government loot. What's so great about market demand? if it is not within a framework of non-aggression, there will always be a demand for fraud and theft.

The free bankers accept a kind of David Friedmanite anarchism, where there is no law, only people engaging in exchange and buying people out. If you have a group that wants to kill redheads, the redheads will have to buy them off if they value their hair. I think this is monstrous, the kind of anarchism would indeed be chaos. Just because there is a demand for something doesn't mean it should be fulfilled.

AEN: One of the criticisms of this position is that it is normative and not economic.

MNR: Yes, but the response to 100% reserves is that bank entrepreneurs have the right to offer whatever fraction of deposits they want, which is also a normative position. Any discussion of policy is inherently normative. You can't have free markets unless you have property rights,


JSI's reaction to this was

This is wrong. wrong. wrong.

The market does not decide things based on "libertarian principle". It decides them based on economic efficiency.

Why would such a decision be illegal?...

Rothbard fails to answer any of these questions because he misses the crucial point. There is nothing wrong with this legal principle, so long as redheads consent to it. I rather doubt that many would.


This, however, is the crux of the question. Rothbard was not saying that it would be wrong for redheads to pay people not to kill them, if that's what red heads want to do. He is saying that it should be wrong to kill (innocent) red heads who don't want to be killed, whether those who want to kill them like it or not.

JSI adds that "so long as redheads consent to it," but he doesn't answer the question of why any other party should ask for the redheads' consent? Why should they? Clearly because doing something to the redheads without their permission is wrong. Likewise, earlier I noted JSI's contradiction when he said "There is nothing that anyone should be forbidden to do, given that the other interested parties consent." In this statement he clearly accepts a body of law, binding on everybody, whether everybody likes it or not. Why? Because he says that there is nothing that anyone should be forbidden to do, given that the other interested parties consent."

In other words, "there are things that anyone should be forbidden from doing if other interested parties have not given consent." JSI is clearly implying that it is right to forbid any action that directly effects others without their consent. The idea that this general rule should itself rest on consent, then, is like saying that a murderers should be allowed to decide whether or not they should be allowed to murder people!

Hence, my conclusion is that since JSI says that nobody should be forbidden from doing anything so long as anybody directly effected has consented to it, he favours rules prohibiting people from doing anything that directly effects people without their consent.

I think that JSI and my positions are reconcilable, though. They are reconcilable through the fact that, ultimately, we think that law should be made and refined by a competing judges, no single judge having a monopoly over it, and enforced by security firms and other voluntary associations competing in a free market. A good example is the Common Law. This evolved over centuries of legal practice, ultimately from anarchist institutions in which judges were hired by disputants to resolve disputes, with the winner being entitled to enforce the judgement himself. It is an example of market made law, just like JSI wants. However, it also presents a certain degree of Objectivity, in that people know in advance, more or less, what the contents of the law are. England did not have several common laws, but one (by definition), and though judges may have disagreed with each other as to what the correct ruling was, these contradictions occur at the margins, still allowing us to refer to a single body of law. Hence, a single law code, like I, and Childs, and Rothbard want, was produced by means that JSI approves of. Moreover, it is a very liberal law code, mostly in accordance with what libertarians are just. Both Rothbard and Friedman have argued that legal institutions on the free market are likely to produce arrangements, including laws, that libertarians think are just, and Friedman has actually argued that they are likely to produce the kind of standardisation that Rothbard wanted.

A good article that reconciles the positions that JSI and I were arguing from is Bryan Caplan's Free the Law and the Rule of Law. In the end, then, my position and that of JSI are certainly reconcilable. Thanks to Bryan Caplan, we can see why JSI and I can be friends...

Which is good, because we have statist butts to kick!

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