[ExI] Fictions and realities/was Re: Private and government R&D

Dan dan_ust at yahoo.com
Wed Jul 22 19:38:57 UTC 2009

On Wednesday, July 22, 2009 2:58:02 AM BillK pharos at gmail.com
> On 7/22/09, Damien Broderick wrote:
>> At 11:01 PM 7/21/2009 -0400, Rafal wrote:
>>>  ### What makes you think so? Do you see rich individuals and powerful
>>> corporations embedded in morally advanced societies routinely
>>> squashing anyone that gets in their way?
>>  I'm just going to sit here for a while and marvel at this question.
> You have to remember that extreme libertarians like Rafal and Dan
> are talking about a fictional system.
In so far as libertarianism is a system -- specifically, a social philosophy with specific tenets and arguments leading to various policy recommendations -- it's not fictional -- any more than any similar system is. Now you could say no society today manifests purely a purely libertarian social system. But the same could be said, again of any social philosophy. No extant society manifests pure democracy, pure monarchy, pure socialism. Yet, I trust, you wouldn't say that democracy, monarchy, socialism, etc. are fictional systems? (Or would you? It'd be nice to see you respond rather than throw out barbs and duck.) The real world is full of mixed cases with some being better exemplars of some particular system but all still not being perfect types.
This doesn't foreclose on analysis to see whether moving closer to (or away from) one particular system might not be a good idea. Or from just wondering what would happen if -- in the case of a purely scientific examination of how certain institutional settings or regimes might play out in the real world. In fact, political economy is just that: analyzing what happens under certain policy regimes regardless of whether one likes or dislikes the particular policies or the particular ends of the policies.
> They make it up as they go along.

I don't know about Rafal or most others who fancy themselves libertarian, but I attempt to draw conclusions from core principles and apply them to specific cases -- or accept conlcusions drawn by others that I believe are consistent with the core principles and the data.

> On the one hand you have reality:
> An easy target. Government systems,
> full of waste, corruption and bureaucracy.
As I've stated before, the reason for focusing on government, at least for me, is that it's a big player and is institutionalized and generally legitamized coercion. You know, while Rome is burning, I'm not as focused on the guy who leaves his cigarette burning in the outdoor ashtray.:) As such, its effects tend to be systematic and pervasive, whereas most non-government coercion -- morally, no better or worse than that done via government -- tends to be much more limited, sporadic, and seem by most as illegitimate. E.g., the taxman takes your money, even if you don't like it and vehemently disagree with it on principle, your family, friends, and neighbors, for the most part, don't run to your aid. A mugger takes your money and others will often help you -- or not stop if you if you try to help yourself by, say, immediately retaliating against the mugger. (The case of retaliating later is problematic because many people might not have witnessed the
 mugging and might not be sure you're not initiating force and using appropriate retaliatory force.)
This doesn't absent the private use of force from libertarian analysis. Nor does it mean private coercion never happens. It's obvious that it does: there's crime and there would likely continue to be crime even in a libertarian society. In fact, libertarian analysis basically underscores how private parties tend to use government -- starting with the earliest states -- to coerce others in society. There's a discovery process at work here with bandits discovering that state coercion pays off while non-state coercion, when not state sanctioned, tends to not pay off in the long run.
> On the other hand, you detach from the real world
> completely and get: Libertarian heaven, where no
> one is poor, sick, or mentally disabled and all
> systems work just perfectly.
Not at all. That's not my view. I've taken pains to state here, time and again, that a free society would not be perfect. It would merley lack one cause of social antagonism: institutionalized coercion. It'd still have private crime to contend with and all the other ills people suffer from this side of Nirvana.
> (Apart from the fact that the major professional
> class is lawyers, because everyone is suing each
> other over the most trivial of 'rights' transgressions.
> Like the US doesn't have enough lawyers already!).
Actually, this misunderstands how polycentric legal orders work: since costs can't be redistributed to other parties, the cost of frivolous litigations can't be transferred to others. Thus, if, say, X wants to sue Y over some false or trivial rights violation, X runs the risk of losing. This is "naturally" self-limiting. Also, since costs are visited only on those involved directly in the litigation, only the litigants suffer the costs, regardless of the outcome. (Even polycentric rulings need not be accept by other legal authorities, so the "cost" of bad rulings is not necessarily distributed. This also reinforces the self-limiting nature of litigation: the tendency would likely be for litigants to want rulings that other authorities respected to prevent third party intervention.*)
* Note, an unjust ruling might invite third parties to intervene on the losing side. See my "Free Market Anarchism: A Justification" at:


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