[ExI] Social right to have a living

Rafal Smigrodzki rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com
Sun Jun 26 16:13:48 UTC 2011

On Mon, May 23, 2011 at 5:41 PM, Damien Sullivan
<phoenix at ugcs.caltech.edu> wrote:
> The counter-question is "what justification is there to have rich people
> and starving people in the same society?  Why should the alleged
> property rights of one who has a lot be respected by someone who doesn't
> have enough?"

### I presume you allege a right not to be eaten by the starving, no?
But, on what grounds? If eating you could keep a family alive for a
few months, and would free resources for them to use, why not? You are
a rich man, Damien, why should the poor, e.g. the poor Asmati, respect
> I actually wouldn't start with any abstract blanket right to "a living";
> society's clearly not rich enough yet for that.

### But of course we are rich enough for that: Paying for food and
shelter for everyone would cost less than the war in Iraq. The problem
with the living wage is not that it's ruinous (which in the short term
it isn't) but that it's in many ways stupidly inefficient (i.e. you
actually get better general welfare without it, as counterintuitive as
it may sound for a non-economist)

<snipping a bunch of Georgist stuff>

> So a fair society would give an equal bloc of land to everyone.

### It really doesn't make sense, really. Aside from the nebulous term
"fair" (something to do with fairies?), the ever-cropping-up equality
thing. But the simple and obvious fact is, we are not equal, and in
the near future we are going to be even more massively unequal than

Live with it. The objective of laws is to make the lives of in-group
members better. The degree to which a law meets than objective is
called "efficiency", and can be measured using many methods. To have
an efficient society (i.e. one that obtains the best general welfare
given existing resources) it is usually useful to have modularity,
therefore e.g. private property is indispensable (private property is
a modular form of organization of access to resources). Therefore a
polycentric law generator is better (more efficient) than a
centralized one. You must have true measures of desires than can be
expressed in the form of resources needed to meet desires, therefore
you must have prices and money (and have nothing substantial for
"free", because provision of freebies results inevitably in
mis-measurement of desires). You must have short and strong feedback
loops, therefore individual trade should trump political control. You
must align incentives to reward useful behavior, therefore you can't
punish those who are most useful by taking away from what they need
and giving to the less useful. You must have good ways of aggregating
dispersed information, therefore unregulated markets are necessary,
and electoral systems are a travesty.

These are the deep insights of modern economics. Georgism is really
old, egalitarianism is even older, fairness isn't even wrong. The
reason why I support the former and reject the latter is that I know
my life and the lives of almost everybody else are made better by
following economic insights and rejecting stone-age proclivities (e.g.
envy). In the economic society there are many rich, and few if any
starving, even if the basis of this society explicitly rejects the
right of the starving to eat the rich.

> That's for general welfare programs.  Aid for the disabled, or universal
> health systems, aren't so much a fundamental egalitarian right as a
> choice we make for a nicer (and possibly more efficient) society.  The
> cripple or retiree has a right to a living because of a social insurance
> system creating such a right.

### Bureaucrats (hierarchical, long-feedback loop, disincentivised )
really cannot improve a cripple's life over and above what is possible
in a modular, short-feedback loop society (i.g. market society). It's
a computational problem, don't you see it?

> A tidbit to think about: it's illegal today to sell oneself into
> slavery.  (Some libertarians think it should be legal.)

### Of course it should!

  Ditto for
> debt-slavery, which has been common

### Yeah, why not?

(I am actually serious, not sarcastic)

  But apparently in ancient
> Egypt, not only was debt-slavery illegal, so was seizing a workman's
> tools to pay off a debt.  The ability to make a good living, granted by
> the tools, was inalienable (though perhaps sellable) -- one's tools were
> part of oneself, in a sense.

### There you are: Scratch a liberal, find stone-age conservative.

But the knowledge of economics has progressed since the stone age, you know.


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