[ExI] Under the libertarian yoke was Re: Next Decade May See No Warming

Damien Sullivan phoenix at ugcs.caltech.edu
Wed May 7 05:22:28 UTC 2008

On Wed, May 07, 2008 at 12:19:12AM -0400, Rafal Smigrodzki wrote:
> On Sun, May 4, 2008 at 8:43 AM, Stathis Papaioannou <stathisp at gmail.com> wrote:

> >  A tax in a democracy is a kind of conditional contract just like this.
> ### No, most definitely it is not. One of the essential features of a
> valid contract is that it is being entered voluntarily, that is,
> neither of the parties, their agents, principals, nor allies, is
> threatening violence to induce another peaceful party to sign the
> contract. Clearly, the agents of the state are threatening deadly

OTOH, apparently it *is* valid to threaten violence to anyone who
doesn't accept the existing distribution of property rights.

> violence to anybody who fails to meet their peremptory demands, and
> therefore neither the state nor its victims can enter into a contract.
> The threat of violence is sufficient to invalidate or pre-empt a
> contract.

The US Constitution was accepted by votes of the legislatures of all 13
initial states, and by the request of the legislature or convention of
each subsequent state.  A very literal social contract.  Of course,
there were flaws in the process: non-unanimity (but that needn't matter
if you contract to form a state government which can make majority vote
decisions), lack of votes to women and blacks.  The fact that none of us
were born back then seems less significant, since we're supposed to
respect property distributions from before our birth -- despite their
ultimate origins being equally flawed.

> ### You are in fact not capable of giving consent to pay taxes, simply
> because you have no choice. Are you following it? No matter what is
> your opinion, what kind of "conditions" you are imagining, you *have*
> to pay the tax.

And if you inherit property in a condo, you have to abide by the condo
association fees and regulations.  If you don't like it, you can sell
out.  Why not regard yourself as having inherited a share in the US

> ### Why people keep voting is a whole another issue, none of it
> however can legitimize a tax as a form of contractual payment.

If a group of people unanimously agreed to a constitution which included
provisions that fees could be levied on all members by a majority vote,
that'd be a contractual 'tax'.

If they unanimously agreed to a constitution which didn't have that
provision, but allowed for supermajority vote adoption of new
provisions, then the fee provision could be adopted, and then the fee

So you can certainly set up something similar to a modern democratic
government, contractually, in principle.  You can get closer, too, if
all land or water within an area is agreed to be owned by the
association.  Then what happens to a child born within the association?

> >  That's all very well, but it doesn't address the urgency of the
> >  situation. I don't want to punish the people responsible after the
> >  train has crashed, I want to prevent the train crashing in the first
> >  place.
> >
> ### Sure. As long as you manage to convince enough people that the
> train could crash, you will be able to build a contract to prevent it.
> To summarize, you were able to come up with all the significant parts
> of a workable, non-violent solution to a major tragedy of the commons,

Theoretically workable.  Practicalities of getting 6 billion people to
agree, even under economic duress from boycott by the initial
contractors, are another matter.


I saw an interesting argument recently that minarchy is the least
adaptive societal form.  We ultimately solve problems with violence -- if
we can't deal with someone who's causing a problem, we try to beat them
up.  In anarchy, plenary rights to violence rest with all individuals.
If someone starts dumping pollution into "our" air, we can go beat him
up, he can defend himself or give in, may the best mob win.

In a normal state, we give up that right (or have it taken from us) to
the state, which holds all plenary rights to force.  Instead of beating
him up, we appeal to the state to defend our rights.  Risks: the state
may not.  The state may even be used against us.  OTOH, things may work
out -- the state may defend our rights against people much more powerful
than us, at no risk to our own lives.  Which outcome happens depends on
the state, and the people.

In minarchy, we give up our rights to violence, but the state can act
only in a predetermined sphere.  Being minimal, it has no rights outside
its initial list.  Expanding that list is probably very problematic if
possible at all, since it involves new bans on behavior, or
redistributing property rights, which is exactly what minarchy doesn't

But this leaves it helpless when conditions change, when conflicts of
property no one thought to define rights about come into play.  Who
owned the ozone layer, to defend it against CFCs?  Who in the 18th
century imagined one would need rights against acid rain?  Or against
Denmark, say, deciding to melt off the Greenland ice cap to develop its
property, incidentally threatning oceanside property worldwide?  I have
a right to my beach, Denmark has a right to develop Greenland, none of
our ancestors imagined our rights would conflict via sea level rise.  In
anarchy I go to war with Denmark; in the World State I sue it in a
common law court, or appeal to the legislature to define a new right for
me.  In minarchy...

Transfers don't help, because the prior rights aren't defined.  Should I
pay Denmark to forego development?  Should Denmark pay me to relocate,
or to build seawalls?

Or, 18th century minarchy land rights meets the plane.  Do I have a
right to prevent flights over my property?  Does the height matter?
Constitution doesn't say.  Would flight useful over any large distance
be possible if the default was rights stretching from the center of the
earth out to infinity, through my plot of land?

What if those rights are defined before the concept of aquifers, and the
realization that our separate wells are in fact draining a common

Never mind the current global warming debate.  Say Canada or Russia
decide to use space mirrors to raise the temperatures of their
countries, benefiting themselves but wreaking havoc with weather
patterns elsewhere.  Do they have a right to that, or do I have a right
to pre-existing weather patterns?  Is violence to force them to submit
to a global weather commission, or self-(property)-defence?

-xx- Damien X-) 

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