Monday, December 07, 2015

Building the Death Star is what was costly.

I've got a letter in response to the National Post's on the economic cost of destroying the Death Stars up at FEE's blog.
"Last week's column, "Blowing up the Death Star in Star Wars would have cost more than $500 quintillion — and crippled the galaxy," is an amusing article, but it makes a disturbing error by neglecting the nature of Death Stars as killing machines. Musing about the cost of their destruction is like musing about the cost to the economy of dismantling a death camp. 
Three major errors in economic reasoning lead to this oversight..."
Read the rest here.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Anarchism: every man for himself?

"A radically liberal society might be imaginable in which there is nothing left for government, a monopoly of the use of force, to do. The legal services government now provides could be provided competitively, according to the laws of supply and demand. According to free-market anarchism, all the fundamental institutions necessary for the market to function—money, police protection, and even justice—would themselves be "for sale on the market." Of course, to say justice would be "for sale on the market to the highest bidder" is to invite ridicule. If a court is deciding law according to which party to the dispute can pay better, then the "service" it is supplying does not deserve the name "justice." But as with any good, everything depends on what specifically the suppliers and demanders actually want. It is imaginable that the demand for legal services could be well-defined, so that competitive pressures could force suppliers to offer fair adjudication according to widely understood principles of the rule of law.
Whether Rothbard or Friedman's imagined schemes for competitive legal institutions—and indeed whether any particular government-supplied legal system—can work depends completely on what Hospers calls "ideology," and what I prefer to call the "political culture." It depends on what the general public in this particular society considers morally acceptable behavior. To this, Rothbard answers: Of course, everything does depend on such general beliefs. I agree with this concession by Rothbard, but I think it suggests that radical liberals have been ignoring what is really the most important issue in the question of the state: the political culture. 
The source of the difficulty with the anarchists' argument, as well as the arguments of their critics, is, in my view, the economistic vice of analyzing individual human beings as autonomous, cultureless "agents." In practice, each of the disputants presupposes a set of beliefs that seem reasonable to him, beliefs which his critics charge beg the question. The solution is not to pretend to avoid discussion of beliefs altogether, but to make the issue of such beliefs the central theme of political discourse.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

General rules, specific outcomes, and #refugees

The S.S. St. Louis was a ship full of unscreened potential refugees with unproven economic potential coming from a war zone filled with enemies of Canada and the United States, but seeking refuge.

We see the rejection of the St. Louis' would-be refugees as a tragedy, but by the standards many people advocate for determining which refugees we should accept, we would turn it around again today.

Rules should be general, not specific. Sometimes our general rules will not give us the specific results we want and bad things will happen. We'll let in a criminal, a spy, or a radical, or we'll condemn innocent people we could have saved to die. Perfection isn't an option, and neither is a costless policy.

Whether or not we should have a rule that would require us to turn away the St. Louis today is arguable, not a discussion beyond the pale. But people who advocate for that rule should have to own up to the potential costs of their preferred policy, not just preach the virtues of caution.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A response to Liz Wolfe on free speech and not being a jerk

Because constructive criticism was (and continues to be) so important to finding my voice, and because the author has expressed her desire to hear it, I'm responding to the post Libertarians, It’s Time to Decide: Compassion or Free Speech Purism? from the Students for Liberty blog (which has also generated an excellent response).