Friday, June 27, 2008

who owns you?

If you haven't read the Reason article, Who Owns Your Body Parts?, then you really, really ought to. If you don't trust me, take the word of the LA Press Club, who gave it an award last weekend.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

ow, my head

On one hand, Liberals propose a carbon tax, which will apply to gas, that would make people "pay the true cost of their effects on the environment."

On the other hand, they think that we definitely need to do something about rising gas prices. We can't let oil companies (and small business owners!) gouge consumers - we need to protect them!!... from... er... the costs of their effect on the environment.

I guess the real problem is that too much of the profit is going to someone who creates wealth, and not enough is being funneled towards government programs and MP/bureaucrat salaries.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

assumed consent

I've had the privilege this week to hear a number of amazing speakers talk on liberty and society. One speaker was Tom Bell, who has a really interesting theory about assumed consent and government services.

The idea is that typically when we talk about "consent," we mean express consent, such as an explicit agreement or contract. Another kind of consent is "implied consent," which we infer from the actions of the individuals involved. There's also "hypothetical consent" - consent that is assumed because it ought to be consensual because of some hypothetical reasoning. (You would agree to it under a veil of ignorance, for example.)

The theory we heard put forward is that a normal market is based on express consent. However, in the market for government services, it may be that there is implied consent based on a "love it or leave it" attitude towards the law - the assumption that if you didn't like living under a set of rules, you would leave.

Government services are provided, obviously, by a monopoly. Because the government doesn't have a pricing mechanism available, though, (since its services are delivered free at the point of use) it could be argued that they use the "implied demand" they could get from, say, census numbers, to determine the number of services to offer.

The problem? If assumed demand is too high (as it likely is - the fact that someone is in the country doesn't mean that they demand a service), the point at which marginal cost is equal to marginal revenue (which determines how much of a service is offered in a monopoly situation) might be at a point where the price for such a service is negative - that is, some people would pay to get rid of government services, rather than paying for the services they're receiving or being subjected to. Note that the price charged to deliver this service would also be quite high, as monopolies price off of their supply curve.

It's an interesting theory that I find persuasive, though I'll have to think it over further.

Since I have a million thoughts running through my mind after these talks, here's more thinking aloud:

Since agricultural subsidies in the developed world do so much to discourage farming in the poorest countries, it stops the development of farms - that is, the cheapest and easiest way for poor people to develop and add value to their land. Additionally, bureaucratic nonsense makes it nearly impossible to develop land legally when building anything unless you have the money or connections to bypass the system.

Since land that is or would be used by poor people remains undeveloped or is developed illegally, there is less of a demand for property rights. (Why bother laying a claim on something that isn't valuable, and how would you try to lay a legal claim on something that's not legally valuable?)

Could it be that governments see this and that in the absence of a pricing mechanism they make an assumption that the demand for property rights is lower than it actually is in the same way that they might over-predict the demand for other services, and that this is a reason for under-providing an effective legal system to protect these rights?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

age limits

I'm at a seminar in Virginia, and a fellow here will be turning 21 tomorrow. He will not be allowed to drink until midnight tonight, since, you know, he's such a different guy now than he will be then.

Someone pointed out to me, though, that that's an issue with all age limits/age of consent rules. And you know what? They're right.

Thinking aloud:

Perhaps a different system would be that once someone wants freedom from rules there could be some sort of test of understanding and rationality that they could pass to distinguish themself as a rational individual. It's difficult to implement but certainly less absurd than choosing an arbitrary age.

That isn't to say that I would use that as a rule to determine when someone should be allowed to drink - I don't think age or rationality should have anything to do with that - this would apply more to, say, contracts.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

food for thought

If regulators and politicians believe that gun bans are an effective way to eliminate gun crimes, why do they make an exception to the ban for law enforcement officials?

Actions speak louder than words - if the state doesn't believe that gun bans will keep guns out of the hands of criminals, why would it take away the choice of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves in kind?