Catallaxy Files, Corrected

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Catallaxy Files (.com) Wrong on Markets Requiring Government

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Catallaxy Files (.com) err in believing that the existence of government provision of law and order is a necessary precondition for the market to function. Three explanatory quotes below.

Murray Rothbard (in 1956) said:

[S]ome services can be financed only “jointly,” and will serve many people jointly. Therefore, [it is argued] that individuals on the market cannot provide these services. This is a curious position indeed. For all large-scale businesses are “jointly” financed with huge aggregations of capital, and they also serve many consumers, often jointly. No one maintains that private enterprise cannot supply steel or automobiles or insurance because they are “jointly” financed. As for joint consumption, in one sense no consumption can be joint, for only individuals exist and can satisfy their wants, and therefore everyone must consume separately. In another sense, almost all consumption is “joint.” Baumol, for example, asserts that parks are an example of “collective wants” jointly consumed, since many individuals must consume them. Therefore, the government must supply this service. But going to a theater is even more joint, for all must go at the same time. Must all theaters therefore be nationalized and run by the government? Furthermore, in a broad view, all modern consumption depends on mass production methods for a wide market. There are no grounds by which Baumol can separate certain services and dub them “examples of interdependence” or “external economies.” What individuals could buy steel or automobiles or frozen foods, or almost anything else, if enough other individuals did not exist to demand them and make their mass-production methods worthwhile? …

These services (protection, transportation, and so on) are so basic, it is alleged, that they permeate market affairs and are a prior necessary condition for its existence. But this argument proves far too much. It was the fallacy of the classical economists that they considered goods in terms of large classes, rather than in terms of marginal units. All actions on the market are marginal, and this is precisely the reason that valuation and imputation of value-productivity to factors can be effected. If we start dealing with whole classes rather than marginal units, we can discover all sorts of activities which are necessary prerequisites of, and vital to, all market activity; land, room, food, clothing, shelter, power, and so on — and even paper! Must all of these be supplied by the State and the State only?

Stripped of its many fallacies, the whole “collective wants” thesis boils down to this: certain people on the market will receive benefits from the action of others without paying for them. This is the long and short of the criticism of the market, and this is the only relevant “external economy” problem. A and B decide to pay for the building of a dam for their uses; C benefits though he did not pay. A and B educate themselves at their expense and C benefits by being able to deal with educated people, and so on. This is the problem of the Free Rider. Yet it is difficult to understand what the hullabaloo is all about. Am I to be specially taxed because I enjoy the sight of my neighbor’s garden without paying for it? A’s and B’s purchase of a good reveals that they are willing to pay for it; if it indirectly benefits C as well, no one is the loser. If C feels that he would be deprived of the benefit if only A and B paid, then he is free to contribute too. In any case, all the individuals consult their own preferences in the matter.

In fact, we are all free riders on the investment, and the technological development, of our ancestors. Must we wear sackcloth and ashes, or submit ourselves to State dictation, because of this happy fact?

Murray Rothbard (in 1970) said:

Those economists and others who espouse the philosophy of laissez faire believe that the freedom of the market should be upheld and that property rights must not be invaded. Nevertheless, they strongly believe that defense service cannot be supplied by the market and that defense against invasion of property must therefore be supplied outside the free market, by the coercive force of the government. In arguing thus, they are caught in an insoluble contradiction, for they sanction and advocate massive invasion of property by the very agency (government) that is supposed to defend people against invasion! For a laissez-faire government would necessarily have to seize its revenues by the invasion of property called taxation and would arrogate to itself a compulsory monopoly of defense services over some arbitrarily designated territorial area.

The laissez-faire theorists (who are here joined by almost all other writers) attempt to redeem their position from this glaring contradiction by asserting that a purely free-market defense service could not exist and that therefore those who value highly a forcible defense against violence would have to fall back on the State (despite its black historical record as the great engine of invasive violence) as a necessary evil for the protection of person and property. [They believe] that defense must be supplied by the State because of the unique status of defense as a necessary precondition of market activity, as a function without which a market economy could not exist. Yet this argument is a non sequitur that proves far too much. It was the fallacy of the classical economists to consider goods and services in terms of large classes; instead, modern economics demonstrates that services must be considered in terms of marginal units. For all actions on the market are marginal.

If we begin to treat whole classes instead of marginal units, we can discover a great myriad of necessary, indispensable goods and services all of which might be considered as “preconditions” of market activity. Is not land room vital, or food for each participant, or clothing, or shelter? Can a market long exist without them? And what of paper, which has become a basic requisite of market activity in the complex modern economy? Must all these goods and services therefore be supplied by the State and the State only?

The laissez-faireist also assumes that there must be a single compulsory monopoly of coercion and decision-making in society, that there must, for example, be one Supreme Court to hand down final and unquestioned decisions. But he fails to recognize that the world has lived quite well throughout its existence without a single, ultimate decision-maker over its whole inhabited surface.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe (in 1989) said:

Now, it is certainly correct that a market presupposes the recognition and enforcement of those rules that underlie its operation. But from this it does not follow that this task must be entrusted to a monopolistic agency. In fact, a common language or sign-system is also presupposed by the market; but one would hardly think it convincing to conclude that hence the government must ensure the observance of the rules of language. Just as the system of language then, the rules of market behavior emerge spontaneously and can be enforced by the “invisible hand” of self-interest. Without the observance of common rules of speech people could not enjoy the advantages that communication offers, and without the observance of common rules of conduct, people could not enjoy the benefits of the higher productivity of an exchange economy based on the division of labor.

Written by Benjamin Marks

October 24th, 2011 at 11:33 am

Catallaxy Files (.com) Wrong on Parliamentary Democracy

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Catallaxy Files (.com) err in supporting parliamentary democracy. Five explanatory quotes below.

Murray Rothbard (in 1970) said:

[P]roponents of government intervention are trapped in a fatal contradiction: they assume that individuals are not competent to run their own affairs or to hire experts to advise them. And yet they also assume that these same individuals are equipped to vote for these same experts at the ballot box. We have seen that, on the contrary, while most people have a direct idea and a direct test of their own personal interests on the market, they cannot understand the complex chains of praxeological and philosophical reasoning necessary for a choice of rulers or political policies. Yet this political sphere of open demagogy is precisely the only one where the mass of individuals are deemed to be competent!

Ludwig von Mises (in 1949) said:

[I]t is not easy to silence the voices of those who ask whether it is not paradoxical to entrust the nation’s welfare to the decisions of voters whom the law itself considers incapable of managing their own affairs; whether it is not absurd to make those people supreme in the conduct of government who are manifestly in need of a guardian to prevent them from spending their own income foolishly. Is it reasonable to assign to wards the right to elect their guardians?

Edmund Burke (in 1756) said:

Observe, my Lord, I pray you, that grand Error upon which all artificial legislative Power is founded. It was observed, that Men had ungovernable Passions, which made it necessary to guard against the Violence they might offer to each other. They appointed Governors over them for this Reason; but a worse and more perplexing Difficulty arises, how to be defended against the Governors? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? [Juvenal's who will govern the governors?] In vain they change from a single Person to a few. These few have the Passions of the one, and they unite to strengthen themselves, and to secure the Gratification of their lawless Passions at the Expence of the general Good. In vain do we fly to the Many. The Case is worse; their Passions are less under the Government of Reason, they are augmented by the Contagion, and defended against all Attacks by their Multitude.

David Hume (in 1740) said:

The same interest … which causes us to submit to magistracy, makes us renounce itself in the choice of our magistrates.

John Locke (in 1689) said:

As if when Men quitting the State of Nature entered into Society, they agreed that all of them but one, should be under the restraint of Laws, but that he should still attain all the Liberty of the State of Nature, increased with Power, and made licentious by Impunity. This is to think that Men are so foolish that they take care to avoid what Mischiefs may be done them by Pole-Cats, or Foxes, but are content, nay think it Safety, to be devoured by Lions.

Written by Benjamin Marks

August 13th, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Catallaxy Files (.com) Wrong on Constitutional Government

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Catallaxy Files (.com) err in supporting constitutional government. Three explanatory quotes below.

Ludwig von Mises (in 1944) said:

The bureaucrat is not only a government employee. He is, under a democratic constitution, at the same time a voter and as such a part of the sovereign, his employer. He is in a peculiar position: he is both employer and employee. And his pecuniary interest as employee towers above his interest as employer, as he gets much more from the public funds than he contributes to them … This double relationship becomes more important as the people on the government’s payroll increase. The bureaucrat as voter is more eager to get a raise than to keep the budget balanced. His main concern is to swell the payroll … This is one of the antinomies inherent in present-day constitutional issues. It has made many people despair of the future of democracy. As they became convinced that the trend toward more government interference with business, toward more offices with more employees, toward more doles and subsidies is inevitable, they could not help losing confidence in government by the people.

Albert Jay Nock (in 1943) said:

The idea of a self-limiting or temporary collectivism impresses me as too absurd to be seriously discussed … [N]o one call fall out of a forty-storey window and stop at the twentieth storey … [T]here can be no such thing as a ten-per-cent collectivist State for any length of time. One might just as sensibly speak of a ten-per-cent mammalian pregnancy.

Lysander Spooner (in 1870) said:

Inasmuch as the Constitution was never signed, nor agreed to, by anybody, as a contract, and therefore never bound anybody, and is now binding upon nobody; and is, moreover, such an one as no people can ever hereafter be expected to consent to, except as they may be forced to do so at the point of the bayonet, it is perhaps of no importance what its true legal meaning, as a contract, is. Nevertheless, the writer thinks it proper to say that, in his opinion, the Constitution is no such instrument as it has generally been assumed to be; but that by false interpretations, and naked usurpations, the government has been made in practice a very widely, and almost wholly, different thing from what the Constitution itself purports to authorize. He has heretofore written much, and could write much more, to prove that such is the truth. But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain — that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.

Murray Rothbard (in 1973) said:

The libertarian is realistic because he understands that government tends to expand. The “limited government realist” is the utopian, learning nothing from the failure of the 1789 constitution to restrain government. He who puts all the guns and decision-making power into the hands of government and then says, “Limit yourself”; it is he who is the impractical utopian. [paraphrased]

Written by Benjamin Marks

June 9th, 2011 at 4:47 pm