A BLOG POST WITH NO HOME
A Blog Post With No Home
I found his extract on my desktop with no accompanying details, plus my, much longer original comments. I post them today to clear space on my desktop, but they may be interesting to some readers.
“And if made policy, it is no longer simply unethical, but uneconomical as well, because of the fear, uncertainty, and even exuberance that arises among market actors, leading to misallocation of resources into unprofitable lines of production.
The questions are irrevocably linked. Even natural, inalienable rights—ethical concepts—are, for our purposes, best understood as constructs devised to protect the economic interests (the pursuit, use, and extension of life, liberty, and property) of individuals. They exist to help us avoid, and ultimately, resolve what are really economically motivated disputes.”
As a “Soft” libertarian I find some interesting ideas present in this extract as well as some dubious ones too; both require some careful revision. (presumably, referring to the whole article, now lost).
The main issue for “soft libertarians”, including I believe, the ever pragmatic Adam Smith, is whether the “Clenched Fist and the General Welfare” is a “symmetry” between “Adam Smith’s about self-interest unintentionally channeled into market organization”. The “symmetry” is rather forced because Adam Smith did not say or imply that “self interest” is solely confined to “market organisation”. Far from it. He applied it philosophically to “markets” and as a fundamental characteristic of humans because its existence pre-dates “market organisation”, and moreover, governments have operated in one form or another ever since property evolved many millennia ago, with a galaxies’ worth of unintended consequences.
All states had a duty to protect property from both the poor, as Smith mentioned in Wealth Of Nations, and also, and more frequently, from rival, rich men in violently disputed ownership of said properties and in attempts to exercise or overthrow rights related to primogeniture cultures. This latter source of disputed ownership within states is demonstrated across history.
Coercion versus General Welfare, dramatised as a metaphoric clenched fist, is a loaded assumption. Self-interest is not a passive moral force. Putting it such as: “The invisible hand, however, is open. It is able to do more, and better, than the clenched fist, without stifling progress in other areas” is to idealise self-interest as a morally neutral phenomena. Smith identifies in Wealth Of Nations in Books I, II and III over 60 instances where self-interest consistently worked against the self-interests of the communities in which they occured.
We can surmise what would happen in societies without basic codes of conduct in human societies enforced by a justice system? Consider, as a thought experiment, the hard-libertarian utopian vision of an economy without a state, and each person with having guns - the theory that ‘good guys with guns’ would protect individuals from ‘bad guys with guns’. How would they know which was which?
Autocratic states have been tried and by most standards failed. The road to curbing autocratic power was not designed and applied. Fuedal kings did not let go of their absolute powers, enforced by armed bodies of men. Some fell to violent revolutions and civil wars, others to invasions by other absolute powers. In one case the Barons who ruled by the grace of the King’s pleasure, persuaded the king to introduce, albeit limited by the standards of absolutism, to curb his absolutist behaviours, if only slghtly at first. But over a few centuries those modest relaxations of absolutism had unintended consequences that gradually widened the rights of those closest to him, and slowly, the rights of those below the Barons and the kIng, until they became entrenched rights of white male citizens too - females, black and Asian slaves rights came several centuries later - very recently in fact.
I refer, of course, to King John and the Runnymede compromise. Whatever atrocities against human rights continued, once begun in the 13th century in England, the changes slowly widened as if unstoppable, like snow melting in the weakely flittering sunshine of liberty.
To describe the world today as if government in the countries with the highest per capita incomes is synonimous with ‘oppresive corecion’ is pure hyperbole. Oppressive coercion is more a characteristic of the world’s poorest countries.