Incremental Progress (was: Private Property and Capitalism)

Robin Hanson (
Mon, 14 Oct 96 11:19:38 PDT

Eric Watt Forste <> writes:
>On Sun, 13 Oct 1996 wrote:
>> Which leads to a question (assuming anyone has read this far!) Is anyone on
>> the list aware of cogent plans or proposals for an incrementalist
>> implementation of criminal or tort law?
>This is indeed one of the hard problems of anarchocapitalism, possibly
>even harder than oft discussed problem of "national" defense. ...
>wergild systems and the problem of the judgment-proof
>criminal, it seems to me, takes us toward the institutionalization of
>term-slavery ... I am very shy of anything that even looks like
>backsliding in this department.
>Therefore, my only strong inclination on this question is to push for a
>return to *fully* local control of tort and criminal law.

I didn't see GBurch's post, so maybe he clarified, but "incremental"
is ambiguous. We could propose our favorite system, and then propose
that it apply to ten new people every second, eventually covering
everyone in a century. But this isn't probably what you mean. You
probably want a political feasible transition path. Unfortunately,
politics is messy, and varies with place and time. Changes that might
be feasible at one place and time will not be feasible elsewhere, and
sometimes big changes are feasible.

My current approach to "incremental" is in terms of the intellectual
arguments offered to limit freedom of contract. Full freedom of
contract gets us everything we want, and we already have a bit of
freedom. So I focus on increasing the scope of freedom of contract by
indentifying first the weakest arguments for limiting such freedom,
and hoping to damage them enough to topple the limits which rest only on
those arguments. And to make my counter-arguments stick as well as
possible, I am formalizing them. See my papers on democratic failure
and product bans.

Of course there are lots of other approaches. When limits are local,
then local politics can help make local incremental progress. And
when limits are national, moving those issues to local juristiction
can fascilitate local incremental progress.

Robin D. Hanson