Re: Incremental Progress (was: Private Property and Capitalism)
Wed, 16 Oct 1996 19:09:11 -0400

[second send attempt ... apologies for multiple copies if you get them]

Eric Watt Forste offers, for the U.S., a decentralization of power back to
the states as one step on the path toward incrementally moving toward a
regime of anarcho-capitalsim. I'm all for this, to the extent that it
implements polycentric legalism. However, I see each state claiming total
sovereignty within its own territory (while implementing laws different from
other states) and thus this path seems to take us no closer to a stateless
world. In fact it may not really be an instance of legal polycentricity any
more than the international legal order is, because of the concept of the
territorial state. Nothing in the modern "states' rights" movement seems to
point to a devolution of state power, per se.

Also, BTW, I think your reference to Friedman's interesting work on the
Icelandic example, Eric, bears out my original thesis regarding the relative
ease of implementing agoric legal systems in truly "new worlds". As I
recall, that regime developed amongst colonists (political refugees)
emigrating from Scandinavia to essentially unpeopled country.

Then Robin Hanson writes:

>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.

This certainly has promise and I'll search for these papers at your web site,
Robin, if they're there. Perhaps you could forward URLs to me by private
e-mail? The problem I see is that the regimes of law with which I'm familiar
place explicit boundaries on the realm of contract with concepts such a "void
for illegality" and the like. Attacking these boundaries head-on will surely
mobilize the survival instincts of the state, won't it?

Greg Burch <> <> or
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a
little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety"
-- Benjamin Franklin