Re: Coase's Theorem and Intellectual Property

Peter C. McCluskey (
Thu, 7 Jan 1999 09:01:58 -0800 (Robin Hanson) writes:
>Peter McCluskey responds to me:
>>>I think the key problem is that most "libertarians" don't like simple
>>>consequential analyses of legal & political questions, preferring
>>>axiomatic analyses instead. If they can get someone to accept

>> Is this consequential analysis versus axiomatic principle dispute anything
>>more than a debate over the granularity at which to apply the analysis?

>I'm not sure what you mean. Yes, the conclusions of overly narrow
>consequentialist analyses can be overcome by broader analyses, which
>consider more actors, factors, or choices, or which look further in time.

>Those who take this view in debates, however, should be prepared to engage
>in consequential analysis. They should be able to describe those distant
>consequences, and to show in some detail how their consideration overturns
>simpler analyses.

I think most of the libertarians you are trying to criticise will admit if pinned down carefully enough that their axioms are derived from consequential analyses. At least they don't seem to have any competing justification for their axioms.
I think your main disagreement is that they misjudge what part of their reasoning is being rejected - they typically assume without evidence that most people understand the kind of arguments Epstein makes in his book Simple Rules for a Complex World, when it isn't clear that even most libertarians understand those arguments.

Peter McCluskey          | Critmail ( | Accept nothing less to archive your mailing list