RE: POL: Anarchism vs Limited Government

Robin Hanson (
Mon, 5 Apr 1999 20:32:47 -0700

Bill Brown wrote:
>> What subtle schemes/problems do you have in mind that would not be
>> handled by my proposed "PPA anti-trust law"?
>I think I've done this before, but here's a short sampling. I'm not going
>to include the full reasoning behind each point here - if you think I'm
>wrong about a particular point, let me know and I'll fill in more detail.
>1) IMO, normal competitive forces will give you markets with a fairly small
>number of relatively large PPAs. ...
>2) The nature of the law enforcement business makes it easy for PPAs to
>create geographical monopolies and cartels, ...
>3) PPAs are not immune to creeping authoritarianism - especially if they are

These first three sound like you are saying that it is impossible to effectively enforce a PPA anti-trust metalaw. If so, this is clearly the most important point to discuss more. If you grant enforcement, then by assumption monopolies & malicious oligopolies are not a problem.

>4) The consequences of even a momentary lapse in coverage are catastrophic.

It would seem a straightforward to sign up for backup PPAs, so one is always covered.

>5) The customer is at the mercy of the PPA, not vice versa.

Is this the same sense that a patient is at the mercy of a doctor?

>6) A private law regime with dozens of PPAs, each with multiple law products
>and complex inter-company enforcement contracts, would be a legal regime far
>more complex than the one we now live in. ...

This is a more serious objection in my view. But noting how people want simplicity is often a major argument for nationalizing industries. Those pushing to nationalize health care, for example, talk a lot about how unreasonable it is to expect people to learn enough to know which health plan to choose. And how much it troubles consumers to have to try.

If people really really like simplicity enough, most all PPAs may end up enforcing the same law. But that same law might be better. And enforcement styles and quality could still vary widely.