Re: capitalist religion (was: NANO: _Forbes_ cover story)

From: Technotranscendence (
Date: Wed Jul 18 2001 - 08:10:46 MDT

On Wednesday, July 18, 2001 1:05 AM Russell Blackford
> Personally, I don't make a good libertarian because I can see no
> way to restrict government activities in the field of building social
> infrastructure like roads, public schools, etc, and collecting taxes to
> for it.

You need to study the work of, among others, Daniel Klein. See:

"Private Toll Roads: Learning from the 19th Century" (coauthored with Gordon
J. Fielding) at:

No abstract.:)

"Economy, Community and Law: The Turnpike Movement in New York, 1797-1845 "
(coauthored with John Majewski) at:

Abstract: Turnpikes promised a solution to the problem of bad roads, but
private management of highways was a startling innovation. Some people
opposed the idea and denounced turnpikes with the betes noires of "private
corporation" and "aristocracy." Much of the controversy, however, was rooted
in local disputes over concessions. The legislature both expressed and
responded to turnpike protest by writing laws favorable to local users and
damaging to the financial viability of the companies. Turnpikes were
unprofitable, and their potential as a service to the entire community was
not fully realized.

"The Voluntary Provision of Public Goods? The Turnpike Companies of Early
America" at:

Abstract: The turnpike companies of early America (roughly 1795-1840) were
very unprofitable but conferred vast benefits to communities served.
Purchasing stock was like paying for the road since such purchases were
necessary to complete the road and unprofitability was foreseen. Thus the
turnpikes would appear to have been public goods. Yet hundreds of turnpikes
were provided through voluntary association. The free rider problem was
overcome by an almost vigilant impulse to participate and to see that your
neighbor did likewise.

"Use, Esteem, and Profit in Voluntary Provision: Toll Roads in California,

Abstract: With county and state government unable to effect road
improvement, California lawmakers immediately opened the field to private
initiative. At least 159 private companies successfully built and operated
toll roads in California. Compared to earlier toll roads in the eastern U.
S., the California roads were concentrated in ownership and more
profit-oriented in operation. Even so, the quest for mere road improvement
was often also an important impetus for taking toll road stock. Voluntary
association assumed the corporate form to achieve its several goals.

The above, of course, deal with roads and not other so called public goods.
However, similar cases can be made for other cases too.

> This is not an argument for big government, which can be opposed on
> various bases, just a view that there is no knock-out argument in favour
> minarchy. I think it can be shown that any pure minarchist position such
> Jerry Mitchell seems to be advocating collapses into either anarchism or
> classical liberalism, once a serious attempt is made to defend it.

I thought the classical liberal position was minarchism.

One should look at the evidence and the arguments. The point is not to
persuade every last person that something is true or valid, but to see if it
is indeed true or valid. A lot of arguments against freedom amount to
coming up with some off the wall case of why government needs to control or
prohibit something usually based on faulty reasoning or bad data. (See,
e.g., Kevin Dowd's work on free banking, especially his _Laissez-Faire
Banking_, which is almost a decade old now. Central bank proponents have
not really knocked down his data or logic. Instead, they generally avoid
them. i'm not saying they're consciously doing so, but they avoiding it
nonetheless, for the most part.)

> I do think there is something damn close to a knock-out argument against
> passing laws based on the reasoning that "we don't want you to exercise
> freedom in certain ways that we find immoral". That, however, is a
> liberal view, not strictly a libertarian one.

What is the difference between classical liberalism and libertarianism? I
think the two share a lot of common ground. In fact, I daresay libertarians
are the direct descendants of classical liberals.


Daniel Ust
    See "The Many Births of Free Verse" at:

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Fri Oct 12 2001 - 14:39:49 MDT