Re: Property and the Law, and is it a priority?

From: Technotranscendence (
Date: Tue Aug 07 2001 - 00:37:19 MDT

On Sunday, August 05, 2001 11:38 AM Charles D Hixson wrote:
>> Not so. Cordato's arguments apply both to minarchy and anarchy
>> -- in fact, to any-archy as they are not libertarian arguments
>> per se, but economic ones. Specifically, he talks about how
>> attempts to improve upon free market efficiency are doomed. (I...
> Perhaps you should consider that economics is not now and has not
> been a science. Any arguments made on an economic basis should be
> considered to have a large degree of uncertainty in them. (I.e.,
> are not worthy of *belief!*), no matter how appealing they are.

I'm not sure I'd be willing to dismiss all economic arguments as bunks.
Economics is a social science and must be taken in that context. However,
to throw all of it out would be akin to throwing out all physics because
there are a few bad physicists out there.

I hope this isn't another attempt to avoid studying some of the works I

> As a more practical matter, Minarchies and Anarchies have a
> distressing tendency to be unstable equilibria.

I'm not sure about that. We'd have to delimit instability here. After all,
there are degrees of it.

Also, a bigger problem is that one has to remember that nonminarchist states
defines a huge class, ranging from Mike Lorrey's style of government to that
of Stalin and Fidel Castro. It's kind of like saying New Yorkers are
unstable because they don't all stay in Manhattan.

> There have been a
> few small examples that remained stable until perturbed by external
> stresses,

Which ones?

I can think of the Medival Iceland and Ireland and Anglosaxon England, but
the external stress in both cases was invasion. Invasion is really
something most societies can't survive. To say these societies were
unstable because an invader destroyed them is akin to saying that your house
is unstable because a tank can smash it.:)

Add to this, it seems more like mixed economies and socialist ones are much
more unstable. Government grows in fits and starts in both, then sometimes
collapses or is curbed back.

> but I think that one needs to assume that there will be
> external stresses, if only of TV or Radio signals.

Huh? Is your idea that people living in a free society might hear about
government oppression on the radio or see it on TV, then start to emulate
it? I bet the penetration would go the opposite way.

> Unless one
> intends to run a pre-electric community, which, in fact, all of the
> successful - for - more - than - a -couple - of - decades examples
> that I can think of were. Some of the were successful for multiple
> generations, but they were all small, isolated groups without
> complex internal structures (like corporations, insurance
> companies, security forces, etc.)

Whaa? I'm not talking about starting a separatist community. I daresay
most of the libertarians on this aren't either.

> I think it quite possible that as technology improves it will again
> become possible to create small, self-contained, communities, of
> the macro-life variety. Possibly some of them will be extreme
> libertarian, of one flavor or another (but this implies that all
> life support is totally automated).

I don't doubt something like this might play itself out in the next several
decades. That's kind of why I wrote
"For a Free Frontier: The Case for Space Colonization"
(, though I do think the
more free the society, the more it will be emulated because free markets and
voluntary cooperation tend to work, while central planning and coercion tend
not to.

> What seems feasible now is to design systems to accomplish desired
> ends that don't have locally centralized controls. It's somewhat
> interesting that we owe the best current example, the internet, to
> the US Army. (They didn't wan an invading army to be able to sieze
> control.)

Hard to untangle all the elements in this, but it's noticeable that the
government didn't invent telephony or put the [decentralized telephone]
networks in place. It also didn't invent the technologies on which
computers are based -- solid state transitors. Nor did it create the
computer revolution which transformed the internet from being a toy of
academics and soldiers to being what it is today.

I bet if the government guided it more, we'd still be using using line
editors and looking at monochrome screens.:)

> It's also noticable, however, and a bit sad, that as it
> becomes less regulated by the government it is increasingly siezed
> by monoplistic elements. (Cable corporations, the Bell descendant
> companies, etc.)

I don't think it's so much that it's become less regulated by the
government. In fact, the amount of regulation has gone up and there are
proposals for more regulations.

> Private property is definitely a priority, but it happens only
> within an entire social context. It is the social context that
> defines what is private, and what is property. This isn't a given.

I agree that we exist within this context. Property is a social phenomena
and some aspects of it are arbitrary, but not all. Getting along without it
creates many more problems then it solves, as humanity should have noticed
by now, especially after the bloodiest century on record. Real flesh and
blood people died over these issues.

That said, just because there's a wider context doesn't mean we can't
abstract certain aspects for consideration -- much as in lab experiments one
tries to block out extraneous effects. Nor should it stop us from thinking
about changes, though we should always be careful to ground all of this in
the end.

> We may be headed into an era when our very bodies are not
> considered our private property. Or when they are considered
> disposable property. And what about your children. Are they
> property? At what age? These are social context questions.
> (Well, these days, legal questions. But that's a subset of social
> context.)

This talk about the limits does not really get us much further.


Daniel Ust
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