Re: What is Bin Rotten was your neighbor?

From: Greg Burch (
Date: Sun Oct 21 2001 - 05:52:55 MDT

[... sort-of doing some correspondence this morning ...]

From: "Alex F. Bokov" <>
Sent: Tuesday, October 16, 2001 1:10 PM

> Thinking about this further, escrow services came to mind. Namely,
> when two countries sign a treaty, they agree on a neutral third party
> as an arbitrator, and both present the arbitrator with a check for an
> agreed-upon amount. The arbitrator has the resources to monitor
> compliance with this treaty (and is compensated for their troubles by
> the principals). If the arbitrator finds that the treaty has been
> violated, it cashes the check from the side that violated it and gives
> the money to the other side.
> Then, the sincerity level of a government entering into a treaty could
> be assigned a numerical value taking into account how much money
> they're putting on the line as a percentage of their tax income and
> their previous history of defaults on treaties (just like S&P publish
> ratings for how likely governments are to default on their business
> commitments).
> This way, an open market for international law (competing arbitration
> agencies) can exist without the arbitration agencies having to be
> sufficiently well armed to enforce treaties broken by, say, the US or
> China. Palestinians and Israelis can continue making "agreements" with
> each other in bad faith, but nobody will take these agreements
> seriously until both sides put their money where their big mouths are.
> Whadja'll think?

As with the proposed use of escrows in various private law schemes we've
talked about over the years, I think this is a bad idea. One benefit of a
good legal system is the reduction of transaction costs borne in its
absence. Escrows are exactly the kind of burden you're trying to avoid when
you use law rather than some other system of social relations -- after all,
an escrow is really just a form of hostage-holding.

The problem with regimes of international law is developing truly "legal"
methods of "execution", i.e. of enforcement of the results of the legal
process. In this instance, we'd be looking for an analog of a mortgage or
other kind of security interest. In practice, of course, this is what
happens in the completely anarchic state of international affairs: A
country's goods -- defined in the most general sense -- are exposed to loss
in consequence of breaches of the peace. The step toward law is to better
define those goods that are subject to forfeit and the conditions that can
trigger forfeiture.

BTW, one of these days soon, I'll be writing something I thought I'd be
pushed by my friends to write sooner -- a defense of my endorsement of state
action in the present crisis, given my vocal libertarianism in the past ...

Greg Burch
Vice-President, Extropy Institute

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