Re: Coase's Theorem and Intellectual Property
Tue, 22 Dec 1998 16:42:03 -0700

Robin responds to my questions:
>>Did Coase in fact simply assume these things in his paper? What did he
>>the Nobel prize for, then?

>Asking the right question, even if the answer is trivial.

Speaking of trivial answers... (Ok, cheap shot, but I couldn't resist. No offense.)

I'm going to suspend judgment until I read the original paper. Something I've been meaning to get to anyway.

>Having the ends justify the means is "principled." Maybe its not a
>you like, but that's another matter.

If you think it's principled, then proceed to defend the principle.

I wrote:
>Analyses like Coase's serve to buttress this belief by showing how
>solutions arise on a free market, but don't - and shouldn't - form the
>foundation of (anti)political philosophy.

Robin returns:
>But Coase gives a *consequential* analysis in favor of markets!

True, exactly why I said he buttresses our opposition to aggression. But in itself it provides no reason for an authoritarian to suddenly embrace freedom. He'd say "so what? I don't want what the market wants, there are higher values", blah blah blah.

>If my liberty was reduced, that should show itself in lots of simple
>familiar consequences. I wouldn't get to eat the things I like,
>live in the places I like, etc. I could be displeased by that outcome
>even without adding on an extra "and my liberty was reduced."

Who said it was offered *in addition* to the simple consequences? It's just a summary, in lieu of enumerating all the detailed losses.

>>>I embrace simple consequential analysis as a basis for policy

>>So did Machiavelli.

>To his credit.

If you say so... Tell me, does _The Prince_ really inspire your sense of justice?

>>>I accept these features because simple consequential analysis seems
>>>our best chance for creating broad intellectual consensus on policy

>>If by an appeal to their material advantage we can persuade the less
>>principled to support freedom, that's better than nothing, I suppose.

>There are lots more simple consequences than "material advantage."
>There's having friends, enjoying conversations, liking music,
>traveling to interesting places, etc.

What do these things have to do with market analysis or with Coase's theorem?

>>IOW you prefer the _status quo_ of opportunistic power struggles to a
>>principled discussion of the ethical foundations of a good society.

>Again, power struggles *are* "principled." And there is no real
>alternative to participating in them -- "ethical" discussions are just
>one of many ways to play the power struggle game.

You're equivocating on the word "power" - a common practice among people who - to their credit - don't want to admit to themselves the brute nature of what they advocate. Obviously I was addressing the power of compulsion, not "personal power" or "economic power". What sort of "principle" can justify social order by armed force? "Might makes right"?