Re: Coase's Theorem and Intellectual Property

Damien R. Sullivan (
Tue, 22 Dec 1998 19:50:59 -0800 (PST)

On Dec 22, 3:50pm, wrote:
> Robin responds to my questions:

> >Having the ends justify the means is "principled." Maybe its not a >
> >principle you like, but that's another matter.
> If you think it's principled, then proceed to defend the principle.

Why don't you defend your principle? Or attack ends justifying the means?

> 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"?

Why does a social order need justification? And _how_ do you justify an order?

I know one of you principled libertarians claimed that you could show that coercion made most people, and eventually everyone, worse off in the long run. A nice consequentialist argument, I think.

My instinctive sympathies are libertarian. And through my adolescence I was a natural-law libertarian, although uneasily, until a post by Dave Krieger (former list member) crystallized my unease, and shattered my belief in absolute morality in general. It's irrelevant. If someone is compelling me to do something, and they aren't fighting their conscience, then I can't see how any philosophical arguments are going to make them leave me alone. I can (a) fight them or (b) convince them how it'd somehow be in their best interest to leave me alone. (The first is obviously a case of the second: _making_ it in their best interest to leave me alone.) This is, essentially, consequentialist: making them not like the consequences of compelling me.

Or, looked at the other way, if I had lots of power, and felt like being a tyrannical jerk, what would make me stop? More power opposing me would. Wanting things I couldn't compel could. Saying "It's wrong! It's wrong!" would just attract sadistic attention.

How would I justify this? I wouldn't. Why would I need to?

I figure if I can't convince myself, without reference to consequences, to be nice, I can give up on trying to convince muggers and Nazis and Republicans to be nice.

Not that I would necessarily be a big jerk if I had the power -- I think I wouldn't, in general -- but I don't claim it's because I know it'd be wrong. It's because I feel it'd be wrong; those libertarian instincts, and a dislike for violence. But that's not principles, it's conditioning.

-xx- Damien R. Sullivan X-)

"Praise the Lord and pass the evidence."