Re: Coase's Theorem and Intellectual Property

Michael S. Lorrey (
Wed, 23 Dec 1998 13:38:28 -0500 wrote:

> Robin responds to my questions:
> >>>I embrace simple consequential analysis as a basis for policy
> >>>discussions.
> >>So did Machiavelli.
> >To his credit.
> If you say so... Tell me, does _The Prince_ really inspire your sense of
> justice?

The Prince was merely a policy paper he wrote for one particular prince in Italy on how to be a good, powerful, effective, and preferably long lived prince, not in how to be a good democrat or how to be a good libertarian. If you have read the rest of his political writings you would find that his own preferences were much more progressive and principled.

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

It is a principle, just not one that favors liberty. As previously stated, my right to swing my arm ends in front of your nose, so obviously a Force principle is subjugated by the principle of Natural Law at some point. Just where that point is is the major matter of debate. Coase posits that any judgment on where that point is in any situation should be a matter of cost/benefit analysis rather than haughty perching at an absolute point, which in reality is merely a figmentary fiction of the individuals pejudices. I would say that any stable society requires stable and easily recognizable flags that are only moved by the assent of all, or by a consensus of whatever majority is deemed sufficient by all parties. While Coase may be right in a numerical sense that maximum efficiency may be gained by such perpetual calculation, he ignores the question of whether people are up to such chores.