He offers the view that libertarianism is little more than an unfounded, quasi-religious statement of faith: a market romance. Moreover, libertarianism is exposed as profoundly antithetical to the very freedom which it purports to advance.
In short, I am not open to the accusations routinely leveled by the philosophical Right at their critics
Note: Articulate – I am not what you will claim I am. I am not open to the strawmen you attribute to me.
Libertarians (in the second sense of the word) think they are for freedom but they don’t know what freedom is.
Note: Libertarians have commandeered the world “Freedom” to mean negative freedom, that is, the freedom to be left alone entirely. A liberal conception of freedom is the freedom of empowerment – the ability to be able to do things. A man left along, by starving and dying of cancer is not free in a meaningful sense. A man floating in space with an air bubble around his head, alive, but nothing more, is not free in the positive sense. He is left alone, but he can’t do anything. Our conception of freedom is building a world where we can do more through collective actions. A road lets us travel farther. Education lets us understand more. Healthcare lets us live longer, or at live altogether. We wish to remove inherent unfreedoms common to all people.
The thief comes in innocent disguise, but the beautiful garment is stolen. (The Right are good at that sort of thing.)
I have some spare A and you have some extra B; whereas, in the others, it is assumed, if not stated, both that the parties are the rightful owners of the things (objects or services) they exchange and that they own those things as private property (which, for libertarians, comes to the same thing of course).
Note: Property rights possession and ownership. A good refutation to McKinney’s Sawyer example from LOST. Just because he “has” the medicine and furthermore just because it might even have been destroyed without him getting it, doesn’t make it clear to us the he OWNS the rights to it. Libertarians want every transfer to be voluntary. No coercion. Consent. It’s difficult to accept the argument that a girl crashing to her almost inevitable death in a plummeting plain, and scrambling today save her life, has consented to relinquish her rights to life saving medicine.
I have an object if I have just stolen it from you and am now refusing to give it back.
Note: Perfect Sawyer example. Possession does not tell us everything, most or perhaps even anything about ownership. Ownership is a complex nexus of social conventions from custodianship, perception, law, enforcement, and philosophy.
Suppose that one party to the exchange is a utility, publicly owned under (what libertarians tend to call) ‘collectivist’ economic arrangements. For example, the water company agrees to maintain the supply to a given individual for another year in return for a sum of money. Here, it seems almost ridiculous to suppose that the exchange need be any less free or mutually beneficial than it would be if the company were privately owned.
I agree with Sir Isaiah Berlin that, ‘liberty is liberty, not equality or fairness or justice or culture, or human happiness or a quiet conscience’ (1969: 125). Since moral goodness is one thing whereas freedom is another, the arguments I have just raised would seem to be immune to any rights-based objection. And yet, despite (what I should have thought to be) the obvious differences between the two, libertarians have a strange tendency to confuse questions concerning rights with questions concerning freedom.
voluntary exchange is a free private enterprise exchange economy – what we have been calling competitive capitalism
Note: How can voluntary exchange when the financial products are impossible to understand? Furthermore, you can blame whoever you want. The fact is it doesn’t work. When no one understands this alphabet soup, you can say it’s their fault all day long. But if it plunges us into depression and wrecks the economy how is that a win?
As Locke himself puts it, ‘he that leaves as much as another can make use of, does as good as take nothing at all
Note that, for any bilateral exchange between persons P1 and P2, there is at least one other person, P3 (and, in addition to P3, everyone else in the world), who is not directly involved in the exchange and who consequently does not consent to its taking place. But, at stage one, where the exchange can be pictured as an isolated event with no discernible effect on P3’s welfare, the fact can be discounted as of no moral consequence.
The reasons may cease to apply where conditions change.
At stage two, circumstances have changed and we are confronted with a fully developed capitalist economy in which bilateral exchanges between consenting individuals normally do have far-reaching, and often deleterious, consequences for third parties not directly
At stage two, the foreclosure of opportunities to those third parties renders them worse off in a morally significant, not just a logically nit-picking, sense.
Perfect way to say that some freedoms, or meaningful opportunities are lost to non consenting third parties from the otherwise “willing” transaction of two other parties.
The fact that you or I have certainly not consented to the specific pattern of distribution which has resulted from the constant repetition of two-person exchanges is (or, maybe, should be) of importance to us in a way it would not be if we were the isolated inhabitants of a state of nature.
Note: Just like you complain you have no say in government, I have no say in the aggregate of all these exchanges, which result in the distribution of income in a way I might find undesirable, prices I might find undesirable, or monopolies for goods I might need but are prices outside of regular “market norms” due to unilateral bargaining power. Now this argument alone would leave me weak to several powerful rebuttals. “Too bad if you don’t like how much someone else makes. Why do you get to say how much someone is worth? Why is it up to you to determine what someone else should charge?” But the spirit remains the same, and there are far more convincing examples. Our classic externality. I have no say in the environment that gets polluted. Where do I go to buy clean air? Where can I go to look at a beautiful untainted landscape? What if I want to live in a society where everyone gets educated. What if I want an interstate highway system and scientific funding?
Libertarians believe that the market is a great respecter of individual freedom, more so than any other conceivable ‘systems’ or sets of arrangements. I shall now argue against this that, for the typical or ‘representative’ individual, A, there is no more reason for thinking that ‘A is free’ is more likely to be true where the free market prevails than there is where it does not. As I shall stress, this conclusion holds for those senses of ‘freedom’ which libertarians themselves endorse.
This raises some interesting questions: how is it that philosophy has become so introvertedly self-mesmerised that so many philosophers can so confidently deny the obvious? Or is it just laziness?
By this they mean to stress that there is nothing fancy about freedom; that individual freedom is essentially a simple matter of there being actions available to an individual which that individual would not be prevented from doing were he or she to try.
If I am prevented by others from doing what I could otherwise do, I am to that degree unfree.
Third, and more specifically, they tend to define freedom as the absence of coercion.
The question at issue here, however, is whether it can be any more true of the pure free market that it respects freedom, defined in terms of the absence of such factors, than it can be true of other conceivable systems. It is, I think, a fairly straightforward matter to demonstrate that it cannot.
For example – first – take the fact that a fully developed market economy requires an equally developed legal system, both to define spheres of private ownership and to ensure that those spheres are protected.
Again, it seems fairly obvious. If you are the private owner of the factory in which I must work if I am to have any hope of a decent life, then you have power over me; to employ me or not, to determine my working conditions, my rate of pay, and so on. Again, if we both want to buy the same house or flat, but you are richer than me – rich enough, maybe, to price me out of the housing market altogether – then you exert power over me when you make your higher bid. In these cases, your power gives you the potential to act in a way which causes me to suffer, and I am thus, in a fairly obvious sense of the phrase, ‘subject to your will’. So if freedom is, as Hayek thinks, the absence of subjection to the will of another then it is a false assertion that the market, unlike other systems, respects freedom in Hayek’s sense, just as it is in Berlin’s.
Note: A clear and forceful philosophical example that will at the very least definately call into question utter freedom in a market economy. What does it mean to be at the will of another? Is Freedom not being prevented by someone from doing something? In a pure free market economy, you are certainly prevented from buying something if someone else bids you out of the market. To that extent, you are unfree to do what you want to do because of the will of another. He has indirectly prevented you from doing something. One would here, invoke rights. You have a right to walk on a sidewalk, and it’s a violation of such rights for someone to stop you. But you are entitled to buy something only insofar as the person is willing to sell it to you. But it is a perfect example that in an open market, people with less money are less free because those with more money exert power over them by preventing them from buying things they otherwise could.
Any conceivable legal system requires coercion to hold it in place. A law is a sort of threat: ‘Do this, don’t do that, or you will be punished’.
Note: Unless you agree to anarchy, in which case you are then simply subject to the will of the most efficient bully, you are always subject to coercion in the sense that you are unfree to do some things, and subject to laws to prevent you from violating property rights. These things are nessesary to hold the Fabric of a Free Market together.
Since a legal system designed to define and protect private property will, like any other, require the usual array of police, courts, prisons, and so on, it has to be false that a pure free market is uniquely characterised by the absence of coercion.406
Note: Coercion and the Free Market – A very succinct and perfect example of how the Free Market necessarily requires coercion, and thus taxes to enforce such laws. In order to have a free market it must be part of the definition that their is enforcement of rights.
‘coercion . . . cannot be altogether avoided’ (ibid.: 21), even where free market conditions prevail, it has to be false that a free market system is uniquely characterised by the absence of coercion. The general conclusion for which I have been arguing – that the libertarian’s freedom thesis is false, even for those senses of ‘freedom’ which libertarians themselves tend to favour – also follows.
or to see that capitalism requires a police force for its continued existence.
But we must now consider an objection according to which this conclusion completely misses the point. The objection concedes that the free market rests on coercion, as other systems do, but points out that simply stressing the fact fails to acknowledge that coercion admits of degrees – from trivial to serious.
According to Hayek, even the most timid step in the direction of state intervention in the market, or towards the redistribution of income, inevitably places one at the top of the slippery slope which leads to the totalitarian abyss. As he says
Note: Excellent way to say that they are guilty of a slippery slope fallacy. Awesome articulation too. From now on, anytime someone accuses any small step as full out Socialism, use this.
In short, you have a choice, or so it is alleged: the sunny uplands of spontaneity and freedom (capitalism) or the dark nightmare, the jackboot grinding the human face forever (‘collectivism’).
Can this really be true, or is it an hysterical and exaggerated claim?
Note: Good response to a ridiculous claim
As we have seen, the ideal model of the free market demands that force will be required to hold its structure in place; that is, to protect the spheres of private ownership which must exist if it is to function.506
They will exhibit, if you like, a tendency to totalitarianism, but the liberal institutions are there to stop them doing that. Hayek offers no good reason for thinking that they must necessarily fail, which is what he needs.543
As the reader will recall, the invisible hand thesis states that the free market mechanism is the most efficient there is for ensuring the satisfaction of human needs, desires, preferences, and so on; ‘wants’ for short. Of course, this conclusion can only be logically derived from the reducibility thesis as a strict corollary with the help of the assumption that the bilateral market exchange is a paradigmatic exemplar of want satisfaction. This is questionable to say the least, on the grounds that it ignores the possibility that a person may have nothing to exchange, and so no means with which to satisfy a given want. It also ignores the possibility that third parties, not directly involved in the exchange, may have wants which are not satisfied – or are even frustrated – as a result of the exchanges which do take place. If you like, the thesis falsely equates ‘demand’ with ‘effective demand’.
But, even with the above assumption, we should first note that it seems a fairly simple matter to think of examples of wants which do not seem to be satisfied within the context of a fully developed free market economy (stage two of the quasi-Lockean scenario). For example, there is the possibility that a person might want the economic system prevailing within his or her own country not to be based upon free market principles. The very existence of the system would appear to frustrate the want in question and so falsify the invisible hand thesis.
Likewise, one can assume that the voters who repeatedly return social democratic governments to power in many Western European countries share a certain scepticism of the invisible hand, and that they do not want to be ruled by it.586
People want clean air and a healthy environment. From what private individual or company are they to buy these things?
Note: Truly profound – With but two examples, we can extrude everything we need to challenge Libertarianism. What if I want to murder? I can’t? What if I want clean air? I can’t. Trades can occur yes but it does nothing to equate actually satisfying people’s wants. Some things aren’t for sale. What if I want a government to keep my air clean? What if I want an agent to inspect cars before they roll off the line and go up for sale?
People want open spaces and a coastline freely available to all. I want my child to be educated in a well-resourced school within the context of a public education system informed by an egalitarian, democratic ideal. Isn’t this ruled out by a privately based system which treats inequality as of no consequence?
Note: Now we’re in the meat. Now we can attack anything. Wants are different, and some require government. What if I want a certain culture? What if I just flatly don’t want unregulated markets? What about my freedom to get these things?
It isn’t at all obvious that the market can do anything much to cater for such wants as these. Perhaps there is, after all, some argument to show that, despite appearances, it can – or at least to show, more modestly, that the market does better even if it isn’t perfect – but it has to be admitted that there are some pretty good reasons for scepticism.593
The argument is correct, of course. Who could disagree with Sir Keith that the market is capable of satisfying all wants with the exception of those wants which it is not capable of satisfying?599
Note: Rebuttle to the Rebuttle. So the market can give you everything you want save for what you really want. I’ll take the system that gives me what I really want thanks?
rule out the second category of wants on the grounds that they are not ‘real’ or ‘genuine’ and, second, to call those who have them names, weirdos, freaks, hippies,601
If you don’t take these people seriously – and ‘these people’ amount to anyone with a want which cannot be supplied by the market – then you can make the invisible hand thesis true by definition. However, and as Sir Keith would no doubt agree, everything has a price. The cost of saving the invisible hand thesis this way is that it reduces it to an uninformative, philosophically pusillanimous, tautology.603
If I am right, this means that libertarianism is seriously broken backed in the sense that it must abandon one of its central theses.658
Or will the starry-eyed and oblivious continue to hold the faith, even in the face of what is now, as I write, routinely described as the worst recession since the 1930s?678
‘Since sex is a uniquely private aspect of life, it is particularly intolerable that governments should presume to regulate and legislate sexual behaviour’682
and comments with scorn on the public’s ‘irrational enthusiasm’ for outlawing drugs (1973:683
I could extend the list, but it is already long enough to make the point.746
erect his huge libertarian edifice on its foundation.749
Nozick must think it plain obvious that ‘facts of nature’ can never render an action non-voluntary,750
That might seem tautologously uninformative,810
For example, when A hands the money over, A does not perform a ‘free action’; A does not act out of his or her ‘own free will’ or ‘voluntarily’; A’s action is ‘not fully his or her own’; A is ‘subject to the will of another’, and so on.856
his argument would be deprived of its central point.(5)884
Just to summarise: if one construes the claim that freedom is essentially negative in a way that would permit Berlin to draw his central conclusion – i.e. that ‘positive’ accounts of freedom are misguided – one is forced, first, to deny that coercion violates liberty and, second, to count factors which do not result from deliberate human agency as freedom-restricting. Berlin would welcome neither implication.924
Exert a little pressure in the right places, and they fall apart before one’s eyes.932
For libertarians, and just as one might expect, the real point is to establish claim 4.941
The routine and usual effects of a natural force – the gravity which holds you to the ground when you walk to the supermarket, say – do not obstruct action but, rather, they define the parameters within which free action becomes possible.956
Note that Berlin’s appeal to the ‘jumping’ example hinges on the distinction between – as I would put it – the obstacle and the incapacity. If obstacles and incapacities can be confused, that is presumably because either type of factor can function as the sufficient condition in an explanation of a person’s inability to do some given action.969
The inference is invalid and its conclusion can, in any case, easily be shown to be false because, whatever the ‘human condition’ may be, it is undeniable that natural forces can sometimes place obstacles in one’s way just as other people can. Thus, while the gravity which enables Nozick to walk may not compromise his liberty, it doesn’t follow that the boulder and the fallen tree which block his path – and which have been set in place by the same gravity – are not obstacles which render him unfree to continue his journey.1014
The first is that it is fairly apparent that there is no such strict resemblance between a natural force and a market force. As we have noted, the latter is the outcome of numerous bilateral market exchanges between market agents. Also, the framework within which those agents operate has to be held in place by, and can be altered by, laws defining rights of ownership and control. There are thus at least two respects in which a market force is the outcome of deliberate human agency.1023
Note: A clear example of how government ‘intervention’ and law nessesarily dictate the workings of the “free” market. A definition of property rights, aquisition, and rules for transaction are all nessesary for trade to take place. Government creates the framework within which all transactions take place. Even if agents agree to these transactions, they are enforced legally under a tacit norm, an understanding of legal rights. In this way, there is no escape from the fact that on some level, “The Free Market” works according to the rules we set in place.
But neither Nozick nor Hayek would deny that force is sometimes needed to protect the rights-framework which enables the market to operate.1033
Note: The Libertarian Notion of living in a world utterly devoid of “coercion” is virtually self-evidently impossible, as anarchy would entail the coercion of those by the best of bullies, and any system of law entails coercion in the sense that you are unfree to violate property rights, harm people, and violate the property rights of others, which are upheld by law.
ways. Specifically, it tends to obscure the differences between the two ways in which a person can be rendered unfree. Thus, when it is asked of some person if he or she is free, the question is sometimes whether he or she is free from some obstruction to perform some action. It is ‘What, if anything, blocks the action?’ To find the answer we must go in search of an obstacle. But at other times, the question is ‘Whose action is it?’ For example, when A is robbed by the gangster, A is conforming, not to his or her own plans, but to the gangster’s plans. In this case, that is what renders A ‘subject to the will of another’.1042
Note: Interesting point on how to think of freedom. What does Freedom really mean? Are you unfree becuase you can’t jump 50 feet? Are you unfree because of an obstacle. Are you unfree because someone places an obstacle in such a way as to stop you from doing something? What makes one subject to the will of another? One can be rendered as unfree by private power as by any type of power. What if one is subject to the will of poverty or sickness?
Now suppose that roadworks are in progress and that the authorities have placed a barrier across one of the city’s main streets. City authorities being what they are, your supposition will almost certainly be correct, and it will also be true – as Berlin says – that you are now unfree to drive along that street. But why should you care? You have no reason to care. Your lack of a ‘negative’ freedom such as this can have no significance for you until it starts to come into contact with your own wants, your preferences and your plans (or maybe with your values – you may have a reason to object if you take a general moral view on interference with the traffic flow).1063
Note: It is important to ask, if a freedom is taken away that we have no need or want of using, are we unfree? If taxes are taken away but something of equal or greater value is given, have we lossed freedom?
In line with Wittgenstein’s advice that imaginary stories can sometimes be just as helpful as real ones when it comes to getting a navigational fix on a concept,1081
For each species, the individual’s conditions of existence – life itself usually – are dependent on the co-ordinated labours of the others.1089
Note: Very insightful, in that while we may not argue that someone necessarily owes another anything directly, any success and well being one enjoys is certainly in a sense dependant on the labor of others around them and the labor and contributions of others before them. Certainly some do contribute more than others, but no one built anything in a vacuum, and the irrefutable reality of the fact allows us at least to say we are a society, and in that’s sense the health of the Society must be looked after by the society itself. Social programs, research, education, and an apparatus to insure those in our society are at least marginally cared for are justified in that the society allows all of us to enjoy the lifestyle we do.
Here, as so often with this type of writer, Friedman is guilty of a failing he is so ready to sarcastically deprecate in others. In this case, telling people what they ought to want, as in the previous quote.1130
Note: God – Wonderful rebuttal to what at first was scary. The free market gives you want you want if you want to be a Libertarian. If you don’t want to be a libertarian it won’t give you what you want, but what libertarians think you ought to want, and thus, they are found guilty of the same crime they indict others for, telling them what they should want. I would ask, where am I to buy clean air? Where am I to buy a pristine environment? Where am I to buy equality? Where am I to buy a family and companionship and love, all things invisible to market forces. Where am I to buy a world where norms are not fashioned by greed and self profit? Outside of this, whether it matters or not what is for sale, who are you to tell me the free market gives me what I want? Apparently it doesn’t, because no society has chosen one.
To locate the temporal point here would be arbitrary in any case. So does it come several generations later, when wings are finally shed from human bodies? There seems to be no better reason for selecting this. Indeed, there seems to be no good reason for selecting any precise point on the line as conceptually crucial.1145
Note: Though not Libertarianism, it is highly useful as a better way to articulate a fundamental principle in all of Economics and psychology: the idea of the arbitrary line and the gradient. It applies not just to age limits but speaks to every argument about age difference and relationships. Dr. Borgans is fond of continually going on about “women my own age” and people always point out age difference as a point of compliant. While we have addressed this argument in different ways for over a decade, this way of saying it shows how ambiguous, arbitrary, and impractical it is to pick a point. It shows us how to ask the question, what point can we make a distinction? Even if generally older women are more mature this is not always so, and so if I want someone younger I can certainly find a mature one, why not do so? If our only interest is maturity, what concern is age? What if my values are different? Why are yours better and how would following values incongruent with mine make me happier?
But a political philosophy ought to have some sort of connection with the way people really are.1179
Note: Great point, one we already bring up all the time, about the faith of Markets and Libertarianism. In fact, the fundamental problem with all libertarian ideals is they work great in theory but not in reality.
Finally, (4), or so the argument stresses, the same point can be rephrased in terms of rights, for to have a right is to have a claim against others that they should respect you by treating you in certain ways and not in others.1221
Note: A good way to articulate what a right is. Useful, as it is not always clear.
One would have to be a sort of moral idiot not to appreciate the evil in misusing the innocent, say, or the force of the obligation to keep promises. For anyone of ordinary moral sensibility, such facts are the data from which the argument derives its power. By appealing to these, and by throwing a certain implication of consequentialism into relief, it compels one to recognise that the existence of rights is also a moral fact.1224
Note: Very good to review as a way to articulate many things. A well written passage able to be used for many things.
the anti-consequentialist argument leaves an awful lot open; that while it may convincingly demonstrate that we have rights of some sort it carries little information concerning what rights we have or even when it is that those rights count. (They may not always.)1251
Note: Even if we agree that we have rights outright, we aren’t told what they are or even when they apply, who comes up with these rights, where they come from, or even why.
I shall concentrate especially on the work of its most philosophically sophisticated proponent, Nozick, and I shall argue that, although persons undoubtedly have rights, supporters of the free market can, in reality, derive little comfort from the fact.1265
- It is important to get this straight from the outset, because so much of the case for rights-based libertarianism – the superstructure libertarians erect upon the core, in other words – rests upon appeals to intuition.1289
Note: Important. A good point is brought up here. One might ask, why “Libertarianism” is the most suitable system of philosophy for a society. Why it is “the best.” They might say something like freedom and free to choose and all of this. But that doesn’t answer the question. Why is it the best? Either it comes down to well being, or it comes down to a moral right to do what you want without inringement. One is consequential. The other is Deontilogical. But we aren’t told “Why” one is better than the others. Here, he is right. The superstructure of Libertarianism is built upon one ore idea. You have the right to do what you want, and your property is yours. But how do we arrive at these conclusions? It is mostly intuition.
Intuitionist doctrines such as those mentioned rest on the presupposition that the truth of a proposition is revealed by its power to withstand the inspection of some (supposed) inner mental light, or perhaps to evoke some gut-feeling of conviction that things must be a certain way. This means that they can supply no plausible criterion for distinguishing genuine truth from mere dogmatic prejudice. (Why should your intuition that some proposition, p, must be true be any better than mine that p must be false?)1305
Note: A good beginning for undermining all premises smuggled into an argument and considered axioms. Why is taxation supposed to be “plunder?” Why does one have a “right” to speak just because he has a mouth? Why do we have inherent rights to that which we possess? (When we might possess something that does not belong us) Intuition based arguments appear self evident, but can be difficult to actually support when put under strong scrutiny. If you just “know” the market is best when left completely alone, why is that better than someone else who just “knows” that the opposite is true? A standard case where the data doesn’t have the warrant. Truth, knowledge, Argument,
But is he right? One question I raised earlier was whether the market can (almost invariably) be relied upon to supply capitalists with a sufficient motive to pay for expensive anti-pollution measures, so let us ask why the private owner of Lake Erie should be so interested in keeping it clean. Why not assume, alternatively, that the private company concerned has decided that it can generate the most wealth for itself by allowing another large company, at a price, to use the lake as a dump for nuclear waste? The scenario is no less plausible than Rothbard’s and it demonstrates that Rothbard is simply assuming the presence of a condition which may not exist; in this case a desire on the part of the owner to keep the water pure. Rothbard’s assumption parallels Adam Smith’s, that market agents would necessarily prefer ‘the support of domestic to that of foreign industry’ (1976: 477-8). Why would they? Smith’s assumption may have been natural enough in the late eighteenth century, but, these days, why not equally assume that people would prefer cheap foreign imports? So, the argument fails because the invisible hand thesis is supposed to show that the market guarantees the public good, not just in certain circumstances but in almost all.1990
Note: Level 10 – Very good point. Libertarians assume background conditions that have no guarantee. Profit if the only motive. If it’s more profitable to use the place as a dump how are we so justified in saying the common good will always be found?
Note that the libertarian cannot convincingly reply to this by insisting that, if the lake were used as a nuclear dump, those living around its shores – being themselves owners, if only of their ‘persons’ – would inevitably rise up and defend their interests against the company’s aggression.1999
Note: Wait for it
second reason for the failure of this argument is that it tends to equate having a motive to perform an action with being motivated to act. But the two are not equivalent, because whereas the former does not necessarily culminate in a person’s acting (or at least trying to act) the latter does. For example, every heavy smoker aware of the risks has a motive for giving up – a very strong one – but everyone who continues to smoke despite this is quite evidently not motivated to give up. Similarly, while there can be no doubt that a free market framework supplies every individual with motives for acting in certain ways and not others – it attaches ‘costs’ and ‘benefits’ to alternative courses of action – it doesn’t follow that they will act in those ways. For example, what if Lake Erie has become so polluted by the nuclear waste that the only people who live around its shores are slum-dwellers who can find nowhere better to live? What if they rent their homes from landlords who have chosen to live elsewhere on the proceeds, in safer surroundings? What if the shore-dwellers are unable to afford legal representation (as they might be if the lawyers are all busily employed defending the landlords, so that there is no one to step into this particular market niche)? What if the landlords work as executives for the company owning the lake, and what if the shore-dwellers consequently fear eviction? Provided that one assumes a pure free market, there is nothing especially fantastic or improbable about any of this. Who can forecast patterns? The shore-dwellers still have a very good motive for suing the owners, but will they? Will they really?2001
Note: Fantastic. Reframe. They make copious use of the term “would” opposing scenarios are equally as plausible, and undermine their entire framework.
Individuals act from many types of motive, of course, and not just those deriving from the way the market sets things up for them (the costs and benefits).2012
Note: It’s all good. People respond to more than markets. And that’s the biggest thing they miss.
The trouble is that we need a reason for believing that the motives would then be contained, whereas there is far more reason for thinking that, in reality, the powerful industrialists would then have exerted just the same pressure, if not more, on privately-owned courts.2030
Note: Well said. We have just as many reasons to believe powerful industrialists would have exerted pressure through privately owned courts.
In summary, then, argument 2 – the characteristically libertarian argument according to which if some item, x, were privately owned then a truly wonderful event, y, would almost certainly happen – deserves the comment that maybe it would, but even then, and still only maybe, only in Valhalla.2032
Note: Maybe everything is speculative, but this is a gamble with our lives with horrible consequences and a history of bad results.
For example, it is superior to Nozick’s because Hayek does not boast a paranormal ability to see invisible fences. In other words, he does not proceed from the foundationless assertion that there exists a mysterious realm of natural rights. In contrast to Nozick, Hayek is scornfully sceptical of the very idea that we just ‘have’ such rights in the way that we ‘have’ brains and opposable thumbs. He remarks, for example, that ‘Mere existence cannot confer a right or moral claim on anyone against any other’ (1988:152). Moreover, and in line with this, Hayek does not indulge in blanket assertions concerning the scope of property. On the contrary, he is well aware that ‘property’ is a concept of a certain complexity and open to re-definition.2109
Note: This is a good general passage for a couple reasons. Addresses the Libertarian claim of natural property rights. Jeremy’s claim we have a right to free speech just because we have a mouth. We aren’t against free speech, but it isn’t like that in all cases and eventually comes down to some sort of enforceable agreement in a society, protected by law. Markets don’t protect things like speech and property rights because these aren’t tradable commodities. That’s just the way it is.