Month: December 2011

Extreme Economism

Economism is a theory

that regards economics as the main factor in society, ignoring or reducing to simplistic economic terms other factors such as culture, nationality, etc. (definition 1.a, here)

The “etc.” encompasses family and friendship, in the eyes of the economistic economists who advise the giving of cash instead of items that the recipient is meant to enjoy. Economistic economists are the kind who mistake wealth-maximization for rational behavior.

What is irrational behavior? Whatever does not lead to the accumulation of wealth, in the view of these money-besotted economists. In that respect they are much like leftists in their condemnation of behavior of which they disapprove. Maverick Philosopher captures the mindset:

Suppose one genuinely enjoys smoking and is willing to run the risk of disease and perhaps shorten one’s life by say five or ten years in order to secure certain benefits in the present. There is nothing irrational about such a course of action. One acts rationally — in one sense of ‘rational’ — if one chooses means conducive to the ends one has in view. If your end in view is to live as long as possible, then don’t smoke. If that is not your end, if you are willing to trade some highly uncertain future years of life for some certain pleasures here and now, and if you enjoy smoking, then smoke.

The epithet ‘irrational’ is attached with more justice to the fascists of the Left, the loon-brained tobacco wackos, who, in the grip of their misplaced moral enthusiasm, demonize the acolytes of the noble weed. The church of liberalism must have its demon, and his name is tobacco. I should also point out that smoking, like keeping and bearing arms, is a liberty issue. Is liberty a value? I’d say it is. Yet another reason to oppose the liberty-bashing loons of the Left and the abomination of Obamacare with its individual mandate….

Smoking and drinking can bring you to death’s door betimes. Ask Bogie who died at 56 of the synergistic effects of weed and hooch. Life’s a gamble. A crap shoot no matter how you slice it. Hear the Hitch:

Writing is what’s important to me, and anything that helps me do that — or enhances and prolongs and deepens and sometimes intensifies argument and conversation — is worth it to me. So I was knowingly taking a risk. I wouldn’t recommend it to others.

Exactly right.

(Bill Vallicella, “Cigarettes, Rationality, and Hitchens,” December 28, 2011)

Returning to economistic economists, I note that they are also the kind who write about gift-giving at Christmas in this vein:

I am not sure why people give each other store-bought gifts instead of cash, which is never the wrong size or color. Some say that we give gifts because it shows that we took the time to shop. But we could accomplish the same thing by giving the cash value of our shopping time, showing that we took the time to earn the money. (Steven Landsburg, The Armchair Economist, .pdf version here)

Similarly:

A potentially important microeconomic aspect of gift-giving is that gifts may be mismatched with the recipients’ preferences. In the standard microeconomic framework of consumer choice, the best a gift-giver can do with, say, $10 is to duplicate the choice that the recipient would have made. While it is possible for a giver to choose a gift which the recipient ultimately values above its price — for example, if the recipient is not perfectly informed — it is more likely that the gift will leave the recipient worse off than if she had made her own consumption choice with an equal amount of cash. In short, gift-giving is a potential source of deadweight loss….

Estimates in this paper indicate that between a tenth and a third of the value of holiday gifts is destroyed by gift-giving. Because average losses of at leas 10 percent hold for all gift price ranges in the sample, the lower-bound proportional loss estimates may be reasonably applied to other populations. While the generality of these results is not settled, the deadweight losses arising from holiday gift-giving may well be large: holiday expenditures in 1992 totaled $38 billion according to one estimate.

If between a tenth and a third of this spending was wasted, then the deadweight loss of 1992 holiday gift-giving was between $4 billion and $$13 billion. (Joel Waldfogel, “The Deadweight Loss of Christmas,” The American Economic Review, Volume 83, Issue 5 [December 1993])

A current estimate of the deadweight loss of holiday gift-giving is “$46-$152 billion worth of holiday wastage, potentially equivalent to an entire year’s worth of output from Iowa,” according to Matthew Yglesias (“Do Not Buy Dad a Tie,” Slate, December 20, 2011).

The foregoing analyses and estimates hinge on a model of gift-giving that assumes away (a) the value derived by the giver of a gift — the pleasure of giving. — and (b) the value derived from the recipient over and above any value that he derives from the gift itself — namely, appreciation for the gift-giver’s thoughtfulness and effort. Moreover, the conclusion that holiday gift-giving is wasteful rests on a false premise, namely, that the devaluation of gifts by some recipients negates the added value attributed to gifts by other recipients. In other words, the condemnation of holiday gift-giving on economistic grounds manifests a belief in a social-welfare function, wherein A’s unhappiness can be weighed against B’s happiness. Once again, we see a strong resemblance between economistic economists and leftists. (In fact, I have written before about Landsburg’s misguided embrace of the social-welfare function.)

But let us take economistic economist’s view of the world and see where it leads. Imagine five persons who are mutually acquainted or related, and assume that they have taken the advice to give each other cash. Part A of the following table depicts the result of their exchanges of cash. Everyone gives everyone else some amount of money, but the amounts vary in total and detail from person to person.

Now, an economistic economist would look at the result and consider it irrational because there were 10 instances in which reciprocal gifts of cash exactly offset each other (e.g., A gave B $10 and B gave A $10). That would lead the economistic economist to suggest that the trouble and expense of giving offsetting gifts should be eliminated. The result, shown in Part B, yields the same bottom line for each person, but only 10 gifts of cash are given.

But wait, there are still unnecessary exchanges; for example, A gives C $10 and C, in effect, give $5 of that back to A. So, the next step, shown in Part C, is to reduce exchanges to their net amounts; for example A gives C $5 and C gives A nothing. This further reduces the trouble and expense of gift-giving because the number of transactions has been halved again — from 10 to 5.

A. Initial exchanges — 20 gifts:

Givers

A

B

    C

D

E

Receivers

A

10

5

10

15

B

10

5

5

15

C

10

5

15

10

D

10

15

15

5

E

10

20

15

5

Given

40

50

40

35

45

Received

40

35

40

45

50

Net

0

-15

0

10

5

*******  ************** **** ***** ********* ********* *********
B. After eliminating identical exchanges — 10 gifts:

Givers

A

B

C

D

E

Receivers

A

5

15

B

5

15

C

10

10

D

15

E

10

20

15

Given

20

35

20

5

40

Received

20

20

20

15

45

Net

0

-15

0

10

5

 ******* *************** **** ***** ********* ********* *********
C. After reducing exchanges to net amounts — 5 gifts:

Givers

A

B

C

D

E

Receivers

A

5

B

C

5

D

10

E

5

5

Given

5

15

5

0

5

Received

5

0

5

10

10

Net

0

-15

0

10

5

In the beginning, before the exchanges of cash depicted in Part A, there was an occasion that was filled with anticipation and much happiness. The “logic” of economism has reduced it to a cold, joyless exercise in computation. Bah, humbug!

Finally, I must note that — in my experience — most economists are economistic. This is from a post that I wrote more than seven years ago:

The idea of going to lunch with colleagues is to have some laughs, some good conversation (not about economics), and a few beers to help you coast through the afternoon. With economists, however, lunch always went something like this: Carping at the waiter about what’s not on the menu, followed by carping at the waiter about whether he brought the right orders to the table, followed by carefully dissecting the bill to ensure that everyone pays for precisely what he ordered, followed by computing the tip down to the last red cent instead of rounding up to the nearest dollar out of consideration for the beleaguered waiter. I’d rather have lunch with undertakers.

*   *   *

Related posts:
Why I Don’t Hang Around with Economists
The Rationality Fallacy
Greed, Cosmic Justice, and Social Welfare
Positive Rights and Cosmic Justice
Inventing “Liberalism”
Utilitarianism, “Liberalism,” and Omniscience
Utilitarianism vs. Liberty
Beware of Libertarian Paternalists
Landsburg Is Half-Right
Negative Rights, Social Norms, and the Constitution
Rights, Liberty, the Golden Rule, and the Legitimate State
The Mind of a Paternalist
Accountants of the Soul
Rawls Meets Bentham
Enough of “Social Welfare”
The Case of the Purblind Economist
The Arrogance of (Some) Economists

“Going Viral” in the 1500s

From “How Luther went viral” (The Economist, December 17, 2011):

The start of the Reformation is usually dated to Luther’s nailing of his “95 Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” to the church door in Wittenberg on October 31st 1517….

Although they were written in Latin, the “95 Theses” caused an immediate stir, first within academic circles in Wittenberg and then farther afield. In December 1517 printed editions of the theses, in the form of pamphlets and broadsheets, appeared simultaneously in Leipzig, Nuremberg and Basel, paid for by Luther’s friends to whom he had sent copies. German translations, which could be read by a wider public than Latin-speaking academics and clergy, soon followed and quickly spread throughout the German-speaking lands. Luther’s friend Friedrich Myconius later wrote that “hardly 14 days had passed when these propositions were known throughout Germany and within four weeks almost all of Christendom was familiar with them.”

The unintentional but rapid spread of the “95 Theses” alerted Luther to the way in which media passed from one person to another could quickly reach a wide audience. “They are printed and circulated far beyond my expectation,” he wrote in March 1518 to a publisher in Nuremberg who had published a German translation of the theses. But writing in scholarly Latin and then translating it into German was not the best way to address the wider public. Luther wrote that he “should have spoken far differently and more distinctly had I known what was going to happen.” For the publication later that month of his “Sermon on Indulgences and Grace”, he switched to German, avoiding regional vocabulary to ensure that his words were intelligible from the Rhineland to Saxony. The pamphlet, an instant hit, is regarded by many as the true starting point of the Reformation….

Modern society tends to regard itself as somehow better than previous ones, and technological advance reinforces that sense of superiority. But history teaches us that there is nothing new under the sun. Robert Darnton, an historian at Harvard University, who has studied information-sharing networks in pre-revolutionary France, argues that “the marvels of communication technology in the present have produced a false consciousness about the past—even a sense that communication has no history, or had nothing of importance to consider before the days of television and the internet.” Social media are not unprecedented: rather, they are the continuation of a long tradition. Modern digital networks may be able to do it more quickly, but even 500 years ago the sharing of media could play a supporting role in precipitating a revolution. Today’s social-media systems do not just connect us to each other: they also link us to the past.

Luther’s success, if it may be called that, was owed not so much to the new technology of printing as to certain constants of human nature:

1. Distant authority is more credible than a familiar source. CEOs resort to this kind of authority when they hire “expert” consultants to rubber-stamp decisions that they — the CEOs — had already reached, so as to “sell” the intended audience (board of directors, senior managers, employees) on the correctness of the decisions. More generally, what is said in print, on the air, on the internet, etc., is accepted as authoritative because it is (usually) delivered in tones of great certainty, supported by fabricated and/or cherry-picked evidence, and originates from a source that cannot be questioned directly and is (wrongly, for the most part) assumed to be authoritative.

2. Last in, last believed. There is a strong tendency to make judgments based on the most recent facts and/or opinions to which one is exposed, especially among persons with little education, persons whose education is non-scientific, and persons of below-average intelligence.

3. Confirmation bias. This is at work in almost everyone, even the “best and brightest.” A person who already leans toward a position will search out and seize upon “facts” that support the position. Distant authority plays a key role in enabling confirmation bias. And once a person finds “the answer” to something — whether the answer is communism, the welfare state, carbon-emission reductions, etc. — he becomes less prone to believe the last thing he hears. But the last thing that swayed him could well have been a speech by FDR denouncing “economic royalists” or one of Al Gore’s presentations about global warming. No mind is more closed than that of an “open minded liberal.”

A man who is not a Liberal at sixteen has no heart; a man who is not a Conservative at sixty has no head.

-– attributed to Benjamin Disraeli

Intelligence and Intuition

UPDATED 01/09/12

This blog’s most-read post is “Intelligence, Personality, Politics, and Happiness.”  Regarding intelligence and its relationship to personality traits (as measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, MBTI), I note that other traits being the same

an iNtuitive person (one who grasps patterns and seeks possibilities) is 25 times more likely to have a high IQ than a Sensing person (one who focuses on sensory details and the here-and-now).

But which comes first: intelligence or intuition? My money is on intelligence. That is, highly intelligent persons are more likely than their less intelligent peers to show up as iNtuitives on the MBTI. In my view, it is not that iNtuitives are uninterested in sensory details and the here-and-now, but — compared with Sensing persons — they more quickly grasp details and see the patterns in them and the possibilities indicated by those patterns.

In sum, I think of intuition as a manifestation of intelligence, not a cause of it.

UPDATE:

To put it another way, intuition is not an emotion; it is the opposite of emotion.

I was prompted to make that point after reading some entries in a discussion thread where “Intelligence, Personality, Politics, and Happiness” is quoted. Some of the participants seem to think of intuition as an emotion, but it is not one. Nor should it be confused with impulsiveness, which is based on emotion. Intuition is reasoning at high speed. For example, a skilled athlete knows where and when to make a move (e.g., whether and where to swing at a pitched ball) because he subconsciously makes the necessary calculations, which he could not make consciously in the split-second that is available to him once the pitcher releases the ball.

Related reading: “The Mystery of Expertise,” The Week, December 22, 2011

Related posts:
Intelligence, Personality, Politics, and Happiness
Intelligence as a Dirty Word

The Commandeered Economy

Government spending — federal, State, and local — represents the confiscation of resources from the private sector. Any reasonable measure of government spending includes transfer payments (mainly Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid), which represent income that is taken from persons who earn it and given to persons who do not earn it.

Here is an overview of the patterns of government spending from 1929 through the third quarter of 2011:


Derived from Bureau of Economic Analysis, National Income and Product Accounts, Tables 1.1.5 (lines 1, 21-25), 3.1 (line 17), and 3.2 (line 22).

Total captures all outlays by the federal government and State and local governments for all purposes, including transfer payments. Total non-defense is simply total spending less defense spending. Federal covers all outlays by the federal government, including transfer payments. State & local represents just that. Transfer payments by all governments are driven mainly by outlays for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, which in 2010 accounted for 71 percent of all government spending on “social benefits.” Next is defense, which has been driven mainly by war and the prospect of war. Finally, there is federal non-defense, which is exclusive of transfer payments. This spending enables the federal bureaucracy to perform its non-defense, micromanagement functions: from controlling interest rates and the money supply to regulating the processes and products of America’s businesses to enforcing various forms of discrimination to rewarding well-connected interest groups, and so on into the dark night of fascism.

The rise of government spending began with the onset of the Depression, which saw the federal government supplant State and local governments as the main source of outlays. World War II interrupted but did not break the rising trend in non-defense spending, which has been driven by increases in transfer payments — especially since the inception of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.

In 1929, on the eve of the Great Depression, government spending of all kinds amounted to 10 percent of GDP, and less than 1 percent of GDP was absorbed by transfer payments. In 1947, following demobilization from World War II, government spending of all kinds was 20 percent of GDP, including 5 percent for transfer payments. Now, total spending consumes about 36 percent of GDP, and transfer payments about 16 percent. All in all, post-World War II spending reflects the dominance of government in the everyday lives of Americans. About 31 percent of GDP goes to non-defense spending by the federal government and State and local governments.

Defense spending — a favored target of “liberals” and pseudo-libertarians — is not where the money is. The stability of total government spending as a percentage of GDP from the end of the Vietnam War until 9/11 was bought by short-changing defense, except during the 1980s. Despite 9/11 and the shallow display of unity that followed it, too many Americans have forgotten the main  lessons of World War II and the Cold War: Victory and deterrence do not come cheaply. And yet, since 1950, when defense spending reached its post-war nadir, it has lagged far behind the growth of government spending and transfer payments (which, illogically, have soared despite significant real growth in GDP):


Derived from sources cited above, by applying the implicit GDP deflator used to compute GDP in chained 2005 dollars (here).

In addition to the burden of non-defense spending,* there is the large and growing burden of regulatory compliance: about $1.1 trillion in 2004, or 10 percent of GDP. In other words, government now absorbs or controls almost one-half of the nation’s economic output.

Additionally, however, there is the hidden cost of output forgone because taxes and regulations have discouraged those behaviors that cause economic growth (e.g., hard work, capital formation, innovation, and entrepreneurship). I have estimated that were it not for those disincentives GDP would have grown to more than three times its present level.

The iceberg, once again, proves to be vastly larger than its visible tip. In Bastiat‘s words,

a law produces not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these effects, the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently; they are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them.

The unseen effects — the theft of Americans’ liberty and prosperity — had been foreseen by some (e.g., Tocqueville and Hayek), but ignorance and power-lust prevailed over their prescience.

America’s economy has not been commandeered by the military-industrial complex; it has been commandeered by a far more insidious complex of economically illiterate voters, interest groups, social-engineering “intellectuals,” and power-lusting politicians.

__________

* Defense is a valuable and legitimate “social service,” as I discuss in this post and the posts listed at the end of it. Justice also is a valuable and legitimate “social service,” but spending on police, courts, etc., accounts for only a small fraction of non-defense spending in the U.S.

*   *   *

Related posts, on the subject of defense spending:
Not Enough Boots
Defense as the Ultimate Social Service
I Have an Idea
The Price of Liberty
How to View Defense Spending
The Best Defense . . .
Not Enough Boots: The Why of It
Delusions of Preparedness
A Grand Strategy for the United States
The Folly of Pacifism
Why We Should (and Should Not) Fight
Rating America’s Wars
Transnationalism and National Defense
The Folly of Pacifism, Again
September 20, 2001: Hillary Clinton Signals the End of “Unity”

On other subjects, see the list at the bottom of “Economic Growth Since World War II.”

The Morality of Occupying Private Property

That is the subject of a post by Steve Horwitz at Bleeding Heart Libertarians. Horwitz writes:

So as the Occupy movement switches tactics to occupy foreclosed homes, I pose the following questions for my colleagues here at BHL and the commentariat:

1. Given that many of those homes are the property of the very same banks who were bailed out with their/our tax dollars, is there any reason to object to Occupiers simply reclaiming property that we could argue, with some strong moral force, actually belongs to “them/us” anyway?

2. And given the questionable legality of the foreclosure tactics banks have used, isn’t there a legitimate question of whether those homes really belong to the banks?…

…I don’t have a clear answer to either question myself, but I don’t think it’s clear and obvious that these attempts to occupy foreclosed houses are wrong on libertarian grounds.

Let us parse Horwitz’s questions:

1. The use of tax dollars to bail out (some) banks does not mean the “we” own the banks; it means that the banks owe “us” money.

Even accepting for the sake of argument the dubious claim that the foreclosed houses are “our” property, by what right does a small fraction of the populace — a fraction that probably pays far less than its “fair share” of taxes — occupy “our” property? If the foreclosed homes are “our” property, they should be sold and the proceeds returned to taxpayers in proportion to the taxes they pay. Occupiers have no particular right of occupation, and their occupation probably would diminish the value of the property they occupy, thus depriving taxpayers of what is rightly theirs.

The “logic” of question 1 leads to such spectacles as the occupations of public parks and streets,  which occupations deny large numbers of taxpayers the peaceful enjoyment of the facilities for which they paid.

2. If the homes really do not belong to the banks — a sweeping and unproved assertion — then they belong to the persons on whom the banks foreclosed and/or taxpayers in general (accepting for the sake argument the dubious claim that the foreclosed houses are “our” property). As explained above, occupiers have no claim on foreclosed homes. Accordingly, their occupation of foreclosed homes is an immoral breach of the property rights of the rightful owners.

*   *   *

Perhaps Horwitz is merely being provocative, but the fact that he doesn’t have a “clear answer” to either question indicates that his grasp of moral principles is weak. In that respect, he is in company with several of his co-bloggers at Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

Related posts:
A True Flat Tax
Utilitarianism and Psychopathy
“Occupy Wall Street” and Religion
The Spoiled Children of Capitalism
Libertarianism and Morality
Libertarianism and Morality: A Footnote
Merit Goods, Positive Rights, and Cosmic Justice
More about Merit Goods
What Is Bleeding-Heart Libertarianism?

What Is Bleeding-Heart Libertarianism?

Matt Zwolinski asks that question in a post at Bleeding Heart Libertarians, and answers it by positing three types of bleeding-heart libertarian:

Contingent BHLs – This group has what might be described as standard right-libertarian views for standard right-libertarian reasons.  They believe that the state should more-or-less be constrained to the protection of negative liberty….  However, the fact that a libertarian state is good for the poor and vulnerable does not play an essential justificatory role for this group.  Libertarian institutions are justified independently and sufficiently on the basis of rights and/or consequences, and would still be justified even if they were not good for the poor and vulnerable….

Anarchist Left BHLs – …I sometimes have a bit of a hard time pinning this position down.  At times, it seems to be little more than right-anarchist-libertarianism combined with some distinctive empirical beliefs about the effects and characteristic functioning of markets and the state.  Morally, anarchist Left BHLs seem to have pretty standard libertarian views about self-ownership and the ownership of external property and, like Rothbard but unlike Nozick or Rand, conclude from these premises that all states are morally unjustifiable.  What sets them apart from right-Rothbardians seems mainly to be empirical beliefs about the extent to which contemporary capitalism is the product of and dependent on unjust government support, and about the extent to which the poor and working classes would be made especially better off in a stateless society….

Strong BHLs – Finally, there is my own preferred view – a view that I suspect is not too far off from the kind of view held by Jason Brennan.  The most important aspect of this view, and the aspect that distinguishes it from both the positions above,  is that it holds that libertarian institutions depend in part for their moral justification on the extent to which they serve the interests of the poor and vulnerable….

Put me in the “contingent BHL” camp, for reasons that will become evident.

I am not a fan of anarchist-left libertarianism, which makes a fetish of its opposition to “contemporary capitalism” — a.k.a. “crony capitalism.” But what kind of libertarian would favor crony capitalism? None, that I can think of. So, I take a so-called libertarian’s opposition to “contemporary capitalism,” as posturing. Further, “unjust government support” extends not only to “contemporary capitalism” but also to “the poor and working classes” — among many others — and so it is impossible to say that “the poor and working classes” are the victims of “contemporary capitalism.” It could well be the other way around. I have no doubt that “the poor and working classes” are the victims of the economic retardation caused by heavy-handed government. But that heavy-handedness has much to do with programs that are meant to favor the “poor and working classes” (e.g., Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, other forms of welfare, progressive income-tax rates, and a vast array of paternalistic regulations).

What about “strong BHLs,” who (according to Zwolinski) hold that “libertarian institutions depend on part for their moral justification on the extent to which they serve the interests of the poor and vulnerable”? Here is how Zwolinski explains it, in an interview to which he links:

So to see if you kind of qualify as a bleeding heart libertarian in that strong sense, try a thought experiment. Suppose that all the critics of libertarianism were right about the empirical claims that they make: that markets are rife with failures, they tend to cause the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer, that this leads to the exploitation of workers by capitalists. If all those claims were really true, and libertarians don’t believe that they are, but suppose they were. Would you then still be a hardcore libertarian? If the answer to that is no, then I think you might be a bleeding heart libertarian.

Zwolinski takes a purely consequentialist position, as if liberty is not a value in and of itself, even to the “poor” and “workers.”

Beyond that, he takes a “liberal” (i.e., statist) position. I say that because, where markets are truly free, a “market failure” can mean only one thing: an outcome that “liberals” (and Zwolinski, evidently) judge to be “incorrect” by some arbitrary standard. And to be “exploited” is to sell one’s services at a wage below the wage that a “liberal” judges to be “correct,” again by some arbitrary standard.

And if market outcomes are “incorrect,”  it is logically necessary to to correct them by enforcing a regime of “positive liberty,” whether or not Zwolinski wants to admit it. This requires statist interventions that are aimed at producing certain market outcomes, so that the (arbitrarily defined) “poor” and “workers” are made better off. And how can they made better off? By (arbitrarily) defining “correct” outcomes and constraining markets so that certain types of otherwise voluntary exchange cannot take place, or can take place but only on dictated terms.

If a truly libertarian regime would, in fact, result in “the rich” getting richer and “the poor” getting poorer, that would say something about the relative value of the goods and services brought to the market by “the rich” and “the poor.” It would be an indictment of libertarianism only if one adheres to the dictum “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” Now, where have I heard that?

Zwolinski, in so many words, admits that he is not a libertarian, by any reasonable definition of libertarianism. By the same token, he admits that he is a “liberal,” and therefore presumes himself qualified to stand in judgment over the affairs of others.

Related posts:
On Liberty
Greed, Cosmic Justice, and Social Welfare
Positive Rights and Cosmic Justice
The Interest-Group Paradox
Parsing Political Philosophy
Is Statism Inevitable?
Inventing “Liberalism”
Utilitarianism, “Liberalism,” and Omniscience
Utilitarianism vs. Liberty
Law and Liberty
Negative Rights
Negative Rights, Social Norms, and the Constitution
Rights, Liberty, the Golden Rule, and the Legitimate State
The Near-Victory of Communism
Tocqueville’s Prescience
The Mind of a Paternalist
Accountants of the Soul
Rawls Meets Bentham
Is Liberty Possible?
Our Enemy, the State
Pseudo-Libertarian Sophistry vs. True Libertarianism
Bounded Liberty: A Thought Experiment
The Meaning of Liberty
Positive Liberty vs. Liberty
Corporations, Unions, and the State
What Is Libertarianism?
Nature Is Unfair
True Libertarianism, One More Time
Human Nature, Liberty, and Rationalism
Utilitarianism and Psychopathy
A Declaration and Defense of My Prejudices about Governance
Merit Goods, Positive Rights, and Cosmic Justice
More about Merit Goods
Don’t Just Stand There, “Do Something”

Don’t Just Stand There, “Do Something”

“Activists” try my patience, and exhaust it. Their message — no matter the particulars of content or phrasing — boils down to this: Government should “do something” about “something.” This is a formula that has been invoked since the beginning of the Republic, though increasingly more often since the onset of the Progressive Era in the late 1800s. The exhortation betrays three beliefs, unconscious as they may be on the part of those who do the exhorting.

The first belief is that a particular phenomenon is so important — in the view of the exhorting person or group — that government should contrive to impose a particular outcome with respect to that phenomenon — regardless of the costs of that imposition, in treasure or liberty.

The second belief is a kind of prediction that proponents of government action usually cannot be bothered to test. This kind of prediction is known as the Nirvana fallacy: the logical error of comparing actual things with unrealistic, idealized alternatives. The actual things are the “somethings” about which government is supposed to “do something.” The unrealistic, idealized alternatives are the outcomes sought by the proponents of a particular course of government action. Thus legislation and regulation by mere mortals is taken as the functional equivalent of fiat lux.

This points to the third belief, which is that government — a mere creation of fallible, squabbling, power-lusting humans — is a kind of omniscient, single-minded, benevolent being that can overcome the forces of nature and human nature which gave rise, in the first place, to the “something” about which “something must be done.”

The evidence against these beliefs is so overwhelming that their persistence must be attributed to the psychological phenomenon summarized by Samuel Johnson as “the triumph of hope over experience.”

Proponents of government action will counter with the excuse that “something must be done” because of  “market failure,” which is the failure of markets to produce outcomes preferred by the proponents. And yet they overlook government failure, and often seek to rectify it by exhorting more government action, which leads to more government failure, and so on.

Here are some salient examples of government failure — and its correlate, misfeasance — that ought to (but will not) give pause to the “do something” crowd:

“Entitlements” (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and their expansion through Obamacare) — These programs grew from an understandable (but ill-advised) urge to provide for the elderly who were seen as unable to provide for themselves. Through the predictable processes of constituency-mongering, the “social safety net” has acquired almost-inviolable status as a subsidy for millions of persons who could well provide for themselves. This dependency has discouraged thrift and, in the process, stripped away a key source of funds for investments in economic growth. The looming burden of taxation promises to cripple an already hobbled economy.

Welfare, the Minimum Wage, and Affirmative Action — Altogether, these programs have succeeded in breaking up black families, denying to many young blacks an opportunity to join the ranks of the economically productive (and to advance on their own merit), fomented crime, caused racial resentment, and positioned aspiring black students and professionals for failure.

The Great Depression and the Great Recession — These two devastating economic downturns, one of which became an excuse for the enactment of Social Security and the other of which still lingers, are quintessential examples of government failure. In the case of the Great Depression, the Federal Reserve’s monetary policies (first too loose, then too tight) caused a recession to deepen into a depression. That depression lingered for almost a decade (and ended largely because of a catastrophic war) because of interventionist, anti-business policies that began under Hoover and continued, with a vengeance, under Roosevelt. We owe the Great Recession to a combination of too-loose credit (the Fed again) and too-loose mortgage lending: a policy insisted upon by the Federal Reserve and influential members of Congress, and reinforced by their minions at Fannie and Freddie. “Wall Street” — as a willing maker of credit — deserves blame for the resulting financial meltdown and recession only in the way that a prostitute deserves blame for serving her clients.

Defense and Police Services  — These are public goods, but not for the reason advanced by believers in public goods, namely, that they would not be provided voluntarily because too many of their beneficiaries would try to take a “free ride” on paying customers, which would drive the prices of defense and police services too high to attract enough customers to pay for them. That is an unproved assertion, which runs counter to everyday experience (e.g., charitable giving and voluntarism) and ignores the very high stakes that could drive major corporations and very-high income earners to combine in a joint defense of their considerable interests in the U.S. and abroad — a defense that would unavoidably benefit free-riders. In this regard, it is noteworthy that in 2007 the combined pre-tax income of households in the top quintile was $2.5 trillion and pre-tax corporate profits came to $1.7 trillion. It is arguable that a consortium of taxpayers and corporations could underwrite the cost of defense and police forces (including courts, prosecutors, etc.), which in 2007 came to about $900 billion ($662 billion for defense and $230 billion for justice). In 2007, for example, taxpayers in the top 10 percent of adjusted gross incomes paid more than 70 percent of federal income taxes collected from filers of individual and joint returns. Who do you think pays the lion’s share of the costs of defense and police forces? The answer, of course, is high-income taxpayers, directly and through taxes on corporate income.

Defense and police services are tax-funded not because they must be, but because there is something menacing about the thought of privately owned defense and police forces that could be employed in coups and oppressions. A main consequence of the “publicization” of America’s defense and police forces is that they afford a lucrative opportunity for various kinds of pork-barrel legislation (e.g., the location of military bases, the awarding of defense contracts, and patronage for political supporters), as well as the usual (and unavoidable) instances of waste, fraud, and abuse. Even worse are the fluctuations in political attitudes toward defense and policing, which in the ebb invite aggression and crime, and in the flow invite vast over-spending — though over-spending can be defended on the ground that it deters aggression and crime and thus the human and monetary costs that accompany them.

In any event, not even defense is a sacrosanct function of government, and its provision by government is far from an unmitigated blessing. If you think that I overstate the case against government-owned defense forces, consider that

  • They fought only one “popular” war in the past 100 years — a war that became “popular” only after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.
  • The thesis that Reagan’s defense build-up won the Cold War remains controversial.
  • The size of the defense budget rides on political whims more than on hard-to-come-by cold facts. Would it be worse if those with the most to lose took a direct hand in the provision of defense forces and in decisions about when to employ them? I doubt it.

*   *   *

Perhaps there are examples of “government success,” but these are hard to identify because the intervention of government usually forecloses the alternatives to which the “do something” crowd is blind:

  • voluntary, cooperative solutions through the actions of markets, private charities, and other private institutions (family, church, club, close-knit neighborhood, etc.)
  • benign neglect, where persons with a “problem” choose not to act on it because the cost of action is greater than its likely benefits.

Anyone who says that government can be “managed” by limiting it to certain kinds of activities (e.g., defense or welfare) while eschewing others (e.g., welfare or defense), merely deludes himself; “democratic” governments cannot and will not function without throwing money in all directions, in an effort to placate all constituencies. As a minarchist, I must admit to sharing this delusion, but I am beginning to think that anarcho-capitalism has merit, if only the right kind of anarcho-capitalists could be in charge of police and defense forces.

Anyone who says that such-and-such a government program will succeed in accomplishing a certain goal at a certain cost — and that the cost will justify the accomplishment — proves himself a presumptuous fool. I cannot truthfully say that government-provided police and defense forces are worth their cost in money and liberty, and I scorn anyone who believes that any other type of governmental endeavor is remotely worth its cost in money and liberty.
__________
For more posts related generally and specifically to this one, go to “Favorite Posts” and browse at will.

The Least Evil Option

Wilson D. Miscamble, writing at Public Discourse in “The Least Evil Option,” defends Harry Truman’s decision to drop the A-bomb on Japan:

[T]he United States eventually could have defeated Japan without the atomic bomb, but all the viable alternate scenarios to secure victory—continued obliteration bombing of Japanese cities and infrastructure, a choking blockade, the likely terrible invasions involving massive firepower—would have meant significantly greater Allied casualties and higher Japanese civilian and military casualties. These casualties would likely have included thousands of Allied prisoners of war whom the Japanese planned to execute. Notably, all of these options also would have indirectly involved some “intentional killing of innocents,” including the naval blockade, which sought to starve the Japanese into submission. Hard as it may be to accept when one sees the visual evidence of the terrible destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japanese losses probably would have been substantially greater without the A-bombs….

Bluntly put, the atomic bombs shortened the war, averted the need for a land invasion, saved countless more lives on both sides of the ghastly conflict than they cost, and brought to an end the Japanese brutalization of the conquered peoples of Asia.

(I, too, have defended Truman’s decision. See this post, for example.)

Miscamble’s article is aimed at Christopher O. Tollefson’s critique of  Miscamble’s book, The Most Controversial Decision. Tollefson, according to Miscamble,

largely repeats the fundamental criticism mounted against President Harry Truman by Elizabeth Anscombe over a half-century ago: Violating the moral absolute against the intentional killing of the innocent is always wrong. The atomic bombs involved such killing and so should not have been used––end of story. It is all neat, and clear, and logically consistent.

Is the intentional killing of the innocent always wrong? Consider these situations:

1. A homicidal maniac rushes into a restaurant, grabs a diner and holds her in front of himself as a shield, then begins to shoot other diners. You are seated in the restaurant, in the maniac’s line of vision, and he will soon shoot you if you do nothing. You are carrying a high-powered handgun, and have time to take a shot at the maniac before he aims at you, but your only sure way of stopping the him is to shoot through the innocent diner whom he is using as a shield. It is your life or the innocent person’s. Would you shoot before being shot or wait to see what happens; the maniac might not shoot at you, he might not hit you, he might not hurt you seriously, or you might be able to duck. But you do not know which of these things will happen. Therefore, if you do nothing, you are inviting the worst of them to happen, namely, that the maniac will shoot you and kill you or seriously wound you.

2. Then, there is this classic: You are at a train track and see five people tied to the track ahead. A switch is in front of you which will divert the train, but as you look down you see a man is strapped to that track and will be killed. Is it permissible to flip the switch and save the five people at the expense of one?

3. And this variation: Now imagine in order to save the five people, you have to push a stranger in front of the train to stop it. You know for certain it would stop the train in time to save the five people tied to the tracks. Is it permissible to push the man and save the five people at the expense of one?

There are three ways to view each situation:

  • through the lens of utilitarianism, which considers one (innocent) life to be the equivalent of another
  • through the lens of in-group solidarity, which places a premium on one’s own life and the lives of those with whom one has a special relationship (kinsfolk, neighbors, countrymen) for reasons of affection and/or mutual dependence
  • through the lens of the Golden Rule, which (in my view) is a social convention that arises from self-interest tempered by empathy.

The utilitarian answers to three problems are as follows:

1. Shoot. Your life is equal to the life of the human shield, and if you are able to kill or seriously wound the thug, you may save the lives of other innocent persons in the restaurant.

2. Flip the switch and save five lives at the cost of one.

3. Overcome your squeamishness about being so directly involved in the death of the stranger; push him in front of the train and save five lives at the cost of one.

These are the “right” answers from the perspective of in-group solidarity:

1. Shoot. The life you save may be your own, and you are the center of your in-group. Moreover, you probably have more in common with the other diners (most of whom are probably productive citizens) than with the thug (who is in the process of killing productive citizens).

2. If the potential victims of the train are strangers to you, you have to flip a coin to decide whether to throw the switch or leave it alone. Otherwise, your action depends on your relationship(s) with any of the potential victims of the oncoming train.

3. If the potential victims are strangers, you have to flip a coin to decide whether to push the man in front of the train or do nothing. Otherwise, your action depends on your relationship(s) with any of the potential victims of the oncoming train.

These are the “right” answers for a person whose adherence to the Golden Rule arises from a combination of self-interest and empathy:

1. Shoot. Unless you are a psychopath like the homicidal maniac, you identify with the other diners and you cringe when he shoots one of them because their pain and death affects you emotionally. And if you do not shoot him, he probably will shoot you.

2 and 3.The answers can be the same as they were from the perspective of in-group solidarity. But, if all of the potential victims are strangers to you, it is not utilitarian to suggest that you can have more empathy for five strangers than for one stranger, especially if you take into account the (probable) larger number of persons who would be hurt by the death of five than the death of one. Moreover, if all of the potential victims are strangers, the saving of five of them is more likely to yield positive “returns” in the form of friendship and gratitude. The latter might, in turn, lead to a better job, a monetary reward, or something else along those lines.

What does all of this have to do with Truman’s decision to drop the A-bomb? If you are a utilitarian, you might be persuaded that Truman’s decision was the correct one because it resulted in fewer deaths than there would have been in the case of an invasion or blockade. (I dismiss the possibility that the Japanese military would have quit fighting if the U.S. had simply stopped fighting after driving Japanese forces back to their homeland.) If you place great stock in in-group solidarity, Truman’s move was the correct one because it saved American lives — possibly the lives of friends and family members.

If you are an adherent of the Golden Rule, you come to the same place for two reasons. The first reason is the empathic one just mentioned: the saving of lives of persons for whom you have a natural affinity.

The second reason arises from self-interest and has at least two branches:

  • You are glad that Truman put an end to a war that would have proved more costly to you (directly or through your ancestors) had he not decided to drop the bomb.
  • You are glad that Truman, in effect, warned off prospective enemies of the United States who are therefore enemies of your interests. That Truman’s warning was later undermined by his own actions in Korea, America’s withdrawal from Vietnam, and similar actions has not entirely vitiated the strong signal sent by the dropping of the A-bomb. Truman told the world that aggression against the United States invites the United States to smite the aggressor. (Do unto others what they do unto you.)

If you still object to Truman’s decision because you believe that it is always wrong to take an innocent life, you are putting yourself in the shoes of an armed diner who decides against shooting a homicidal maniac because that would require the shooting of an innocent person. But do not forget that  the diner’s refusal to shoot the maniac probably will allow the deaths of many innocent persons (the diner included). The refusal to kill an innocent person, under any circumstances, can be the moral equivalent of murder and/or suicide.

To put it baldly, the refusal to kill an innocent person, under any circumstances, is shallow posturing. It is not a considered moral stance.

*   *   *

Related posts:
Why Sovereignty?
Liberalism and Sovereignty
The Decision to Drop the Bomb
The Folly of Pacifism
Transnationalism and National Defense
The Folly of Pacifism, Again
______

Rights, Liberty, the Golden Rule, and the Legitimate State
Evolution and the Golden Rule
The Golden Rule as Beneficial Learning
Rights: Source, Applicability, How Held
Libertarianism and Morality
Libertarianism and Morality: A Footnote

More about Merit Goods

This is a follow-up to “Merit Goods, Positive Rights, and Cosmic Justice.” That post was inspired by a post at Austin Frakt’s blog, The Incidental Economist, about which John Goodman had this to say:

Austin, on first reading, I thought you were saying that I (as a taxpayer) should help pay for your daughter’s asthma medication — even though you agree that you can afford to pay for it yourself. Disbelief overcame me, so I read your post a second time. Then I read it a third. Each time, the message was as incomprehensible as on the previous reading.

Is there a persuasive reason why I owe the Frakt household something? If so, it’s not in this post.

Frakt’s response to Goodman:

You owe me nothing. Follow the link to value-based insurance design or find the V-BID center at U Mich. I think you’re looking for trouble where none should exist.

Well, I followed the link, and came away unconvinced that Frakt wants nothing from Goodman or anyone else. Accordingly, I posted this comment (paragraph breaks and emphasis added):

Your post about value-based insurance — to which you refer John Goodman — suggests that by reducing the co-pay on asthma drugs, trips to the ER would be averted, thus reducing the insurance company’s total costs and (possibly) the premiums it must charge its policy holders. If I have that right, it explains your reply to Goodman that “You owe me nothing.” I suspect that what he reacted to — and I would have reacted to similarly — is your assertion that “breathing [is] a merit good, something we all have a right to enjoy.” That assertion is unnecessary to the discussion of value-based insurance. And your use of the term “merit good” strongly suggests that your statement “Asthma medication is exactly the type of health product that should be free, or nearly so, especially for low-income families” is not just a statement about the presumed efficacy of value-based insurance, but advocacy for income redistribution.

In that case, a modified version of Goodman’s reaction is entirely in order, and I subscribe to it: “Is there a persuasive reason why I owe other households something, and what qualifies you (or anyone else) to make that judgment?” The excuse that I might otherwise end up paying for ER services through my taxes or insurance premiums relies on the assumption that ER services are a merit good that ought to be covered by tax subsidies and/or mandated insurance coverage. There is no end to the number of things that can be called merit goods, but calling them merit goods does not disguise the fact that doing so is an excuse for imposing one person’s or group’s preferences and burdens on others.

Those impositions have led to the present state of affairs, in which myriad interest groups pick each others’ pockets — and the pockets of the unfortunate who are not well-represented by an interest group. One truly unfortunate result of that state of affairs — aside from the gross diminution of liberty — is the diversion of resources from uses that would foster greater economic growth and alleviate much of the poverty that provides an excuse, in the first place, for special pleading about merit goods.

Luck and Baseball, One More Time

There is such a thing as “luck.” Bad and good luck happen to everyone, at one time or another. But everything that happens to everyone is not due to luck. I am convinced by what I have seen of life — up close and at a distance — that most of what happens to people happens to them because of their intentions, skills, and resources.

Yes, the skills that one possesses may be due in part to genetic luck, and the resources that one can marshal may be due in part to genetic and geographic luck. But if skills and resources were entirely beyond a person’s control, no one would ever climb from the proverbial gutter to attain fame and fortune. That is where intentions come in.

So, I am unimpressed (to say the least) by do-gooders and levelers, who want to take from the productive and give to the unproductive because the productive have had “all the luck,” or some such thing. Balderdash! First, it takes more than luck to be productive and to enjoy even a modest income. Second, taking from the productive to give to the unproductive is like blaming the blameless. It may come as a surprise to do-gooders and levelers (most of whom ought to know better), but a person who earns a high income earns it because that is what others are willing to pay for his efforts — not because he picks the pockets of the poor.

Speaking of high-income earners, I am always puzzled by the fact that income-envy is directed toward CEOs, investment bankers, and suchlike. Why is it not directed at super-star athletes, like Albert Pujols, who will earn $254 million over the next 10 years, just for playing baseball? Perhaps it is because almost everyone recognizes that Pujols is selling a skill that (a) is his (not stolen from someone else) and (b) would not be on display were it not for his assiduous development and application of the particular genetic advantages that enable him to hit a pitched baseball with above-average frequency and power.

Well, Nassim Nicholas Taleb to the contrary notwithstanding, the earning of large sums of money in any profession takes the same assiduous application of particular genetic advantages, or assiduous compensation for the lack thereof. I will not repeat my detailed criticisms of Taleb, which can be found “here” and “here.” Instead, I will return to the subject of baseball, some aspects of which I treated in those posts.

In the 111-year history of the American League, 60 different players have led the league in batting. Those 60 players have recorded a total of 367 top-10 finishes in American League batting races over the years — an average of 6 top-10 finishes for each of the players. It is not surprising, therefore, that most of the 60 players also compiled excellent career batting averages. Specifically, through 2010, 57 of the 60 had made at least 5,000 plate appearance in the American League, and 43 of the 57 are among the top 120 hitters (for average) — out of the thousands of players with at least 5,000 plate appearances in the American League. Were those 43 players merely “lucky”? It takes a lot more than luck to hit so well, so consistently, and for so many years.

And it takes a lot more than luck to succeed at almost anything, from winning high office to making millions of dollars to painting a masterpiece to building a house to cutting hair properly. To denigrate the rich and famous by calling them lucky is to denigrate every person who strives, with some success, to overmaster whatever bad luck happens to come his way.

Related posts:
The Residue of Choice
The American League’s Greatest Hitters
The American League’s Greatest Hitters:  Part II
Fooled by Non-Randomness
Randomness Is Over-Rated
Luck-Egalitarianism and Moral Luck

Merit Goods, Positive Rights, and Cosmic Justice

A merit good is said to be something that

an individual or society should have on the basis of some concept of need, rather than ability and willingness to pay…. [T]he concept … lies behind many economic actions by governments…. Examples include the provision of food stamps to support nutrition, the delivery of health services to improve quality of life and reduce morbidity, subsidized housing and arguably education….

Sometimes, merit … goods are simply seen as an extension of the idea of externalities. A merit good may be described as a good that has positive externalities associated with it. Thus, an inoculation against a contagious disease may be seen as a merit good. This is because others who may not now catch the disease from the inoculated person also benefit.

[M]erit … goods can be defined in a different way…. The essence of merit … goods is [has] do with … information failure…. This arises because consumer[s] do not perceive quite how good or bad the good is for them: either they do not have the right information or lack relevant information…. [A]merit good is [a] good that is better for a person than the person … realizes.

Other possible rationales for treating some commodities as merit … goods include public-goods aspects of a commodity…

A merit good, in short, is something that someone believes that the state should cause to be given to certain individuals, as a “positive right,” for various reasons: perceived need, externalities, and market failure among them.

But the “right” to something that is not earned or freely given is not a right, as the term is properly understood. It is an extortion by force or the threat of force, either directly (as in the case of outright theft) or though the coercive power of the state. Only a fool or a dishonest person can say that something obtained through extortion is obtained by right, unless that person believes that the victims of extortion are less deserving — less human — than the intended beneficiaries of extortion.

If a right is anything, it is something that all members of a polity can enjoy equally. If some members of a polity are placed above others through force or the threat of force, then the polity has no system of rights; it has a system of arbitrary privileges, dispensed by the state according to the whims of the faction then in power.

Given that a right must be something that all can enjoy equally, a right can only be negative:

  • the right not to have one’s life taken if one is peaceful toward others
  • the right not to be deprived of liberty if one is peaceful toward others
  • the right to the peaceful enjoyment and use of one’s property in the pursuit of one’s life and livelihood.

These negative rights come down to this: the right to be left alone as one leaves others alone.

If “obligations” accompany the right to be left alone, they do so only in the context of voluntary social (and economic) relationships, wherein acts of kindness and charity flow readily among persons who trust and care for each other and do so, in good part, because they observe the right of others to be left alone. These “obligations” are incurred and honored voluntarily, not because a person or group invested with the power of the state decrees them.

Merit goods (“positive rights”), by contrast, are the products of presumption — judgments about who is “needy” and “deserving” — and they are bestowed on some by coercing others. These coercions extend not only to the seizure of income and wealth but also to denials of employment (e.g., affirmative action), free speech (e.g., campaign-finance “reform”), freedom of contract (e.g., mandatory recognition of unions), freedom of association (e.g., forced admission of certain groups to private organizations), freedom of conscience (e.g., forced participation in abortions), and on and on.

The list of “merit goods” that forms the basis for the many and various forms of state-sponsored coercion may not be infinite, but it is exceedingly long. And its length is limited only by the perverse ingenuity of the seekers of “cosmic justice.” What is cosmic justice? I like this example from Thomas Sowell’s speech, “The Quest for Cosmic Justice“:

A fight in which both boxers observe the Marquis of Queensberry rules would be a fair fight, according to traditional standards of fairness, irrespective of whether the contestants were of equal skill, strength, experience or other factors likely to affect the outcome– and irrespective of whether that outcome was a hard-fought draw or a completely one-sided beating.

This would not, however, be a fair fight within the framework of those seeking “social justice,” if the competing fighters came into the ring with very different prospects of success — especially if these differences were due to factors beyond their control….

In a sense, proponents of “social justice” are unduly modest. What they are seeking to correct are not merely the deficiencies of society, but of the cosmos. What they call social justice encompasses far more than any given society is causally responsible for. Crusaders for social justice seek to correct not merely the sins of man but the oversights of God or the accidents of history. What they are really seeking is a universe tailor-made to their vision of equality. They are seeking cosmic justice.

To be a practitioner of cosmic justice, a person must set himself up as a judge of the merit of other persons, without really possessing more than superficial information about those other persons (e.g., that they are “rich” or “poor” by some standard). As I once said of two founders of modern “liberalism,” T.H. Green and L.T. Hobhouse, they are

accountants of the soul….

…(presumably) intelligent persons who believe that their intelligence enables them to peer into the souls of others, and to raise them up [or put them down] through the blunt instrument that is the state.

This is done on in the service of concepts that do not bear close examination, such as externalities, public goods, market failure, and social justice, social welfare, and positive rights. I will not repeat my asseessments of those concepts, but refer you to some of them instead:

Greed, Cosmic Justice, and Social Welfare
Positive Rights and Cosmic Justice
A Short Course in Economics
Social Justice
The Meaning of Liberty
Positive Liberty vs. Liberty
More Social Justice
On Self-Ownership and Desert
Luck-Egalitarianism and Moral Luck
Externalities and Statism