Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Dilemma for Libertarianism.

A Dilemma for Libertarianism

Professor Karl Widerquist argues that libertarian principles of acquisition and transfer without regard for the pattern of inequality do not support a minimal state, but can lead just as well to a monarchy with full the full power of taxation without violation of self-ownership.

He's done for property what G. A. Cohen has done in "Self-Ownership, Freedom, and Equality". He's used the usual libertarian assumptions to come to opposite conclusions with some deft jiu-jitsu. The key trick is to note that libertarians rely on a statute of limitations for their theory of property, else hardly any real world property would be valid (almost all can be traced to conquest.)

In a number of ways, this corresponds with points I've made in A Non-Libertarian FAQ (such as #16) and elsewhere.

This has been linked into my Philosophical Criticisms Of Libertarianism index.


Jeff Snipes said...

Linking to this paper is not to be interpreted as an endorsement of the stateless sort of society the author probably advocates.

Joanna said...

A single person/family could never be as effective economically as to buy out all property and become the King. It didn't and will never happen that way (ie w/o agression), because economies of scale can go only so far, at some point the bigger a conglomerate, the less effective it becomes. Also one big corporation owning everything = socialist state, so no price mechanisms of free market, no competition -> economic failure. We will never actually observe anything even close to that because price mechanisms essential to economic efficiency would disappear even at much lesser concentration of property. So, w/o agression, there would never be Kings and Queens.

Mike Huben said...

Joanna, medieval Iceland gradually consolidated ownership and power into just 4 families, before it was conquored. David Friedman famously uses this as his example of a non-aggressive society in The Machinery Of Freedom.

Joanna said...

Yes, the beginnings were very nice, but then Iceland was conquered precisely because the ownership and power got consolidated into just 4 families (economic inefficiency), and not quite along anarcho-capitalist principles. Sturlung Era, last years of independece, "It may also have been the bloodiest and most violent period in Icelandic history. [...] This period is marked by the conflicts of powerful chieftains, goĆ°ar, who amassed followers and did battle, and is named for the Sturlungs, the most powerful family clan in Iceland at the time."