Tuesday, April 25, 2006


I never liked the term "mixed-economy". Now I've thought of a good reason to reject it-- it's a self-contradicting term.

Just as a woman cannot be both pregnant and fallow at the same time, it borders on oxymoronism to label this state of political anarchy with a term which implies a combination of individuals being both free and unfree.

Individuals residing within a geopolitical boundry are either existing freely or they are existing unfreely. To the extent that individuals are not regulated does not mean they are free, since freedom is an all or nothing condition (only in the negative sense of the term though).

To assert otherwise would be akin to mocking a ball-and-chain inmate that he is truly free since he is allowed to breath, eat, etc.

The only question I have is, given the quantum nature of the universe, are all contradictions entirely plausible? Mu.

Monday, April 24, 2006

faux privatization

Being an anarchocapitalist means never having to be sorry. It's a label that you can safely use without having to side with the emotional baggage of either leftist egalitarianism or conservative corporatism.

It means one can defend Wal*Mart or other industry titans qua private business, without having to pacify the leftist voices which scream privilege and who are opposed to faceless, monolithic business per se, and for no other reason. Of course, it means that one will excoriate private business with equal vigor when it actively uses the help of the legitimated criminals who control the state monopoly of violence, to further monopolize their business interests.

With that short introduction, or disclaimer have you, I thought it prudent to raise a cry against the state of New York, of which several politicians have called to "privatize" the roads, bridges, tunnels, and other 'public' infrastructure. These politicians have greedily eyed other states, such as Illinois, which have already "sold" some of their turnpikes in excess of billions of dollars.

Mind you, the politicians will only lease the roads, not outright sell them, which I would have tolerated, and might have even encouraged, since it will move the care of the resource to private hands. The downside of that would be the 'fait accompli' in regards to the issue of non-recompensation of the tax payers who have been robbed again and again to pay for the very same infrastructure. It's not the best result, but I would probably forgive and forget if the roads were truly privatized.

But since this is not an outright sale, and thus I am very wary of ledes such as this:
When Gov. George Pataki delivered his budget to the Legislature in January, he unveiled a proposal to lease the Tappan Zee Bridge to private investors. Lawmakers balked, and when the final budget was passed months later, the Tappan Zee plan was left for dead.

In recent weeks, however, Mr. Pataki's top transportation officials have been pushing hard to revive it. They say the bridge is just one in a series of revenue-generating assets that the state could privatize in multibillion-dollar deals.
It's corporate welfare of this prominence that gives a bad name to the "free" market, and I think anti-statists of all colors, dimensions, directions, and economic schools can agree upon to oppose.

Monday, April 17, 2006

the free market fails to fail

One often hears of the term "market failure" as an excuse for unbridled statist aggression to rob, plunder and steal from her slaves unwilling servant class. It might be used to justify environmental policy; to fund canal digging; bridge, road, and railroad building; etc.

Alas, "there is no such thing as market failure - only lack of private property rights." Hence, externalities are the creature of the mixed markets, those in which government has preempted the common law of liability, with its own ineffective policies, in which some cases is a form of corporate welfare (logging industry, fishing rights, etc.)

Without delving further into the economics though, I'd like to state that such a claim is prima facie fallacious because the very notion that there exists an objective definition of what services and goods that billions of interacting individuals ought to offer one another is preposterous. If that weren't true, I humbly submit that there is a market failure to deliver styrofoam houses, bicycles made from gold, and teleportation machines.

Thus said, there is no market failure because one cannot argue that such goods or services ought to be provided by the market, only that they, strictly on a personal basis desire the provision to be made.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

iceberg's law

With all due respect to Mike Godwin, and in recognition of the damage that his popular meme has caused to once-meaningful internet discussion, I propose a new law:

"As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison of one methodological individualist involving Ayn Rand or Atlas Shrugged approaches one."
I have often found the desire to express this law (and that's just on one blog alone!)

Hmm... is Mike Godwin an Objectivist?

More strange than that, he publicized the Secret Service raid on Steve Jackson Games' Chicago offices, and as we all know, Steve Jackson Games is a publisher for the 'Principa Discordia'. His involvement is later documented in Bruce Sterling's non-fiction book The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier.

Guys, I think I have uncovered a member of the Bavarian Illuminati among us.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Gunfight at the J.L.S. Corral

Being a subscriber of the Journal of Libertarian Studies has its perks -- such as that you receive your hard copy before the e-book makes it to the interwebs. Due to error however, such is not the case, but yet I do not begrudge the non-subscribers the accidental treat of having access to the PDF before us subscribers got our first licks, and besides, "better that it be on the side of more information rather than less".

The JLS Winter 2006 edition is subtitled "SYMPOSIUM ON KEVIN CARSON'S STUDIES IN MUTUALIST POLITICAL ECONOMY" and features no less than seven articles.

I was so eagerly anticipating this issue, and it appears that it was certainly worth the wait (evaluating it using which ever method you devise to measure the value imbued through the disutility of waiting!)

For those of you who live in a bubble, Kevin Carson is either the DR. JEKYLL or MR. HYDE (or both, depending on whom you ask) behind mutualist.blogspot.com, a self-declared "free market anti-capitalist".

While I may disagree with the general attitude or conclusion of any of his particular blog posts, I still find it most enjoyable to studiously browse them; so if by any chance he reads this post, THANK YOU!

What I find that Mr. Carson brings to the table is serious, anti-statist critiques of existing political capitalism. Sometimes it's not enough to accept the status quo, and attribute its harshness, or seeming callousness to the free market -- as Mr. Carson likes to point out, the undesirable conditions may be in fact the result of existing, or even long-prior political-capitalism intervention.

At this point it's not difficult to disagree with Mr. Carson; after all, you may prefer to shop at Wal*Mart and other chain stores and personally dislike mom & pop operations. You may prefer to drive your gas guzzler even if you had to pick up the externalities tab. You may think that global warming is beneficial to humanity. You couldn't care less how much wealth other people have accumulated. In short, you would just be disagreeing whether the present arrangement of affairs is one which most people would choose to live under in the truly, unfettered free market in which they picked up all transaction costs.

The problem I find with Mr. Carson is his unwillingness to concede that there is some vague middle ground, a no-mans land so to speak, of which it's utterly impossible to divine what arrangements might actually prevail under the misty veil of the unknown free market ideal. I am even tempted to borrow the phraseology of the late Friedrich August Hayek, using what he termed "fatal conceit" to describe this willful egalitarianistic dream. [Not that I have anything against egalitarianism, other that I wouldn't want it imposed on me, and if people want to live under that principle, I wish them an 'equal' success.]

To me, attempting to calculate how many Wal*Marts would actually exist under free market conditions, is as fruitless as determining how many angels could dance on a pinhead. In Mr. Carson's idyllic free market, the wealthiest individuals would be as pebbles among sand, not boulders. And I would probably agree with his opinion, but the difference is that I won't conflate that with factual knowledge from which I would be comfortable dealing criticism.

For instance, Mr. Carson often alludes to the transportation subsidies (or "positive externalities" as P.M. Lawrence would say) which he alleges props up the inefficiencies of large-scale business operations at the expense of smaller mom & pops, and local artisans. On this basis, Wal*Mart and other international giants deserve a good, un-vulgar libertarians' scorn for taking advantage of the subsidy, and causing the disadvantaged firms and individuals to wither and suffer.

But how do we know that the positive externalities of the existent transportation system are not inferior to the free market ideal? I believe that we don't have such knowledge, and if one had to make a best guess, odds are that the political-capitalism variation of transportation costs more than would a free market system. However, one should at least concede the possibility of it being such.

Mr. Carson takes no such position, and as you will shorty see, nor does he adequately address the historical evidence which contests his claims of a free market unlikelyhood.

Not so long ago, on a thread titled "If It's Got a "Y" in It, It's Wal-Mart Day at Mises.Org", I wrote in response to an earlier commenter:
You bring up an interesting point. It's back to the old question of what is likely to occur under anarchy- cooperation or competition?

But you may find it interesting to note, that prior to government involvement in road building, there were hundreds of private road companies, just within New York state alone which were building private turnpikes left and right.

You may want to see Thomas DiLorenzo's "How Capitalism Saved America" which I read almost a year ago, so I don't exactly recall all the historical narrative that shows that private road building was possible without eminent domain. The explanation of how the cooperation occurred was that the landowners were offered a financial stake in the tolls, so that it wasn't much issue of acquiring land rights.

He also mentioned there, (contrary to what you mentioned) that the tolls fluctuated on the basis of tire width to vehicle weight, so that a heavy truck with wide wheels which generally smoothes out the road will pay less than vehicles with narrower tires which tend to rip ruts in the road.

His chapter on the North Pacific railroad also showed how a railroad company succeeded without huge land grants or subsidies and which privately funded their buyouts & buildouts.

Whether or not you buy Thomas DiLorenzo's argument, I still think it's a good enough question to make me hold back from criticizing transportation subsidies.
To which Mr. Carson kindly responded:

As Josh suggests, the profitability of shipping by truck depends in part on the fact that trucks are not currently taxed on the basis of their damage to the roadbeds. And while I don't doubt that it would be feasible to operate modest-sized highways on a free market basis, on preexisting rights of way, the lack of eminent domain would set severe limits on expanding their volume. Without ED, we'd probably have a network of 2-lane highways like those in the former USSR.

I haven't read Dilorenzo's book yet, so take this FWIW. But offering a high enough price to persuade every landowner, individually, to come on board would likely be considerably more expensive than the prices paid for condemned land under ED, and the resulting amortization costs would significantly raise the operating costs of the highway. In addition, the vulnerability of such arrangements to individual holdouts would raise all kinds of transaction costs.

Even we accept his assertion of this being an unlikely result in our modern day world, I would still leave the question open, since we don't know to what extent the demographical population density of today is the result of state capitalism. I'd also hazard that when roads were being built 100 years ago, vacant land, which would be considered available for road builder homesteading was certainly less scarce than it is today, and had those roads been built privately then, we would still be enjoying those goods today.

Alright, maybe so!