Michael Zeleny (larvatus) wrote,
Michael Zeleny

the poverty of libertarianism

A problem for libertarians:

Following Aristotle and Aquinas, it is customary to distinguish commutative justice, which deals with the relations that arise between individuals, between individuals and groups, and between groups that comprise any given community, from distributive justice, which deals with the overarching relation of that community as a whole to all of its constituent individuals and groups. Read more...Collapse )

Some inadvertent long range prognostications:

Suppose that Lefty the hedge fund manager is a compulsive gambler who has been rescued from the brink of ruin by a bunch of wealthy arsehole buddies in the investment banking industry, owing to their government connections. Suppose further that Lefty, bloodied but unbowed, and certainly none the wiser, is continuing to make leveraged bets to the tune of 80% of your government’s budget. Suppose finally that there are some 100,000,000 Righties encumbered with the usual variable rate credit obligations. What does Lefty owe to the Righties at the point of his financial collapse precipitating a global credit crunch?

I can’t see that Lefty owes the Righties anything. If a credit crunch is a relative unwillingness (compared to the status quo ante) of credit vendors to extend credit at the previous rates, then to consider the occurrence of this a compensatable cost is tantamount to saying that the Righties somehow had a right to the continuance of the credit vendors’ willingness to offer credit at the previous rates, which notion seems to me to be absurd on its face.
    It is a commonplace that bad consequences can result from people acting entirely within their rights. Often, A’s coming to terms with B forecloses C’s dearly cherished hope. This is called “bad fortune“.

But if Lefty trades in legal tender, i.e. goods backed by fictitious mortgages upon public properties, his trades perforce manipulate very real mortgages that bind millions of Righties. Such manipulation can warrant commutative compensation even before you decide how you feel about property taxes.
    Consider another example: Soros shorting the pound sterling and the ringgit to enrich himself and precipitate economic turmoil in Great Britain and Malaysia.
    “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.”

“Within the operation of democratic institutions, too, we want expressions of the values that concern us and that bind us together. The libertarian position I once propounded now seems to me seriously inadequate, in part because it did not fully knit the humane considerations and joint cooperative activities it left room for more closely into its fabric. It neglected the symbolic importance of an official political concern with issues or problems, as a way of marking their importance or urgency, and hence of expressing, intensifying, channeling, encouraging and validating our private actions and concerns towards them. Joint goals that the government ignores completely—it is different with private or family goals—tend to be unworthy of our joint attention and hence to receive little. There are some things we choose to do together through government in solemn marking of our human solidarity, served by the fact that we do them together in this official fashion.”
—Robert Nozick, The Examined Life: Philosophical Meditations, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989, pp. 286-287
Tags: citationalism, economics, money, philosophy, usenet

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