George Ought to Help

Posts tagged friedman

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Reblogging because there can’t be too many references to this floating around. Friedman delivers the best, clearest explanation of private law society I’ve heard.

I reckon that this case can be made even stronger by pointing to the possibility of an insurance-based national defense that uses dominant assurance pacts to route around the free-rider problem, Robert Murphy mentions this approach in Chaos Theory: (PDF)


David Friedman is an economist, political philosopher, and the author of many books including The Machinery of Freedom, wherein he lays the groundwork for a society based exclusively on voluntary transactions. In this Exploring Liberty lecture, Friedman discusses the main premises of The Machinery of Freedom and offers a few additional conclusions he has reached in the years after the first edition of the book was published in 1973.

An mp3 version of this lecture is available here:

(via )

Filed under libertarian anarcho-capitalism defense friedman machinery of freedom

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Vigilance against creeping 'Human needs'

Caitlyn - I watch the episodes of My Super Sweet 16 where they show how much is spent on each facet of these parties. With every price that pops up on some lavish, useless thing, I say to myself what basic, practical life necessity that money could pay for (my bachelor’s degree, a wedding, a down payment on a house, etc.). Then my heart just breaks. Right into a million pieces.

There are no (unqualified) human needs. Caitliyn isn’t necessarily saying otherwise here, but this reminded me of something that I think is relevant to mention anyway. Different people value different things differently—of course. By way of illustration, a degree, a wedding, a down payment for a house would all be quite low down on my list. Food and shelter are usually valued very highly.

Here’s David Friedman explaining why it’s important to recognise, and avoid, the mistake of talking as though human needs exist as something categorically different from human wants:

The idea of ‘need’ is dangerous because it strikes at the heart of the practical argument for freedom. That argument depends on recognizing that each person is best qualified to choose for himself which among a multitude of possible lives is best for him. If many of those choices involve ‘needs’, things of infinite value to one person which can be best determined by someone else, what is the use of freedom? If I disagree with the expert about my ‘needs’, I make, not a value judgement, but a mistake.

If we accept the concept of needs, we must also accept the appropriateness of having decisions concerning those needs made for us by someone else, most likely the government. It is precisely this argument that is behind government subsidy to medicine, present and prospective. Medicine, like food, water, or air, contributes to physical survival. The kind and quantity of medical attention necessary to achieve some particular end—to cure or to prevent a disease, for example—is a question, not of individual taste, but of expert opinion. It is consequently argued that the amount of medical attention people ‘need’ should be provided free. But how much is that? Some ‘needs’ can be satisfied, and at a relatively low price; the cost of a fully nutritious minimum-cost diet (largely soy beans and powdered milk), for instance, is only a few hundred dollars a year. Additional expenditures on food merely make it taste better—which, it might be argued, is a luxury. But additional medical care continues to bring improved health up to a very high level of medical expenditure, probably up to the point where medicine would absorb the entire national income. Does that mean that we should satisfy our ‘need’ for medical care by having everyone in the country become a doctor, save those absolutely needed for the production of food and shelter? Obviously not. Such a society would be no more attractive than the ‘life’ of the man who really regarded his life as infinitely valuable., the chapter: “I DON’T NEED NOTHING”.

(Source: enemyofthestatist)

Filed under friedman needs subjective value my super sweet 16

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Anarchy and efficient law: question

The question relates to the presentation given above.

Say that my peers and I judge a law allowing us to do X to be worth $10,000 per month each. Meanwhile our wealthy neighbors all judge a law preventing anyone from doing X to be worth only $5000.

Two defense agencies are involved, one budget agency that my peers and I are subscribed to, and another agency that the wealthy neighbors are subscribed to. Both groups would like it that conflicts with members of the other group, over X, are decided in their favour.

The two agencies, eager to avoid violent conflict want to make a settlement about which court to go to in the case of conflicts between their customers over the issue of X. One agency will pay the other in exchange for these cases being taken to a court of their choosing. The agency servicing the wealthy prefers an ‘anti-X’ court, while the agency servicing the less wealthy prefers a ‘X-friendly’ court. The ‘paying’ agency will end up passing on the cost to its customers in the form of a higher subscription fee.

None of us pro X-ers can actually afford to ‘buy’ the right to do X at more than 5000 each month, while the anti-Xers can comfortably afford to spend that to secure the right to be free from X. The result is that X ends up prohibited, even though allowing X would have maximised utility.

Would there not be many cases like this where wealth disparity leads to inefficient outcomes if consumers of law are indirectly bidding against one another for the law they will live under?


I got this email reply from David Friedman:

The result isn’t inefficient. It’s an example of a situation where the outcome that maximizes economic efficiency probably doesn’t maximize utility.

You can think of economic efficiency as an approximate proxy for utility. The fact that it measures value by willingness to pay even though different people have different utility values for money is one of the reasons it is only an approximate proxy.

I discuss this point in the discussions of economic efficiency in several of my books—_Law’s Order_ (webbed), _Price Theory_ (webbed), _Hidden Order_ (not webbed). The webbed books are linked to my web page.

David Friedman

Filed under Anarcho-Capitalism defense agencies efficiency friedman private law libertarian libertarian

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mawriaa asked: Hai, I saw you on whakahekeheke's libertarian list and decided to follow :3

Hello to you! And to everyone else who’s taking a look via whakahekeheke’s list (thanks for the inclusion).

Here’s an excerpt from a recent facebook exchange. If the ideal is to persuade the author of the opening statement (and all 3rd parties witnessing the exchange) to a position that’s friendlier towards freedom, how would tumblr anti-statists answer? Mine’s below the following:

Libertarian anarchism doesn’t work for me. I want law and order and a social safety net. I don’t have all that blind faith in the competence of the human race.

Those are perfectly understandable concerns. We all want to feel secure against crime and other misfortune. Some of us have come to believe that the state isn’t competent to provide this protection, and that the decentralised provision of these things is a safer, more sustainable, and morally less objectionable option. If you want to learn more check out The machinery of freedom (PDF, David Friedman), or Man Economy and State (PDF, Murray Rothbard) for some good starting points.

Filed under anti-state, libertarian rothbard friedman