And at the heart of Ritchie’s philosophy is ignorance

Blimey:

Let me deal with the last first. One of the things I talked about – indeed it was a major theme of what I said – was that economics abounds with faith systems, and neoliberalism represents this more than most economic theory. As I said:

There are those who do have complete faith in markets as if they are revealed truth. They do believe that the government plays the role of the devil.

The former is, of course, a salvation belief and the latter a damnation belief represented by the view, as I put it, that any form of regulation by government, and anything other than that minimal taxation required to enforce the laws of private property would so impede the markets that the salvation they might offer could not be delivered here on earth.

Now the question is not whether this is right or wrong – my position on that is, I am sure, clear – but how this belief system which dominates almost all political discourse in the UK can be challenged.

And to do that it has to be understood that this belief system is not based on fact – it is based on dogma and quite remarkable claims that are unconnected to the human condition and our innate sense of community. We are not maximisers. We do not put self interest first on all occasions, although clearly we must on some. We do share. We are compassionate. We quite clearly need not just the neighbour we know and who we recognise as our peer, but also all those who make up the community in which we live. The rich can only be rich because there are others who are not, to out it bluntly.

And that belief system, false as it is, was propagated. It started with the Mont Pelerin Society and has been spread through all the think tanks it has spawned (call them churches if you like), the most notable of which in the UK is the Institute of Economic Affairs.

Now as you know I work sometimes for the Adam Smith Institute, am a Senior Fellow there. And one of the head honchos there is Eamonn Butler who is a fully paid up and card carrying member of the Mont Pelerin society.

And what The Murphmeister is saying are our views is not what our views actually are. Indeed, I’ve had extensive discussion with Eamonn concerning climate change. Our discussion centered around what actions government should take, not whether there needed to be action or not.

For we are absolutely certain that there are certain things that need to be done, certain things that have to be done that only government can do. Government is therefore more than just a necessary evil, it’s a highly desirable component of anything even remotely resembling a functioning or desirable society.

Or perhaps to give a less controversial example. That of copyrights and patents. We both (all of the ASI does in fact, I’m sure the IEA does and so on as well) agree that these are necessary and desirable. No, not because we are rabid free marketeers, insisting that government is the work of the very devil. But because we agree that pure free markets, markets all the time and nothing but markets will not deal well with the positive externalities of the public goods of invention and innovation. Therefore there has to be a governmental oar stuck into that free market in order to improve it.

As we also agree that the negative externalities of things like pollution need to be dealt with. We are, after all, the people who championed the London Congestion Charge for a couple of decades.

We support both, the patents and the congestion charge, precisely because we agree that markets are not perfect and that at times they require the firm hand of government in order to be improved.

The only disagreement we actually have with those further to the left of us on this point is over what are those things that must be done and what are those things that must be done that can only be done with the firm hand of government? We tend to believe that there are fewer of such than many other people. And that comes not from some religious devotion to voluntary cooperation but rather from a clear and rational appreciation of when that isn’t enough. Unlike those a great deal further to the left of us who would, in a very Catholic fashion, gladly just hand everything up to the priestly caste who are the State.

And if you want to cast us as a religious sect then the closest approximation to us would be a disputatious a low church protestant one. Insistent that cooperation and community on the small scale will see us through most of the time, unlike the High Anglicans to our left who insist that there must be one national church, or ultramontaines insisting one international.

Or to leave such tortured religious analogies to one side: our disagreement isn’t about whether the State it’s about what the State.

61 comments on “And at the heart of Ritchie’s philosophy is ignorance

  1. And there’s your problem. Because “low church protestantism” has been one of the primary- I would argue the primary- drivers of statism in the Anglosphere, and Ritchie’s faith-based social economics is directly derived from it.

    You see, such evangelicals always start off with “civil society” action; the Temperance Movement is a classic example of this. But after some initial success- getting people to take the pledge, smashing up saloons etc- they reach a point beyond which they cannot progress in achieving what is called “social change”. So then they turn to the State to impose laws and regulations for the Common Good. It’s the Methodists who have destroyed our liberty, not the Anglicans. (Well, the impetus came from the Meths; the Anglican church was sucked into social gospel type thinking in the late C19 in the same way as the Catholic church was sucked into a “counter reformation” by the swivel eyed loons of radical Protestantism, centuries before. The picture is, as always, complicated).

    So if we take Adam Smith Institute type right-wing pro-businees statism to be “neoliberalism” we see the problem. Such persons will, like the left, start sitting in judgement on the rest of society and deciding what needs regulatiing here, taxing there; what needs an “adjiustment” and what they think, subjectively, is a “negative externality”. And then, like their left wing counterparts, they will find remarkably that the statist measures they approve of happen to be the ones that benefit themselves. Like, insisting that it is a terrible crime to tax businesses, but then that taxing carbon is a Jolly Good Thing. Because, just like the Left, such persons have a magical market overview that tells them where the State needs to stick its oar in.

    So you end up with two faith based economic sects, who are less different than they like to believe, between them like Jack Spratt and his wife, licking the platter of liberty clean. Which is how we got where we are today.

    “Extra profits for me, extra costs for you”, that was their catchphrase.
    -EJ Thribb

  2. I find the segue from

    1. the claim markets are best is based more on faith than evidence

    to

    2. “We are not maximisers …. etc.”

    hard to understand. If one was to amend mainstream economic theory with altruistic utility functions, to incorporate sharing and caring for ones neighbours etc. what would the consequences be for the markets versus governments debate? Mainstream theory is already based on utilitarian welfare maximization so helping out the worst-off is where the largest gains are. I guess I could see it might bolster arguments for redistribution and regulation, but I don’t think it’s going to undermine the merits of markets, price discovery and all that,

    “The rich can only be rich because there are others who are not, to out it bluntly.”

    I agree with him on that. Economics isn’t entirely zero sum, but there’s certainly plenty of getting rich at others’ expense. We do not live in a world where, in general, people get to consumer 100 times more than others because they have produced 100 times more than others.

  3. It’s part straw man, and partly falsus in unum, falsus in omnibus – the zealot’s inability to appreciate that other people might have moderate views and the consequent conviction that if you disagree with me at all, you must disagree with absolutely everything I say in the strongest possible terms.

    Which of course is very handy for setting up straw men 🙂

  4. I do find it interesting though that his argument basically is:

    – people who disagree with me do so out of dogma
    – dogma is mere belief unsupported by fact
    – they are therefore wrong and will shortly be proven so

    Which is odd for someone who then goes on to argue that his own dogma will create the kingdom of heaven once the false dogma is swept away, without bothering to cite any evidence of how his own belief is not mere dogma…

  5. There’s also plenty of getting rich while making other people richer. That’s true of all voluntary transactions. Why don’t the left understand this?

    But patents, mentioned in the OP, are a bad example because with the possible exception of the pharmaceutical industry, they’re unnecessary and destructive ways of hobbling human progress while allowing the undeserving to charge rent on other people’s useful activity. They’re an example of the way some tenets of bad conservatism have crept into the modern liberal mind – and they’re antithetical to the philosophy of Adam Smith.

  6. Unfortunately, Tim doesn’t supply a link. Is a suspicion he’s inadvertently gone to the excellent Murphy Richards blog, totally unfounded? They’re so hard to differentiate….

  7. Your argument does not do you much credit Tim. The state is evil and thug violence incarnate. The idea that it could be good thing, if only nice chaps ran a much smaller version of it (and you are a very decent chap, with all the right instincts ) is the worm in liberty’s apple. You might do some real good deeds if you ran the govt Tim–tho’ your support for green shite is a blind spot–but it would soon spin out of your control because nice guys cannot compete with scummy socialist sharks and their blowfish helpers like Ritchie. They–some version of them–always end up with power because sociopaths swim in that sea, whereas decent people can only stay afloat at best

  8. Tim, it is worse than mere ignorance. For example, I am ignorant of how people in the Japanese central bank think. I do not, however, imagine ridiculous and malign motivations on their behalf.

    If Murphy was merely ignorant he would be completely harmless.

  9. Murphy is pulling his usual set of blinkered tricks:
    1. He defines his straw man with some rubbish about ‘all economics being a belief system’, seeks to knock down this idea with, ‘dogma and quite remarkable claims that are unconnected to the human condition’ and throws pitch all over it with, ‘ It started with the Mont Pelerin Society and has been spread through all the think tanks it has spawned (call them churches if you like), the most notable of which in the UK is the Institute of Economic Affairs’
    2. He blithely ignores the mote in his own eye when it comes to, ‘We are not maximisers.’ when he is employed by groups of the most blatant maximisers in society.
    3. He makes his target audience feel good with, ‘We do share. We are compassionate. We quite clearly need not just the neighbour we know and who we recognise as our peer, but also all those who make up the community in which we live.’
    Touchy-feely claptrap.

  10. @Mr Ecks
    That sounds very much like the Samizdata libertarian fantasy world to me. Those sociopaths don’t go away without a State. Without some form of State they’d be direct & in your face with no brake on them. Anarchy is only attractive if you’ve never seen it.

  11. BIS-

    As opposed to what? The Statist fantasy that since as far back as Plato has been promising some imaginary nice wise owls who will run things benignly? The eveidence of history is overwhelming; once you appoint the State as a social/economic manager, bastards will run it. Tim is just arguing for his kind of bastards instead of the other kind of bastards.

    People who use the dismissive “silly libertarian fantasy” argument never address this. There is a form of State which can work, which is one that we nearly had at various times in England, which is a minor and disinterested State that just does a few core services- basically defence and the justice system, which needs itself to be independent of government.

    Once you go into this tepid Adam Smith bullshit- surely the most overrated and misunderstood economist in history, since he was not a free marketeer but a confused statist with a dismal lack of grasp of industrialisation, him and his pin factory he copied from the Encyclopede and a demented theory of value that led directly to Marx, and all that- you end up with just another form of Ritchiebollocks, arguing the toss about whose externalities must be oppressed with lots of lovely, lovely tax and regulations and, ooh, it’s not us it’s them over there.

    We have anarchic government (in the negative sense of the word anarchy). It is unrestrained, malicous and predatory. But people still think somehow they can make it nice and benign. If only us nice chaps were the ones running it. Just like Ritchie.

    Now there is a fantasy world.

  12. Bloke in Spain

    No this isn’t MurphyRichards; this is definitely Ritchie himself. The reference to creating “the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth” is also painfully real. I would also point you to this offering from yesterday evening:

    “I’m in York tonight giving one of this year’s Ebor Lectures.
    The series is on the theme of the morality of austerity and takes the question raised by Jim Wallis, the American theologian and activist, ‘What would Jesus cut?’ and use it as a way of evaluating economic austerity from a theological and moral perspective.
    My theme is ‘Jesus would cut the tax gap’ because I think he would have done – but am honest enough to say I have no proof.”

    Ritchie is very lucky to be living here today; the emphasis these days is very much on treatment rather than incarceration. He’s headed for Shutter Island; Murphy Richards is headed for redundency.

  13. From his comment about his lecture

    “belief system”
    “not based on fact”
    “dogma”
    “quite remarkable claims”
    “that belief system, false as it is, was propagated”

    etc, etc ad nauseam

    Could one equally apply these not to the object of this opprobrium, but to the Church of England, Quakerism, Jesus etc, all faith-related attachments of Murphy?

  14. Is Tim referring to the state that enables police to raid legal businesses in soho, or the one which is trying to regulate shale gas out of existence? Or both?

  15. Trouble with the State /not State argument, Ian, is that with the State you have the taxman demanding your money in the State’s interest & without the State you have THE VERY SAME BLOKE demanding money in his own interest. Because, by & large, the same people who prosper in a world full of regulation are the same who would prosper in a world without. Look at the average copper & spot the difference between him & the thug on the street. Mostly it’s the uniform.

  16. That is why I didn’t argue for “no State” BIS, but for a form of State which recognises that the people it protects you against are the same people who will want to run the State.

    Fukayama ludicrously declared us to be at “the end of history”. We are actually very near the start of history, and still living in primitive societies. The next lesson we have to learn is how to create a form of governance that does not and cannot empower itself. This was recognised as early as the 18th century- hence the US constitution, which was not the last word in governance but an excellent, if flawed, early experiment to address the problem.

    It is hard to get into a metastable reboot state, as the American revolutionaries got. Hence, the ancien regimes drag on, mostly egged on by people who are scared of losing their slice of the privilege pie and form the statist left and right; on the one side the NEF, on the other the ASI, and so on.

    You see the thing we learned in the 18th century was the exact opposite of what the Progressives- who are in fact a radical reactionary/pastist movement, which is why the likes of SMFS end up agreeing with them so much- believe. The more advanced you get, the less governance you need, not the more. Markets really do run themselves. The government doesn’t need to do that. Society really does run itself. The government doesn’t need to do that. And so on. We have known this for three hundred fucking years. And still we struggle on with people clinging onto the old, pre-modern model, because it serves them a nice slice of pie, whether they are clustering around Marx, or Adam “Navigation Acts” Smith.

    We don’t know how little government we can achieve within the current form of Western society. We know for a fact that it is magnitudes less than we actually have. We know that government breeds government. Every regulation requires, shortly thereafter, further corrective and managerial regulations, and so it expands. The government does not need to do anything about working girls in Soho, or the amount of fat in food. It does not need to manage interest rates and a state-backed banking system. It does not need to run agencies “attracting investment” or build big fucking railways nobody wants, it does not need to control smoking or regulate the internets.

    To quote St Augustine, “Give me anarcho-capitalism, but not yet!”. We need to start the project of exploring the boundary of how small the state can be, or rather continue the project begun in the 18th century that was so cruelly derailed by the radicals. This isn’t pie in the sky fantasy, it is an essential task if we want to move forward into a society which is prosperous and free, rather than economically stagnant and arbitrarily tyrannised. The choice is that stark.

  17. Ritchie, like many on the left is blind to the idea that a transaction usually has two winners; the buyer and seller. This leads to a major ideological wrong turn that free-market business/trade can be only ‘competition’ only. Somebody has to be exploited. He can’t shake the zero-sum view of the world.

    Because he can’t see that the relationship between creators, manufacturers and sellers AND their customers is usually one of cooperation, he assumes exploitation. Only he and his kind can ‘fix’ it by interfering.

  18. If Richie lived on a sink estate with paper-thin walls and dogshit everywhere he certainly would be aware of his neighbours but I’m not sure about the compassion bit or seeing them as peers.

    Luckily, he lives in an agreeable village in Norfolk.

  19. Ian B is extremely convincing, especially with this notion about feminist/anglicanish entryism.

    To be a total pendant, Peter R, not all voluntary transactions enrich both parties, that they do so in aggregate is true enough (which is why free trade is such a good idea), but we all can recall transactions where we were left worse off. Some of us can even recall transactions where the other party was left worse off.

  20. @Ian
    What you want is a smaller State. And the only way you can get a smaller State is smaller states. That’s what made the 13 colonies of the original USA so successful. Power kept local & invested in people might bump into on an afternoon’s stroll. A limited central government. And looking around, all the really nice places to live tend to be on the small size. There seems to be some critical population mass which, if exceeded, the State detaches itself from the people it is supposed to serve & begins serving itself. Don’t think it’s all that large, either. Possibly as few as 10 million.
    And small is agile. The decision making paths are short. What’s needed in times of rapid change.

  21. BIS-

    Not a solution. We need a solution that works on the scale of millions, not thousands. Anything works on the small scale; socialism does for instance. Every family is socialist. Village tribal societies are a form of socialist. The liberal argument is that liberal (libertarian) society will work on the scale of millions, because uniquely it is a system in which interactions between strangers isn’t an incovenience, it’s a feature.

    That doesn’t mean that mass societies will be liberal. But liberalism is the only system that will work on that scale. What we’re currently proving with big government on a mass scale is that it doesn’t work at all well. That’s not a fault with the scale. It’s a fault with the big government.

    Sometimes in history a whole civilisation has to keep banging its head against a wall doing the stupid thing over and over until they figure out that it’s wrong. The conclusion of the Reformation was like that. They kept trying to impose faith, and in the end realised that that doesn’t work.

    Right now, we’re historically in a stupid phase. A very stupid phase. Eventually, we’ll work it out (or, our descendents will). Until then, we try to hold the line through this last spasm of mediaevalism.

    The big state is a remnant of a bygone mode of living (what Marx would call a “mode of production”). In that sense he was kinda right. The mode of production that arrived with industrialism didn’t require the social relations of communism though, but of liberalism.

    We aren’t going to get there retreating into walled towns.

  22. Ian B:

    Markets really do run themselves. The government doesn’t need to do that.

    Do you really mean that? Tim’s examples of the state intervening in a market to internalise positive externalities are copyright and patents. Would you be happy to see those interventions removed in order that those markets be free to run themselves?

  23. Sorry Ian, but I don’t see how you can get a small State in a big state. It’s the information thing Hayek talks about. In the big state no one person in government can encompass all the information from local levels would be needed to implement policy. So they delegate. Now you’ve sowed the seeds of a bureaucracy which’ll expand according to Northcote Parkinson’s time tested Laws. And the scum always rises to the top.
    What’s wrong with “walled cities”? I’ve high hopes Europe is going to collapse due to its own incompetence & take its constituent nations with it. The country I live in’s a complete shambles masterminded in Madrid. Cataluna, with maybe the Valencia Commune included would make a viable nation. My own Andalucia shouldn’t be the financial disaster it is, bearing in mind the amount of foreign money that’s been sloshing around in it. Should be contributing to the Spanish economy not relying on support. Shame Malaga Province isn’t governed out of Gib. We’d be another Bahamas & buying Granada as a ski resort, with pocket change.

  24. Having followed and appreciated the blog for many years – and the other blog, your naughty one – I have to say that if this is a serious post, what’s the difference between you and Murph?

  25. Paul-

    Copyrights and patents aren’t interventions, they’re property rights. Every market has to have agreed property rights. Normally States provide these (note, I am not arguing against the existence of a collective- the State- merely its divers managerialist functions) but anarcho-capitalists argue that such rights may exist from private agencies, etc. Whatever, the lodging of agreed standards of property ownership with some collective system is inevitable and required for a market to exist.

    It’s the same as a land registry. This is not a market intervention, it is an agreement upon which a market is based. The same goes for personal rights, etc. Copyrights are just the same. Some collectives may choose different property rights. That’s fine. Where there are no property rights, there will be no market.

    But the rights are not interventions, but an underpinning, if you see what I mean.

  26. Sorry Ian, but I don’t see how you can get a small State in a big state.

    That’s because you’re confusing two different forms of the word “state”. A “big state” as a large group of people is different to a “big state” as a managerialist government.

    What we’ve learned is that the larger the group of people and more diverse their activities and economy, the more hopeless the managerialist’s task becomes. No matter how big the bureaucracy, it cannot adequately manage, and becomes ever more byzantine and hopeless.

    So, the “big population” state is the death of managerialist government. They just haven’t given in and accepted that yet.

    A good example is the inept failures to “manage” modern economies. It cannot be done. They sit there pulling levers and never get what they expect. The task, as Hayek and Mises said, isn’t just hard, it’s inherently impossible.

    A walled town? You can manage that much better. Walled towns can easily be little communisms. It’s the big society that destroys the managerialists’ hopes of running things; hence, liberalism is the only system that can work.

  27. Ian B:

    Copyrights and patents aren’t interventions, they’re property rights.

    No, they are managerialist interventions, plain and simple. Tim gets it spot on in his comment, they are interferences in free trade in order to internalise positive externalities. Tim is of the opinion that they are desirable. I disagree, but at least his argument is an honest one.

    What you’re doing is presenting a facade of support for free markets, while still arguing in favour of the interventions that you like and attempting to justify them by claiming that they aren’t interventions at all.

    Your position is no different to Tim’s, you both support copyright and patents, it’s just that Tim presents his support honestly and consistently.

  28. Nope, they’re property rights. All trading systems have to be based on rights of ownership.

    The idea that they’re “interventions” is generally put around by the anti-property nuts who think that production will exist without a property framework and trade; it’s basically a form of cybercommunism.

    The basis of a property right is an agreement (or compulsion, take your pick) within some group of persons that ownership of certain types of things will be generally enforced. The same applies to land property; and similar arguments against it are used by (land) anti-propertarians.

    Anyone is entitled to be opposed ideologically to property rights. Many people oppose land titles in particular. But that is also always an anti-market position.

  29. Ian B:

    Nope, they’re property rights

    Actually, they are both property rights and managerialist interventions. The state decides to intervene in order to create an outcome it believes will be preferable and in order to do that, it creates a property right.

    As before, your position is incoherent. Every argument you offer in favour of copyrights and patents can be applied to carbon emission permits.

    In both cases, the state detemines that it wants to drive a preferred outcome. With copyright, that desired outcome is increased production, with carbon trading it is reduced consumption. In both cases, the state drives that outcome by creating a property right.

    There is no difference in principle between copyright and emission permits, yet you scoff at the latter as the state sticking its oar in illegitimately, while applauding the former as something good and non-interventionist.

  30. Well Paul, the same argument could be made about any rights. The question is whether somebody is being forced to trade (carbon permits) or allowed to trade (property rights). The state provides a property framework to individiuals so they can trade their production (in this case, intellectual, but the same as physical goods in these terms). A carbon permit on the other hand is forcing persons who would not otherwise do so to interact with the State by purchasing permits. It’s really quite different; the “market” arises from the State.

    The interesting thing about copyrights that I often point out to anti-propertarians is that nobody is forcing them to assert their rights. They are free to release anything they produce into the public domain. Neither, as with land, does the rights framework inhibit supply. There is a limited supply of land, so a land anti-propertarian is forced to buy land, or rent it. Not so copyrights. Anyone can make a movie of their own.

    But in fact we see the problem with this; only people who use the property system can afford to make movies (with any significant budget). If you can’t sell a thing, it’s not worth your while to produce it. No use spending $200M on a movie, then giving it away. Which of course is the whole communist problem; no markets, no prices, no income.

    If I have to buy a permit to make a movie (or draw a cartoon), that’s the equivalent of a carbon permit. It’s not a free market activity. But a property rights framework that defines my production of Nekkid Amazons Of Mars as my own, so that I can sell it to other people, that is a property rights, free market situation.

  31. Ian B:

    The question is whether somebody is being forced to trade (carbon permits) or allowed to trade (property rights)

    That’s a meaningless distinction that you are attempting to draw. In both cases, if I want to do something, I have to meet the demand of the person who holds the property right.

    The state provides a property framework to individiuals so they can trade their production.

    Copyright restricts the ablility of individuals to trade their production, by definition.

    A carbon permit on the other hand is forcing persons who would not otherwise do so to interact with the State by purchasing permits.

    A patent forces me to purchase permission from the patent holder if I wish to perform certain acts. Once again, you are trying to draw a non-existent distinction.

    The interesting thing about copyrights that I often point out to anti-propertarians…

    You’ve already implied that you don’t like emissions permits being subject to property rights, so applying your silly pejoritive term, you are an anti-propertarian.

    …is that nobody is forcing them to assert their rights. They are free to release anything they produce into the public domain.

    What a laughably ridiculous statement. It’s akin to saying that if you don’t like slavery, just don’t by slaves. A serious analysis of the issue would acknowledge that it’s a little more complicated than that.

    But in fact we see the problem with this; only people who use the property system can afford to make movies (with any significant budget). If you can’t sell a thing, it’s not worth your while to produce it

    That is the whole argument behind the intervention approach underpinning copyrights and patents – the idea that it creates a benefit for the collective, by incentivising production, if we have a restriction on free action and trade.

    The reality is, the only thing that matters to you is whether or not you like the property right the state has created as part of its managerialist intervention. There is no principle under-pinning it.

  32. God is the ultimate omniscient central planner.

    Darwin and Smith were saying similar things – bottom-up emergent order has the appearance of requiring a central planner.

  33. “Tim is of the opinion that they are desirable. I disagree, but at least his argument is an honest one.”

    Not quite. My actual argument here is that even froth mouthed free marketeers like myself support some interventions, c&p being the one I came up with.

    As to the details of c&p, I do insist that there’s a problem there that needs something done about it, so therefore some intervention. I’m unconvinced that the current c&p system is perfect but then I’m also deeply unconvinced by any of the proposed alternatives.

  34. To be entirely and completely frank with you: the number of things that we think need this intervention. I think very few and you’ll need damn good evidence to convince me. He thinks everything that doesn’t have damn good evidence against intervention.

    Te similarity is that we both think that some things need intervention and that some things don’t. We simply differ over the members of each group.

    Yes, that does mean that I’m not a libertarian: but then I’m not anyway, I’m a classical liberal. That last meaning I get hated by everyone, from Samizdata to the SWP.

  35. Paul, you’re really not grasping the distinction.

    Take a property right for land. It means that if you own some land, and I want to use it, or gain ownership from you, I have to negotiate with you. If on the other hand, there is a “land use permit” from the State, it’s the state I’m being forced to pay a fee to, independent of what the landowner (you) may want. You may want to let me use the land for free. You may be happy to give me the land. A property right doesn’t force you, the owner, to do anything. It ensures you have the choice of what you do with your land.

    See here-

    Copyright restricts the ablility of individuals to trade their production, by definition.

    No it doesn’t. A copyright holder can do anything they like with their production; sell it, rent it, give it away, waive all rights to it. The property right enables that. Without the property right, they can’t do any of those things, because they cannot assert ownership.

    It really is fundamentally different.

    And this is entirely wrong-

    That is the whole argument behind the intervention approach underpinning copyrights and patents – the idea that it creates a benefit for the collective, by incentivising production, if we have a restriction on free action and trade.

    No, we’re not interested in “incentivising production” by a “restriction on free action and trade”. It’s just saying that if you want a market/trade economy in anything you must have property rights. Without property rights there is no trade, let alone a capacity to restrict it.

    The only thing that is being restricted- as in any other form of property– is access by non-owners. Trade and markets require that.

    As I’ve said, the copycommies just want free access to everyone else’s property- just in all other communist type desires- and complain that they’re being restricted if they can’t do that. As they also say about owned land, owned money and owned goods. The only restriction is the one fundamental to the existence of property- “hands off, that’s mine!”.

  36. Ian B:

    Paul, you’re really not grasping the distinction.

    I am – one mangerialist intervention you personally like, while others, you don’t. That’s all there is to it.

    Take a property right for land. It means that if you own some land, and I want to use it, or gain ownership from you, I have to negotiate with you. If on the other hand, there is a “land use permit” from the State…

    Which is exactly what a land title is. Once again, you are trying desperately to create a distinction where none exist. With both land titles and emmissions permits, the state creates a property right, allocates it and then leaves the holder free to trade that right.

    No it doesn’t. A copyright holder can do anything they like with their production; sell it, rent it, give it away, waive all rights to it.

    The copyright holder would have all those abilities without copyright. What copyright restricts is the ability of others to trade their material property.

    No, we’re not interested in “incentivising production” by a “restriction on free action and trade”.

    I can accept that YOU aren’t, but that is the reasoning behind copyright’s existence. I get the impression that all you’re interested in is keeping whichever managerialist interventions suit you.

    As I’ve said, the copycommies just want free access to everyone else’s property- just in all other communist type desires- and complain that they’re being restricted if they can’t do that. As they also say about owned land, owned money and owned goods.

    I agree, that is what you want. As one of those “copycommies,” you think that you have a right to demand tribute from others if they use or trade their material property in a manner that doesn’t meet with your approval.

  37. @ IanB
    ” >Sorry Ian, but I don’t see how you can get a small State in a big state.<

    That’s because you’re confusing two different forms of the word “state”. A “big state” as a large group of people is different to a “big state” as a managerialist government.

    What we’ve learned is that the larger the group of people and more diverse their activities and economy, the more hopeless the managerialist’s task becomes. No matter how big the bureaucracy, it cannot adequately manage, and becomes ever more byzantine and hopeless.

    So, the “big population” state is the death of managerialist government. They just haven’t given in and accepted that yet."

    I think you're confusing theory with reality there, Ian.
    Of course "the larger the group of people and more diverse their activities and economy, the more hopeless the managerialist’s task becomes." But now show me the managerialists who've accepted this? Ain't gonna happen. To the manegerialists the whole point of the State is to support manegerialists. The more "more byzantine and hopeless." the process of management becomes the more opportunity for more managers. Until you end up with the EU.
    There's a pretty good example of the "walled city" along the coast from me. Although the walls are largely made up of Guardia cars blocking the border. Gib. One of the highest GDP per capita nations in the world. They're blocking the border to prevent the Spanish getting in to participate in the wealth creation, not to prevent the Gibraltese participating in Rajoy's wonderfully planned economy.
    The advantage of small is you really do give people an opportunity to experiment with different systems. We don't need libertarianism forced on us any more than communism. If you don't like what's on offer there's another system being run just down the road.

  38. The copyright holder would have all those abilities without copyright.

    No they wouldn’t. Because if you don’t own something, you cannot trade it, or give it away, or even keep it to yourself. That’s the whole point of the existence of property of all forms.

    you think that you have a right to demand tribute from others if they use or trade their material property in a manner that doesn’t meet with your approval.

    This is bafflingly nonsensical. If you write a novel and sell the rights to a movie maker, what “tribute” do I receive? It’s purely a matter for the seller and the buyer. What is this “tribute”???

  39. Ian B:

    Because if you don’t own something, you cannot trade it, or give it away, or even keep it to yourself

    So, if I have a song, poem or idea in my head, I can’t keep it to myself? Your comments come across like an exercise in surrealism.

    This is bafflingly nonsensical.

    If you take a reference to material property and then try to address it by refering to non-material property, then you probably will end up baffled.

    If you write a novel and sell the rights to a movie maker, what “tribute” do I receive? It’s purely a matter for the seller and the buyer. What is this “tribute”???

    If I own a piece of paper and wish to sell it to a willing buyer, you consider yourself, as a third party, to be entitled to some form of payment if I sell it with a pattern of words or images upon it, which you may have previously used.

  40. Tim:

    Not quite. My actual argument here is that even froth mouthed free marketeers like myself support some interventions, c&p being the one I came up with.

    The was the substance of what I was trying to convey, so if it came across differently, my apologies.

    As to the details of c&p, I do insist that there’s a problem there that needs something done about it, so therefore some intervention.

    The word I’d take issue with there is “needs”. I can see the logic behind the argument that intervention to create incentives results in more “creative” output, but I don’t see an absolute need for that intervention to take place. That gets worryingly close to the politician’s position of “we must do something,” irrespective of how damaging that something is.

    I’d hope that your position would actually, in practice, be more along the lines of “intervention should be considered, if it can be shown not to have significant adverse impacts, otherwise, the market should be left alone.”

  41. So, if I have a song, poem or idea in my head, I can’t keep it to myself? Your comments come across like an exercise in surrealism.

    The problem is, we’re not talking about the thing when it’s in your head, but when it has ventured beyond your head as an actual song or poem, or novel or movie.

    If you take a reference to material property and then try to address it by refering to non-material property, then you probably will end up baffled.

    No, it’s not that that’s baffling me. It’s the intellectual contortions thievery promoters come up with to justify their desire to abolish property rights, that is I’m baffled that you can really believe this codswallop you come out with.

    If I own a piece of paper and wish to sell it to a willing buyer, you consider yourself, as a third party, to be entitled to some form of payment if I sell it with a pattern of words or images upon it, which you may have previously used.

    And in that statement you inadvertently destroy your own argument; because the property at issue is not the “piece of paper”, which is an irrelevant substrate, but the words or images upon it, which are the property.

    One of my favourite things about the copycommies is that in general they start of saying that intellectual property cannot exist; then try to come up with other forms like “creative commons”. And when they do, you find over and over again that they want to use them to assert a property right, often with a clause saying something like “free for non commercial uses, but not commercial ones”.

    That is, like everyone else, they really do think they own their creative output. They just have an animus against commerce and some kind of bizarre hysteria that their rights are compromised by Disney owning Mickey Mouse.

    And I come back again, to the fact that such people are entirely free to ignore copyright in their own works; they can produce their own cartoons, novels, songs, films etc and give them away. Nothing is stopping them. But they don’t. The sit moaning about other creators asserting their property rights. Because, as I said, property rights are essential to ownership, and thus to trade and all other expressions of ownership. You cannot give away something you do not own, because you never owned it in the first place. All you can do is shrug and say, “nothing to do with me, guv”.

    I simply say this; every young copycommie, if he wrote a song and published it on the internets, then some major corporation used it for an advert, would suddenly remember her propertarian urge and demand compensation. The simple reality is, as with all communisms, it only seems appealing when you, yourself, have no property to trade. Once you have some, the concept of property- a basic part of human psychology- will reassert itself in the form of the word, “mine!”.

  42. It’s the intellectual contortions thievery promoters come up with to justify their desire to abolish property rights, that is I’m baffled that you can really believe this codswallop you come out with.

    The purpose of my comments was to highlight the contortions you attempt in order to excuse your hypocrisy, but you appear to have bought into your own nonsense to the extent that you are incapable of seeing it. To you, anybody who wants to abolish a property right is a thief, however, when you suggest abolishing property rights over emissions permits, that’s just fine and not the promotion of thievery at all. It’s pitiful. You sit and spew bile at “copycommies” while vigorously and forcefully proclaiming yourself a “carboncommie” or an “aircommie” or whatever silly little pejorative term you would apply to yourself if you were being consistent.

  43. Paul, I already explained that. Government permits aren’t property rights. They’re a licensing scheme. Just like the TV licence isn’t a property right.

  44. Ian, you explained nothing, you just attempted to talk your way around your inconsistency.

    If you own something, then you have property right over it.

    In the world of Ian B:

    Exclusive state granted right/permit to occupy a location (a land title) – property right

    Exclusive state granted right/permit to emit carbon in a location (an emissions permit) – not a property right

    Exclusive state granted right/permit to monopolise and idea (a patent) – property right

    It’s gibberish.

  45. “right/permit”

    You can’t just conjoin those two words like that to imply they mean the same thing, when they don’t. It’s like saying “sex/rape” or “trade/theft” or “capitalist/exploiter” and so on. A property right is not a permit.

    A copyright is not a permit to create. It is a recognition of the existence of a property which- like all others is currently recognised by the State but could, like all others, be recognised by any legal form in a society- by common agreement, or a church, or an anarchist “law agency” or what have you.

    Look, a gun permit is not a recognition of your property rights in your gun. It is a licence required by teh State to own one, and then the ownership comes separately when you exercise your separate property right in a gun shop. A permit is a restriction- a capacity of the State to deny you a property right, like the TV licence fee, etc. They are different things.

  46. Ian B:

    A copyright is not a permit to create.

    I agree. It is a permit to exclude.

    It is a recognition of the existence of a property…

    No, copyright isn’t the state recognising a property right, it is the state creating a property right, just as it creates property rights with emissions trading schemes, land titles and countless other things.

    …like all others is currently recognised by the State but could, like all others, be recognised by any legal form in a society- by common agreement, or a church, or an anarchist “law agency” or what have you.

    Exactly, just as emission rights or any other kind of property right could be.

    Just be honest with yourself – you are as much an interventionist statist as the people you criticise.

  47. So to summarise then Paul, what you’re saying is that all property rights are “interventionist statism”, yes?

    In that case, we really cannot go any further with this. I’m a propertarian, you’re anti-propertarian, and there we are stuck.

  48. Ian B:

    So to summarise then Paul, what you’re saying is that all property rights are “interventionist statism”, yes?

    No, I am saying that you favour a highly interventionist state, or, in comparative terms, you favour a more interventionist state than I do.

    In that case, we really cannot go any further with this. I’m a propertarian, you’re anti-propertarian, and there we are stuck.

    Another imbecilic comment.

    Pretty much everybody is both propertarian and anti-propertarian, depending on what the property rights being discussed are to be applied to. Your false dichotomy would have anybody who opposes slavery labelled an anti-propertarian.

  49. Sigh. Property isn’t “interventionism”. It is worth noting that the communist non-propertarian societies you prefer require the most interventionist governments, because somebody has to administrate the distribution of goods and services in the absence of a market.

    I’m sorry, the price you pay for everything being held in common is, in reality, everything being controlled by the State. Hence, I prefer property and free markets. But as I said, if you prefer communist solutions, you’re entitled to. You just aren’t allowed to pretend that property rights are Statist interventions, because they are not and, effectively you are just lying Paul.

    The past century is full of people coming up with lying justifications for the abolition of property rights. It’s hardly unique. It’s just depressing, frankly. The reality of “everything is free” is always that “everything is controlled by the State”. That’s a choice you’re free to make, but not one that I would prefer, myself.

  50. Ian B:

    It is worth noting that the communist non-propertarian societies you prefer…

    Yet another silly little comment, especially given that I’m far more supportive of property rights over material goods than you are.

    Hence, I prefer property and free markets.

    You certainly have preference for some property rights, but we’ve already established that you don’t have a preference for free markets.

    You just aren’t allowed to pretend that property rights are Statist interventions, because they are not and, effectively you are just lying Paul.

    In the real world, some property rights are statist interventions.

    The past century is full of people coming up with lying justifications for the abolition of property rights.

    So, what were the lies that were offered for the abolition of slavery?

  51. Sigh. Slavery conflicts with another property right, the most fundamental one (to a liberal at least), the property right in one’s own person. Don’t be daft about this.

    In general, it’s intersting to note how people with particular anti-property obsessions pick on some aspect of the particular form of property as disqualifying it. For instance, anti-land propertarians argue that land shouldn’t be owned because it is non-reproducible.

    Anti-IP types argue, paradoxically, that IP can’t be property because it is reproducible. But also, as we see here, you drag out “material” as a characteristic.

    But as I keep saying, you cannot have a free market without a property right. So you are being frankly perverse to call my support for property rights as anti-market. So I suspect you are using the term “free market” in a perverse manner, to mean not-a-market-at-all, but rather “freedom of action unrestrained by the rights of others”.

    Because this is the fundamental thing about rights. They restrict other people from interfering with that which is property- be it your body, your land, your goods or your created works. They force everyone into a framework of consent. Rape is a violation of bodily property, trespass a violation of land property, theft a violation of material goods property, and copyright violation violates creative property. Each has a different manifestation- you can’t steal land, you can’t trespass on a body, you can’t rape goods, and so on. Because these types of property have different manifestations.

    So, as I keep saying, you can choose a society without creative property if you like. But then there can be no ownership of it, and nobody can trade it, keep it, or give it away, because it is unowned.

    But I think as I said before, we can’t go any further with this. You have the communist delusion that un-ownership will produce abundance (get rid of those pesky capitalists and their monopolies!) and I doubt that any amount of reason will dissuade you, any more than it has dissuaded the millions of others who have believed, and still believe, that the only thing that stands in the way of abundance is the principle of private ownership.

    I can think of nothing more to add.

  52. Ian B:

    Sigh. Slavery conflicts with another property right, the most fundamental one (to a liberal at least), the property right in one’s own person. Don’t be daft about this.

    Your powers of reason really do know no beginning. Intellectual monopolies obviously conflict with property rights in material goods, so your supposed distinction is no distinction at all. If the comment appears daft, it’s simply because I was regurgitating your nonsense back at you in a consistent fashion.

    In general, it’s intersting to note how people with particular anti-property obsessions pick on some aspect of the particular form of property as disqualifying it.

    Like you’ve just done with slavery, you mean?

    Anti-IP types argue, paradoxically, that IP can’t be property because it is reproducible.

    Another ridiculous comment. Of course copyrights and patents can be property, just as material goods can be property, emissions permits can be property and people can be property. The question is not “can they exist” but “should they exist”.

    Libertarians believe copyright and patent should not exist as property rights, because they are in conflict with the principle of liberty – the idea that people should be free to do as they please so long as they don’t infringe the like freedom of others. You don’t share that view. Without any particular principle under-pinning your viewpoint, you believe that the state should be more managerialist and interventionist in that area, which is fine, but it would be nice if you were honest about it, rather than attempting to differentiate yourself from those who are clearly no more statist and interventionist than you.

  53. Libertarians believe copyright and patent should not exist as property rights,

    “Libertarians” do, do they? What seems to have happened is that some lefty anti-propertarians have attached themselves to the movement and using wrong but superficially persuasive arguments like yours (typical of the Left) have persuaded others to adopt a “creative property communism” approach.

    As I’ve shown above, this is wrong from a libertarian stance; the basis of liberty is property- in oneself, one’s goods, lands and production.

    Every such property right restricts everyone else’s liberty- as wrongly defined as the “liberty” to violate others. Laws based on rights against slavery, murder, rape and trespass all restrict other people. This is what makes them libertarian, because they restrict the violation of rights and only the violation of rights. Which by the by is why your absurd claim that a carbon license or any other licence is a “property right” is seen to be false. it does not restrict other citizens from violating a property right. It just forces them to trade under State force in something they gain no additional property in having.

    Still, like I said above, there’s generally little point trying to persuade communists, so once again I’ll try to let this rest here, and will perturb your delusional adherence to an irrational belief system no further.

  54. “Libertarians” do, do they?

    Yes, otherwise, they aren’t libertarians in any meaningful sense of the word.

    As I’ve shown above, this is wrong from a libertarian stance; the basis of liberty is property…

    No, the basis of liberty is liberty. Faux-libertarians often try to present the basis of liberty as being something other than liberty, but thankfully, a very basic understanding of the English language reveals them to be the dishonest charlatans they are.

    Every such property right restricts everyone else’s liberty.

    The idiocy reaches its crescendo. No, property rights do not inherently restrict the liberty of others. If they did, libertarians would oppose all property rights, which we don’t. All property rights restrict the freedom of others, but it is perfectly possible to have property rights which do not restrict the liberty of others, liberty being equal freedom. For example, libertarians do not oppose property rights over material goods, because they cannot be used simultaneously by multiple people, so assigning property rights to one person does not reduce their equal freedom. The same is not true for things such as ideas, as they can be used simultaneously by an unlimited number of people, so assigning property rights over them does reduce liberty, which is why libertarians oppose property rights over those things.

    Of course, none of that will be relevant to you, as you aren’t genuinely concerned by liberty, just the state intervening wherever it suits you, but it might be useful explanation for anybody who stumbles upon your sophistry.

  55. Ah, here we go with the desperate made up excuses for why some property right is invalid. Let’s try this bit of tortured nonsense on for size, shall we?

    r example, libertarians do not oppose property rights over material goods, because they cannot be used simultaneously by multiple people, so assigning property rights to one person does not reduce their equal freedom.

    Land can be used by multiple persons, therefore assigning property rights reduces freedom, therefore you must be opposed to land ownership, right?

    There is nothing in Libertarianism about doing some pseudo-utilitarian calculus of “equal freedom”. You’re just making shit up. You’re making shit up because you don’t want to pay for stuff produced by others. Fair enough, but like I keep saying, that’s the communist approach and it just never works out very well. Which is why libertarianism proposes an alternative.

    I don’t think you really have a clue what libertarianism is, and suspect you’re one of these hyphenated types, like a mutualist libertarian or left-libertarian or geo-libertarian or something. You can’t be a plain un-hyphenated libertarian, or you’d support property rights.

  56. Land can be used by multiple persons, therefore assigning property rights reduces freedom, therefore you must be opposed to land ownership, right?

    No, because land is rivalrous. Two people cannot stand in the same spot at the same time. It really shouldn’t be that difficult for you to understand.

    There is nothing in Libertarianism about doing some pseudo-utilitarian calculus of “equal freedom”.

    It takes a particular kind of imbecility to insist that there is nothing in Libertarianism about liberty.

    You can’t be a plain un-hyphenated libertarian, or you’d support property rights.

    We’ve be over this countless times, but I’ll explain it yet again. Like almost everybody on the planet, I support some property rights and not others. For instance, I oppose property rights over other people. You’ve previously said that you oppose those property rights too, so you are in the same position of being anti-property rights in some cases and pro-property rights in other cases.

    I hold a position that property rights should be limited to those which are compatible with liberty. You, on the other hand, appear to support whichever property rights suit you at any given moment in time, irrespective of any concerns about liberty or anything else for that matter. I’ve no doubt that, if you found yourself in the position of a slaveholder, you’d be arguing forcefully that abolitionists were anti-property commies.

    In short, I am a libertarian, while you appear to be nothing in particular.

  57. Ah, the classic ploy of the fake libertarian, introduce a new criterion. And here we have it, “rivalrous”. Two people can certianly use the same land at the same time. THe park outside my window has many people using it simultaneously.

    Nice try though.

    It takes a particular kind of imbecility to insist that there is nothing in Libertarianism about liberty.

    I didn’t say that. Here again, you’re using your own invented justificatory definitions. What there isn’t anything of in libertarianism is your imaginary construct of a calculus of “equal freedoms”.

    We’ve be over this countless times, but I’ll explain it yet again. Like almost everybody on the planet, I support some property rights and not others.

    You oppose the ones that, like many other people, stop you getting your grubby hands on other peoples’ property; which is the same argument used by anti-land ownership nuts.

    I’ve no doubt that, if you found yourself in the position of a slaveholder, you’d be arguing forcefully that abolitionists were anti-property commies.

    No.Sigh. Because I’m a libertarian, so I believe in rights. Rights are universal. Everyone has them. So, you can’t own a person because that person has the right not to be owned. This is why American slavers had to pretend that blacks weren’t people at all, and thus not covered by the Constitution.

    I really think you don’t understand libertarianism at all, if you don’t even understand why a person can’t be property. There is an interesting parallel though; the introduction of arbitrary distinctions. A property thief says “I can steal this because it’s not rivalrous“. A slaver says, “I can imprison and force to work this person because he is not white“. And so on.

    People who hate rights and prefer an arbitrary world in which they can take from others at will often provide these ridiculous and invented justifications, as you are doing. Libertarianism rejects them.

  58. Ah, the classic ploy of the fake libertarian

    To be fair, you’d know.

    Two people can certianly use the same land at the same time.

    So, physics is also something you struggle with.

    What there isn’t anything of in libertarianism is your imaginary construct of a calculus of “equal freedoms”.

    There is to any normal, honest, intelligent person. To such a person liberty is a very important part of libertarianism. I suppose in Ian B world, libertarianism and liberty is just whatever allows Ian B to get his hands on what he wants at any given point.

    You oppose the ones that, like many other people, stop you getting your grubby hands on other peoples’ property;

    I oppose ones that infringe liberty. It is you who supports or opposes property rights based on whether or not they suit you at any given point in time.

    No.Sigh. Because I’m a libertarian

    No, you aren’t. Stop lying. It’s not convincing and it just makes you look even more ridiculous.

    I really think you don’t understand libertarianism at all, if you don’t even understand why a person can’t be property.

    A person clearly can be property. People were property in various times and places. The question is whether those property rights should exist. As a libertarian, I believe they shouldn’t. You agree they shouldn’t, but as you are clearly not a libertarian, it isn’t obvious why you oppose them. The only real indication, given your distain for people who suggest extinguishing any extant property rights, is simply that slavery isn’t currently recognised.

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