Monday, October 31, 2005

ON THE WORKINGS OF THE CLASS SYSTEM; or, its the state, stupid: Why it is the political process that creates the ruling class, not the other way round

Care of Mutualist.Blog, Anthony Gregory, at Lew, has provided us with some interesting insights that can be added to another article care of that I'll get to in a second, plus some stuff I wrote on Liberty Forum recently, to develop libertarian class theory.

A while ago, I said that so many on the left actually sell-out to the ruling classes by demanding greater state-intervention when this is precisely what the ruling classes want, and precisely where their power comes from. The objection is that the interventions the left want are there to benefit society. But, so what? Again, the ruling classes still favour it, and they benefit from the apparent "good-will" attached. For instance, favouring minimum wages is a great and wonderful thing that helps workers (yeah, right!!!). In practice, though, it helps cartelise industries by raising the entry costs into the industry for new competitors. Existing competitors bear costs as a result, but less so than new competitors. So favouring minimum help shut out would be competition. And low an behold Wal-Mart boss has come out favouring minimum wages. It helps them get a monopoly, whilst also making them look good.

Another example: African ruling classes love recieving our foreign aid, because the rulers spend it on themselves and their pet projects, and the masses that the public in the West want helped see none of it. So governments in the west say, "fine, we will peg foreign aid to efforts to fight corruption, and only give it to rulers that make efforts to fight corruption." But when it can cost somebody in Africa up to ten years and thousands and thousands of pounds to open up a business in accordance with the regulations governments have imposed, the only way that anybody can make any living whatsoever in Africa and much of the third world is by bribing officials. So corruption is the only way that anybody can make any living, unless they work for the ruling elite, and it is the only way of getting into business to compete with the ruling elite. So here we have rulers saying, "Yes, you can trust us with your foreign aid, look at how we fight corruption," and all we are doing is paying them to eliminate their competitor's only means of getting into business. Again, the ruling class benefits from what looks good.

So the left faces a problem quite simply in declaring that rather than favour laws to benefit private interests, they will support laws to curtail them for the public good. The problem is that the private interests, the ruling classes, use precisely the laws that the left favour in order to maintain their power. And so Anthony Gregory writes,

Politicians, too, are private interests. So are bureaucrats, social engineers, public schoolteachers, and policemen. They are all individuals, regardless of their spruce uniforms or tax-funded pension packages. The political class itself benefits anytime the government expands, and yet it is rarely recognized as a vested interest in politics.

The same private interests willing to cheat the consumer and worker in business are also willing to enter politics, to fund campaigns, to run for office, to bribe officials, to exploit every advantage the state offers to the dishonest entrepreneur. Further entrenching the monopoly of violence that is the state into the economy only ups the ante of the game over political influence. The more the state can regulate private interests, the more private interests will take control of the state.

The larger the state is, the more private individuals and groups have an interest in keeping the racket going. As the government expands to the detriment or assistance of specific sectors of the economy, collusion is inevitable. Those with power will use it to help the businesses they favor for whatever reason, and those in business will seek to deflect harmful legislation and encourage desired legislation. The more government intervention in the economy, the more the state and business classes coalesce, the more private interests can socialize their costs and privatize the profits to themselves. Socialism merely guarantees unearned profits and unjust power to whoever controls the state. And the state will be controlled by someone.

This ties in with something I was saying on Liberty Forum. A chap, "Ubertarian," something of an anarcho-socialist sofar as I can tell, said, "What I call the ruling class is that part of the population that has enough wealth to have an influence on the structure of society." My response was, "Surely any class that rules is a ruling class, regardless of whether it is because of how much wealth they have. If a group has between them, say, more votes than any other group, then it can effect the structure of society. Why would that not be a ruling class?" Ubertarian said, "A rather empirical criterium. In state capitalism, that would be those who can control the state through corruption, lobbying and infiltration. (note that my theory is the opposite of the one you presented - you said people use political power to attain wealth while I believe it's the opposite, though of course power later serves to gain yet more wealth.)" My response was as follows:

It can often require wealth, yes, but it doesn't need to. It can simply be the way government works. Politicians and political survive and prosper depending on whether they supply laws and policies that people are willing to "pay for." They are, then, like business men selling laws and policies to consumers. Consumers buy the laws and policies they want by spending votes and campaign support on them. But voting and campaigning are not costless activities. Somebody who votes or campaigns for one thing may not be able to vote or campaign so much for others. They are certainly not able to spend the time and other resources they use campaigning on other things. If they are to vote wisely, then they also have to spend time and other resources informing themselves of the policies.

On the free-market, say whenwe are buying cars, we also have to inform ourselves of benefits of different cars. But we tolerate this, because in the end it is us as consumers who get most of the benefits of the cars. The same with resources we have to give up in order to get the cars - we get most of the benefit of getting the car, so we can decide whether it is worth spending resources that way. With laws or policies supplied by governments, though things are different. Laws and policies are provided not just to those who vote or campaign for them, but to everybody, whether they vote or campaign or not. In short, the benefits can be obtained without incurring the costs. This means that where a law or policy is a public good, where its benefits are non-excludable and indivisible and so have to be supplied to a group of people, the law or policy will be under-demanded. Votes and campaigning for it will be under supplied. On the other hand, where laws or policies confir benefits that are excludable, that are divisible, that are "private goods", support for them will not be under supplied. Given, then, that politicians and political parties prosper and survive in accordance to their ability to supply the laws that there is most likely to be support for, and given that there is most likely to be support for laws and policies that confir benefits that are private goods rather than public goods, democratic governments will undersupply laws and policies that work in the public good, and over-supply laws and policies that are in the private good.

Now add to this the observation that special interest laws are more nearly private goods than non-special interest laws. This is because they are, practically by definition, laws whose benefits are excludable (they are structured to benefit the secial interest in question) and more easily divisable. The implication of this is that simply because of the incentives involved, democratic government will tend to write laws and produce policies that favour special interests.

For instance... you would be hard pressed to find an economist who did not support free trade against protective tariffs. So accept for the sake of arguments that tariffs are worse than free-trade - the country is better off with the latter than the former. Now, suppose that the imposition of a tariff protecting the steel industry against foreign competition has two effects: It costs one million consumers £1 a month more, and it delivers $10,000 a month to fifty steel producers. That means that we have a net loss, so imposing the tariff is worse than not imposing it.

However, because the costs are widely dispersed, whilst the benefits are highly concentrated, there is likely to be more lobbying in favour of the tariff than against it. After all, how much more would you spend to try and get $10,000 a month more than you would spend to avoid $1 less a month? Organising support for any political action, be it imposing or revoking a tariff, is a public good. If the tariff is imposed, it is impossible to exclude any steel producer from its benefits, whether they spent anything lobbying for it or not. Likewise, if the tariff is defeated, it is imposible to exclude any consumer from the benefits whether they lobbied againstt he tariff or not. However, the "public" in the public good problem faced by consumers opposed to the tariffs is highly dispersed. It is difficult to identify them, and the cost to each person of the imposition of the tariff is relatively small. Meanwhile, the "public" in the public good problem faced by supporters of the tariff is small, concentrated, and beneficiaries are easily identifiable. This means that in the latter case it is much easier to organise provision of the public good than it is in the former. Or, in other words, we can generally expect less free-riding in the latter case than in the former, whilst simultaneously in the latter case.

Also, because the gains to each person are much larger under the imposition of the tariff than to each person in opposing the tariff, supporters of the tariff are more likely to try to prevent free-riding than opponents of it.

Now, my point is that there is, in this analysis, no mention of whether or not the members of a special interest group are tremendously rich. The special interest can have more "political pull" not because it is wealthy, but simply because it faces fewer "market failures" in arranging the supply the laws and policies from the government than its opponents do. It can simply be a matter of using votes - the members of a special interest have more incentive to go out and use their votes in favour of special interest laws than anybody else has to go out and fight special interest laws. Wealth may be an important factor, but it is not a necessary one - a ruling class arises anyway.

An important point here is that this analysis accepts the possibility of "market failure." Market failures are what moderates and leftists use to justify state intervention. The trouble is, as the above analysis shows, government action is rife with "market failure," only here it is government failure. The example is of so called "public goods." When economists usually speak of such things, they don't mean public services. They mean goods whose benefits are "public" as opposed to "private." The important features being that the good is non-excludable, and indivisible. The result is that if the public good is supplied to one member of this "public" who benefit, it has to be supplied to all of them. Hence, if only one person foots the bill, everybody gets the benefits, even though not everybody paid the costs. And since people act so as to get the greatest benefit at the lowest cost, everybody will try to be one of the guys that benefits but doesn't put up the costs. This means that it will be impossible for a private company to charge anybody for a public good it provides, and so, it is held, the free market will under supply public goods.

The reverse is a public bad. This is where the costs of the action are public, not private. In other words, it is impossible to privately enjoy a good whilst privately consuming the costs, since the costs are necessarily imposed on the public, even though they get no benefit. An example may be smoking, wherein the smoker gets the benefits of the cigarette, whilst all those around him get the second hand smoke. It is held that public bads will be over supplied on a free market.

And for all this, the solution is held to be government - you force people to pay for public goods, so that nobody can free ride, and you force beneficiaries of the public bad to either cover the costs of their activity, so they have incentives to "internalise" them, or you prohibit it entirely.

But the trouble is, as I showed above, that governments face, far more than real markets, "market failures." As Jim Henley wrote,

The liberal critique of voluntarism is that it is piecemeal and inadequate to momentous tasks like flood prevention and disaster relief. The coordination problem is too large and the horizon of individual interest too limited. Only government has the size and public-spiritedness to tackle such momentous tasks. However, liberals also argue that it’s crucial to have the right people in charge of the government to achieve these things. The problem is that, in a democracy, getting those “right people” into office is itself a monumental problem of voluntary coordination and outreaching the horizon of self-interest. The track record of liberal success at this in recent decades casts doubt on the automatic superiority of government action to achieve liberal goals.

And Gene callahan says, perhaps more clearly,

Libertarians in favour of a minimal state typically base their case for the state on a public goods argument, e.g.: "Everyone would like to be protected by defense and law enforcement. But it's not possible to make those goods exclusive, so that only those who can pay for them are able to use them. Therefore, they must be provided by a state that taxes everyone for their provision, or there will be too little of them. To keep the resulting state minimal, we need a watchful populace."

But this case crumbles like a house of cards at the slightest touch of a finger to its weak point: Minarchists are asking the populace to solve a much worse public goods problem than the one they started out with. If people cannot work out a solution to the problem of petty criminals' depredations that handles the issue of free riders, then how in the world are they going to solve it when it involves defense against a state to which they have surrendered all of the large weapons, all legal authority, and tremendous resources (from taxation)?

Of course, people can ad do solve these problems, otherwise the 1989 revolutions in Europe would have beeen impossible. And, just so, they can solve the initial problems as well.

As Anthony de Jasay put it, the minimal state is either unnecessary or impossible.

Returning again, to the issue of whether it is the wealthy that make the state or the state that makes the wealthy, Ubertarian said to me, "You need money to campaign, and to get that money you need connections in the wealthy circles and you need them to be sure you will primarily serve their interests. You also need to communicate with them on their own terms, i.e. share their culture. You also need support from them (esp. media owners)." I responded, "Not necessarily. Take the tariff example. Some of those harmed by the tariff may be very rich indeed. And some of those benefitted may be poor. But the fact that those benefitted by sepecial interest laws face less of a public problem organising support for the tariff than those who oppose it means that they are more likely to get the law they want, than those who oppose it are to defeat it."

The idea that the state is a hapless victim of takeover by rich interests is false. It is a crony. It is a part of the system, and more than anything, it probably engenders the system.

Liberty versus Conservatism

The old Thatcher era Tory, Norman Tebbit, published a mini-manifesto this year, in the Torygraph (Telegraph). Tebbit, or "Tebbo," was important in British libertarian history, since he was both used as a hero by radical libertarian infiltraters of Conservative party youth groups, and he was also key in suppressing the libertarian and principled sections of those same youth groups. This issue is covered in Tim evan's interesting book on the Conservative party youth.

So, Tebbo put together an article summing up what he thought the Conservative party was about, and what it stood for, because what he, probably rightly, though was that the tories need a sense of purpose. So, duly, I saw it as my duty to smash this sense of purpose by pointing out precisely why I thought his article was wrong! I put my response on the Libertarian Alliance list, and also on Liberty Forum, but I have reproduced it here, because I like it.

On the Libertarian Alliance Forum someone responded to Tebbit's piece, writing

I'd be tempted to vote for a Tory party which was genuinely economically and socially liberal.

I don't agree with Tebbit's rebuke of the "permissive society" (though naturally as a libertarian, I wouldn't, would I?). If he believes that government shouldn't interfere with the lives of citizens, surely this includes their personals lives too.

My response follows:

I agree. Reduction of the state to simply providing and enforcing criminal and civil law, and a national currency would be a good thing - though, being an anarchist, I think, ultimately, these things are too much! The national currency role should be first to go. Likewise, as an anarchist, I'm not too bothered about the British unionist slant (Tebbo is obliged to be as a member of the British Conservative and Unionist Party!), I oppose the so called "devolution" as instituted recently by Labour because it centralises local life to a greater degree, not because it is devolutionist per se.

I am sceptical of school vouchers and would welcome them only with guarantees that they would not also come with clauses specifying what actually counts as a school where they can be used, and preferably with an abolition of the National Curriculum too. Unfortunately, this is unlikely, as he writes "An independent inspectorate would monitor school standards, with the redemption of vouchers conditional on the effective teaching of a core curriculum."

Tebbit seems actually concerned about multi-culturalism, and not simply the facade of multi-culturalism foisted on us by recent governments involving forced intergration. As such, I find this position contradictory. He says "Conservatives respect our right to enjoy the fruits of our creativity, in the form of property," and yet asserts that "since society is a community with common traditions and institutions, it cannot embrace widely differing cultures." Surely if people are entitled to their property, fully entitled, then they have a right to use it and any other property other owners voluntarily provide them, to live their lives according to whatever cultural practices they choose. Classical liberalism was about enforcing property rights so as to create an environment in which interpersonal liberty was possible, and each could pursue their own version of the good. Tebbit's views on culture seem to be that they should pursue one conception of the good, and that flies in the face of them being entitled to their property. As Rothbard once said in a letter to young American conservatives,"So what kind of free-market position is one that favours the outlawry of marijuana? Where is the private property right to grow, purchase, exchange, and use?" The same can be asked of Tebbit's criticism of anybody not living according to the state approved culture, and yet respecting property rights of others.

Likewise, this is reflected in his views on marriage: "All human experience shows the traditional family to be the most stable building block of society, and Tories therefore support economic and social policies favourable to it." I agree that economic and social policies should not be designed to be UNfavourable to marriage, but to design them to be favourable to it? I disagree with that. Marriage should stand or fall by its own merits, and that applies to any form of marriage, traditional or otherwise. In fact, policies designed to support "traditional" marriage must first identify what a "traditional" marriage is. In short, it would have to be a state-approved marriage. So far as I can see, this would amount to a nationalisation of the entire institution itself! The same goes for his statement that "The system should be rebalanced to favour, not penalise, conventional families." Conventional families should not be penalised. But they should also not be favoured, not at other people's expenses.

In fact, if it is true that "Conservatives believe individuals must be able to act in their perceived best interest, but be held responsible for the consequences. Those given responsibility will generally behave responsibly, whereas adults treated like children will behave like children" then we should ask whether responsible adults will forsake their families unless there are government policies to "favour" them? To me, part of what being a responsible parent or husband would be would involve tending for my family and supporting them, and encouraging it to grow up morally and not as delinquents. If Tebbit is true to his word, then he must think that families themselves should be given responsibility, and not sheltered under government "favour."

His attacks on the "permissive society" are off target. It is not permissiveness that has led to teenage parents and chavs running riots on the streets. It is state action, subsidising under age reproduction, etc, sheltering people from responsibility, and discouraging work and saving - essentially, as a Hoppean might say, raising their time preferences. It is perfectly possible to have a permissive society without any of these things.

This all said, there are plenty of good bits in Tebbit's article. I liked that "We would make state hospitals independent, self-governing charitable foundations, financed by payments for the individual treatment," and the linked collapse of various structures of local government. However, this should also go hand-in-hand with loosening of various regulations crushing mutual aid associations. For instance, the National Insurance act of 1911 forbids collective bargaining for doctors, and so destroyed the Friendly Society service of providing free consultation for members. Free Markets should be provided for friendly societies and similar mutual aid societies and co-ops.

It is also good that he wants to see inheritance tax cut to the point of abolition, and that "Business taxation and regulation would be simplified. Companies' compliance with the law would be judged by their actions, not the boxes ticked by compliance officers." But he does appera light on plutocratic sections of the ruling classes, not acknowledging that regulation often benefits big business and enables monopolisation, and so is often enacted at the behest of big business against competitors. Likewise, he does not mention subsidies to business whatsoever - it is all about cutting taxes to normal welfare recipients, but no mention of corporate welfare recipients. Indeed, whilst he says good things about weakening Europe's hold, government-to-government rade agreements are no match for unilateral declarations of free trade, and often cover up creeping corporate statism.

On Europe he is also good, calling for "An early exit from the European agricultural and fisheries policies, renewed sovereignty over our coastal waters." The trouble is that this all seems a bit like weakening the European government to strengthen the British government. Admittedly, a vast multitude of governments is preferable to a few big ones, since it allows people to vote with their feet, but libertarians should note that this is a stop gap on the road to reducing government, whether European or British. The single advantage is that we have more control over our government than the EU government, and so it is easier to reduce ours.. Scrapping the CAP would be great, but fisheries should be private and aquaculture encouraged (i.e., not hampered). One wonders, though, since Tebbit calls for ending the European Court, the CAP, European management of fisheries, the European Convention on Human rights, and replacing them with government-to-government treaties on trade, pollution, and extradition, why doesn't he simply call for complete withdrawal from the EU? What more does it do that he wants to retain?!

Tebbit concludes that his "would be a radical programme," and I can agree. It is not radical enough, though - but that is no reason, necessarily, to reject it. If you are offered half a cake, it is best to accept it whilst also demanding that you should be getting a whole cake, rather than to turn it down completely!

Richard Garner

Friday, October 28, 2005


Here's some thoughts that fit this issue into a libertarian class analysis.

First of all, there is the "the state always benefits" analysis. This is a picture I hit upon whilst cosidering David Friedman and Frederick Bastiat's denial of a class system. Bastiat, it should be recalled, said that the state was that great fiction by which everybody tried to live at the expense of everybody else. Friedman essentially argued the same, pointing out that a state with the capacity to intervene in the economy and to redistribute income attracted rent seekers, each of which is a burden on everybody else, including each other.

However, what we get in reality is one group of people turning to the stae and saying, "please, make it so that X is the case," whilst another turns to the state and says, "no, make it so that not-X is the case." Either way, it is the state they must turn to, it is the state that is the major player, and so it is the state that benefits whatever outcome is adopted. Most conspicuous in this case are the armies of health advisors and activists milking it.

Secondly, the case is that smokers assault bar staff by forcing them to inhale smoke as they work. Of course, bar satff choose to work in the bars. However, we should recall the words of Benjamin Tucker here:

...if a man has labour to sell, he has a right to a free-market in which to sell it, - a market in which no one shall be prevented by restrictive laws from honestly obtaining the money to buy it. If the man with labour to sell has not this free market, then his liberty is violated and his property vicrtually taken from him. Now such a free market has constantly been denied ... to the labourers of the civilised world ... Capitalists ... have placed and kept on the statute-books all sorts of prohibitions and taxes ... designed to limit and effective in limiting the number of bidders for the labour of those who have labour to sell.

And not just labour to sell, but money to sell in exchange for goods and services.

How is this relevant to the smoking in pubs issue? Precisely because owners of pubs can be included amongst the capitalists who have kept such restrictive laws and taxes on the books. First and most obvious are the licensing laws, according to which it is illegal to simply open your own building up to the public and let them buy your alcohol off you. Without licensing laws, anybody could simply go into business as a pub, or even an "off license" (a redundant term in a free-market). Not only do licensing laws restrict who can go into business, but those who get into business are also restricted. Special licensing controls when pubs may open or stay open, or when they can sell different types of drinks. People have to pay, and often pay a lot, for instance, for the right to stay open later than eleven o'clock. Without this an enterprising landlord may have "smoker's hours," for instance, at which times he lets people smoke, and only employs workers willing to tolerate smokers (those who might, for example, be paid more to do so - if smokers are worth more - or are perhaps otherwise worth less). This is actually a much better plan than the idea that people can have "non-smoking areas" in their pubs, which is a fine plan so long as you have enough room to so segregate the pub. Smoker's hours allows a different type of segregation.

On top of this, there are duties and taxes. Taxes on alcohol must be borne by its producer or supplier, since they cannot be passed on to customers. Anybody who thinks that taxes can be passed on to customers is presuming that, post-tax there is a high price at which consumers were still just as willing to buy as the were pre-tax, and that the producer or supplier was presumably for some reason not charging. This is an odd thing to think of capitalistic business men! Since taxes must be born by producers, they are an additional cost that is a prohibition on going into business. Therefore duties and taxes on alcohol help keep down the numbers of people competing in the industry.

Then there are planning laws. One cannot simply open a pub up. You have to apply for planning permission. Since planning committees are notoriously biased, this means that whoever controls the committee can restrict anybody else opening a business to compete with them. I seriously doubt that, even if there were no licensing laws, and no taxes, and there were an available market, I would still be prevented from going into business over the road from my local pub!.

All these regulations pose a barrier to entry to the industry. When they exist, landlords face less pressure to respond to consumer demand because it is harder for consumers to take their business elsewhere. So landlords can ignore consumer demand for non-smoking areas or times, or a non-smoking policy. If anybody were able to go into business, though, then people would be able to compete on these grounds. Likewise for workers in pubs. Workers are obliged to accept passive smoking because it is harder for them to simply "get a job somewhere else."

All this means that much of the "problems" surrounding the issue of smoking in pubs, can be laid at the feet of the interventionist corporate state. It is illogical to propose more intervention to solve the problem of intervention, though. The more consistent, just, and eficacious stategy, then, is not to ban smoking in pubs, but to free markets.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Well, I must be getting old, because, the country os going to hell in a hand-basket! We have the new anti-anything-but-government-terrorism laws. We have paranoia about bird flu'. Yes, paranoia - a disease that effects birds, is almost incomunicable to humans and has only been contracted by people who live in constant proximity to birds and has only killed 60 people despite millions of cases of it, might get to the UK, might transform to a form that can be passed from humans to humans, and might cause an epidemic - meanwhile I am sure that health campaigners are very upset that new government schemes paying them will be introduced, and British poultry farmers are just bawling their eyes out that a proposed ban on imported poultry will eliminate competition from Europe against them!

But now the nannies in the nanny state are banning smoking in private places. Yes PRIVATE places. Pubs are not "public" places, they are private buildings, owned by businesses, who open them up so that the public can come in and buy drinks. It is bad enough that the state demands that you buy a licensefrom them to open up your own house in order to allow members of the public to give their own money in exchange for your own drink. But now the government is saying that if you choose to encourage people to give you their money in exchange for food, then you won't be allowed to let them smoke in your house.

The arguments are crazy and stupid. First off, I accept passive smoking can cause cancer. I am not versed on the science, but denying it is not relevant to my case. Passive smoking can cause cancer, and so can normal smoking. That bearded moron in the executive committee of the ruling class, Frank Dobson (can everybody sense that I feel strongly on this?!) said on the news yesterday, words close to "Blair and Bush want to go running around the world looking for weapons of mass destruction? Why don't they aim at tobacco, which kills fifty percent of all those who smoke it." Idiot! Smokers all, each and every one, voluntarily chose to take up smoking. Each and every one of them thought that doing so was worth any risk attached. Now, in what way is being killed by a chemical weapon, dirty bomb, or other such thing analogous? It isn't.

OK, so people may dispute my claim that smokers do what they do voluntarily. "They are addicted," they say. Yes, they are. And they chose to risk addiction. Come on! Point me out the one person in the world that did not know that nicotene in cigarettes may be addictive! Bull! Everybody knows it, everybody who took up smoking knew that they were risky addiction, cancer, and heart disease, and they did it anyway. They did so because they wanted to enoughto make doing so worth it.

The classical utilitarian defense for a free market is analogous here. On a free market, it is argued (that is, one in which property is secure from theft and fraud), all interactions must be pareto improvements. The out come of any interaction must be to maximise utitlity. If Billy buys an orange, then we can fairly safely assume that it is because oranges are more valuable to him than his money is. If Harry sells him an orange, then we can assume that it is because Harry value's getting Billy's money more than he values keeping the orange. Each party, then, gets something more valuable to them than they thing they lose - and thus, for each, there is an improvement in terms of their utility, which is the satisfaction of their preferences. If the transaction is prohibited, then we are prohibiting an increase in utility, and we are making both parties worse off than they otherwise would be.

The same goes for smoking. If Billy takes up smoking, then it must be because he values doing so more than he values not doing so.

But here the complaints come in, and they are analogous to claims of market failure. Firstly, that there is a case of imperfect information: Billy doesn't know what his decision involves. Yeah, right! As I said, is there anybody in the entire country that doesn't know that smoking is a) addictive, and b) bad for you? No. So, no imperfect information - Billy knows exactly what he is doing.

Secondly, there are externalities attached to the decision. Sure, if all the costs of smoking are borne by Billy, and yet he smokes, we have to conclude that it is better, on utilitarian grounds, to let him smoke than to not do so. But all the costs are not brone by Billy. They are externalised in two ways. Firstly by Passive smoking, and secondly, through the cost of treating Billy on the NHS when he gets ill.

OK, so lets take the first: That pollution from the cigarettes Billy smokes gets into other people's lungs, constituting a cost he doesn't have to factor in when calculating whether or not to take up smoking. Well, one thing we should remember is that there maybe even stricter controls on smokers to protect against passive smoking under a libertarian system than under a state. Lungs are private property, namely the property of the person in whom's chest they reside. Dumping second hand smoke on somebody else's lungs, then, is a tort, and the smoker can be sued.

However, this assumes that the "victim" of passive smoking doesn't knowingly consent to it. The argument behind banning smoking in pubs in order to protect victims of passive smoking is that they do not voluntarily allow smoke into their lungs, unlike the normal smoker. But is this true? Nobody involuntarily goes into a pub. They only way a victim of passive smoking could claim that they were an involuntary victim was if they could claim that they didn't know that smoking was going on in the pubs.

So who in the entire country is surprised when they go into a pub and see smokers there? Who is unaware that smoking goes in pubs? What, are you stupid?!!! Surely everybody knows that smoking goes in pubs! So nobody can claim that they did not know when they went through the door that they might be entiring a smokey environment. And yet they choose to go in. Therefore they choose to go into a smokey environment. They were not threatened in anyway in order to get them to go in. They did so, presumably, because they preferred going in to not going in.

So, smoking in pubs does not constitute an externality problem. Moreover, if a sizeable proportion of the pub-going market was opposed to smoking in pubs, then a proportion of the industry would form non-smoking pubs in response. (Except where pubs are sheltered from competition, and so don't have to care about pleasing the consumers. This would, of course, be one effect of requiring pubs to have licenses to serve alcohol or limits on time!)

What about the claim that some of the costs of smoking are externalised onto the rest of us via the burden they place on the National Health Service when they get ill? Well, point one - this is not a market failure, it is a government failure. It is a problem with the NHS, which inevitably involves externalising the costs of bad lifestyule choices onto the public. If health care were not paid for out of general taxation this would not be a problem.

The second response is that given the level of taxation on cigarettes, smokers who get ill more than pay for themselves, and doctors and nurses should actually be grateful for the tremendous excess they get left over.

The third response would be to agree. Yes, this is a lifestyle choice who's cost the NHS imposes on all. Likewise, if you choose to become sexually promiscuos you choose a lifestyle that features greater risk of contracting sexual diseases, which will need to be treated, possibly on the NHS. So lets ban sexual promiscuity. Gay men are more likely to catch AIDS than most others, because of a lifestyle choice (No, being gay is not a choice, yes, having gay sex is a choice, therefore being a sexually active gay man is a lifestyle choice). The NHS spends billions on treating AIDS. Why not just ban gay sex?

The point is that the logic of the argument that the lifestyle choice smokers make imposes costs on all of us via the NHS can be applied to all sorts of other lifestyle choices. And if the logic were strong enough to justify a ban in the case of smoking, then it is strong enough to justify a ban of other things. Tenis players impose costs of their activity on the rest of us by forcing tax payers to pay for the treatment of Tenis Elbow on the NHS. Therefore we should ban tenis! See what I mean. But since these are often things we don't want banned, we should reject that logic, and so that case for a ban on smoking.

And lastly - pubs are private property. "It is my damn pub - if I choose to let people smoke here, that is my right. If you don't like it, don't come in!"

Monday, October 03, 2005

My Little Bro Has a Blog

Cool internet post No. 1

Hi again, after a long delay, again!

This semester the amount of teaching I will be doing at university has doubled! In addition to the seminars I ran on moral philosophy last year, I will be running seminars on feminist philosophy. Hence the relevance of this post. Some guy made a post to Liberty Forum, so I thought I would respond to him:

Young women no longer know how to sacrifice

"It only stands to reason that where there's sacrifice, there's someone collecting the sacrificial offerings. Where there's service, there is someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice is speaking of slaves and masters, and intends to be the master." Ayn Rand

The statistics for children born-out-of-wedlock are devastating.

What is wedlock? Wedlock is what binds people in a marriage. What is marriage? Marriage is whatever the government calls a marriage, and anything that is not what the government calls a marriage shall not be treated as such. And what is a family? Family is whatever the government calls a family and anything that is not what the government calls family shall not be treated as such.

When conservatives call for the government to encourage marriage as a basis for family life, and to encourage the traditional family as the proper environment for raising children, actually policy practice necessarily requires the government to define what counts as a marriage, and what counts as a family. This is, then, a nationalisation of marriage and a nationalisation of family - it is to restrict the terms to state approved marriages, and state approved families.

I say: Boycott the state. Have children out of wedlock.