Economic Freedom and Prosperity

From Donald J. Boudreaux :

Prosperity, technology & economic freedom

"...As described by the Cato Institute, "The cornerstones of economic freedom are personal choice, voluntary exchange, freedom to compete and security of privately owned property." And as shown again and again by researchers who study the relationship between prosperity and economic freedom, the greater is economic freedom, the greater and more widespread is prosperity...."

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Then why does Cato advocate

Then why does Cato advocate the State taking my money and then doling it back out (pennies on the dollar) in the form of school vouchers?

Cmon, that's ridiculous.

Cmon, that's ridiculous. They see vouchers as an intermediate step to introduce greater market forces into the system and as a politically feasible alternative to the present. We live in a second-best world, not an ideal one.

Satire, I didn't comment on

Satire,

I didn't comment on Platypus's use of the term breadth, now did I. You see Libertarians tend to be for a breadth of property rights. In fact it is a central tenant of Libertarianism that every individual has exactly the same rights. The most central one.

His attack on de Soto is wrong because de Soto has said that secure property rights are a neccesary but not sufficient condition for prosperity. De Soto is not "against breath" but is for it. So is Boudreaux, and so is Cato. Do they have to expound their entire philosophy in every tiny article to make the Playtipus happy?

You will notice that in the post prior to this Platypus disputes drawing a one dimensional characterization of Libertarian theories but then again commits the crime: "Too often Libertarian claims are framed as a false dicotomy, ...". He has been told over and over this isn't the libertarian position but he continues to spout it off. He assumes I don't know de Soto because I don't agree with his paper tiger version. Well that just isn't the case. I've read "The Other Path" and have it in front of me right now. He made a false summary of de Soto and I caught him at it.

He's going to be backtracking now, attacking minor points in my posts, and other evasions. Just watch. Look at his evasion on my use of the word Libertarian. Like I ever claimed there was total agreement in the field. I put that in there to divert the discussion to something he damn well knows I didn't do.

I'd be more than glad to talk with you about equal opportunity regulations at some future date but it seems like a diversion right now.

Strong property rights have

Strong property rights have existed for eons. They were never stronger than when a manor lord could have a serf executed merely for stepping on or looking at their property. No, it’s not the strength of property rights that has made a difference; it’s their broader distribution and the ease with which they are exercised by common people that has.

Looks like a distinction without a difference. The politically powerful always have solid property rights, I cannot think of a time or place where the politically powerful do not have solid property rights. When I refer to strong property rights you can substitute 'broad' for 'strong' and not change the meaning, and I believe that applies to Cato and Boudreaux as well. Strong property rights refers to property rights that apply to all, not just some.

Correlation may not be causation, but you'd be a fool to ignore it as evidence for causation.

David Masten: what then are

David Masten:

what then are ‘weak’ property rights?

Property rights that are in general recognized and supported by the state but might be limited in scope or duration, or contingent on fulfillment of other aspects of a social contract or similar construct. For example, what we have now. All forms of property taxation represent a limitation or weakening - but not a total abridgement as some would tell us - of property rights, as would zoning, easements, and some types of fines. The class of weak property rights is much larger than that of strong property rights that are constantly treated as the only alternative to no rights at all.

post hoc accusations are a pet peeve of mine.

...just as post hoc and other fallacious arguments are one of mine.

Platypus, I read de Soto's

Platypus,

I read de Soto's "The Other Path". So I am familiar with his positions. I don't think he ever called for murdering of door-to-door salesmen be they serfs or not. Nor could I in any way construe his ideas on property rights to entail such a right.

I recalled de Soto talking about secure property rights but not "strong" ones. I just pulled "The Other Path" off my shelf and looked up all references to property rights. No use of the word "strong" in front of property rights. Might be in there somewhere but I couldn't find it.

I haven't read everything he ever wrote so I did a search online and did find that he was using the term "strong property rights". However, it was not clear that he was using the phrase “strong property rights” to mean the ability to slaughter whoever happens to step foot on private property. Why don't you back up your ridiculous claim with some scholarship. Provide the book and page where de Soto defines "strong property rights" in the way you claim he does. Back it up.

De Soto’s conception of property rights does not entail what you claim of it, regardless of what label we give it. We can call it “secure property rights” or “strong property rights” or “evil fucking property rights”, but it doesn’t lead to manor lords and serfs.

I don’t mind you using phrases like Strong Property Rights, Libertarian, Property Rights, or Individual Liberty to criticize others so long as you use them in a consistent way. Consistent that is with they way the person who was using the term uses it. I find much to criticize with Libertarian and Anarchist theory however it isn’t in the area of whether secure property rights leads to prosperity. Clearly it does.

My contention would be with only some libertarians on some issues of property rights. For instance, I do believe that property rights can be violated under certain circumstances without it being tantamount to a crime. Specifically I see no problem with breaking into someone’s house in an utter emergency situation when alternative options are not available, so long as there is an understanding that restitution may be required and the violator publicizes his trespass. I don’t see this as fundamentally un-Libertarian though. I also disagree with other Libertarians on the issue of the right to form “peaceful racist societies” utilizing private property rights. Mainly because I don’t see how you can guarantee ownership by racist in a free society. All schemes I’ve heard of fail in one way or another.

You don’t attempt to use the terms the way they are intended however. It would be fine to point out that the intention is impossible. It would be fine to point out that the results are not as intended. You however just make things up. Take a look at this beauty:

Of the rights mentioned by Cato, the “security of privately owned property” - by which is usually meant that what’s mine is mine, and whatever is mingled with it also becomes mine, in every respect against every competing claim for ever and ever even beyond my death - has the least to do with prosperity.

Find me a libertarian writing that claims that property owners get to claim whatever is mingled with their property. Really this is a straw man. I have never heard of the concept that “whatever is mingled with it also becomes mine”. What a load of crap.

Find me a libertarian writing, of any breed, which claims that ownership extends beyond death. My understanding is that upon death ownership is transferred to some living person or persons. Dead people are not considered agents. It is a simple fact that they cannot be agents since they are dead. Do you really think that Henry Ford is in control of the assets he left to the Ford Foundation, what I’ve heard is a cesspool of socialists? Do you think that when Paris Hilton’s parents die and she inherits their money that they are still in ownership after death? Believe me Paris isn’t going to use that money the way Daddy intended.

You do de Soto disservice in other ways. He doesn’t merely claim an association between secure property rights and prosperity. He also provides a mechanism. So his arguments do not merely boil down to “Post Hoc Ergo Proper Hoc”. You were indeed painting a straw man of his position.

I am not requiring you to be impossibly precise as you claim. I reject your claim that I am doing so. I am requiring you not to set up straw man definitions for other peoples positions. You are the one who brought up Manor Lords as an example. It was an obvious straw man argument. In this discussion it doesn't matter what particular brand of Libertarianism we are talking about. None of them to my knowledge would defend Manor Lords and the feudal system.

Your claim that Libertarians are presenting property rights in the framework of a false dichotomy is itself false. It is however a common straw man utilized by socialists when mischaracterizing Libertarian thought.

Platypus, As usual your

Platypus,

As usual your straw man arguments don't hold up. You were the first one to use the term "strong property rights". The whole exercise of using the terms "strong" and "weak" with regards to property rights sets up a false metric for what is a multi-dimensional and recursive concept.

There are many possible systems of property rights, in fact an almost infinite multitude, and dividing them between strong and weak according to your definitions groups them in a fairly random way. Libertarians just don't think the way you do about it. Perhaps that is why you always get things so wrong.

As an illustration, suppose we have a society where every individual is allowed to own property, has complete control over it's use, except for issues of transfer to relatives and that if the owner steps foot on his own land he is subject to immediate execution by whomever should find him, and if he doesn't submit his whole family is executed. Further suppose that upon death no property of any kind owned by a person may be left to a relative with a genetic closeness factor of more than 1/64. Also assume that no property may be sold to a relative closer than 1/64 during his lifetime, either directly or indirectly. That is no 1/64 relative is allowed to buy something another relative owned at some point in time. Further suppose that if no prior consent is given you can execute anyone using your property.

Now don't think people could not survive under such a system. They could. You can always rent your own land in order to gain income to rent other land to live on. Also there have been real systems of property rights that have combined similar concepts but just not in the way I have.

Now I don't think any reasonable set of people could come to an agreement of where such a system sits in a one dimensional measure of weak vs. strong. The reason is that there are many different natural aspects to ownership, and their number can be multiplied by adding in other concepts and rights. With ownership there is the natural aspects of transfer, control, homesteading, responsibility, trespass, abandonment, renting, liens, etc. You can have different rules for each and they can be “strong” or “weak”. Not only that they can be “strong” or “weak” weak in ways that are pro or antithetical to individual rights. Each one of these can be mixed with other concepts in innumerable ways to other rights and concepts in order to modify each aspect. In my example I mixed the concepts of “relatives”, “inheritance” with the transfer aspect of property rights. I also mixed the concepts of “punishment” and “trial” (or lack thereof) with the trespass aspect of property rights.

Just because a punishment by death without trial seems “strong” to you doesn’t mean that mixing it with property rights causes the property rights to be strong. Systems could mix this concept with property rights in innumerable ways and some I am sure you would consider “weak” with regard to property rights. Suppose there was summary execution for even claiming to own something. That is the exact opposite of a strong system. Now suppose that I modify that slightly and say that there is summary execution for even claiming to own something with the exception of me, Brian Macker, who claims to own everything. Using your logic this sounds like very strong property rights. I basically get to kill anyone I like since I own everything. You will notice that this is very similar to your claim about manor lords. So why does that minor change switch it from strong to weak. Well it’s because in one case it is applied to the system as a whole and in the other case, as you use it to the individual. The prior system has strong property rights for myself and it has weak property rights for everyone else. You have to remember that serfs were not allowed to own property in the days of the manor lords, in fact serfs were pretty much property themselves. So the system as a whole was not one of “strong property rights”. One could equally point to the system as one of weak property rights by referring to situation of the serfs, instead of as you chose to do, the manor lords.

The problem is that you, the Platypus, are oversimplifying reality in order to draw false conclusions. Your “strong” vs. “weak” just doesn’t capture what property rights is about in the libertarian philosophy, the concept does not have meaning in a vacuum and it has different meanings within different political systems. It is you who are putting the words “strong” into other people’s mouths then interpreting them in ways that make no sense. I don’t think you can find any libertarians who are for “strong property rights”, or for that matter, socialists who are for “weak property rights” as you define them. I can assure you that every libertarian I know is against landowners being able to execute trespassers, regardless of how universal the right to ownership of land is.

It is really, I must say, disingenuous of you to interpret the sentence, "The cornerstones of economic freedom are personal choice, voluntary exchange, freedom to compete and security of privately owned property.", the way you do. How on earth do you interpret it as speaking for some but not for others? Especially considering the context of libertarianism, which is all about equality of rights. I really don’t know how you live with yourself.

You know deSoto is aware of this and the whole context of his writings is of the “common people” grabbing rights for themselves that had not been “broad” so I don’t see how your complaints apply to him, and certainly they cannot apply to Boudreaux or anyone else. So even if you are right about deSoto what’s that got to do with the article or anyone else. I am not going to go pull a deSoto book out of my study to look for the words “strong property rights” so why don’t you back up your contention that he used the term in the way you mean. It just doesn’t jibe with my memories although it’s been a long time since I read him.

When I see someone argue the way you do I interpret it as someone who is merely trying to win an argument or save face, and not as someone who is in a quest for the truth. You are too old not to understand what you are doing is fallacious, so I have to interpret that way. To tell the truth, there really is no point in arguing with such persons, which is why I rarely respond to you beyond a single post.

… Per a prior post that you made, you are mistaken I am not a representative in any way of Catallarchy and have many disagreements with positions taken here. If my post are harsh it represents a little of my personality and does not reflect on anyone else. I don’t take foolish ideas kindly and am not afraid to put a little admonishment into my comments. Sometimes I do it where it is not deserved, but in this case I think it is justified. The intention is not to shut you down. In fact it gives you an opportunity to not only correct me but to make a fool of me. Please continue to post comments here; you are a fine example of how muddled the thinking on the left is. Should you make a startling turnaround I will be the first to apologize for assuming you weren’t seeking the truth. Of course, I’d have to since you would have proven me false. We all make mistakes, I just like mine to be spectacular.

Platypus, what then are

Platypus, what then are 'weak' property rights? I do not see any distinction between plain old property rights and strong property rights when discussing the politically powerful. As I mentioned, property rights are always secured for the politically powerful. 'Strong' as used by myself implies breadth - i.e. in order to be 'strong' there must be breadth. The difference between strong and weak property rights is who has property rights. Property rights in the U.S. have been getting stronger in that minorities and women have had their rights secured, while it has been getting weaker in that those who cannot afford to sway city hall may have their property taken only to be given to some other private interest who can sway city hall.

Possible evidence, don’t you mean?

Just making sure you don't go throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Sorry, post hoc accusations are a pet peeve of mine.

What really bothers me is

What really bothers me is that Bush took my tax money, and then doled it back out to me in the form of a tax refund. Outrageous!

Far be it for a newcomer to

Far be it for a newcomer to get involved in a fistfight, but I don’t see anything wrong about Platypus’s initial comment. By breadth he is just referring to the benefits of a large middle class as opposed to a two tiered society of the very rich and very poor. He also states that the quote from Cato is correct given a context of liquidity, he just wants there to be an explanation of the context.

“Especially considering the context of libertarianism, which is all about equality of rights.” You will need to define rights more clearly. Libertarians seem to oppose most equal opportunity regulations. So unequal discrimination is fine, but rights are still supposed to be equal. Maybe I am just too much of a muddled leftist to understand the reasoning of that.

Brian Macker As usual your

Brian Macker

As usual your straw man arguments don’t hold up. You were the first one to use the term “strong property rights".

As usual your imitation is flattering, but your bogus accusations are merely annoying. Yes, I was the first to use the exact phrase "strong property rights" but I was quite clear about what I was referring to (de Soto). Just because it didn't refer to something you were familiar with doesn't mean it's a strawman.

There are many possible systems of property rights, in fact an almost infinite multitude

My point exactly. Too often libertarian arguments about property rights are framed as a false dichotomy: either property rights are absolute and inviolable and eternal, or the evil socialists will steal all of our money and throw it at welfare moms. In fact there's a vast realm of possibility in between.

Libertarians just don’t think the way you do about it. Perhaps that is why you always get things so wrong.

Keep the personal attacks to yourself. Every time I'm even half as obnoxious in reply, half of the site's authors pile on to tell me how my ideas would get a better reception if I kowtowed more as I expressed them. As if. I'd appreciate it if you and others wouldn't be quite so quick to exploit that double standard.

Your “strong” vs. “weak” just doesn’t capture what property rights is about in the libertarian philosophy

Of course it doesn't, not least because there's no one libertarian philosophy (your use of the definite article notwithstanding). "Libertarian" doesn't capture every nuance of libertarian philosophy either, nor are Cato's own words - "freedom", "voluntary", "security" - perfectly precise either. You're attempting an argument by demanding impossible perfection, and I reject it. Strong vs. weak have pretty obvious intuitive meanings and adequately distinguish many conflicts in debates about property rights. Just because they don't capture every detail, or because you can construct surreal examples in which their meaning becomes unclear, doesn't mean they're not useful. You seem quite a bit more attached to the terms than I do, and the real strawman here is that their use implies a mathematically precise definition. I never said such a thing; that's your own construct.

When I see someone argue the way you do I interpret it as someone who is merely trying to win an argument or save face, and not as someone who is in a quest for the truth.

Projection is an ugly thing.

Let's see. Besides the fact

Let's see. Besides the fact that "X is associated with A, B, C, and D" is a textbook example of post hoc, it doesn't really tell us anything useful about the relative importance of A through D. In the example given, some of them actually conflict; for example, strong intellectual-property protection is held by many to interfere with personal choice and/or freedom to compete. It's simply not valid to say that we should pursue all of A through D as means to X.

My least favorite variant of this fallacious reasoning is often associated with de Soto, who studied systems in which multiple changes related to property rights occurred and then gave all the credit for positive effects to increasing the strength of those rights...even though that didn't happen in his examples. Strong property rights have existed for eons. They were never stronger than when a manor lord could have a serf executed merely for stepping on or looking at their property. No, it's not the strength of property rights that has made a difference; it's their broader distribution and the ease with which they are exercised by common people that has. When the man on the street could buy, own, and sell a wide variety of products and services at will, prosperity took off.

Of the rights mentioned by Cato, the "security of privately owned property" - by which is usually meant that what's mine is mine, and whatever is mingled with it also becomes mine, in every respect against every competing claim for ever and ever even beyond my death - has the least to do with prosperity. Many mutualists, agorists, and ancaps would even agree that, whether in specific cases or in general, it actually undermines true economic freedom. As long as that distinction is explained, Boudreaux's formulation is valid. If the existence of such a perspective is ignored and not mentioned to students who are only given Cato's narrow view, though, Boudreaux is abusing his position as an educator. That's a far more egregious example of partisan indoctrination than what liberals are accused of.

Cato is extremely softcore

Cato is extremely softcore (borderline statist) libertarianism, for the most part. Joe's comment can be applied to a broader range of issues in which Cato, instead of condemning the evils of government, seems to be content to lighten them a little.

The state is already taking

The state is already taking your money, Cato is advocating that you get some of it back to spend as you want. Given the choice, Cato would eliminate government funding of education all together.

When I refer to strong

When I refer to strong property rights you can substitute ‘broad’ for ’strong’ and not change the meaning

That's just doublespeak. "Broad" and "strong" are two very different concepts that would not generally be considered equivalent, so I do not consider it credible that they are commonly meant that way.

Correlation may not be causation, but you’d be a fool to ignore it as evidence for causation.

Possible evidence, don't you mean? To dispute something's relevance or import after proper examination is not the same as to ignore it. Should I try to imply that you're "ignoring" other points or factors, or should we eschew the tactics of assuming negatives about those with whom we disagree?

There you go, use reason and

There you go, use reason and civil conduct where you can, but if it should be necessary I would certainly kill someone who attempted to rob my property or harm my family while they were on it. Its a matter of proportionality, you react in proportion to the threat you perceive from trespassers. Some yokel staring at my cows from the other side of the property line would warrant nothing more then a good watching right back at him, but a truckload of armed bandits that were coming to loot (in the event of a social break down of some kind) would warrant a nice raking from my own weapons if I had them.

Well Brian, maybe you

Well Brian, maybe you shouldn't let Platypus provoke you in the future...

I don't see anything wrong

I don't see anything wrong with executing trespassers! It all depends on how they go about their trespassing...

Stephan, Are you going to

Stephan,

Are you going to execute people for "looking at your property" as Playtypus claims? You see he thinks de Sotos use of the term "strong property rights" meant to include summary execution of not only door-to-door salesmen and Jehovahs Witnesses, a noble cause :), but also sightseers.

I will give you an example of how we handle trespassers in New York. I was on my property and two pickup trucks pulled into the lower driveway by the lake. Five guys got out and in full camoflage including face mask camo. I ran down the hill and asked them what they were doing? They said crow hunting and told me they knew the owner and were sure he would approve. I told them I was the owner and they didn't have permission and I didn't want them back as I was keeping it as a nature preserve. One of the guys took off his mask and it was the owner of the real estate agency that sold me the land. Which pissed me off considering he had thousands of acres of land to hunt on so why was he trespassing on mine. They left.

Could you give an example of when you could use your execution powers? Do you live in Minnesota, watch out for those Hmong poachers. ;)

Platypus states: Property

Platypus states:

Property rights that are in general recognized and supported by the state but might be limited in scope or duration, or contingent on fulfillment of other aspects of a social contract or similar construct. For example, what we have now. All forms of property taxation represent a limitation or weakening - but not a total abridgement as some would tell us - of property rights, as would zoning, easements, and some types of fines. The class of weak property rights is much larger than that of strong property rights that are constantly treated as the only alternative to no rights at all.

Funny that Platypus would use as an example of "weak property rights" the country with classically strong property rights. If that doesn't show you where he is coming from nothing does. De Soto himself was using the US (and other western countries like Japan) as countries with strong property rights vs. the weak ones in socialist paradises south of the border.

BTW, Platypus, I owned a right of way (easement) across someone elses property and there was no sense in which either myself or the property owner had weak property rights. As, de Soto, pointed out in "The Other Path" there is such a thing as property rights in contracts, or didn't you read it. The equivalent of zoning is a "title restriction" and that too in no way weakens property ownership.

I agree that a property tax may, depending on how it is justified and structured, be a weakening of property rights. Depends on how it originally came into being, co-op fees for instance would not be a weakening even though they to all appearances are equivalent to a tax except being voluntary. It also depends on what the penalty is if I don't pay the tax. The property taxes I pay now are really a sort of rent, my payment for the property a sort of "key fee", the agreement with the landlord is that I get to keep the "key fee" of the next tenant to recoop the cost of improvements I make, and with the recent Kelo decision it is apparent that the landlord can kick me out whenever the prospects look better with another tenant.

I think that taxes may be justified on certain principles but doing so would restrict the uses to which it is put. I don't think you can argue for taxes on the principle of free riding upon defense outlays of your neighbors then turn around and use the tax money to support the church, or the Arts, or give needles to drug addicts. No, the money then needs to be used for defense. Free riding upon defense is the only argument for taxes that I have found close to valid. If the arguement is valid I see no problem with taxing assess in proportion to the value. More valuable things need greater defense. But those damn anarchist do have some pretty good arguments despite how much I disagree with them. I cannot prove I am right and they are wrong.