Connecting the Political Circle

As penance for threadjacking Don, I now write about similarities between anarcho-capitalists and anarcho-socialists, socialists and libertarians, etc. I'll mostly just repost my comment rather than trying to edit it, since the original comment sparked discussion whereas if I edit I'm liable to ruin everything :)

It’s occurred to me that the main difference between libertarians or anarcho capitalists and socialists or communists is beliefs about what is likely/possible rather than what is desirable. I think the main reason anarchists say anarcho-capitalists are “not anarchists” is that they think anarcho-capitalists just want to eliminate government and want/expect the existing corporations to stay as they are, with the end result being that the corporations become the new government (hence calling us not-anarchists).

The major difference in desired outcome is that some socialists/communists/anarchists believe that everyone should have exactly the same wage, health care, etc. Since libertarians and anarcho-capitalists tend to believe that such an outcome is not only counter to the desire for freedom but actually unachievable, we have a disconnect.

I think these areas are quite worthy of debate, since I think a lot of us started out as more utopian thinkers once, and utopian thinkers are more likely to come around to a libertarian point of view than are cynical participants in the political process.

Stefan's reply:

Also Sean, there are generally conflicting beliefs about how property is exchanged or abandoned between the two camps. Most socialists stop short of saying you “abandon” your house by leaving it in the morning and thereby leave it open for homesteading, but some believe almost as much (saying, for example, that disney world couldn’t really be “owned” since Michael Eisner doesn’t directly occupy and use it). There are other differences as well - some believe that wage labor is OK but would be unlikely to persist in a free market, others believe anyone who pays a wage is a criminal and should be imprisoned and/or fined by the forces of justice. Most of the agreement seems to be centered around what defines property, i.e. how an unowned resource can come to be owned by someone through labor homesteading.

And Matt27:

Sean, I’d say you’re more or less right about the differences in views between some socialists and some libs. Not always but sometimes it boils down to “not equality as a concept but equality as a fact and a result.” But not always. I happen to think that Libs confuse negative freedom with the far more important concept of meaningful self-determination. Seen properly, I think most moves toward increasing meaningful self-determination for people will come in terms anarcho-socialist measures… Though I will admit that it’s plausible to have some sort of Rawlsian capitalism w/insurance system as a proxy if anarcho socialism is impossible. I would happily support the former (even going so far as to have an Adam Smith-style truck and barter quasi-Randian state of affairs) over the current situation which means we likely aren’t so far apart at all.

I'm not sure what Matt means by "meaningful self-determination," but his comment does bring to mind what I think is an important issue that causes people to be libertarian socialists instead of libertarian capitalists: what happens to the people at the bottom? Capitalists argue that everyone, including those at the bottom, will be better off than they would otherwise be. This is a very hard pill for a socialist to swallow. This issue was my primary reason for being a socialist back in my socialist days - what ultimately brought me to the other side was realizing that the people in government are human beings, and no matter how great of a government one designs, the people in it will ultimately collude to their own benefit.

Speaking of collusion, this brings up another issue that keeps people on the socialist side of the fence: monopolies. We're all taught in school that artificial monopolies (i.e. those that are created intentionally by monopolists) can be created and sustained, that they harm the consumer, and that they must be broken up or controlled by government. In school, these were simply called "monopolies" and natural or state monopolies simply weren't addressed. In actuality, it's not hard to show that historical monopolies have always failed except when the state has intervened to support them, and that even where natural monopolies persist, they do not harm the consumer (at least not more than a state monopoly) and advances in technology eventually make them competitive anyway. Unfortunately, since people are taught about monopoly early on (think of the Milton Bradley game), they tend not to question what they've learned, and it doesn't help so much for "apologists for the rich" like the Mises Institute to write about them because their arguments will be simply dismissed by socialists without much thought; ideas about monopoly need to be challenged everywhere.

Speaking of monopolies, there are a lot of people who think Microsoft and Wal Mart are bad for consumers, and a lot of the rhetoric on the other side seems a bit dismissive. I think that rather than saying things like "just don't shop there" or "so don't buy Microsoft products" it might be worthwhile to commiserate a little. People we care about are part of a group that benefits from the fact that some other people don't have a choice about where they shop; when people who care more about price don't have a low price choice and have to shop at the mom-and-pop, those who are willing to pay the higher price for the mom-and-pop shop benefit. When a Wal Mart moves into the town of someone who would never shop at Wal Mart at any price, it's hard to show that person how they benefit from that; this is self interest at work. Some specific stories about specific people might help. Certainly the mom and pop who owned the mom-and-pop are people we can all imagine easily, as are the union grocers at Safeway. But what about the single mom with two kids who could only afford macaroni and cheese and no dessert every night who can now afford meat and broccoli, not to mention the occasional ice cream? What about the unemployed 25 year old with Downs Syndrome who's now stocking the shelves? Hard to say how the mom-and-pop benefitted him or how Wal Mart is harming him.

As for Microsoft's detractors, I think the "better world" they imagine probably consists of Microsoft software, only better, smaller, faster, and cheaper, and probably made by multiple vendors, or open source. Actually, this is the same world I imagine... it's just never, ever going to be produced by any quantity of antitrust action. It *may* be produced by serious tax, corporate law, and intellectual property reform, but any such discussion is merely academic because there is no way such things can happen in the present system. It is much more likely to be produced by a "system" that makes it impossible to enforce software license agreements, prevent people from modifying their computers, or force people to pay for bags of bits. In other words, the inexorable march of technology.

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[...] Sean Lynch has an

[...] Sean Lynch has an interesting discussion at Catallarchy in a post called Connecting The Political Circle. He puts quite a [...]

Care to comment about the

Care to comment about the work of Bertram Dybwad Brochmann? I have a commenter bugging me about him, and I know little, and am not really interested in working in this area.

I found this site, which seems thorough, but again, I don't know enough about it to say for sure. I was a little bit disturbed at how much Frisch and Haavelmo showed up here.

http://www.anarchy.no/a_e_p_m.html

I don't personally know

I don't personally know anything about Brochmann. Perhaps someone else can shed some light.

A few thoughts: It is

A few thoughts:

It is difficult to to show a monopoly that's succeeded without state support and intervention. It's also difficult to show (for the same reasons) any business, monopoly of nor, that's succeeded without state support or intervention.

Wal-Mart is a great example of a huge anti-capitalist force, using state subisides to crush competition, and as such I don't think anyone who's economically free should shop there (expecially not Libs.)

Meaningful self-determination simply describes the sphere of meaingful choice that an individual has with regard to a given situation. Here're two examples to illuminate the difference between negative freedom and meaningful determination:

A. A child is born to a poor servant who makes solely subsistence wages in the middle of an estate 100 miles in every direction. Once the child turns 18, the owners of the estate make an offer that the child is "free" to either voluntarily sell himself into slavery on the condition that he'll be kept alive as long as he is useful or sell his labor in the free market which lies 100 miles in that direction. The child doesn't have the resources (food and water) or transportation to make it the 100 miles to the wonderful free market utopia, and so he basically doesn't have a choice beyond slavery or death. Under free market principles no rights I'm aware of have been violated, and this young person is not being literally forced to do anything.

B. You are a powerful Emir of a repressive Islamic state. Within the confines of your country you're not granted the rights to drink, carouse with single women, and do drugs. However, because of your status as Emir you can do this in your own country and get away with it and you also have plenty of money to fly to Amsterdam if you'd like.

Example A is a case in which negative freedom is maximized but there is almost no meaninful self determination to speak of. Situation B is one of limited negative freedom but a very high level of meaningful self determination.

I think it's clear from both examples together that you can be "free" without negative freedom and you can be radically unfree with it. It's therefore not a suitable goal as an end in itself for any serious political movement. It's important, but only insofar as it increases MSD.

I'd also like to note that Monopolies aren't any less efficient than smaller more competitive industries (the economic argument that "proves" the converse makes the mistake of confusing an infintesimal with zero.) As you correctly point out, that means they are not inefficient by definition, but as I think you miss it also means that a free market won't eliminate any problems they pose.

Matt

Matt, just one comment right

Matt, just one comment right now, although I might add some more when I get a chance to digest your discussion on MSD.

In economic terms a monopoly is, by definition, less efficient than a competitive market. A monopoly creates artificial scarcity and that leads to less efficient distribution within the market. The problem with a monopoly is precisely that it leads to less efficiency and more artificial scarcity. It may seem benevolent, as in Microsoft's case, but that doesn't change the economic reality.

Matt: Obviously A is not

Matt:
Obviously A is not realistic description of anything that happens in the US, or in any (negatively) free society anywhere. I readily concede the theoretical point---that negative freedom is just one of many important criteria for an ideal society---but this is of little practical significance, because a free economy is, both theoretically and historically, the surest way to reach the level of prosperity necessary to give everyone the opportunity to have positive freedom.

And no, I'm not interested in arguing that point with you now.

Matt, I agree MSD is good

Matt,

I agree MSD is good and that libertarian philosophy doesn't make it a priority.

How does the state then effectively increase MSD for those likely to be born without it? How does MSD relate to dependency on the state? Here in the US, for example, I'd argue that we have many people who are beneficiaries of government policies (intended to increase MSD) who tend to fall into dependency traps from which they never escape. I'm talking about the stereotypical welfare mom. Are these people's MSD improved or made worse by their relationship to the state, in your view?

Matt, regarding A, are you

Matt, regarding A, are you claiming that the owners of the estate somehow have the responsibility to transport their servant's child to the market 100 miles away? In this case, the servant has violated the child's rights by having a child when he could not afford to provide the child any sort of meaningful self determination. If the estate owner decides to transport the child to the market, they are performing charity work. If the child were to agree to go into slavery, I'm not sure such an agreement would be considered enforceable in a negative-rights-enforcing society due to the child's situation at the time, but even if custom did render the contract enforceable, it would still be the servant who was responsible for the rights violation.

Children aren't something that just happen and over which we have no control. People need to stop thinking of them that way and start taking responsibility for their choice to reproduce.

Meaningful self determination is my highest priority. In my opinion the best way to provide it is to find a way to make anarcho-capitalism work.

Eric, thanks for the

Eric, thanks for the response and I look forward to more about the MSD discussion.

There are plenty of good moral reasons to oppose monopolies, but I just don't think there are any good neoclassical economic reasons to. I realise that you probably aren't a neoclassicist, but my guess is that you use much of that school of thought in argumentation (as do most Libertarians while wisely rejecting a few of the most egregious flaws like statis supply and demand analysis.) If I'm wrong about this then my apologies, but in my experience most Libertarians like to wash down their moral arguments with a healthy swig of economic effeciency theory, and to my knowledge Austrian economics hasn't developed any serious alternate monopoly arguments so I'm gonna argue the against the neoclassical "inefficient" argument.

The argument, which you hinted at in your post, is that monopolies aren't exposed to competition and can therefore set prices above marginal cost whereas competitive industries set price at marginal cost. The argument amounts to this: the world is flat because you look at a 2 foot segment of it it's so close to flat that for all intents and purposes it is flat.

What's the problem? The argent for competitive firms setting prices assumes that
a. each firm is so small that it can't affect market price
and
b. the firms are so small that they don't react to conjectural variation (they don't change their output on the basis of the behavior of other firms.)

The problem? These two assumption are inconsistent. If a firm increases its production by one unit, and then the other firms don't react then aggregate market supply will increase and total market price will fall. Therefore market prices do change because of the actions of one firm, even if that change is infintesimely small. Add up all those changes though, and you've got a price-setting industry instead of the market of price-takers suggested by economic theory.

Did I blow your mind yet? If not how about this: if it's assumed (as it is) that Monopolies set their prices at the intersection of marginal cost and marginal revenue, and that competitive firms do not (but rather set it around the interesection of supply and demand) then you've got a real problem. The marginal revenue curve exists independently of the number of firms in an industry, and so a competitive industry is argued to produce at a point where marginal cost exceeds marginal revenue. That means that there are widgets being produced at a loss by a perfectly competitive industry which means... Ready? The microeconomic theory of the firm and the market level model of perfect competition are inconsistent. That's a huge blow.

Matt

Obviously A is not


Obviously A is not realistic description of anything that happens in the US, or in any (negatively) free society anywhere.

how is this obvious? I would argue, not that I would need to, that situations like this (though not so extreme) happen every day. Fundamentally it's just a situation in which people are effectively bound by circumstance to accept a style of life they hate. More importantly though, this is a thought experiment designed to show the primacy of one moral principle over another. Just as the classic Utilitarian counter-argument about the bus full of sado-mascocists doesn't need to have happened to shoot holes in the Utilitarian theory.

I readily concede the theoretical point—that negative freedom is just one of many important criteria for an ideal society—but this is of little practical significance, because a free economy is, both theoretically and historically, the surest way to reach the level of prosperity necessary to give everyone the opportunity to have positive freedom.

I'm demonstrating the primacy of MSD and arguing that negative freedom is merely a means of achieving that ideal. This discussion is not yet about the means of achiving that end, but I think that once we all agree about the primacy of MSD we'll find it much easier to debate about how to make it happen. As I said, I'm perfectly comfortable with a market-style anarchist society if it can be shown to most effectively increase MSD moreso than anything else. Of course you don't want to debate about it though, because you've got no evidence that you're right.

And no, I’m not interested in arguing that point with you now.

looks like I was getting ahead of myself. Until that day.

How does the state then effectively increase MSD for those likely to be born without it? How does MSD relate to dependency on the state?

Your first question is a hard one, and I'm inclined to feel that your second question could have several answers too. I don't think that MSD requires any dependency on the state- and I think there are two ways to go about ahcieving this:

1. A market system with a Rawlsian redistributive insurance setup. Everything promised by the advocates of unfettered capitalism (please read Brandon's post above) should simply be guaranteed. If Capitalism provides benefits to all, rough equality, and so forth then the Rawls state will do nothing. However, if capitalism fails to provide such a thing at a given time there will be some mechanism of action (several have been suggested) that will temporarily ensure such results until the market succeeds again.

2. Libertarian Socialism, under which any jobs that can be automated are automated and any jobs which can't be and are unpleasant are shared throughout the community. Various federations of workers make decisions regarding their own industries and are part of a larger web of federations which, on the aggregate, make all societally-relevent decisions. If the federation of economic analysts (who'd produce economic reports just like car-makers would produce autos) suggested that not enough people were voluntarily choosing to sell ice-cream to children on Coney Island, and that it was not a job that could be fulfilled by automation, then the overarching decision making body (probably achived over the internet with everyone participating who'd like to) would have an opportunity to assign it to be shared by everyone. There would be no career politicians and no state.

I realise that the second suggestion will likely produce a few cries of "communist!" but I urge you to consider the possibility and discuss it in a sane rational manner. It's not communism because there's no dictatorship of the proletariat, and rather than have Marx's irrational fear of automation, automation will be used to eliminate difficult unpleasant jobs to the largest extent possible.

Here in the US, for example, I’d argue that we have many people who are beneficiaries of government policies (intended to increase MSD) who tend to fall into dependency traps from which they never escape. I’m talking about the stereotypical welfare mom. Are these people’s MSD improved or made worse by their relationship to the state, in your view?

Perfectly fair question- I'd tend to say that many gov't programs like Welfare have very little effect on MSD either way. In the case of the Welfare mom, she's provided with incentives to have more children and not get a job because that's how she'll be paid. My guess is that having kids in such a circumstance limits one's MSD substantially and as such the case you mention (though I'm not sure how frequently it actually occurs) isn't substantially different than her taking a dead-end job, except that her contribution to society is less if she's not working.

Matt, regarding A, are you claiming that the owners of the estate somehow have the responsibility to transport their servant’s child to the market 100 miles away?

I'm not claiming this at all. I'm simply saying that if you don't assume a right like that (or any number of other rights one could suggest to mitigate such a situation) then you've got an outcome that's intuitively grotesque, though perfectly in keeping with theories of negative freedom.

In this case, the servant has violated the child’s rights by having a child when he could not afford to provide the child any sort of meaningful self determination.

I'd say you're probably right here, but that doesn't help the child at all. Such a rights violation is probably mitigated by the fact that the parents couldn't afford birth control or an abortion...

If the estate owner decides to transport the child to the market, they are performing charity work.

Under your theory, yes. And if they don't they have done nothing wrong correct?

If the child were to agree to go into slavery, I’m not sure such an agreement would be considered enforceable in a negative-rights-enforcing society due to the child’s situation at the time, but even if custom did render the contract enforceable, it would still be the servant who was responsible for the rights violation.

As for the latter, what good would that do the child? But as for your former point, I'd like to know on what grounds you'd reject such a contract. The child freely agreed to it, it's "better" than the alternative of the child starving to death out in a field while walking off the estate, and in fact by agreeing not shoot the child for trespassing if he doesn't agree to the slavery contract the estate owners can congratulate themselves for the ultimate in libertarian charity.

Children aren’t something that just happen and over which we have no control. People need to stop thinking of them that way and start taking responsibility for their choice to reproduce.

I don't disagree with you here. From the Child's perspective though, this does him no good.

Meaningful self determination is my highest priority. In my opinion the best way to provide it is to find a way to make anarcho-capitalism work.

well good- then we're mostly on the same page then. Freedom without opportunity is a devil's gift.

Matt

Sorry Matt, perhaps I wasn't

Sorry Matt, perhaps I wasn't as clear as I should have been. The market can be viewed as a sliding spectrum, from free market, with perfect efficiency, to controlled market. The further you get from a free market, the less efficiency you have, and thus the less likelihood that a product will be sold for its marginal cost. It's simplistic to say that it's an either/or situation. The real purpose of supposing the existence of a perfectly free or perfectly controlled market is to measure the real world against those things. I certainly wouldn't suggest that they are practical. That said, regardless of theoretical issues, if you can create artificial scarcity, you clearly reduce market efficiency. You also, as clearly, can reduce the drive for competitive behavior (i.e. AT&T or German and British telecom systems in the 80's and 90's).

I guess I could be considered a pragmatic neo-classicist. ;-)

I should have added to that:

I should have added to that: unlike most libertarians, I don't tend to view companies like Standard Oil, Microsoft or AT&T as good just because they are the target of government intervention. I will usually argue that the government intervention/intrusion is bad, and so is the monopoly behavior and concentration of power represented by the corporation.

Matt, in order for your

Matt, in order for your argument about the ability of one firm to set market prices to result in the entire industry's being able to set prices, you have to take into account the effects of the actions of a firm on itself as well as the actions the other firms will take. The end result of a firm's choice to produce units beyond the point at which marginal cost exceeds marginal revenue, that firm will lose money. Likewise, if the firm attempts to increase prices by reducing production, they will simply give up market share to the other firms, in whose best interest it is to increase production. The aggregate incentives of the firms in a market will tend to put the price close to the market clearing price regardless of what individual firms may do against their own self interest.

The example of a pariticular state-supported oligopoly may prove instructive: during the existence of the CAB, no new airlines started. Ticket prices had minimums as well as maximums. The result? The airlines *still* competed, flying half empty planes, hiring sexier stewardesses, serving fancy meals, etc. Fewer people flew, so this obviously wasn't the best situation for consumers, but it also harmed the airlines for exactly the same reason: if it were in the best interests of the airlines to fly fewer passengers and hire extremely hot stewardesses, they would still be doing so today. Now instead we're stuck with "flight attendants," some of whome are *male* for heaven's sake!

Anyway, nobody is even claiming that one firm can't affect the market price; it's certainly not a pillar of the argument against the sustainability of artificial monopolies. The claim you want to be arguing against is this: the incentive for a member of a cartel to defect is very high.

Eric, I kind of disagree

Eric, I kind of disagree with your point about monopolists being bad. Monopolists are entrepreneurs and are usually providing some sort of service in their quest for monopoly. Standard Oil, for example, made some significant advances in the oil supply chain. It's when the monopolists turn to government (or other forms of violence) for help when their attempts to form a sustainable monopoly fail that they harm everyone.

Okay, let me rephrase that

Okay, let me rephrase that Sean, because I did dash that off relatively quick. From a very generic perspective, attempting to achieve a monopoly, or even achieving one, is not, in and of itself, bad. Your points on Standard Oil are spot on. Alternatively, we can look at the initial innovation that Microsoft brought to the office suite market, which was good for the market, the consumer and Microsoft. It is the means to achieve or maintain a monopoly that have to be evaluated.

What I've seen from many libertarians is a view that Microsoft (who has stolen property, engaged in coercive tactics, and much more) is not bad because they didn't become a monopoly in a fashion that was particularly enabled, in an active sense, by the government. But government regulation and intrusion is not the only bad thing that corporations do, yet most libertarians appear to have blinders on this topic.

A child is born to a poor

A child is born to a poor servant who makes solely subsistence wages in the middle of an estate 100 miles in every direction. Once the child turns 18, the owners of the estate make an offer that the child is “free” to either voluntarily sell himself into slavery on the condition that he’ll be kept alive as long as he is useful or sell his labor in the free market which lies 100 miles in that direction. The child doesn’t have the resources (food and water) or transportation to make it the 100 miles to the wonderful free market utopia, and so he basically doesn’t have a choice beyond slavery or death. Under free market principles no rights I’m aware of have been violated, and this young person is not being literally forced to do anything.

Even assuming that a "slavery contract" is compatible with ancap (which is a matter of some dispute), I don't see how this scenario presents a problem. Are you implying there is some kind of enforceable obligation to transport the guy 100 miles? (Calling him a "child" is rather a bit much don't you think?) If you are, then your philosophy of "meaningful self-determination" doesn't seem very appealing to me.

You are a powerful Emir of a repressive Islamic state. Within the confines of your country you’re not granted the rights to drink, carouse with single women, and do drugs. However, because of your status as Emir you can do this in your own country and get away with it and you also have plenty of money to fly to Amsterdam if you’d like.

Not sure what you think repressive Islamic states have to do with libertarianism, other than being their antithesis.

Example A is a case in which negative freedom is maximized but there is almost no meaninful self determination to speak of. Situation B is one of limited negative freedom but a very high level of meaningful self determination.

I think it’s clear from both examples together that you can be “free” without negative freedom and you can be radically unfree with it.

Sure, if you define "freedom" as the amount of resources you have and values you can achieve. For example, I could increase my own "freedom" by taking all your stuff.

It’s therefore not a suitable goal as an end in itself for any serious political movement. It’s important, but only insofar as it increases MSD.

Will other people be free to pursue their own values in your MSD (LSD?)-based world? Or will their resources be confiscated in order to increase the "meaningful self-determination" of others? I don't think anyone has an enforceable duty to act as a transportation service, and I don't think anybody has the moral authority to dominate others to become an emir. I think you have to come up with better examples in order to challenge libertarianism (and Macker already has dibs on the "baby drowning in a bucket" and "Muslims trying to immigrate" scenarios).

Actually, Eric, Microsoft's

Actually, Eric, Microsoft's position was at least in some senses government-enabled. IBM was perfectly prepared to provide their own PC operating system, except for one hitch: they had just gone through the same sort of antitrust suit against "bundling" that Microsoft has been going through. This became something of a windfall for Bill Gates, whose dad helped him be in the right place at the right time to receive it. Tax structures, for example the fact that long term capital gains are taxed less than dividends, encouraging companies to reinvest and thus become larger rather than paying out dividends, tend to lead toward larger firms. The same is true of corporate regulations, which serve as barriers to new competition.

None of this is to say that Microsoft has not been incredibly innovative while most of their competitors haven't been incredibly stupid; they have and they have. The harm to the consumer is for the most part nothing more that the general harm we all suffer living in a society that encourages large firms that are less responsive to demand.

Just look at all the coddling American Airlines and United are receiving while Southwest and Jet Blue are working their asses off, and you'll see what I mean. UA and AA should by all rights be bankrupt, and we'd all be better off for it. If the major airlines could fellate the right politicians to get a "windfall hedging tax," you can bet they would.

Obviously A is not


Obviously A is not realistic description of anything that happens in the US, or in any (negatively) free society anywhere.

how is this obvious? I would argue, not that I would need to, that situations like this (though not so extreme) happen every day. Fundamentally it's just a situation in which people are effectively bound by circumstance to accept a style of life they hate. More importantly though, this is a thought experiment designed to show the primacy of one moral principle over another. Just as the classic Utilitarian counter-argument about the bus full of sado-mascocists doesn't need to have happened to shoot holes in the Utilitarian theory.

I readily concede the theoretical point—that negative freedom is just one of many important criteria for an ideal society—but this is of little practical significance, because a free economy is, both theoretically and historically, the surest way to reach the level of prosperity necessary to give everyone the opportunity to have positive freedom.

I'm demonstrating the primacy of MSD and arguing that negative freedom is merely a means of achieving that ideal. This discussion is not yet about the means of achiving that end, but I think that once we all agree about the primacy of MSD we'll find it much easier to debate about how to make it happen. As I said, I'm perfectly comfortable with a market-style anarchist society if it can be shown to most effectively increase MSD moreso than anything else. Of course you don't want to debate about it though, because you've got no evidence that you're right.

And no, I’m not interested in arguing that point with you now.

looks like I was getting ahead of myself. Until that day.

How does the state then effectively increase MSD for those likely to be born without it? How does MSD relate to dependency on the state?

Your first question is a hard one, and I'm inclined to feel that your second question could have several answers too. I don't think that MSD requires any dependency on the state- and I think there are two ways to go about ahcieving this:

1. A market system with a Rawlsian redistributive insurance setup. Everything promised by the advocates of unfettered capitalism (please read Brandon's post above) should simply be guaranteed. If Capitalism provides benefits to all, rough equality, and so forth then the Rawls state will do nothing. However, if capitalism fails to provide such a thing at a given time there will be some mechanism of action (several have been suggested) that will temporarily ensure such results until the market succeeds again.

2. Libertarian Socialism, under which any jobs that can be automated are automated and any jobs which can't be and are unpleasant are shared throughout the community. Various federations of workers make decisions regarding their own industries and are part of a larger web of federations which, on the aggregate, make all societally-relevent decisions. If the federation of economic analysts (who'd produce economic reports just like car-makers would produce autos) suggested that not enough people were voluntarily choosing to sell ice-cream to children on Coney Island, and that it was not a job that could be fulfilled by automation, then the overarching decision making body (probably achived over the internet with everyone participating who'd like to) would have an opportunity to assign it to be shared by everyone. There would be no career politicians and no state.

I realise that the second suggestion will likely produce a few cries of "communist!" but I urge you to consider the possibility and discuss it in a sane rational manner. It's not communism because there's no dictatorship of the proletariat, and rather than have Marx's irrational fear of automation, automation will be used to eliminate difficult unpleasant jobs to the largest extent possible.

Here in the US, for example, I’d argue that we have many people who are beneficiaries of government policies (intended to increase MSD) who tend to fall into dependency traps from which they never escape. I’m talking about the stereotypical welfare mom. Are these people’s MSD improved or made worse by their relationship to the state, in your view?

Perfectly fair question- I'd tend to say that many gov't programs like Welfare have very little effect on MSD either way. In the case of the Welfare mom, she's provided with incentives to have more children and not get a job because that's how she'll be paid. My guess is that having kids in such a circumstance limits one's MSD substantially and as such the case you mention (though I'm not sure how frequently it actually occurs) isn't substantially different than her taking a dead-end job, except that her contribution to society is less if she's not working.

Matt, regarding A, are you claiming that the owners of the estate somehow have the responsibility to transport their servant’s child to the market 100 miles away?

I'm not claiming this at all. I'm simply saying that if you don't assume a right like that (or any number of other rights one could suggest to mitigate such a situation) then you've got an outcome that's intuitively grotesque, though perfectly in keeping with theories of negative freedom.

In this case, the servant has violated the child’s rights by having a child when he could not afford to provide the child any sort of meaningful self determination.

I'd say you're probably right here, but that doesn't help the child at all. Such a rights violation is probably mitigated by the fact that the parents couldn't afford birth control or an abortion...

If the estate owner decides to transport the child to the market, they are performing charity work.

Under your theory, yes. And if they don't they have done nothing wrong correct?

If the child were to agree to go into slavery, I’m not sure such an agreement would be considered enforceable in a negative-rights-enforcing society due to the child’s situation at the time, but even if custom did render the contract enforceable, it would still be the servant who was responsible for the rights violation.

As for the latter, what good would that do the child? But as for your former point, I'd like to know on what grounds you'd reject such a contract. The child freely agreed to it, it's "better" than the alternative of the child starving to death out in a field while walking off the estate, and in fact by agreeing not shoot the child for trespassing if he doesn't agree to the slavery contract the estate owners can congratulate themselves for the ultimate in libertarian charity.

Children aren’t something that just happen and over which we have no control. People need to stop thinking of them that way and start taking responsibility for their choice to reproduce.

I don't disagree with you here. From the Child's perspective though, this does him no good.

Meaningful self determination is my highest priority. In my opinion the best way to provide it is to find a way to make anarcho-capitalism work.

well good- then we're mostly on the same page then. Freedom without opportunity is a devil's gift.

Matt

Sean: "Actually, Eric,

Sean: "Actually, Eric, Microsoft’s position was at least in some senses government-enabled."

That's why I said "actively enabled", to distinguish from AT&T. I would argue that every monopoly that has existed in the USA since, at least, 1900 has done so because of, at least in part, government enabling it. But it wasn't active laws saying that only Microsoft could provide an operating system. Rather, it was anti-trust laws and lawsuits, taxation strategies, regulations that create barriers to entry and so on. MS was definitely the beneficiary of that sort of thing, in many ways.

Hey guys I already wrote a

Hey guys I already wrote a big long response to everyone who commented prior to my monopoly argument. It's probably being held for moderation so look for it shortly. In the meantime I'll respond to the new stuff:

#

The market can be viewed as a sliding spectrum, from free market, with perfect efficiency, to controlled market. The further you get from a free market, the less efficiency you have, and thus the less likelihood that a product will be sold for its marginal cost.

I'm really not sold on this idea, mainly because I know of no serious examples of a successful efficient market. Every market I've read about and studied has been heavily inundated with subsidies tariffs and all manner of market distortions. I'm not saying that what you wrote isn't true- I'm not unfriendly to theoretical free markets- only that it really needs to be argued for.

That said, regardless of theoretical issues, if you can create artificial scarcity, you clearly reduce market efficiency. You also, as clearly, can reduce the drive for competitive behavior (i.e. AT&T or German and British telecom systems in the 80’s and 90’s).

See I'm just not convinced that monopolies create artificial scarcity. I feel really weird defending monopolies here (because I'm vitriolicly opposed to them) but I remain unconvinced by the arguments that rely solely on economic analysis to rebuke monopolies. They set prices in the same was aggregate competitive industries and they benefit from economies of scale. Aside from the moral arguments you'd almost want prefer them... But unlike the marxists and most libertarians, I don't think that the moral and the economically efficient are always the same.

I guess I could be considered a pragmatic neo-classicist. ;-)
well it's better than being a staunch one :)

#
Matt, in order for your argument about the ability of one firm to set market prices to result in the entire industry’s being able to set prices, you have to take into account the effects of the actions of a firm on itself as well as the actions the other firms will take. The end result of a firm’s choice to produce units beyond the point at which marginal cost exceeds marginal revenue, that firm will lose money.

right, and so on the aggregate the competitive market behaves exactly as does the monopoly- by setting price at marginal cost and revenue. As you correctly point out, assuming otherwise assumes that the firms will behave irrationally.

Anyway, nobody is even claiming that one firm can’t affect the market price; it’s certainly not a pillar of the argument against the sustainability of artificial monopolies. The claim you want to be arguing against is this: the incentive for a member of a cartel to defect is very high.

it's one of the two assumptions behind the neoclassical argument- it's certainly a main pillar. The point you raise assumes that price setting is different between perfect competition and monopolies- that there'd be something to defect from. I'm unconvinced of this.

Stefan: Even assuming that

Stefan:

Even assuming that a “slavery contract” is compatible with ancap (which is a matter of some dispute), I don’t see how this scenario presents a problem.

it certainly doesn't have to be slavery for the idea to still be intuitively problematic. It could just be scrubbing toilets for 1 cent a day and some bread or something.

Are you implying there is some kind of enforceable obligation to transport the guy 100 miles? (Calling him a “child” is rather a bit much don’t you think?) If you are, then your philosophy of “meaningful self-determination” doesn’t seem very appealing to me.

Read my response in which I address this point. I'm not trying to solve this delimma- I'm trying to point to the intuitive primacy of MSD over negative freedom. Of course if I asserted rights like the one suggested you wouldn't find it appealing- because you really don't want to. How I think this situation should be solved has nothing to with with a theory of meaningful self determination.

Not sure what you think repressive Islamic states have to do with libertarianism, other than being their antithesis.

Can you read? It's a case in which negative freedom is minimized (meaning I sort of agree with you about it being the antithesis of ancap theories, so don't bother trying to get snooty) yet meaningful self determination exists. It's a part of a larger thought experiment designed to establish a common ethical goal that we can all focus on.

Sure, if you define “freedom” as the amount of resources you have and values you can achieve. For example, I could increase my own “freedom” by taking all your stuff.

I don't know how that would increase your freedom substantially. You're either free to take my stuff or your aren't, independent of whether you do it. I'm not defining freedom as resources- I'm defining it (more or less) as the reasonable ability to accomplish that which you want to do.

Will other people be free to pursue their own values in your MSD (LSD?)-based world?

is that supposed to be a burn?

Or will their resources be confiscated in order to increase the “meaningful self-determination” of others?

there are two questions: what's the ethical goal and how do we get there? Accept that MSd is the ethical goal and then we can debate about how to get there, because you'll have plenty of opportunity to disagree on that one (and plenty of chances for you to teach me how to pepper my posts with sweet insults; "ancap? More like... Dunce cap!!! Heyyo!")

I don’t think anyone has an enforceable duty to act as a transportation service, and I don’t think anybody has the moral authority to dominate others to become an emir.

well that's well and good, because niether of those are what's at issue here. What's at issue the primacy of MSD over negative freedom.

I'll get around to solving

I'll get around to solving the delimma of my thought experiment at some point, even though I'd stress that it's irrlevent to my case. Anti-utilitarian thought experiments like the public hanging of an innocent man who's widely presumed to be guilty are worthwhile and don't depend on:

a. the situation actually happening
or
b. the ability of the critic to solve the delimma

Part of the reason I'm being asked to solve is so that if I'd answer with "people have a right to be driven" everyone can just shut off their brain because we all know that once we grant transportation rights to people we'll all end up in the gulags or dead. Hayek said so. So I'm going to hold off for now (though I'll go ahead and mention that my solution wouldn't be to force the estate owners to drive the guy off the land) in hopes that we can discuss the actual concept with open minds.

Matt wrote: "Part of the

Matt wrote: "Part of the reason I’m being asked to solve is so that if I’d answer with “people have a right to be driven” everyone can just shut off their brain because we all know that once we grant transportation rights to people we’ll all end up in the gulags or dead."

Or, we just want to see if you believe that coercion in favor of MSD is right or wrong.

Well Eric, I'd say you're

Well Eric, I'd say you're still coming from a position in which negative freedoms (freedom from coercion) is held to have primacy over MSD.

Matt, if MSD involves

Matt, if MSD involves setting aside negative freedoms, coercion, loss of life, liberty or property, then it's pointless to talk about it.

Eric- there's a great reason

Eric-
there's a great reason to talk about- open your mind a little. MSD doesn't neccesarily require coercion at all- I would personally argue that your definition of coercion isn't the best one. Consequentialist libertarians, however, could easily argue that free markets increase MSD and that negative freedoms are prerequisites of freemarkets, therefore... You get the picture. I debate on libertarian boards because I respect the Libertarian commitment to reason, and the fact that I don't usually run into arguments like "well if your argument will make me think differently I don't want to talk about it." Don't be that guy- you're obviously bright.

Matt, re: one firm's not

Matt, re: one firm's not being able to set the market price:

"it’s one of the two assumptions behind the neoclassical argument- it’s certainly a main pillar. The point you raise assumes that price setting is different between perfect competition and monopolies- that there’d be something to defect from. I’m unconvinced of this."

No, it's not an assumption at all; it's more of a theorem. And the theorem is that one firm cannot affect the price very much or for very long, not that they cannot affect it at all. You're just setting up a straw man by saying that neoclacissists claim that one firm cannot affect the market price. That's fine if you just want to hear yourself talk, but I'm really interested in effecting social change.

In this case, the servant has violated the child’s rights by having a child when he could not afford to provide the child any sort of meaningful self determination.

I’d say you’re probably right here, but that doesn’t help the child at all. Such a rights violation is probably mitigated by the fact that the parents couldn’t afford birth control or an abortion…

Actually, it's not mitigated by it at all. People do not have the right to engage in activities they know can result in particular consequences then cry "necessity" when stuck with the consequences of their actions. However, it is very likely that in a free market adoptions would be very easy to come by, as would birth control and abortion. There is no reason for "the pill" to cost more than $5-$10/mo. How much does it cost from Planned Parenthood already?

If the estate owner decides to transport the child to the market, they are performing charity work.

Under your theory, yes. And if they don’t they have done nothing wrong correct?

Well, yeah, but that doesn't mean I'd really like them very much.

If the child were to agree to go into slavery, I’m not sure such an agreement would be considered enforceable in a negative-rights-enforcing society due to the child’s situation at the time, but even if custom did render the contract enforceable, it would still be the servant who was responsible for the rights violation.

As for the latter, what good would that do the child? But as for your former point, I’d like to know on what grounds you’d reject such a contract. The child freely agreed to it, it’s “better” than the alternative of the child starving to death out in a field while walking off the estate, and in fact by agreeing not shoot the child for trespassing if he doesn’t agree to the slavery contract the estate owners can congratulate themselves for the ultimate in libertarian charity.

Your questions about what good various things do the child aren't really compelling. All things don't have to be good for all people. What good does it do anyone other than the child for the estate owner to be forced to transport the child to the market? Actually, hmmm... gee, the estate owner, if he is smart, would transport the child on credit, to be paid out of future earnings with some interest. It doesn't even have to be charity work.

As for my rejecting or accepting a contract, that's not my place, hence my reference to custom. Contract law in the United States (and probably English common law) allows people to get out of contracts on the basis of duress, mistake, or.. umm, I can't remember the third reason. It's actually pretty hard for me to imagine a court enforcing such an agreement in any free society unless there were a strong custom toward enforcing all contracts where there was not direct use of force involved. I don't really know of any society like that though. The RIAA might like things to be that way, but that doesn't mean they are or ever will be.

Children aren’t something that just happen and over which we have no control. People need to stop thinking of them that way and start taking responsibility for their choice to reproduce.

I don’t disagree with you here. From the Child’s perspective though, this does him no good.

Neither does a world in which people are incented not to think about their choice before choosing to have a child. A world where dirt poor people have kids because they need them to work the fields, and they have a bunch of them because half of them are going to die is very bad for children. What about those kids, Matt?
Do you really hate children that much? :roll:

Matt27, I'm not the guy who

Matt27,

I'm not the guy who argues that if your position will make me change my mind I don't want to think about it. I'm not a consequentialist libertarian, in the same sense that I'm not a neo-classicist. There are quite a few similarities, but I'm neither of those things.

What I said was that I see no reason to discuss something that apparently involves coercion and/or a loss of rights to life, liberty or property. Now, if it actually doesn't, and those negative freedoms are protected, it's worth discussing.

You’re just setting up a

You’re just setting up a straw man by saying that neoclacissists claim that one firm cannot affect the market price. That’s fine if you just want to hear yourself talk, but I’m really interested in effecting social change.

If you think neoclassical economics is a straw man then I'm with you. Not everyone thinks so, however, and so sometimes you have to argue it. Since noone has made the case on here I simply assumed that the case was the oft-cited neoclassical inefficiency argument.

Actually, it’s not mitigated by it at all. People do not have the right to engage in activities they know can result in particular consequences then cry “necessity” when stuck with the consequences of their actions. However, it is very likely that in a free market adoptions would be very easy to come by, as would birth control and abortion. There is no reason for “the pill” to cost more than $5-$10/mo. How much does it cost from Planned Parenthood already?

Planned parenthood is on a donation system, and it's free if you don't have much money. If they don't have money and can't get off the estate they don't have access to BC. That simple. Expecting people not have sex is unreasonable and ridiculous- wring your hands all you want, it's not a reasonable or expectable solution. And again I'd mention that the child is done no good by assigning responsibility to his mother who has no money.

Well, yeah, but that doesn’t mean I’d really like them very much.

Well me neither.

our questions about what good various things do the child aren’t really compelling. All things don’t have to be good for all people.

They should be compelling- the argument completely rests on this persons well-being- his chance to make something of himself. Any argument which simply ascribes repsonsibility to a party which can do nothing doesn't solve, because it's no better than saying "he's responsible for himself." The thought experiment is about a situation that's clearly unjust for an individual as he is unfree through no fault of his own, even though he has tremendous negative freedom. Saying "god did it to him" is completely meaningless unless we propose a situation in which God has something to offer him to rememdy the sitation.

What good does it do anyone other than the child for the estate owner to be forced to transport the child to the market? Actually, hmmm… gee, the estate owner, if he is smart, would transport the child on credit, to be paid out of future earnings with some interest. It doesn’t even have to be charity work.

Maybe, maybe not. It may be in the estate owner's best interest to own a slave and so they're reluctant to give the child additional options (though they certainly wouldn't impinge upon his technical "freedon" being, as they are, libertarian true-believers.)

I don’t really know of any society like that though. The RIAA might like things to be that way, but that doesn’t mean they are or ever will be.

We're arguing principles of negative freedom here though- not US law. If there's no freedom-based reason for the contract to be rejected then we still have a problem, because we're counting on the state to override or remedy a sitation which is the natural working out of maximized negative freedom in a free market.

Neither does a world in which people are incented not to think about their choice before choosing to have a child. A world where dirt poor people have kids because they need them to work the fields, and they have a bunch of them because half of them are going to die is very bad for children. What about those kids, Matt?

Such incentives are terrible, as I mentioned in my response to Steve. Any just society, in maximizing MSD, would minimize such situations because they result in part out of a lack of practical freedom. FOr example, such a situation may occur because the worker feels he will soon be unable to work because of a medical condition but could get no job other than tending the fields... That's another example of alot of Neg freedom but very little MSD.

Matt

I’m not the guy who

I’m not the guy who argues that if your position will make me change my mind I don’t want to think about it. I’m not a consequentialist libertarian, in the same sense that I’m not a neo-classicist. There are quite a few similarities, but I’m neither of those things.

Okay fine. I'm just saying that MSd is a theory of ethical consideration. The practical questions of how to maximize it are important but unrelated to the primacy of the moral theory. I detect a strong current of "is this a safe idea for me to agree with" on this thread.

What I said was that I see no reason to discuss something that apparently involves coercion and/or a loss of rights to life, liberty or property. Now, if it actually doesn’t, and those negative freedoms are protected, it’s worth discussing.

it doesn't neccesarily. It may or it may not. That's a matter for discussion, but as I point out if you accept the general thrust of the argument you should consider changing your definitions of coercion.

Matt, I'm not saying

Matt, I'm not saying negative rights are a solution to the problem you propose but that they will make it rare, while government intervention makes it common.

I don't expect people not to have sex, but if people choose to produce a child, they can sure as heck take responsibility for it. Either use birth control, give up the child for adoption, don't have sex, or you will be responsible for causing the suffering of a child. End of story. If somehow "society" (as opposed to charity) must step in to help out that child, then the parent's failure to do so should be treated as a crime, and restitution should be extracted as it would for any other crime creating similar liability, with the same sort of means of handling people who can't pay their liabilities. No bankrupty here, since it's criminal.

A free society *must* treat the choice to have a child as a *choice*. It *must* hold parents fully accountable for that choice. One way to very strongly mitigate the problems from this is to allow sale of parental rights. That's right. Selling babies. Not into slavery, but to parents who are willing to pay to have a child to raise. There are plenty of them. Then there will be no excuse for keeping a child you can't afford to provide MSD to. It's really crappy for people to be able to get away with excuses like "adoption is too hard" or "I couldn't bear to give the child up." You couldn't bear to give your child a better life? I have no sympathy for that whatsoever. In fact, I'm getting incredibly angry even talking about it. I feel like going out and shooting a few deadbeat parents. In fact, I'm getting a little pissed at you Matt for even daring to try to transfer some of that responsibility on to the parent's employer, or "society," or whatever.

If we change things a bit so that the parents are now both dead or somehow unreachable, it seems fairly obvious to me that people are going to consider the child a worthy cause and charities will do plenty to make sure he has his MSD. Honestly, if charities wouldn't provide that sort of thing, and you can prove it to me, I will shift my efforts toward bringing about the destruction of humanity, not forcible wealth transfers. In fact, the "destruction of humanity" thing is the whole reason I am such a believer in negative rights; if negative rights aren't enough humanity is not worthy of survival.

In fact, I’m getting a

In fact, I’m getting a little pissed at you Matt for even daring to try to transfer some of that responsibility on to the parent’s employer, or “society,” or whatever.

you're crazy. I'm talking about the welfare of this child- I haven't said one word excusing the parents. The point is simple ( you probably realize this, as you're having to do backflips to avoid it)- negative freedoms are not what we want to give people. What we want people to have is MSD, and the child example merely illustrates this.

I'm not avoiding it.

I'm not avoiding it. Negative freedoms are the only way to achieve MSD. Every positive right can be rephrased as a double negative right. The child's right to be transported to the market means I have no right not to transport that child to market. That way lies tyranny. Whatever you're trying to illustrate, you've picked a bad example. It's a fine example of the desirability of charity but not of much else. Find me an example where I can't easily deny the existence of any positive right.

If I misled anyone into

If I misled anyone into thinking that my support of MSD meant that I felt that people didn't have a right not to be forced to provide MSD for others, I apologize. I don't support trying to force people to give MSD to others, because that will not actually result in more people having MSD; it has been proven time and time again to result in less.

Matt, I have to concur with

Matt, I have to concur with Sean. Nothing your saying convinces me that this is anything but another way to tell people what they should do, control their actions and deprive them of their own choices in favor of promoting the outcome that someone else thinks is best. You've re-worked a bunch of old ideas that I didn't agree with and clothed them with new terms. Most of what I'm hearing from you are ideas that have resulted in some of the worst tragedies and tyrannies of all time. The positive rights and consequentialism of the 19th century was the underpinning of socialism, communism and fascism. This seems like a variant of the theory that it didn't work before because we just didn't do it right.

I tried to tell you earlier that I'm not a libertarian consequentialist. More important than the libertarian part of that is that I'm not a consequentialist. That's not absolutely true, of course. Given the right conditions, everyone will follow a path based on desired outcome. But, except for extreme situations (defusing the nuke requires me to kill someone, for example), I don't accept that consequentialism is the answer, because it has been demonstrated not to be the answer too many times.

So, show me how your arguments are any different from that of any other elite that thinks it knows better for the average joe than joe does, and I'll listen. But nothing you've written so far dissuades me from the view I currently have.

Negative freedoms are the

Negative freedoms are the only way to achieve MSD. Every positive right can be rephrased as a double negative right. The child’s right to be transported to the market means I have no right not to transport that child to market. That way lies tyranny. Whatever you’re trying to illustrate, you’ve picked a bad example. It’s a fine example of the desirability of charity but not of much else. Find me an example where I can’t easily deny the existence of any positive right.

There's nothing magic about negative rights- they can be just as intrusive as positive ones. Suppose that you and I have the right not to have a bald man within 20 miles of us. That's a purely negative right, but it's probably much more instrusive that the "positive" right of having a bald man forced to hi-five me whenever I see one. The disctinction that says I prefer negative rights is arbitrary, and should be handled case by case. For instance- your preference for property rights is incredibly invasive- it requires constant intervention to ensure property rights and it's more or less arbitrary. Can it be argued for? SUre it can, just like any other invasive right can be argued for. So here's a question- can a wealthy landowner who's letting his land lie fallow (i.e. he hasn't mixed it with his labor) have a right to it? What if it was originally stolen from a native american, and so the title is clouded? Does he still have a right to it? Now say that there's a starving farmer who just wants to use the land to subsistence farm to feed his family. The landowner says no and gives him a copt of "anarchy state and utopia"... what then?

Well if you answer as I suspect and bite the bullet then you're far more dogmatic than anyone I know. On what principle is the landowners right based? I'm not interested in getting into the argument of whether negative freedoms are the best way to increase MSD, until we recongize that MSD takes precedent over negative freedoms. We should discuss problems in terms of how the contribute to the self-determination of both parties. As I've just shown, demostrating their freedom is meaningless.

Matt, you are talking

Matt, you are talking nonsense. I have said "only negative rights" not "any negative rights." You are building up and burning down straw men again. While it may be a fun exercise for you, it doesn't accomplish anything as far as the discussion goes.

There is nothing magical about negative rights. There *is* something magical about positive rights: they make negative rights and MSD disappear. Magically.

There’s nothing magic

There’s nothing magic about negative rights- they can be just as intrusive as positive ones. Suppose that you and I have the right not to have a bald man within 20 miles of us. That’s a purely negative right, but it’s probably much more instrusive that the “positive” right of having a bald man forced to hi-five me whenever I see one.

Can you even read Matt27? I don't think that matches the notion of negative rights that libertarians defend. :juggle:

What we want people to have is MSD, and the child example merely illustrates this.

There you go again with this "we" stuff again. I frankly don't give a rat's ass about your MSD, but you should certainly be free to increase it with your own resources if you want to.

Will other people be free to pursue their own values in your MSD (LSD?)-based world?

is that supposed to be a burn?

Why, yes, it is. You're advocating coercion because you think it will help improve meaningful (sic) self-determination. Coercing people involves interfering with their values in a rather invasive way, and people in general ought to take no part in it.