To Canada, IS is a reservoir of Ebola, not an army of Orcs

Or: Fanning the flames of fear for political gain

Canada has recently suffered two IS-inspired terrorist attacks.  Each was carried out by a Canadian citizen acting alone, was poorly planned, and resulted in the tragic death of Canadian military personnel and the not-so-tragic death of the attacker.  Each attacker acted on inspiration from a recent call-to-arms from the IS terrorist organization in the middle east.  The most recent attack struck inside Canada’s Parliament Buildings while members of parliament (including the Prime Minister) were present.  As such, it caused quite a scare among our elected officials and drew attention to lax security on Parliament Hill.

A shrill battle cry

Notwithstanding the scare he received, I was disgusted by our Prime Minister’s public reaction to the attacks.  Whereas the British were relatively calm and measured in their response to the 7/7 London bombings, Prime Minister Harper struck a shrill and fearsome tone much in the style of George W. Bush’s reaction to the 9/11 attacks in the US and the ensuing “war on terror”.  In early statements, Harper refers to these crimes as “attack[s] on our soil” and asserts that Canada will

fight against the terrorist organizations who brutalize those in other countries with the hope of bringing their savagery to our shores.

This kind of talk conjures an image of a vast army of Orcs invading our country.  We are made to feel as though we are suffering an existential threat, that it’s us or them, that we are engeged in all-out war against an enemy with a realistic chance of wiping us out.  I feel like I’ve been primed for the loss of liberty and for military conscription.

Is IS really responsible?

The reality is that these attacks were not carried out by IS, but rather by incompetent lunatics who were inspired by calls to action from IS.  There is a difference.  If I were to post a call to violence in any of countries A, B, C, or D on this blog tomorrow, and if some lunatic I’ve never met in country C heeded this call and killed someone, then in what sense have I committed an act of terrorism against country C?  Have I also committed acts of terrorism against A, B, and D, even if no one there heeded my call?

Granted, unlike some blog idiot such as myself, IS has demonstrated the repeated ability to draw out attackers in other countries.  Canada is therefore justified in retaliating against IS in self defense, even if there were no better reason.  IS is not directly responsible for the attacks in Canada; at most, IS is only indirectly responsible.

IS as Ebola: the right way to react

In any case, IS emphatically is not an invading army that threatens our very existence.  Our government ought to save the shrill battle cries for the real thing.

Instead, IS should be viewed as a reservoir of Ebola that has managed to infect a couple of Canadians.  It is grim and tragic that that innocent Canadians have died as a result of this infection.  Canada should take steps to drain the reservoir.  The need to sacrifice freedom or privacy and to give law enforcement a freer hand in the fight against this disease has not been demonstrated.  There is no need to panic.

Indeed, one of IS’s goals is to instill fear in the hearts of Canadians.  The recent attacks have certainly instilled fear, but Harper’s reaction only adds to that fear.  The correct response is to diminish fear, thus foiling the objectives of the terrorists, and not to increase fear, which instead helps our enemies achieve their goals.  The British attempted to diminish fear after 7/7.  Harper has increased fear and thus rendered aid to the enemy.  (Where have I heard that phrase before?)

Political strategy: never change your government in wartime

Why has Harper chosen a shrill, war-on-terror reaction that helps our enemy as opposed to a calm and solemn reaction that would hurt our enemy?  A common explanation for the battle cry is that it consolidates power in the incumbent.  Society rarely turfs its leaders in a time of war.  People are more willing to sacrifice for the greater good, giving government a freer hand to pursue its agenda.

The battle cry also plays to the Conservative base, which includes xenophobic, law-and-order types.  Situations such as this are ideal times to pander to that base by passing legislation that would never get passed in peacetime.  Indeed, Harper has already declared:

Our laws and police powers need to be strengthened in the area of surveillance, detention and arrest. … [W]ork which is already under way will be expedited.

This explanation also perfectly predicts the reactions of the opposition parties: Tom Mulcair (leader of the leftist NDP) refuses to call the incidents “terrorist attacks”, preferring instead the more subdued label, “crimes”.  The Liberals (a centrist party) began by referring to the attackers as “criminals” but then switched to “terrorists” after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police issued statements using the latter term.  Both opposition parties have taken a calm (and largely correct) approach to the situation.  If only they’d done it for reasons nobler than partisan political gain.

That explanation is very cynical, but I confess I cannot think of a better one.

Digression: etymology

Incidentally, I initially thought that these acts are crimes but not terrorism.  But the definition of “terrorism” applies here: “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.”

I think the confusion is caused by changes in the society’s interpretation of the word.  Ever since 9/11, “terrorism” is associated with well-planned attacks directly coordinated by foreign extremists that cause mass destruction.  Naturally, Conservatives can use this confusion to their benefit.  They can force opposition to use the word by pointing to its formal definition with full knowledge that society hears a message that’s well-tuned to Conservative strategy.

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The absurdity of Ontario’s monopoly on beer

A concise and especially clever editorial that lays bare the absurdity of Ontario’s long-standing government protected private monopoly on the sale of beer.  I actually laughed out loud.  Excerpt:

[W]hy stop at The Beer Store? Why not offer the same deal to other companies that wouldn’t mind cornering their markets? How much would you pay for a monopoly in your line of business? …  Behold the future: The Beer Store. The Fast Food Store. Lattes and espressos only available at The Coffee Store. Shoes on sale at only one retailer: The Shoe Store. You get the idea. Each would be a monopoly granted to the highest bidder, with the freedom to operate untroubled by the forces of the market, in exchange for the payment of billions of dollars to the government.

In mathematics, an argument like that is called reductio ad absurdum.  QED.

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Politicians above copyright law in Canada

According to recent news, Canada’s governing Conservative Party plans to sneak some non-budget legislation on copyright law into its forthcoming omnibus budget bill.  Specifically, the Conservatives will change the Copyright Act to allow “free use of ‘news’ content in political advertisement” while removing “the need for broadcasters to authorize the use of their news content.”  And, to rub our faces in it, they remind us that, “During an election, broadcasters must provide a certain amount of advertising time to political parties.”  (Quotes are allegedly from a cabinet memo leaked to Canadian media.)

In other words, political parties will soon be forcing Canadian news media to air political ads that use their own copyrighted material without permission or compensation.

To be fair, news media always cry bloody-murder when someone steps on their toes.  Still, it’s hard to imagine a reasonable explanation for this kind of behaviour.

Trading the rule of law for petty gain

The Conservatives firmly support strong copyright law and have used their new-found majority power in parliament to finally ram through some long sought-after amendments to Canada’s Copyright Act.  Moreover, the party has advocated for strong intellectual property (IP) laws in negotiation of international trade agreements.

It is incredibly crass to breach the edifice of equality before the law for such a petty and self-serving purpose.  No wonder Conservatives worry less than others about the adverse effects of strong IP law: whenever a situation arises in which they might suffer the consequences of their own laws, they simply legislate themselves an exemption.

If I were to dole out an exemption from copyright law, my first choice would not be for political parties.  Surely, there are much nobler organizations that also deserve exemptions from strong copyright law.  Where’s my exemption?

Political strategy: they know we don’t care enough

Given the reputation the Conservatives have cultivated for strong IP law and the rule of law in general, it seems incredibly stupid strategy to tarnish that reputation with such an obviously self-serving exemption.  Presumably, they believe that dirty moves such copyright exemptions or the supreme court fiasco anger only a tiny niche of non-Conservatives and that most swing voters will fail to notice or forget about it come election time.  They’re probably right.

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Schools in Ontario could benefit from some competition—any competition

As our children approach schooling age my partner and I have begun to research the options available to us for educating them.  We are skeptical of the efficacy of conventional public schools here in Ontario and we would like to learn more about these schools so that we may be better informed when it comes time to make that important decision: do we take the cheap-and-easy option and send our kids to public school, or do we make the expensive-and-time-consuming choice for an alternative such as private school or home-schooling?

N.A. MacEachern refuses to offer any useful information

To this end my partner contacted our local public school, N.A. MacEachern, to book an appointment to view a class in session and/or speak with a teacher at the school—pretty basic stuff, really.  It’s the kind of thing one might expect any responsible parent to ask of the place to which they are expected to send their children for 35 hours each week, year after year.

To our surprise, the school’s principal, Ms. Raymond, denied us on both counts.  We cannot view a class in session because such a viewing is a violation of privacy.  We cannot talk to a teacher because, as Ms. Raymond says, “we don’t want our teachers to feel like they’re being interviewed.”

Keenly aware of the danger of making a nuisance of ourselves to the school’s administration, my partner tactfully asked the principal for suggestions as to how we might learn more about the school, given that she shot down both our ideas.  To assuage our concerns about the quality of education at N.A. MacEachern, Ms. Raymond suggests that we view the province-wide elementary school curriculum and judge for ourselves.  She also suggests that we adopt an ex post facto approach to the decision: put our children in public school, then pull them out if we discover that we are not satisfied.

Want to learn about the quality of one of our schools? No need to visit or talk to us—just look at the provincial curriculum.

Attacking a straw man

Clearly, Ms. Raymond has thrown us a straw man.  It is now my solemn duty to demolish it in public.

First of all, referring us to the province-wide curriculum is incredibly insulting.  To put this suggestion into perspective, suppose you want to buy a house and imagine a seller telling you, “You don’t need to see the house or talk to me.  You can learn everything you need to know about this house just by looking at the Building Code of Ontario.”

Second, Ms. Raymond’s advocacy of ex post facto decision making is ridiculous.  It is terribly disruptive to a child to put her into a new school only to yank her out again.  Moreover, private schools will not hold a place for the child just in case the public system doesn’t work out (unless her parents are willing to pay tuition to keep the place open).  Clearly, it’s much better for all parties if the parents can do their research ahead of time and avoid these pitfalls.  Given that these facts are obvious to everyone, how could Ms. Raymond possibly have offered her suggestion to us with a straight face?

Public schools have cornered the market

How can N.A. MacEachern expect to win our business if the school offers us no way to evaluate its product?  Oh, wait.  They don’t need to win our business—they already have it by force of law.

Our tax dollars are used to pay our children’s tuition at a public school regardless of whether we actually send them to one.  This subsidy gives public schools a grossly unfair advantage in the competition against alternatives.  Faced with a decision between paying once for a crappy education and paying twice for a good one, cash-strapped parents will opt for the crap.  We all suffer for it.

Even worse, in Waterloo (as in many other places in North America) the school to which a child is sent is dictated by the postal address of that child’s parents.  This lack of choice fosters an attitude of belligerence and entitlement in the administrators of our public schools.  Don’t like what we have to offer?  Too bad!  I guess you’ll have to shell out for a private school, or quit your job and home-school your children.  Good luck, sucker!  Thanks for your tax dollars.

In Saskatoon, public schools actually compete

I happen to know that in Saskatoon parents are free to send their children to any public school they wish and that public schools are funded on a per-student basis.  As a result, public schools in that city fall all over themselves to attract students, and that means engaging with parents.

It’s amazing how quickly concerns over privacy disappear when schools must compete to win students: every last public school in Saskatoon is happy to arrange viewings of in-session classes for prospective parents.  Similarly, if there are any teachers in Saskatoon who don’t like the feeling of being “interviewed” by parents, they’ve learned to suck it up for the sake of their schools.

The comparison between Saskatoon and Waterloo is very stark.  It’s amazing what a little competition can do to improve the the availability of information about a given public school.  As a bonus, parents in Saskatoon have greater freedom to choose the best education for their children.  Why won’t Waterloo do the same for its children?

When schools compete, children win

At a bare minimum, Ontario should follow Saskatoon’s lead and offer parents more than one public school option.  Given that competition works so well to improve parents’ access to information, I can’t help but wonder what miracles might evolve if schools were free to compete along other dimensions, too.  For example, I can’t even imagine the possibilities that would open up if government would only stop dictating curriculum.  And why does government stack the deck against alternatives to public school? Our choices are severely limited, and needlessly so.  Schools ought to compete with one another in as many dimensions as possible.

[Thanks to Greta James for proofreading an earlier draft and for suggesting the clever comparison to the Ontario Building Code.]

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If you’re going to be monarchist then at least be logically consistent about it

John Matheson, the person who designed Canada’s distinctive maple leaf flag in 1964, died last week.  Stephen Harper, Canada’s current prime minister, marked the occasion by honouring Matheson in an official Twitter post: “Canada has lost a great public servant today.”

These are strange words coming from a prime minister whose government has made a theme of promoting the British monarchy in Canada.  Like most British colonies, Canada’s flag before 1964 prominently sported the Union Jack.  Matheson’s design replaced that symbol of British colonialism with the maple leaf.  (By contrast, the Australians still fly the Union Jack to this day.)

Canada’s flag prior to 1965. Note the symbol of British colonialism in the upper left corner.

One would think that a loyal monarchist would view Canada’s ditching the Union Jack as a flagrant act of treason against the beloved British crown.  By definition, Harper must view Matheson as a traitor, not a “great public servant.”  To do otherwise is to defy logical consistency.  If today’s Harper were active in 1964 then it seems only natural that he would oppose any Canadian flag design that does not include the Union Jack.  Yet here he is today celebrating Matheson’s snub against the motherland.

Of course, politics is never about logical consistency.  Harper’s hypocritical homage to Matheson is little more than another attempt by a slimy politician to score some cheap political points with flag-loving proles.  Case closed. 

Why do Conservatives support the British crown?

The question that interests me is: Why on earth have the Conservatives chosen to make the promotion of the British crown an ongoing theme of their government?

The answer, presumably, is shrewd political strategy, for which the Conservative Party of Canada is renown.  Yet I cannot see from inside my own bubble how this choice could possibly win the Conservatives more supporters than it loses.

My intuition is that any supporter of the monarchy is probably already a Conservative sympathizer who needs no further wooing.  On the other hand, I feel that there must be a gaggle of liberty and free-market types out there who might vote Conservative except that they’ve been soured by the Party’s frivolous support of a symbol of subordination (to say nothing of the Party’s freedom-crushing stances on other, more important issues such as the legalization of marijuana or intellectual property law).

Presumably, Conservative strategists have a better idea than I do of how elections are won.  Accordingly, it must be the case that, despite my intuition, Canadians really and truly like the British monarchy.  The question then becomes: Why on earth do Canadians like the British monarchy?

Why does anyone support the British crown?

The case against a hereditary monarchy such as Britain’s practically makes itself.  The very idea that an unelected ruler should gain legal authority over others for no other reason than having been born into the right family is ridiculous.  Monarchy and democracy are mutually exclusive—to support one is to oppose the other.  Take your pick, Harper.

Thankfully, Britain’s monarchy has long since lost any semblance of real power—a necessary step on that nation’s long historical path to its current status as a relatively free and just society.  (Disturbingly though, Britain’s House of Lords still has a small surviving bastion of actual inherited power.)

Toothless monarchies such as Britain’s are often euphemistically called “constitutional” monarchies—a polite way of acknowledging that the only duties of modern royalty are ceremonial and that their real job nowadays is to provide gossip for tabloids.  (Indeed, even otherwise serious newspapers such as The Globe and Mail can’t resist the lure of Kate Middleton’s mysteriously disappearing grey hair.)

Bejeweled parasites

Why the British, let alone Canadians, choose to fund the Royal farce is beyond me.  Canada spends $50 million taxpayer dollars per year supporting the monarchy.  Even the Conservative-friendly Maclean’s magazine admits that we pay more per person to support the British crown than the Brits do.  On top of that, the Harper government spent an extra $7.5 million in 2012 to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s meaningless ascension to the British throne.

What have we to show for our money?  Why does a Conservative government, which prides itself on fiscal discipline, continue to waste our money supporting the reputation of an incredibly wealthy family of tabloid celebrities on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean?

The flag of logical consistency

If our prime minister were truly serious about his support of the British crown, he would relinquish his own hard-won political power to the House of Windsor.  A good place to start would be restoring the Union Jack in Matheson’s treacherous banner.

Flag_of_Canada-Union_Jack

If Harper loves the monarchy so much then he ought to relinquish the British territory upon which Matheson has infringed.

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Schelling points and immigration

I just read A positive account of rights, which is a draft of a new chapter by David Friedman for the upcoming third edition of his book, The machinery of freedom.

In this chapter, Friedman offers an explanation as to how a peaceful, civil society might arise absent a government that backs its law with a credible threat of enforcement.  His explanation is that any given society will have its own Schelling points—ways of allocating rights that somehow appear unique or special to the preponderance of society—and that members of the society can credibly commit themselves to bearing an excessive cost in order to defend those points.

To me, this argument is just a fancy way of saying that a society establishes its law by progressing on a path of least resistance from its current state toward a Nash equilibrium: when in Rome, do as the Romans.  The fanciness comes from the following observations:

  1. The “path of least resistance” might include incurring an excessively large cost to oppose deviations from Schelling points.
  2. Schelling points offer an account of rights that does not necessarily depend upon the existence of law or shared morality.

Presumably, Friedman-the-anarchist would like us to conclude that if society is in a stable state of peace, order, and common understanding of the rules then there’s no reason to believe that peace and order could not persist without a government.

[Correction from Friedman: Contrary to my previous statement, Friedman's real purpose in A positive account of rights is "to help make sense of human societies, including both ones with and without states" and to clarify some ideas from the first edition of Machinery.]

In this post I propose a plausible scenario in which government might improve upon anarchy: as an arbiter of Schelling points in case of conflict.

Immigrants ruin everything

Friedman’s new book chapter got me to thinking that a society (especially an anarchist society) stands or falls upon the strength of its Schelling points.  I count myself among the enlightened who believe that immigration to rich countries such as mine is a potent source of prosperity in those countries, yet I can’t help but wonder what would happen in a society (especially an anarchist society!) whose Schelling points are called into question by a sudden influx of people from a culture vastly different from our own.

For example, Waterloo currently has a Schelling point at which ownership of land includes the right to force one’s neighbours to maintain a well-kept lawn on their land.  And woe be to he who attempts to put his lawn to good use by using it to raise chickens.

I happen to find this particular Schelling point offensive and idiotic.  But my entire society is against me, so I keep no chickens and I mow my lawn often enough to keep my neighbours from calling the cops.

Now suppose that Canada allows a sudden influx of Orientals to immigrate, and—at risk of a gross stereotype—suppose for the sake of argument that Orientals are accustomed to raising chickens and that they expect to be able to keep chickens on the land that they own.

As I’ve said before, one can imagine these immigrants’ shock to find that a free country such as Canada would dare to forbid them from practicing their sacred cultural ritual of keeping chickens loose in the yard.  One can imagine their puzzlement at why these Canadians would force people to toil needlessly on their frivolous patches of grass.

As immigrant numbers continue to swell, one can imagine ever bolder challenges to the manicured-lawn Schelling point.  Perhaps a nasty conflict would erupt, with vast resources squandered by each side in the battle over whether chickens should be allowed on private land.

The cost we bear to get our way

In an anarchist society, it’s hard to predict just how bad the conflict might get and how many resources might be squandered.  In theory, there’s nothing to stop a violent conflict from erupting over this silly issue.  (Our grandkids might talk of The Chicken War of 2025.)

By contrast, a dictatorship would keep the peace by threat of insurmountable force against the cranky immigrants.  No point wasting resources on a conflict because the dictator always wins.  Perhaps a benevolent dictator might take into account the shifting tides of popular opinion and issue a dictum that changes the law at an instant, without a drop of blood shed or a dime spent by anyone.

Our current democracy lies somewhere between these two extremes.  One side, if it thinks it has a shot at changing the status quo, could divert lots of resources toward convincing the other side to change its mind, or (more likely) toward the lobbying of politicians.  But if the law is perceived as immutable then no one will bother to try.

The chicken example is a toy example.  But one can replace it with real examples such as abortion, gun control, legalization of drugs, or even murder.  (Friedman likes to tell an amusing story about medieval Icelandic society in which petty theft was considered worse than murder in some situations.  That’s quite an interesting Schelling point!)

In the past Friedman has defined government as an agent of legitimized coercion.  My example with the lawn thing illustrates that government could concievably prevent resources from being wasted on an expensive conflict to change a Schelling point by using its powers of legitimized coercion to pick a winner.

Of course, that power has potential for abuse, leading back to the case for anarchy.  But this post is long enough already.

For some reason that currently escapes me, WordPress won’t allow anyone to comment on this post.  Comments on this post should therefore be directed here.

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Books that opened my eyes: The machinery of freedom

I discovered David Friedman after stumbling across a free draft of his introductory economics text in my efforts to learn something about economics.  I soon discovered that Friedman is also a prominent libertarian and anarchist.  I was sufficiently impressed by Friedman’s writing in Price theory to invest some precious time learning what this anarchy nonsense is all about from his book The machinery of freedom, which is also freely available on his web site.  The book has opened my eyes.

I had never given anarchy much serious thought before I read machinery.  I had always assumed that it is a hopelessly dogmatic ideal advocated only by pin-headed intellectual purists or by misfits seeking license to pillage and rape.

To me, Friedman’s book is a proof-of-concept—a demonstration that anarchy is not completely insane and that it cannot be so easily eliminated from the list of contenders for The Way We Oughtta Do Things, a list that has recently included such familiar ideologies as communism, socialism, fascism, and capitalism.

Privatized law?  Are you crazy?

Anarchy means society without government.  In Friedman’s dream world of anarcho-capitalism, all services including health care, roads and transit, the fire department, and even police and law enforcement are provided by voluntary contract among private parties.  The most extreme form of this dream is no government whatsoever—even the law itself is dictated by the open market.  That’s the part of the book that opened my eyes, so that’s what I’ll discuss in this post.

I despise many of our current laws and I think that governments suck at making them.  But until now I had always taken it for granted that law-by-government is a necessary evil if we are to live in an orderly and free-ish society.  Machinery calls this fundamental assumption into question.

Most people find the idea of privatized law so alien at first glance that they don’t give it a fair shake.  After all, isn’t law supposed to be a reflection of some absolute moral code?  How could we possibly trust the market to tell us what’s right and wrong when the distinction between the two can be bought and sold?

It is not at all clear to me that law really ought to reflect absolute morality, but for the sake of argument let’s grant it as an axiom.  Machinery prompts me to ask: What makes you think that government is any better suited than the free market to codify morality into law?  Most people instinctively answer that a democratic government is accountable to the people and so will produce good laws in the interests of those people, whereas a market composed of individuals acting in their own selfish interests will produce barbaric laws that favour the rich.

I’ll dip my toes into these very deep waters with some off-the-cuff responses to that instinct:

  1. The argument that markets favour the rich while only government can do the right thing has been used (and debunked) in many other contexts besides lawmaking.  For example, one might have similar instincts about the distribution of food, yet we all owe much of our current prosperity to the efficiency of privatized food distribution.  (Can you imagine if the government ran all the grocery stores?)  Given how terrible a job the government does of virtually every task it attempts, isn’t it at least plausible that writing laws might better be handled by the market?
  2. Don’t delude yourself about the purity of law-by-government.  Lots of people readily acknowledge that many laws are already bought and sold by the rich even in most of today’s democracies.  Just think of the tireless lobbying of government by vested interests with deep pockets.
  3. Government laws are prone to a tyranny-of-the-majority problem whereby a majority of people can and do use government to foist their interpretation of morality upon others.  (Just think of all those anti-gay lunatics who fight tooth and nail against gay marriage.)  By contrast, markets provide the ultimate in proportional representation—check out the fascinating case study of legalized heroin below.

Of course, the argument does not end with this cartoon debate.  My real purpose here is to get you thinking twice about your fundamental assumption that law-by-government is the only viable option.

A whole new world of possibilities

Once you get over the initial shock of considering privatized law, it’s fascinating to ponder what could happen.  Friedman describes an excellent thought experiment about the legality of heroin and other drugs in 1970’s America (emphasis mine):

[M]arket demands are in dollars, not votes. The legality of heroin will be determined, not by how many are for or against but by how high a cost each side is willing to bear in order to get its way…

…Most of the population lives in areas where there are very few heroin addicts. For those people the cost of having heroin made illegal locally would be very small; there would be no one on the other side bidding to have it legal. …But people in those areas would have little to gain by paying a much higher price to have heroin illegal in New York as well.

That leaves 8 million New York nonaddicts bidding against 100,000 New York addicts, raising the cost to the nonaddicts of keeping heroin illegal in New York to over $100 a year per person. I predict that, if anarcho-capitalist institutions appeared in this country tomorrow, heroin would be legal in New York and illegal in most other places. Marijuana would be legal over most of the country.

I suppose a similar exercise could be carried out for homosexuality, prostitution, gambling, and any other victimless crime.  One could spend days thinking about the possibilities.

The book addresses much more than what I’ve mentioned thus far, including how privatized law enforcement might work and how different people might agree with one another to obey certain laws.  Friedman also touches on the problem of national defense and the administration of a military.  In this part of the book his tone seems to slip from advocacy to curiosity as he speculates on the possible ways in which these goals might be achieved.  Go read it yourself if you want to know more.  Friedman’s a good writer and it’s well worth the time.

No, I’m not an anarchist (yet)

I’m still not convinced that anarchy is a panacea.  For example, Friedman has not convinced me that anarchist America wouldn’t slide back into slavery, feudalism, or mafia rule.  To me, the breakthrough is not that it’s a convincing argument in favour of anarchy, but rather that it’s a convincing argument in favour of taking anarchy seriously.

Coincidentally, Friedman recently posted some new material for the upcoming third edition of machinery for free on his web page.  I haven’t read it yet and I’m curious to see whether he addresses the potential for slavery, feudalism, etc.

And finally, I can’t help but relate a story of my (hopefully) endearing naiveness.  I was aware of the writings of Milton Friedman before I discovered David Friedman, and at first I thought it a strange coincidence that there are two anti-government free-market crusaders out there with the last name Friedman… until I discovered that David is the son of Milton and Rose.  I wonder how my life might be different if my parents were economists.

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