Sunday, May 06, 2012

Libertarian Reality

Let's add an element of realism to the libertarian fantasy of the previous post. We shall make our ten castaways, and on exploring the island they find themselves on, our hero, (whom I will rename from Able Abel to Cunning Cain), happens upon a pool of a stream, which teams with delicious fish and shrimp. He declares the pool to be his by right of discovery, and proceeds to profit mightily from its bounty. The rest manage to eke out a meager existence by gathering roots, berries, and grubs, except for hapless Hal, who broke his leg during the difficult landing.

Cain loafs a lot, and trades a bit of his excess bounty for the better tasting berries and the sexual favors of the more attractive castaways, and generally has an easy life while Hal starves.

We may apply again our libertarian questions:

1. Do the bottom nine have a right to tax Cain's surplus to support Harry?

2. Suppose Cain only produces enough food to support himself, and relaxes the rest of the day. Do the bottom nine have a right to force Cain to work more to support Harry?

3. Do the bottom nine have a right to tax Cain's surplus to raise everyone's standard of living above subsistence?

4. Suppose Cain only produces enough food to support himself, and relaxes the rest of the day. Do the bottom nine have a right to force Cain to work more to raise everyone's standard of living above subsistence?

This scenario more closely matches the reality of a society where the wealthy live mainly by extracting rents.

I don't want to indulge in the arcane business of adjudicating fairness libertarian style, but I will say how real groups of humans tend to deal with similar situations. Either Cain will make a deal to share at least part of the bounty, or the others will band together to kill Cain or drive him from the pool, at which point a few other possibilities occur, but if there really is bounty for all, it will likely become a common resource.