Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sharing

Economist Steven Landsburg has a predeliction for using his daughter as a foil for espousing some of his crackpot theories. He imagines, for example, that she was amazingly precocious because she, as a five year-old, could echo his disapprobation of the income tax. In his book Fair Play (pg 8), for example, he cites her as some sort of primal authority for finding forced sharing unnatural and morally repugnant. Income taxes, of course, are an example of that kind of forced sharing.

Landsburg is probably too unself-aware, or otherwise clueless, to realize that there has probably never been a human society in which some sort of forced sharing has not existed. The highly egalitarian bands of hunter-gatherers, for example, make some kinds of compulsory sharing a cornerstone of their social order. Successful hunters tend not to be any more enthusiastic about dividing up their large animal kills with every Tom, Dick and Harry in the band than we are about paying taxes, but they learn early to be humble and comply, or pay the penalty. The return they get is indirect - the share they get when somebody else makes a big score. Those who can't, or won't pay the penalty of shame or ultimately expulsion from the band or worse.

In more hierarchical societies, workers are forced to share the fruits of their labors with rent-seeking officials, property "owners" or others. Of course Landsburg would probably approve any such compulsions originating in some concept of contract or ownership, but I see little difference.

It won't be news to regular readers that I consider Landsburg to be the most clueless type of libertarian idiot, but if he doesn't like the rules, he should leave. Maybe he could join Galt in his mountain fastness.