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> The same argument, though, applies to things like taxation! "Obviously, we need some taxes just to keep society running- roads, water, firefighting..." isn't an uncommon argument from more centrist types, and that tastes exactly the same as "property rights are necessary for civilization".

FWIW there are a large number of places that to this day have an all-volunteer fire department, and there are places with private water companies and private roads. (And having an all-volunteer police force in the same spirit of a volunteer fire department is a thing more places should have -- and avoid all the trouble we get when the police think they're different than regular people.)

Of course, the places with private roads tend to have the road maintenance company end up looking a lot like a local government, in the sense that you either pay your share of the road maintenance or you can't use the only road to your home, which is coercive. But there is still a highly relevant difference in that the road maintenance company doesn't force you to buy into their social insurance programs and pay for their military excursions even if you don't want to. And if you decide you want to be a hermit who never leaves home and doesn't need roads, you don't go to jail for not paying for them.

The difference is the level of coercion that actually exists. Nobody is going to refuse to pay a reasonable road maintenance fee for their own local roads, because the value vastly exceeds the cost. But if the road company tried to claim that in order to use the roads you would have to give them your sons to die in their wars, you would tell them to eat sand and pay the cost of building new roads so you don't have to use theirs. Which, even though very expensive, puts an upper bound on the level of coercion you have to put up with.

That doesn't exist with a government. Even if their demands are completely unreasonable, they have the capacity to make your alternative worse.

> Your options are to die by starvation, get shot, or pay money. Is your choice to continue to live and to pay the money a voluntary one?

You're ignoring the possibility of buying food from someone else. The anti-government argument is fundamentally an anti-monopoly argument. If there is a private monopoly on food then that's just a de facto government which has seized power by controlling the food supply. But if there isn't a monopoly then no one can point a gun at you and force you to pay an arbitrarily large amount of money for necessities, because you can turn around and buy it from any of a hundred others who charge more reasonable prices. Or produce it yourself if you're so inclined.




Oh, I'm not so much arguing for taxes as I am rather rather sort of trying to examine the general libertarian argument that taxation is theft.

I don't even know what my politics are- not "i don't know what to call them" but "I honestly don't know what policies to advocate in general", though they're somewhere to the left of center.

> If the road company tried to claim that in order to use the roads you would have to give them your sons to die in their wars, you would tell them to eat sand and pay the cost of building new roads so you don't have to use theirs. Which, even though very expensive, puts an upper bound on the level of coercion you have to put up with.

This theory sounds good, but I've always seen no guarantee that this can happen in practice, for roads specifically. Space is finite, and roads owned by the fun new road startup can't cross those from the old evil monopoly- they don't own that land, and they're sure not going to get permission to use it to build their own roads! Tunnels are also right out (since if you own the earth under your land, so does the road company). You'd be left in a situation where no land vehicle could access your land - only aircraft. This is, probably, a very expensive situation.

So, while it sounds possible initially, at least for me when I consider the logistics of it, "build your own private roads competing with the other ones" works only in rural areas, and only for point-to-point, relatively short connections. If the Interstate Highway System was owned by an evil organization, could you build your own highway system? Probably not; at some point you'd just have to cross land owned by them.

How do you see this problem being solved in practice? Again, there's something silly about the whole thing, but I can't figure out how it'd play out myself.

> You're ignoring the possibility of buying food from someone else. The anti-government argument is fundamentally an anti-monopoly argument. If there is a private monopoly on food then that's just a de facto government which has seized power by controlling the food supply.

This is interesting, and seems somewhat valid. It does produce a sort of silly conclusion that if you meet a starving man and are his only source of food- say, you're up in the wilderness and he's a lost hiker- you now have seized government power, which doesn't make much sense.

My point, though, was less just "private monopoly bad" but "coercion can and does exist in capitalism in practice". Specifically, there are items for which demand is nonzero and extremely inelastic- an antivenom for the rare Hypothetical Scenario Snake's deadly bite is the only thing that can save you, and a monopoly or cartel could easily form in the pharma industry for such a thing. Given current IP law, which is essentially in the business of granting monopolies... that'd do it right there. But assuming IP wasn't around, you'd almost certainly wind up with a price-fixing cartel.

Now, everybody knows cartels are unstable- it's basic game theory. But there's a stabilizing influence- the "cartel game" is not played only once. Rather, it's more like the iterated prisoner's dilemma. As a group of pharma companies fix prices on drug after drug, they come to know each other better- undercutting the cartel, they know, would mean losses for them both, and they can develop trust that they won't themselves be undercut.

And specifically in pharma, where investments in manufacturing can be quite high, the threat of a startup who isn't trustworthy, entering the game is low.

All considered, these make the pharma industry, in the absence of regulation, prime for cartels to form. And these cartels would have, economically, no incentive to set prices for life-saving drugs lower than "whatever your life's worth to you".

So- in this sort of situation, if there were two people selling antivenom, both asking an exorbitant price, and the startup costs keep any competitor out (and remember, the potential new entrant knows quite well that they need to undercut the cartel to succeed, which means they'll be in a race to the bottom with two more-experienced competitors, which means they'll...probably not have a good time)... is the man bitten by the snake coerced to pay, or is his choice free? And have the pharma companies formed a government here? Does it govern anybody besides snakebite victims?

I'm quite interested to hear your reply- especially the stuff around how anti-government is fundamentally anti-monopoly. I often see the state defined loosely as "a legitimized monopoly on violent force", and I've always figured the critical part there was the "violent force". But is there some connection to monopolies in general? (Of course, the monopoly on violence itself isn't quite what we mean here- they're not "the only seller of violence", they're "the party whose violence is accepted by society"- it's not an economic thing in that context.)




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