Spooner or Later

In the midst of beginning-of-term hecticity, I forgot to mention this while it was happening, but I recently participated in a Liberty Matters discussion with Randy Barnett, Matt Zwolinski, and Aeon Skoble on the legacy of Lysander Spooner; read it here.

See also my previous Liberty Matters discussions on Molinari and Spencer.

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One Response to Spooner or Later

  1. dL February 14, 2016 at 1:01 am #

    “The key move is to recognize that a constitution does not bind the people themselves; instead, a constitution is supposed to bind those who govern the people. To the extent that consent is relevant, each and every office holder takes an oath to obey the Constitution and thereby consents to its terms.So what matters is not whether a constitution was assented to by the people, but whether the laws that are imposed under its auspices bind the people in conscience to obedience.”

    Certainly Anthony de Jasay destroys this as an unenforceable(and impossible) commitment problem. Back to the drawing board for Mr. Barnett.

    For our purposes, there are two different category of specie when considering the Spooner problem. One being liberal, the other being communitarian. For the liberal side, most (if not all) would reject “I did not sign that” but nonetheless the same would have to concede the constraint of the observable thing obeying the paradigm(or template, etc) of liberal rule. An example would suffice to clearly show what it is meant by this.

    For example, no political textbook makes the case that “total surveillance is the price we pay for civilization.” In the parlance of political science, we would call “total surveillance” a “decision-making coast.’ Decision-making costs require a demonstration of implementation by a unanimity construct. In the United States, this would be a new constitutional amendment superseding/overriding the 4th amendment.

    But, today, here we sit, living under a de facto decision-making cost of total surveillance without demonstration of a unanimity construct. True, we may have unanimity among the political class on the topic. But this is not what we mean by a unanimity construct. No political text makes this case that “we the people” means unanimity by those who exercise power(and I don’t think is what Barnett means either). In practice we see the de facto implementation of the decision-making rule by an entity that closely resembles de Jasay’s Firm(de Jasay’s Firm is a rational choice casting of libertarian class theory).

    Now the typical progressive objection to the above reality is not to dispute it but rather claim there is no possible alternative. This usually goes something like, “Government may spy, but I fear corporate total surveillance more.” This is a strange bird that more or less says, “There are no possible alternative. And we have things like the Dept. of Homeland Security just to make sure.” This kind of nonsense might pass in editorials and partisan publications, but it would never survive the rigor of an academic scrutiny.

    So, the liberal side dies not by theory, but what we observe in practice.

    The communitarian specie is a different animal, one that doesn’t care of about consent contracts or a consent problem. The State by premise is fundamental to the moral orientation of the social order. Consent is merely demonstrated by sides agreeing to use politics as the means(the communitarian problem is what to do with those who reject politics as means. i.e, anarchists and disinterested citizens, politically lethargic citizenship). However, I think communitarians piggy-back quite a bit on liberalism implicit to make the thing go down. For example, the Jim Crow south was a legitimate communitarian expression. If all you are care about is agreement on politics as means and not the outcomes, then the thing usually is found to be fairly repellent by a more or less liberal world unless an implicit liberalism is snuck in through a back door. This is done to deal with the bad outcomes(and the possibility of bad outcomes. Of course, in a truly communitarian world, there should be no such thing as a bad outcome per se.

    So, the communitarian side dies by bastardizing the theory to offset the practice.

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