A video of a lecture I gave at MTSU.  It’s long (almost an hour) but this is one of my favorite lectures to give.

And the MTSU folks did a really good job with the production.  Thanks, to Dr. Michael Hammock!

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  • adrianratnapala

    Good talk.

    I’m intrigued by the story of the people queuing for $11 ice who applauded when the police came and arrested the ice merchants (and took the ice away). This seems obviously irrational to me, but you disagree because the sale was not “euvoluntary”. Taken on its own, that’s just firing off a big word in lieu of an explanation. Can you fill in the gaps?

    And there is this oddity: if the crowd was sanguine about the ice being taken away entirely, their necessity could not have been very great. Perhaps this sale was in fact “euvoluntary”.

    • Mike Munger

      That’s an interesting question. Here is the original story:

      As for whether something “euvoluntary,” it’s not really straightforward. That’s why I started this blog

      and wrote the papers cited there.

      The short answer is this: if preferences are subjective, why is it
      obviously absurd for people to object to “ripped off” (in their view)
      when there are no other alternative ways for them to purchase or acquire the product? Now, I happen to think price-gouging laws are a mistake. But they are not absurd, or irrational. You can’t be a subjectivist about economic preferences, but a cardinalist on political preferences. They appear to think the moral arguments against gross opportunism are persuasive.

      Finally, you can say their need was not “very great.” But we know they were standing in line to buy ice at $11 per bag. They must have
      thought the need was “not small,” either! Thanks for writing, that’s a helpful question.

      • adrianratnapala

        It think it makes sense for people to sometimes feel “ripped off” in situations a bit like this (though I still don’t get this particular case). I mentioned the non-great need to distinguish it from thirsty-in-the-desert type scenarios. But I agree that some distinction can be made in less extreme situations — I just don’t understand what that distinction is.

    • http://whoplanswhom.com/ Justin Oliver

      It could’ve been that the people in line would prefer the sellers be
      punished for excessively (in their minds, at least) profiting during a
      time of emergency. However, seeing as the sellers persisted, the locals
      would like to get some ice instead.

  • thomas

    Why keep talking about the state is as if it is an entity created through a “social contract” whos function it is to uphold contracts between individuals, when the state isnt created through any sort of contract at all (anyone here sign anything?), and actually upholding contracts is like 0.01 % of what the state actually does ?

    that description of the state seems to fail on every level.

    • martinbrock

      I agree that Mike conflates “state” and “community” here. A distinction between the two seems critical to a libertarian analysis of social organization. In my way of thinking, a community is a free association in which every member freely accepts standards that community members expect other members to respect. Free acceptance implies a meaningful choice among a diverse collection of communities. “Property” then is a community standard, not something that a state imposes on a community’s members.

  • martinbrock

    The emphasis on irresistibly seductive sirens and heroin addiction bothers me, because the line between these “addictions” and “genuine preferences” seems impossibly blurry to me. If I may subject my future self to coercion to resist the sirens, when may my present self not subject my future self to coercion? If I sincerely accept a religion when I’m 12, may I subject my future self to severe penalties, even death, for apostasy, for the rest of my life?

    My choices are my choices, for better or for worse. If I’m a heroin addict, then I choose to take heroin, because that’s what a heroin addict does. There is no “other, better me” to tell the heroin addict to cease his addiction, but in a freer world, I fully expect many heroin addicts to join communities forbidding members to take heroin.

    • adrianratnapala

      Consider a land where heroin is legal. Now suppose a reforming addict, makes his family and friends swear mickle oaths that if he starts up again, they will send him forcibly to a fortress-monastery on the top of a mountain for cold turkey treatment. (a) Should this contract be upheld by the state? (b) Whether or not the state upholds it, is the family allowed to execute and actually lock him up?

      My intuition is: (a) No, and (b) yes, if it is four-week rehab course, but no if they are making him a monk for life. But I don’t think the matter is clear cut.

      • martinbrock

        (a) No. On the contrary, in my libertopia, a state forcibly prevents enforcement of the contract, i.e. it enforces an individual right to withdraw from the community incorporating the fortress-monastery.

        I have no problem with the fortress-monastery, but I have a problem with holding anyone in it against his will, and a person’s “will” definitively is whatever the person says it is at a given moment.

        Heroin doesn’t destroy the will. It alters the will. Every aspect of my will reflects biochemistry at some level, in my way of thinking, so any other standard seems absurd to me. Saying that heroin destroys my will, as I consume it uncoerced by anyone else, is like saying that chocolate or my wife’s ass or my own curiosity destroys my will. I see no bright line anywhere along this spectrum.

        (b) If he is an adult, I still say no; however, if he is my son, I throw my principles to the wind, take my chances with the libertopian state and lock him up.

  • Ted Levy

    George Smith’s latest (#104) essay over at libertarianism.org delves into this distinction, both historically and analytically…

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