A methodological point and its substantive implications


Starting from the status quo at any given time, tax cuts, spending cuts, deregulation, free trade agreements, and privatization (group 1) are policy changes. That means that they must go through the same policy process, legislative and administrative, that tax increases, spending increases, regulation, trade barriers, and nationalization (group 2) do.

It’s methodologically illegitimate to use public choice-inflected scepticism about the policy process to the policy changes in group 2 but not to those in group 1. One can’t criticize a proposal from group 2 on the grounds that really existing legislative and administrative processes will lead to a more-regressive, more market-incumbent-protecting, more corporatist outcome than its advocates imagine, and then advocate proposals from group 1 as if they’ll be enacted in just the form that some economist imagines as the best policy. The sausage factory remains the sausage factory and politics remains politics. Those who are sympathetic to markets are often far too willing to pretend that a free market is the baseline, and so only group 2 policies require political action. They imagine that it takes active effort to hold up a state intervention, and that all that is required to restore the market is to relax that effort– let the ball drop.

In fact, the status quo is the baseline, and departures from it in either direction are vulnerable to the same procedural pathologies. Group 1 and Group 2 both require active departures from the status quo; neither is a passive relaxation.

The belief that ideally free markets are offer the best hope for sustained poverty relief and improvement in the well-being of the materially worst-off does not imply that one is morally entitled to just say “freer markets and smaller government” in lieu of attention to the actual distributive consequences of actual policy changes. The tax cuts, spending cuts, deregulation, free trade agreements, and privatization that we actually get in the world are vulnerable to all the pathologies diagnosed by public choice theory, which are often pathologies of capture by the already-wealthy, by market incumbents, by the already-powerful. Group 1 policies might well not have the virtues that the ideal market would have; indeed, they predictably will not. Without active attention to their effects on the less-advantaged, without an active insistence on “smaller and more progressive” rather than just “smaller” government, those who support markets are easily taken in by Group 1 policies that lack the moral virtues they want to claim for markets generally.

In other words, methodologically consistent application of the diagnosis of political pathologies pushes in the direction of something like BHL. (This is, as always, me calling for consistent non-ideal theory, rather than offering a supposedly ideal-theoretic position.)

FN: I think there’s been some recognition of these points in libertarian circles with respect to free trade agreements, which at this point are often devices for exporting incumbent-protecting and regressive US intellectual property rules to other countries. I’m suggesting that we learn to expect and be wary of that kind of thing more generally.

Published on:
Author: Jacob T. Levy
  • Still, it seems funny to call deregulation a policy in the same sense that it seems funny to call vegetarianism a preference for how you like your steak prepared (“extra-extra-rare, with hooves intact, please”).

    • Bruno Mynthi Showers

      I think he’s getting at something like this (credit Roderick T. Long):
      Similar concerns apply to that other conservative virtue-term, “deregulation.” From a libertarian standpoint, deregulating should mean the removal of governmental directives and interventions from the sphere of voluntary exchange. But when a private entity is granted special governmental privileges, “deregulating” it amounts instead to an increase, not a decrease, in governmental intrusion into the economy. To take an example not exactly at random, if assurances of a tax-funded bailout lead banks to make riskier loans than they otherwise would, then the banks are being made freer to take risks with the money of unconsenting taxpayers. When conservatives advocate this kind of deregulation they are wrapping redistribution and privilege in the language of economic freedom. When conservatives market their plutocratic schemes as free-market policies, can we really blame liberals and leftists for conflating the two? (Well, okay, yes we can. Still, it is a mitigating factor.)

      • Sean II

        “But when a private entity is granted special governmental privileges, “deregulating” it amounts instead to an increase, not a decrease, in governmental intrusion into the economy.”

        That’s not always true. Public provision is so bad that even a phony privatization scheme run by crony capitalists is usually better. For example: “privatized” DMVs are NOT a free market, but they’re much better than pure state provision, as anyone can tell you who’s experienced both.

        A lot of this has to do with labor freedom. The crony capitalist may hold a monopoly for himself, but he at least can still fire non-performing workers. The characteristic feature of public agencies is that no one ever gets fired, and so as it were every job holder becomes a monopolist unto himself.

        I take your point, but there’s no sense pretending that, just because it’s bad, pseudo-privatization is worse than direct public provision. It’s not.

      • If Levy’s post is aimed at conservatives who support bad ideas about privatization and deregulation, then I think you make a good point.

        If, on the other hand, Levy writes to fellow libertarians who might be making that mistake, then I think he’s overlooking something important: all policy proposals come from democrats and republicans. Forcing libertarians to assume that the only “real world” policy options are those coming from Ds or Rs ultimately casts aside the benefits of libertarianism itself.

      • TracyW

        I’m a bit lost. Is there anyone who advocates for “assurances of a tax-funded bailout” and also calls this a “deregulation”?

        I don’t recall coming across anyone who does, though this may be down to bad memory.

    • martinbrock

      What passes for “deregulation” typically is different regulation. Every time I cross the Canadian border, I’m reminded that the North American Free Trade Agreement actually regulates trade rather than “freeing” it.

      • No argument here. So what is the solution? Do we reject deregulation in the “real world?” No libertarian economic policy will ever be proposed through the democrat/republican machine. Shall we stop saying we favor deregulation?

        • ThaomasH

          Yes. Don’t favor “deregulation;” (except as a shorthand among people who already agree with you) favor specific changes in specific regulations.

          • Isn’t this a needlessly laborious point to make? Do you really think it’s a good idea, when talking to non-libertarians, to suggest that you don’t favor deregulation, or that gee whiz you might or might not? That’s just disingenuous. You can point to the flaws of past attempts at deregulation without having to hum and haw about it.

        • martinbrock

          You can advocate “deregulation”, but this word alone doesn’t tell me much about what you advocate as a practical matter. “Deregulation” typically describes a policy change within an already complex system of regulation, and I typically eschew such policy discussion.

          I’ll discuss hypothetical policies for the sake of argument, but I don’t expect libertarians ever to create an ideally libertarian society (in my way of thinking) from the top down by taking command of the most central organ of an established state, like the U.S. government, and substituting “libertarian” policies for established policy at this level.

          The libertarian society that I imagine is possible only as people freely constitute self-regulating, intentional communities and effectively avoid regulation by established states. This society emerges through libertarian secession rather than ascension of libertarians to the heights of political power. As a practical matter, “libertarian central authority” is a contradiction in terms.

          • This is precisely what I was afraid of. It simply won’t do to say that deregulation essentially reduces to “taking command” of anything. This is not Bizarro World, where deregulation means the opposite of what it means. Deregulation always means relinquishing command, and so it goes when I use that word. The fact that politicians engage in double-talk to sell ideas to less-careful thinkers does not imply that I should stop using words according to their actual definitions.

            So Levy’s point would be better stated as, “Be careful, because sometimes when politicians say they’re deregulating or privatizing, really they’re not.” And who would disagree?

            But to take it that extra step where we suddenly flip the definition of words like deregulation and privatization around to mean the exact opposite of what they are, just so that you can say, “Let’s consider each policy on its individual merits” feels like trolling the libertarian community to me.

            My apologies to Jacob Levy for saying so. I generally agree with him, and I agree with the gist of his point here, too. It’s just that he’s taken it too far, for no reason other than that it feels a little more disruptive to the libertarian psyche.

          • martinbrock

            Another issue involves the scope of any “deregulation” or “privatization”. Removing some regulatory constraints without removing others doesn’t necessarily increase the freedom of most people from regulatory constraints. This sort of “deregulation” may only shift authority from one regulatory agency to another, nominally “private” regulator.

          • Yes, and it may be a shift that needs to happen first, before true privatization or deregulation can occur. Perhaps many other details on top that, too. As long as the compass points toward a freer world, that is what we mean when we say privatize and deregulate. I think this is more or less obvious to most of us, isn’t it?

          • martinbrock

            I think you and I could agree on what constitutes effective deregulation, but in a real policy debate involving the reform of an existing statutory system, you and I aren’t the only or even very significant participants. For this reason, we might employ our time more fruitfully by discussing a “utopian” community that we might create ourselves outside of the regulatory framework of an existing state. This approach to libertarian reform is more entrepreneurial than political. How do we create a community beyond the reach of an existing state, and how do we make this community attractive to potential members? The FSP, Seasteading and similar efforts pursue this approach, and the approach seems more likely to succeed.

        • adrianratnapala

          There are some cases where free-market liberals like me should curb their enthusiasm. I favour low taxes. The temptation is to favour tax exemptions, but that is the opposite of deregulations.

          • It’s easy to understand my objection to that by replacing the phrase “taxes” with the phrase “summary executions.” In that case, you’d find it perfectly reasonable to accept any exemption, no matter how poor the excuse for it was, because a policy of summary execution is simply unjust.

            Or, if you take the “tax exemptions distort the market” approach to the problem, then the point is that it is taxes that distort the market, not tax exemptions.

            Again, I feel that this line of thinking flips definitions and facts on their heads. Surely one tax regime is better than another, but the question is where the compass is pointing. A 20% tax on imports is one for which any exemption will improve outcomes, no matter how unfair it might be that a few of us are stuck paying the tax.

          • TracyW

            How about an exemption for those who make a large donation to the political party in charge?

          • Again, I don’t see the problem. If you could buy your way out of the tax code, wouldn’t you? Why should we fault rational agents for acting rationally? If the system is corrupt, that is the system’s fault. It’s pointless to lament the behavior of people trying to escape the iron first every chance they get. Some people emigrate, some people fight back, and some people try to play the hand their dealt.

          • TracyW

            I am afraid I missed something in your comments. I did not realise you were only discussing individual’s responses to the system. I thought that your line of argument was intended to aim at the system.

            My objection to a tax exemption given to those who donate to the political party in charge is that the system is corrupt. I think such a tax exemption would make pretty much any tax system worse.

            I wasn’t aware I was doing any lamenting on this point. As for faulting people for behaving rationally, well, if it’s rational for me to do so, then why would you argue against that?

          • Just for the sake of argument, try replacing “tax exemption” with “exemption from summary execution.” In that scenario, it would be difficult to argue that people shouldn’t pay to save their own lives, if they can manage to do so, under the reasoning that some people cannot pay to save themselves, thus the system is corrupt. Don’t you agree?

            Then, does paying to save one’s own life make the summary execution system worse? Personally, I don’t think so. The problem with a corrupt system is not that people can find unequal means to bribe their way out of tyranny, but that tyranny exists in the first place.

            So why not aim our criticism at that, rather than suggesting that it’s not fair that the very rich can afford bribes. Putting an end to bribes will only result in more total disutility – whether through taxation or execution – because the source of that disutility is the state, not the bribe.

            It’s almost like saying the lives of homeless people could be improved if they stopped smoking crack. They are schizophrenic and self-medicating. The crack is not the problem. The schizophrenia is the problem. Treat the problem, not the symptom, that’s my point.

          • M S

            A couple of thoughts. First, let’s say Congress passes a law that lets the President just give any person or corporation any amount of money that the President wants, as long as that amount is less than that person or corporation’s tax liability. Do you think that it would be fair to say that this law would make America more free or more libertarian than it was before the law was passed? How about the law that Congress passed within the past year or so that removed the exemption from insider trading laws that members of Congress have had for the longest time. Did that law move the country in a more statist direction? These seem like odd conclusions to me, but from what you’ve written here it seems like that’s what you are saying.

            Second, I’m not convinced that providing an escape valve for rich and/or powerful people is the way to minimize disutility (I’m also not convinced that minimizing disutility is what we should be aiming for at all, but that’s another matter). I think you are absolutely right that the laws themselves are the problem and should be changed. But I think they are far less likely to be changed if people who are in a position to change them aren’t affected by them.

          • Great points, and I mostly agree with you. I don’t think anyone – libertarian or otherwise – would call the examples you cite “deregulation” or “privatization” or “tax decreases.” (Although that first one sure sounds a lot like a Basic Income Guarantee, doesn’t it?) That’s why I can agree with you that such policies are terrible abuses of power, but still hold fast to my claim that there is nothing wrong with attempting to bribe one’s way free from tyranny.

            Where I agree with Levy is that details matter. If the rich pay to enact a Basic Pork-Barrel Guarantee for themselves, then this is bad for liberty. If the rich undermine tax compliance, then this is good. One strengthens the state and one weakens it. Assuming we are all right that the state has too much power, it’s difficult for me to understand the “other side” on this one.

          • TracyW

            A system with summary executions would be very bad.

            A system with summary executions where the rich could buy their way out by bribing the party in power would be even worse in my opinion than in one where summary executions were applied regardless of wealth.

            The problem with a corrupt system is that it has an increased incentive to stay tyrannical, as that keeps the money flowing.

          • That’s a fair point.

    • extra- extra- Hare… m i right? guys?

  • Kevin Vallier

    I think the left-wing market anarchists have related thoughts about privatization.

    One quibble, though: I think whether the methodological point holds is partly a function of your normative standard of evaluation. If we’re just looking at getting from x to y via an increase in good consequences and a decrease in bad ones, your point is strongest.

  • nerdbound

    I would add one point: there are ugly procedural things that happen when you initiate policy change, and those who propose change should have to take them into account, exactly as indicated. But there are also ugly procedural things that lead to policy inertia, where a policy lasts forever, even as the circumstances that motivated it radically change. In other words, to be truly consistent, you have to apply a set of public choice arguments to group 1 and group 2 policy changes. But you also have to apply a different set of public choice arguments to the absence of group 1 / group 2 policy changes. In many cases, the absence of a policy change is driven by the fact that, without change, status quo policies will increasingly help established interests.

    • Les Kyle Nearhood

      Agreed, one of the worst of these inertia things is mission creep.

  • I’m not sure that either group understands government intervention in the economy, regardless of which party or ideology is behind the interventions or what form the interventions take, leads to less liberty, opportunity and prosperity for the majority of the people — each party favors powerful interests. It’s power and control that remain steady and suppress economic growth and wide-spread wealth creation. Regulation can happen outside government intervention, especially in the Information Age. It’s wrong-headed to think that regulation doesn’t happen if an interventionist, progressive government is not involved.

  • Tedd

    “In fact, the status quo is the baseline, and departures from it in either direction are vulnerable to the same procedural pathologies.”

    Some years ago I listened to a lecture on the theory of “patchwork rights,” as applied to Canada. The gist of the argument was that, because the political and legal system in Canada developed historically with different rights for different people (most specifically, aboriginals and French Canadians as distinct from everyone else), it was necessary to forever talk about rights in “patchwork” terms, where each group has its own special rights. In other words, a patchwork of rights, not strictly individual rights, is already the status quo in Canada and so it is simply methodologically incorrect to try to apply strictly individual rights, or blind justice.

    The parallels to the argument above are obvious, and both arguments have the same flaw. Surely, it was wrong for Canada to not recognize the same rights for aboriginals, or for French Canadians, as it did for everyone else. So the status quo is not neutral, it is wrong by virtue of being the product of wrong reasoning and wrong action. Likewise, government policies that were wrong in the first place do not result in a neutral status quo, no matter how long they have been in place. Simply replace “tax increases, spending increases, regulation, trade barriers, and nationalization” with “slavery, censorship, genocide, and permanent martial law” and the point becomes obvious.

    And no, I’m not equating the two lists in degree, only in kind.

    • jtlevy

      I have some disagreements with you about the Canadian cases, but they’re less important than this: you’re talking about moral baselines. I’m talking about an empirical baseline.

      Whether and when the status quo acquires moral baseline status is a complicated question, and the answer isn’t “never.” Expectations built on the basis of stable institutions matter; and sometimes the fact of stability itself counts as reason for us to hesitate even about our moral judgments against the state of affairs we dislike. (cf Hume, Burke, Hayek…) Often not, but sometimes.

      But that has nothing to do with what I’m talking about here. The status quo is an empirical baseline, in a much more straightforward fashion; and I’m talking about what we predict will happen when changing it.

      • Libertymike

        Jason, agreed that the status quo is an empirical baseline; however, part of that empirical baseline is that group 1 policy changes must surmount far many more obstacles than group 2 policy changes in order to be implemented.

  • ThaomasH

    This is related to a topic in economics: the theory of the second best. It means that when there are multiple departures from the optimum, removing one of them is not necessarily an improvement. So even if the corporate tax is a bad idea, creating one more loophole for one more industry is not necessarily a good thing. Every policy proposal bucket has to sit on its own bottom.

  • TracyW

    does not imply that one is morally entitled to just say “freer markets
    and smaller government” in lieu of attention to the actual distributive
    consequences of actual policy changes.

    Surely, one’s moral entitlement to say just say “freer markets and smaller government” in lieu of attention to actual distributive consequences comes from the interests of brevity?

    I mean sure, in the real world, politicians can easily describe something as “deregulation” or “freer markets” when it’s quite the opposite. But trying to word everything so as to stand up to the potential future manipulations means weighing down one’s speech so much that I think one is morally entitled to often ignore that concern.

    It’s like “food”. What’s sustenance to me might be deadly poison to someone else (eg if they have an egg allergy), but it’s jolly useful to be able to talk about food without spelling out all the exceptions and caveats all the time. The potential egg allergy only comes into play once you get down to specifics.

  • stevenjohnson2

    If a free market production system (or your preferred euphemism for capitalism,) is defined as the optimal possible distribution of property and income in which the only significant possible source of market failure is force, aka the state, the government, there is only one methodological discrepancy, over protective tariffs, an issue that has proven contentious for centuries now. Good luck resolving that one.

    The methodological problem is not that the process can be captured in both categories of policies, the methodological problem is the assumption that only the state can be the cause of market failures. This is a gigantic counterfactual argument supported only by circular reasoning, double standards and selective evidence.

    There is a methodological inconsistency, which is the bleeding heart’s failure to consistently avow that what the market dispenses is good, regardless of how offensive to humanitarians sympathies it may be. Being a bleeding heart means being incapable of the market’s tough love I guess.

    • Libertymike

      Steve, capitalism does not need to be euphemized.

    • Theresa Klein

      Nobody is defining a free market production system that way.
      The argument is that within a certain legal framework, which includes government-enforced property rights, contract enforcement and liability (all of which are essentially government forcibly restricting the use of force in private affairs), that markets will tend to lead to pareto optimal outcomes.

      • TracyW

        Theresa: there are some other rather heavy assumptions needed to get to pareto-optimal outcomes, like average cost being equal to or below marginal cost at all points.

      • stevenjohnson2

        Yes, they do, they just don’t like being caught at it!

        Even if you could dismiss all the anarcho-capitalists that way, the so-called legal framework is not a foundation of world economy, which is conspicuously not run by a leviathan nanny state! It is not even a serious principle in the US, where only select government failures to enforce property rights, contracts and liability…but failure to enforce public safety on whole areas is not even a theoretical issue!

    • TracyW

      Uh, market failures are defined as failures caused by markets’ unregulated operations. The normal libertarian criticism is that most commentators ignore government failures.

      This comment really reads like your entire understanding of economics comes from reading a D-grade Econ 101 student essay.

      • Stephen Ryan

        “Uh” is a noise one makes in conversation, kind of like a tic. It gives one time to think. It should not be used in email. If you do it again, I am going to tell on you.

        • TracyW

          True, I’ll try to cut it out.

      • stevenjohnson2

        Yes, libertarians do avow that market failures are oxymorons for government failures. Those libertarians who come close to conceding there might be such a thing as market failures, are regarded with deep suspicion as being traitors to the cause. The heavy criticism levied at the OP for merely suggesting that not all tax cuts, spending cuts and deregulation/privatization are beneficial to the majority is precisely because all market outcomes are deemed to be optimal, by virtue of being produced by free markets. Any and all supposed defects of such a system are 1.) caused by government interventions which can only fail because they intrinsically violate the optimal justice of the free market 2.) misperceived or misrepresented by ideologists of one evil kind or another, who eristically argue against the good of the market 3.) nevertheless the best of all possible worlds given fallen human nature and the harsh laws of nature.

        My comment was largely correct capsule descriptions in ordinary language pointing out the OP was violating libertarian dogmas in a futile attempt to make it look good Your impression that they are stupid thus is potentially enormously valuable to you. You should follow up post-haste with a study of real world economic history and anthropology and sociology and the use of everyday empathy.

        • TracyW

          Those libertarians who come close to conceding there might be such a thing as market failures, are regarded with deep suspicion as being traitors to the cause.

          You’ve been reading that Econ 101 D-grade student essay again.

          The heavy criticism levied at the OP for merely suggesting that not all tax cuts, spending cuts and deregulation/privatization are beneficial to the majority

          So according to you: “Heavy criticism” = “thinking someone is a traitor to the cause”. Oh dear, not only have you no idea what the words “capitalism” or “market failure” mean in common discourse, you also have no idea of the value of rational disagreement. .

          May I refer you to this excellent essay by J.S. Mills on the value of freedom of speech particularly heavy criticism?

          My comment was largely correct capsule descriptions in ordinary language pointing out the OP was violating libertarian dogmas in a futile attempt to make it look good

          Nope. You said nothing of the kind. You waffled on using words and phrases without regard for their common definitions and then criticising them based on your misreadings.

          • stevenjohnson2

            Epic fail on your part, because my loose everyday English beats your phony “common definitions” like a Chinese gong. In “common definitions,” the US is a free enterprise society, therefore claims of economic injustice have to be labeled market failures. The common definition of the government as class neutral and democratic means economic injustice is not a government failure. If you don’t like it, your personal dictionary still doesn’t count.

            By the way, if you people understood genuine “common definitions” you could understand when to use the term “privatization” in preference to “deregulation.”

            Lastly, it’s not me you or the OP need to convince, it’s your fellow libertarians. Guess what? It is not agreed that corruption of the political process in tax and spending cuts or privatization/deregulation matters, because, just like I said, libertarians do not agree that there are any economic injustices (called by normal people “market failures.”)

          • TracyW

            Yep, you’re still stuck on that D-grade Econ 101 student essay, aren’t you?

            And you’ve made it clear that you understand zip about linguistics, while you’re at it.

  • murali284

    It may be that there are procedural pathologies for regulation and deregulation alike, but more extensive regulatory frameworks have their own state dependent pathologies which less extensive regulatory frameworks don’t have.

    • adrianratnapala

      Yes. Roughly, Levy seems to be arguing that in the real world pro free-market legislation is created in just the same sausage grinding process as interventionist regulation. This is correct. But the current legislation on the table is only one part of the picture. Legislation can also create and destroy bureaucracies which are subject to public-choice pathologies and they can create unintended consequences that bring in more legislation.

      Legislating agencies away solves the first problem, and a political culture that is skeptical of new laws helps with the second problem. But Levy has a point that good legislation of this type need not be directly pro free-market. Repealing tax exemptions is helpful, even though thats a tax increase. EU machinery to enforce free trade is probably harmful, or at least some parts of it are.

      • murali284

        a simpler tax code is arguably more free market than a more complicated one. If you think of it in terms of ease of doing business, knowing how to pay your taxes without hiring a team of lawyers makes doing business easier and ceteris paribus, cheaper.

  • Theresa Klein

    This is sort of like arguing that Drano is just just as likely to clog the sink as coffee grounds because both of them go through the same pipe.

  • Les Kyle Nearhood

    “Smaller and More Progressive”, is sort of an oxymoron. I understand your point but the worst problem of highly involved progressive government is that it is usually large, both in scope and practice, and always growing.

  • This is an interesting read, I agree with Ryan Long– it is curious to think of deregulation as a policy. Last time I heard this idea it was in jest from Thomas J. Dilorenzo about policy written called deregulation-albeit was actual regulation not deregulation, but still, it seems like an oxymoron.

    But, I think you are right and honestly I haven’t done to much research into this. I spend most of my time loving free markets and learning about the theoretical economics and results of free markets. Basically, you have now shifted my focus from what I and liberty lovers feel the end scenario ought to be, to how we get there. Like it or not, that includes policy decisions.

    Good points sir!

  • Theresa Klein

    I think a structured approach to deregulation might work best. Instead of starting off by insisting that less regulation is always better, thus encouraging people to lobby for targeted tax cuts and regulatory exemptions, start off by insisting that regulations be uniform, and then, once uniformity is acheived, push towards making them simpler and less restrictive.
    The benefit of this approach is that it reduces opportunities for corruption and cronyism as deregulation progresses, since it is harder to lobby for an exemption if the overriding governing principle is uniformity first.

  • ‘It’s methodologically illegitimate to use public choice-inflected scepticism about the policy process to the policy changes in group 2 but not to those in group 1.’

    Yes, but only if there is no Agent Principal Hazard, asymmetry of information, Preference Revelation problematic etc.

    There really is no ‘methodenstriet’ here. True, in Steve Landsburg’s la la land ‘lump sum’ taxes can be levied so he can prove stupid things like you’d rather be punched in the face than be punched in the face AND kicked in the balls.

    But Landsburg is a joke.

    What of your ‘substantive implications’- are they sensible. You write- ‘The belief that ideally free markets offer the best hope for sustained poverty relief and improvement in the well-being of the materially worst-off does not imply that one is morally entitled to just say “freer markets and smaller government” in lieu of attention to the actual distributive consequences of actual policy changes.’

    This is mad. If I believe waving my magic wand will turn the world into treacle then this belief of mine does actually imply that if I wave my magic wand I expect to see the world turn into treacle. I am morally entitled to say ‘yo, everything gonna be treacle coz I iz gonna wave my magic wand (give it me back, Bill Clinton, and put your dentures back in for Xssake).
    Beliefs are beliefs, dude. They aint defeasible save by way of other supervening beliefs.
    Getting back to the crux of your argument- what does it amount to? Institutional Rent Capture, nothing else. But, dude, we don’t want Rent Capture AT ALL- either ‘methodologically’ (which is why we learn Game Theory to do Mechanism Design) or ‘substantively’ (which is why we aint fuckin Cyber Techno-Trotskyites or Gandhian goat herders or other such ‘substantive rationality’ with a predetermined terminus type shite.
    I like the way you started frothing at the mouth with your italics re PATHOLOGIES OF CAPTURE. Clearly you have been captured and your captor is saying to you- ‘It rubs the lotion on its skin or it gets the hose again’.
    Heck, I feel for you dude. Same thing happened to my cousin Obama.

    • kay, just looked through your ‘impossibility of ideal theory’- oh dear. Muth Rationality, dude? David Lewis on Conventions as Schelling focal points?
      Coordination/ Discoordination problems actually do too exist and Evolution is clever at finding ‘regret minimizing’ ‘zero envy’ E.S.S solutions you cunt!
      Fuck is wrong with you guys?
      I think about wanting to be a nicer guy (Bleeding Heart) AND why my country (India) is so fucking poor because we have too many Vandana Shivas and Mahatmas and shite and also I fucking read the Mahabharata- the ‘scripture for the stupid and slaves and drunkards and just totally shite’
      – but that epic says do the fucking Statistical Game Theory- derive and then APPLY Hanann consistency or the multiplicative weighing algorithm or zero regret learning heuristics or whatever.
      Why write the sort of shite I do? Fuck is wrong with you cunts?

  • Matthew DeCarlo

    Did you just read Boettke & Martin’s BIG critique again or something?