Odds and Ends…

My little blog, which I started after Freedom Democrats went defunct, has now reached it’s one year anniversary. One thing I have definitely learned the past year is that if you want to implement a “traffic-killing” strategy, post intermittently on the rational choice foundations of libertarian theory. Guaranteed to kill your traffic, unless,I suppose, you happen to be a well-known professor/scholar in the field.

A traffic-generating strategy, on the other hand, has proven to be to post on topics related to your specific areas of expertise and post often. So my “techie” stuff usually does decent traffic and occasionally does explosive traffic. For example, my post on the immixGroup-VeriSign-ICE triage behind the domain seizures, an inner working that I was able figure out, got significant linkage from a number of major tech publications. My Wikileaks Watch posts, for the brief time I was maintaining them, got good hits. In short my niche would be “Applied Cyberpunk,” although this would involve none of the literary or cultural aspects of that genre. Perhaps a more accurate but less chic term would be “Internet Political Economy.”

Still, my “theory” posts, although not widely read, have helped me flesh out my own rational basis for libertarianism, one that has steadily moved toward moral contractarianism, the only framework that I now think can be consistent with Laissez-Faire. This moving to the later Benjamin Tucker position, but instead of “Rational Egoism,” we are substituting Game Theory Rationality.

Lately, many of my “theory” posts have been attacking the premise of “Bleeding Heart Libertarians.” This is not because I don’t share the same moral judgments as BHL, because, in actuality I do. It’s because there really isn’t any rational or social choice basis for distributive justice. So, advocating libertarianism as a basis for distributive justice principle is a dead-end road. Indeed, the libertarian principle has already been demonstrated to lead to cooperative equilibrium.

David Gauthier demonstrated that one shot non-cooperative games where agents play a tit for tat strategy, where cooperation is constrained by (i) minimizing the concession and (ii) the libertarian principle results in the equivalent Kalai-Smorodinsky bargaining solution. The Gauthier ideal non-cooperative game relies on conditions of (a) modest scarcity and (b) relatively equal agents. It ties the libertarian principle to a boundary constraint on non-cooperative games between reciprocal cooperators. In some respects, it’s an ideal analogous to Neoclassical perfect competition.

Moral Contractarianism does two things (1) counters the typical claptrap that equates libertarianism with a morality that underlies a social theory of selfish defectors (2) the libertarian principle as boundary constraint obviates attempts to use it as a foundation for an initial-value principle.

Defining Libertarianism

i) Political Theory: Denies any rational or social choice normative basis for political authority

ii) Social Theory: Libertarian Justice not a moral theory, rather it is a theory of rational moral constraints. Significant but subtle difference.

Addendum: Natural Law + contractarianism incompatible and dangerous. Natural Law=preferred or natural ranking of moral preferences. Contractarianism to enforce a natural or preferred ranking of moral preferences violates the libertarian principle boundary constraint.

Moral contractarianism perhaps may work work great for sentient automata. It may break down for humans under an expanded treatment of evolutionary norms for reciprocal cooperators. A punishment problem potentially arises. A biological problem(implying perhaps the need for Transhumanism?)…

Bitcoin and Moral Judgments

Bitcoin, I think, plays into the moral contractarian framework I’ve outlined above. Libertarianism, as a social theory, is not a theory of moral judgements; rather it is theory of rational moral constraints. That is, we are not concerned with the moral preference ranking of Agent A and Agent B; rather, we are concerned with the moral constraints on A and B as reciprocal cooperators. We do not want a contractarian order that favors/enforces the moral preference rankings of either A or B; otherwise, it violates the libertarian principle boundary constraint.

In reading the Bitcoin forums after the Silk Road and Schumer publicity, there is an obvious divide in moral judgments between the Bitcoin development team and the Bitcoin user base. The former is in favor of integrating Bitcoin into the legal and regulatory environment of the State. This means, for example, that exchange organizations, that convert Bitcoin to State currency would fully comply with reporting the conversion transactions to the authorities. The Bitcoin technical lead,
Gavin Andresen, has expressed opinion that the Bitcoin community should work with law enforcement to aid in the arrest of those who use Bitcoin for illegal drug transactions. This is in sharp contrast to the forum user base, many of whom are of the crypto-anarchist variety.

So Bitcoin provides us with a model of a clash in moral judgments. This is a test of the political economy of Bitcoin. It reinforces the point why moral judgements cannot underlie a libertarian social order. It also demonstrates that Bitcoin is not actually an “agorist construct,” precisely because of the differences in moral judgements. That Bitcoin will still potentially work despite the clashes in moral judgements is an overall point I’ve tried to emphasize. It also goes to show that to be good “Applied Cyberpunk,” one probably has to avail oneself of the rational choice foundations, tedium notwithstanding…


2 thoughts on “Odds and Ends…

  1. It’s funny that you contrasted “post on the rational choice foundations of libertarian theory” against “post on topics related to your specific areas of expertise”… your political theory posts are showing a sufficient depth of scholarship that I was wondering if you had started studying it full-time.

    As you note, academic-style essays don’t get much attention in the blogosphere. Even if your audience appreciates abstraction, those readers may still find it impractical to familiarize themselves with the prior literature (and technical terminology) that is often referred to in such essays. Even if the reader can follow the gist of the essay, they are not able to contribute to the conversation… which takes half of the fun out of reading a blog.

    Anyway, if you have the patience for all that hard-core philosophical stuff, you may want to check out the blog “philosophical disquisitions”, which makes a business out of rigorous deconstruction of philosophical arguments. In particular, you may be interested in two recent series of postings:

    1) Transhumanism:

    2) Game theory: http://philosophicaldisquisitions.blogspot.com/2011/04/course-game-theory.html

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