No Bridge Between the Libertarian and Conservative Worldviews

I think that marriage is very important. It is the fundamental unit of our government. And I think it is important that we do uphold marriage and also the family.
Michelle Bachmann

I’m a bit surprised by this Bryan Caplan post, Bridging the Conservative-Libertarian Impasse. Writes Caplan:

A puzzle inspired by last night’s debate: Conservatives and libertarians were almost equally likely to praise “liberty.” You’d think this shared value would facilitate a constructive dialog. But it didn’t – not even for the subset of “economic liberty.” Why the impasse?

The “debate” in question refers to a recent libertarian vs conservative student debate held at Cato. Caplan’s explanation for the apparent impasse that emerged.

For libertarians, to believe in liberty is to believe in massive rollback of the state. For conservatives, to believe in liberty is to oppose further expansion of the state (at least in the economic realm). For conservatives, “liberty” means defeating Obamacare. For libertarians, “liberty” means separation of health and state – which means abolishing even ultra-popular programs like Medicare.

Caplan, here, is being much too particular. This “impasse” can be generalized into a broader, fundamental difference.

The Libertarian Worldview
Liberty is the mother, not the daughter, of order. This, of course, is quoting Proudhon.

The Conservative Worldview
Liberty is the product of institutional order

Once the differences between these two worldviews are properly generalized, it’s easy to recognize the inherent conflict. For conservatives, “liberty” is only possible under the “right” institutional order, and this order requires a particular moral fabric. Thus, it is easy to see why conservatism often views moral interventionism by the State as a necessity. Conservatives may give nod to “free markets” and “civil society,” but these institutions, from the conservative point of view, require “moral institutions,” such as the “traditional family,” in order to function properly(or at all).

Now it would be unfair to universally tarnish conservatism as a philosophy that views the role of the State to enforce fundamentalist Christian moral judgments. But in relation to the “free market,” or, say market exchange in a civil society, it is fair to characterize the conservative position as requiring a moral or ethical foundation for such a market. In symbolic logic, we would write:

(i) ~MF –> ~FM

MF=Moral or Ethical Foundation
M=”Free Market”

(i) simply means that an ethical foundation is a necessary condition for a Free Market

We can rewrite (i) as:

(ii) FM –> MF

which means, alternatively, that a free market implies an ethical foundation.

But the obvious question is: the free market is a sufficient condition for what ethical foundation? Free exchange is pursued to increase one’s utility. But what specific ethical foundation is required to view increasing one’s utility as a “moral good”? And as I have pointed out in a previous post, the “Free Market” is not a sufficient condition against negative externalities or fraud. So what specific ethical foundation is required to view fraud or negative externalities as “morally bad”?

What should be apparent is that the “Free Market” is not a unique foundation for any specific ethical system. It is exactly this point which explains why the likes of Russell Kirk rejected any libertarian foundation or synthesis with conservatism. For Kirk, conservatism was rooted in an ethical foundation of a transcendent order. Civil Society reinforces this order. Anything that potentially upsets “the order” has to be tempered by respect for “prudence” as a political value.

I specifically mention Kirk because I came upon this Frum Forum synopsis of the debate which concluded that the conservatives bested the libertarians by invoking “a defense of prudence as a conservative virtue.” But this more or less is the Kirk argument against libertarianism. I’ll concede that’s a conservative argument to make, but you can’t make it while pretending to share the libertarian premise about the “value” of the Free Market.

The libertarian definition of a “Free Market” is one that is “free” of the intent of political and/or moral ends. In practice, this means a market that is “free” of protectionism. The Kirkian “Prudence Principle,” which is a form of protectionism, thusly violates the very premise of the Free Market.

This violation is not something that a follower of Kirk would dispute, particularly if we reference Kirk’s own “A Dispassionate Assessment of Libertarians” as an authority on the matter.

The reality, then, is that libertarians and conservatives do not hold shared values regarding either liberty or the Free Market. This appears to be the flawed assumption repeated by both Caplan and the FrumForum writer, Ajay Ravichandran.

Given the lack of actual “shared values,” it’s easy to see why the pursuit of liberty as a political value can lead to wildly divergent conclusions. When asked how does one bridge these differences, the proper answer is a rhetorical re-formulation of the question: How would one propose to bridge the differences between Laissez Faire and Protectionism?

There is no bridge….

Our New Net Zero Immigration Nirvana

Two years ago at Freedom Democrats, I posted an article on Libertarianisim and Immigration that sort of languished at the time. A year later, my republishing of the article managed to achieve some degree of notoriety with Less Antman’s endorsement.

The argument made in that essay was simple. Freedom of movement, freedom of contract are essential to any libertarian social theory and any (i) welfare argument (ii) cultural argument (iii) property rights regime argument against these essential liberties would result in:

(i) a dreadful social welfare
(ii) a dreadful culture
(iii) a dreadful property-rights regime

And I named “names” regarding the origins of these “libertarian arguments” against these liberties. And I concluded that these arguments were nothing but a welfare costly form of collectivism.

Now, two years later, we have an “empirical moment.” As the NY Times reports, we now are experiencing net zero immigration flows.

Douglas S. Massey, co-director of the Mexican Migration Project at Princeton, an extensive, long-term survey in Mexican emigration hubs, said his research showed that interest in heading to the United States for the first time had fallen to its lowest level since at least the 1950s. “No one wants to hear it, but the flow has already stopped,” Mr. Massey said, referring to illegal traffic. “For the first time in 60 years, the net traffic has gone to zero and is probably a little bit negative.”

The decline in illegal immigration, from a country responsible for roughly 6 of every 10 illegal immigrants in the United States, is stark. The Mexican census recently discovered four million more people in Mexico than had been projected, which officials attributed to a sharp decline in emigration.

What are the reasons for this sharp decline in immigration? According to the NY Times:

(i) Economic, demographic and social changes in Mexico
(ii) a piss-poor performing, Papers-Please US Political Economy

What our current conditions in this net zero immigration environment?

(i) Budget Deficits at a minimum as a result of net-zero influx of unskilled immigrants no longer burgeoning the welfare rolls and sucking up public monies?
Nope. Budget Deficits are at an all-time high, indicating that perhaps Public Debt has little do to do with labor migration

(ii) Unemployment at record lows, real wages at record highs, particularly at the low-skilled end, as a result of net-zero influx of unskilled immigrants no longer competing in the labor market
Nope. Unemployment at record-highs, real-wages, stagnant.

(iii) Access to Medical care up, cost of services down as a result of net-zero influx of unskilled immigrants no longer inflating demand for services?
Nope. Medical inflation still at roughly double digits. Medical tourism abroad still on the rise.

In short, there’s no empirical argument that our net zero immigration environment has improved social welfare. Indeed, this net zero immigration environment has coincided with a rather dramatic worsening of overall welfare.

The obvious question then is why is this outcome something that is desirable to enforce and with the current condition already being net zero immigration, why is this enforcement effort being dramatically ratcheted up with Real ID and E-Verify systems consolidated under the auspices of DHS?

For libertarians it’s a question with an obvious answer. There is no welfare argument against freedom of movement, freedom of contract. If you want to experience a true welfare State, defining a “welfare State” to be a “mechanism of redistribution,” then no better way than totalitarian control of the freedom of movement and the freedom of contract. And this totalitarian control is a Papers-Please Political Economy.

The loss of economic welfare from the Papers-Please Political Economy is the obvious rejoinder to Milton Friedman’s “welfare argument.”

Hoppe’s “invited-contractual property rights” schema, as an absolutist dogma, results in a Papers-Please Political Economy. It’s only “enforceable” indirectly, via a totalitarian control over a general freedom of contract. It’s an utter violation of the libertarian principle and the Lockean proviso.

And the likes of Hoppe have to explain the social and demographic changes in Mexico while coming to grips with the fact that it is the conservative, evangelical Christian culture that is pushing/enacting things like E-Verify.

Finally, Rothbard. Rothbard, in his later years, would oppose immigration on the grounds that it would serve partisan political ends. And it is true that the likes of the Political left largely support immigration on the grounds/perception that it would reinforce a demographic trend that would lead to political domination. I would dispute that Prima facie assumption on the grounds that no one wants to migrate to a political economy that serves corrupt political ends. I used to argue this point frequently at Freedom Democrats, against both progressive assumptions and those underlying Arnold Kling’s “One Party State.” On this matter, the current condition speaks for itself.

Libertarianism is not Madisonian Democracy

A writer at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen attempts to deduce that Libertarianism implies Madisonianism.

Conclusion: Libertarians are Madisonians (but not vice-versa)
Because libertarians believe humans are not angels, they grudgingly accept the necessity of some degree of government. But because they believe humans are not angels, they are also desperate to keep that government very limited. That is, in fact, precisely Madison’s position. He said, “if men were angels, no government would be necessary,” and that because governments were administered by men, rather than angels, it is necessary “oblige [government] to control itself.” To the extent they differ from Madison, libertarians are just more dubious about the capacity to make government self-controlling. This does not mean Madison was a libertarian–that would be anachronistic, at best–but it does mean libertarians are tolerably Madisonian.

But believing humans are angelic? That is a fundamental misunderstanding of the conceptual foundations of libertarianism.

Let’s look at the logic of this. For starters, I have never have liked the famous Madison quote: “if men were angels, no government would be necessary.” Here’s the way I would more meaningfully phrase it: “if there were no scarcity, then no governance would be necessary.” Scarcity creates the need for governance. And notice I’m using the term “governance” and not “government” because the latter term is synonymous with the State. I do not think scarcity necessarily implies the State, which is one particular form of institutional governance.

“Angels” are fictional entities that reside in some supposed ethereal “godly” world of non-scarcity. If these “Angels” were transplanted into our actual empirical world of scarcity, they would act like humans. If humans had the luxury of a world without scarcity, they would act like angels. So let us drop any reference to “angels” and understand the actual context is scarcity. Any charges of “angelic assumptions” are equivalent to charges of “non-scarcity” assumptions, the latter being clearly something libertarians would not be credibly accused of holding, at least not as a premise.

So the typical logical refrain:

men are angels –> no government
no government –> men are angels

which is taken to mean libertarians assumes “angels,” is bogus logic.

A Scarcity Model
Let’s write out the actual logical relationships and principles.

G= the set of all possible institutional governance arrangements, {g0,g1,…gN}, that have a cooperative equilibrium
g=some element gi ∈ G
ST=The State, a subset of G(ST ⊂ G). The State is the set of all g ∈ G where the cooperative equilibrium is enforced by a territorial claim on a monopoly of violence

The General Scarcity Principle(GSP)
(i) S <–> g

The Weak-Form Scarcity Principle(WFSP)
(ii) ST –> S

The Libertarian Principle(LP)
(iii) There exists a subset L ⊂ G where for all g ∈ L, the cooperative equilibrium does not make anyone worse off relative to the defection state(no cooperation).

The Natural Law Principle(NLP)
(iv) |L|=1

The Utopian Principle(UP)
(v) L –> ~S

The Strong-Form Scarcity Principle(SFSP)
(vi) S –> ST

The Orwellian Principle(OP)
(vii) all g ∈ ST will converge to a neighborhood of a single arrangement in ST. That is, all institutional arrangements in ST will, over time, converge to the same thing. So ST will equal O, where |O|=1.

The Dystopian Principle(DP)
(viii) (UP)∧(SFSP)∧(OP)

(i) simply means that scarcity implies some form of governance g in G and any g in G implies scarcity. This is the General Principle.
(ii) means that the State, in whatever form, implies scarcity, but scarcity does not imply the State(g ∈ ST). This is a weak inference that follows trivially from the General Principle.
(iii) The Libertarian Principle simply means cooperative equilibrium constrained by no rights violations.
(iv) The “Libertarian cooperative equilibrium” is unique.
(v) The Utopian Principle is the contention that libertarianism ends up implying non-scarcity. In our model, this would mean that libertarian constraints could not enforce a cooperative equilibrium. So L is not an element or subset of G. Therefore, scarcity would be a sufficient condition to disqualify libertarian institutional arrangements.
(vi) The Strong Form Scarcity Principle, which can also be thought of as the “Inevitability Principle,” is a contention that Scarcity ultimately converges the set G to a specific class of institutional arrangements–the State, ST.
(vii) The Orwellian Principle is that Totalitarianism is the long run evolutionary equilibrium of the State
(viii) The Dystopian Principle guarantees the Orwellian outcome.

Applying the Scarcity Model
Now that we have taken the time to define our terms and establish some logical principles, let’s see where this model might leads us.

Point I:
Scarcity puts cooperation and cooperative equilibrium, not justice, at the foundation of governance. “Justice” is a moral judgement ranking of the set G.

Point II:
Few will likely object to the libertarian principle as stated above. That’s because it’s not stated as a set of moral judgements but rather as a cooperative constraint. The Devil, of course, comes when one investigates what type of institutional governance arrangements would be consistent with such a constraint. This question is not one I’m not particularly interested in this current context; but I am interested in what arrangements would be in violation of this constraint.

But first, let us knock down the Utopian Principle. This only requires one to demonstrate that the libertarian constraint can result in a cooperative equilibrium.
Here we can turn to the work of David Gauthier who demonstrated that one-shot non-cooperative games constrained by the following:

(1) Constrained Maximization
(2) Maximin Relative Concession
(3) Libertarian principle

result in a cooperative equilibrium equivalent to the Kalai-Smorodinsky bargaining solution.

A previous post, The Moral Bargain, goes into more detail about the Gauthier Solution.

The Gauthier moral agent is not some super IQ Libertarian moralist. Indeed, the Gautheir moral agent is assumed a minimal moral foundation and a prerequisite cognitive ability that only needs to understand the concept of Games. This means that the solution is not restricted to a sub-population of those who are two-standard deviations or more(right-asymptotic limit) from the statistical mean of some normal IQ distribution. This assumption is often part of the commentary. Actually, the problem for the Gauthier Solution is the left-side of the asymptotic limit, for those who are two-standard deviations from the mean, implying a mental incapacity to contract. This exclusion zone would also include children.

Point III
The Gauthier Solution demonstrates that (modest) scarcity does not imply L = ∅. So we have dispatched with the Utopian Principle. But this does not mean that L ⋂ ST = ∅, meaning that the libertarian equilibrium is necessarily outside the State set. After all, wasn’t it Nozick who showed that a cooperative equilibrium with no rights violations would still result in the State? This conclusion in no small part is based on the assumption of coercive force being a natural monopoly.

In our model, this means that ~(UP) is not a sufficient condition for ~(SFSP). But can we try to use LP to indirectly establish ~(SFSP). Here we obviously agree that any institutional arrangement g ∈ G with a “Dominant Coalition” invalidates LP. Can we demonstrate that all g ∈ ST have dominant coalitions? Perhaps not directly, as a logical deduction, but perhaps indirectly, if we assign a max-min ordering/ranking of the set ST and then demonstrate that both the max and the min elements of this “ordered set” ST have dominant coalitions(“ruling classes”).

This ordered set ranking is exactly what the League of Ordinary Gentlemen proposed in terms identifying Madisonian Democracy with a minimization of coercion rank. Obviously, the max ranked element of this set has a ruling class but will the this min ranked element of ST, Madisonian Democracy, also have a dominant coalition?

This where “Public Choice” kicks in, since the Virginia School, via “The Calculus of Consent,” was supposed to demonstrate that rent-seeking coalitions in Madisonian Democracy were not Dominant Coalitions. However, as it turns out, the rent-seeking industry(outlays) is way too small relative to the economic rent transfers, empirically establishing a counter-factual to the very criterion against a ruling class.

The “ruling class” problems with Madisonian Democracy, which thusly disqualifies MD from being identified with the LP, also serves to indirectly invalidate SFSP.

Point IV
It may be counter-intuitive how a “scarcity model” can actually dispense with UP and SFSP. But what about (OP)? We should recall that Orwell was directly influenced by Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom.” We should also recall that Hayek’s book, in context, was that National Socialism and Fabian Socialism led to the same thing(it is completely erroneous and out of context to try to use “The Road to Serfdom” as a diatribe against welfare capitalism). Orwell, however, unlike Hayek, also thought whatever version of capitalism would lead to the same type of convergence. Thus the “Orwellian Principle.”

During Orwell’s time, the set ST was characterized by State Socialist and Capitalist polar ends. But now the State Socialist elements have been discarded and we see convergence by the likes of China and Russia with the United States. In the Orwell vision, it didn’t matter who won the “cold war,” there was going to be convergence one way or another. This was his insight.

OP may simply be a consequence of the fact that a monopoly of violence, in whatever configuration, universally serves no real basis for a rational constraint in the conflict over economic surplus in the context of scarcity.

So with no UP and no SFSP, but with OP, we can see that instead of some “inevitability principle,” it may be more of a question of libertarianism vs authoritarianism.

Free Markets & Regulation

Most political debate usually consists of participants talking past one another. To avoid this, it is helpful to define your terms. The typical argument over Free Markets vs Regulation is one that could use a definition of terms. Consider the below a Public Service Announcement.

Free Market: a market that serves no political or moral ends.

The confusion over “Free Markets” reminds me of a similar type of confusion over “Free Software.” “Free” in Free Software means “free” as in “free speech,” not as in “free beer.” Free as a matter of liberty, not price.

Free in Free Markets means “free” of protectionism and special privilege, not as in “free” of regulation.

Regulated Market: a market that has internalized any externalities.

A well-regulated market is one that internalizes it’s externalities. A non-regulated or unregulated market is one that does not internalize it’s externalities.

From my above definitions, which are historically and economically accurate, one can derive the proper logical relationship between “free” and “regulation.”

FM=Free Market
UFM=Un-Free Market
RM=Regulated Market
URM=Un-Regulated Market

(i) FM !–> RM That is, a free market does not imply a regulated market
(ii) RM –> FM That is, a regulated market implies a Free Market

(i) is easily established by any example of a free market that could have have externalities. This simply means that a “free market” is not a sufficient condition for a regulated one.

(ii) a well-regulated market necessarily implies a free market because protectionism and special privileges(factors of an unfree market) are not means to internalize externalities but rather means to disperse externalities across a wide population.

We can logically rewrite (ii) as:

(iii) ~FM –> ~RM, or UFM–> URM

This simply means that a unfree market, that is one that serves political ends, is a sufficient condition for an unregulated market.

Liberaltarian Failure

A writer at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen proposes the following Rawlsekian project:

The key thing about any Rawlsekian project is that it combines Rawls’s normative framework with Hayek’s understanding of economics. Combined with James Buchanan’s public choice theory of institutions and we have a powerful conceptual framework which provides, I think, the best justification for libertarianism.

Frankly, I would use the term “liberaltarian” instead “libertarian” to describe this “Rawlsekian framework.” This is in keeping with my preference for a consistent political taxonomy that restricts libertarianism to a classification of radical political thought that denies political authority. Hence, any framework prefaced with the libertarian adjective that actually is not radical should be re-classified under the “liberaltarian” category. This would not only include the “Rawls + Hayek” frameworks but the Cato/Reason/GMU(variants of Nozick and/or Hayek and/or Public Choice) frameworks as well. Of course, not everyone would agree with my taxonomy but it does eliminate, at least in my mind, much of the incoherence surrounding “libertarian apologetics.” I would concede the likelihood that if you concede the legitimacy of political authority, you are conceding the legitimacy of the violation of the libertarian principle.

The problem with “liberaltarianism,” which can be viewed as a modern revival of social contract theory, boils down to weaknesses of a normative case for unanimity regarding hypothetical justice principles.

Failure of the Rawlsekian framework

Rawlsian Justice is agnostic regarding what political economic framework is plugged into the “justice equation.” It could be Hayek; it could be Keynes; it could be whomever/whatever. With Rawls, Political Economy is not part of the “normative framework.” It’s an “empirical plugin” of sorts, related only to the max-min problem regarding income/wealth. If capitalism better maximizes the minimum, then it’s capitalism. If socialism empirically demonstrates a superior max-min solution, then it’s socialism.

Therefore, a consideration of Hayek, insofar as it relates to the merit of Rawls’ normative justice framework, is irrelevant. If Rawls’ normative justice framework has no merit, then Hayek is immaterial.

Now if you have been reading this blog, you will know that I have been persistent in making the case that Rawls normative justice framework fails. We should recall that Rawls uses the “Veil of Ignorance” construct to argue for a hypothetical unanimity regarding the distribution of primary goods(liberties and resources). The VOI is an instrument to demonstrate a normative universilization of certain principles of justice into a type of categorical imperative.

With Rawls, there are essentially two justice principles that the VOI universalizes. The first addresses the distribution of Political Liberty. Rawls would derive a bill of rights from the standpoint of the most adversely affected agents. For example, a “first amendment” follows because:

(i) No Government Religion: the most adversely affected agent=the Christian
(ii) Government Religion: the most adversely affected agent=the atheist

The atheist, the most adversely affected agent under scenario (ii), would be be much worse off under compulsory worship and/or taxation support of religious institutions than the Christian, the the most adversely affected agent under scenario (i), who had the freedom of worship but had to support religious institutions with it’s own money.

Therefore, under a VOI, where the agent does not know it’s own identity(whether it will be a Christian or an atheist, etc), it will select (i). In this likewise manner, Rawls is able to universalize a justice principle of Political Liberty as “an equal claim to a fully adequate scheme of equal basic rights and liberties, which scheme is compatible with the same scheme for all.”

Rawls’ second principle of justice addresses the socio-economic distribution of opportunity and outcome. This is essentially equality of opportunity and the max-min principle.

These two principles together then comprise a “justice as fairness” framework for the fair distribution of primary goods. Noting:

(a)The 2nd principle is agnostic regarding whether the socio-economic institutional structure is capitalist or socialist, or mixed.
(b)There is an preference order constraint on the principles. For example, maximize the minimum share but this can’t violate the equality of opportunity condition. And neither max-min nor EOE can violate the political liberties from the first principle.

While Rawlsian Justice, properly understood, may have some intuitive appeal, it nonetheless fails as a normative framework. There are a number of ways to document this failure.

(1) The Rawls vs Harsanyi debate over Maxmin vs Max(avg utility) under the VOI exposed the problems with VOI. The Rawls version, the Maxmin, was equivalent to infinite risk aversion. The Harsanyi version, utilitarian maximization, was equivalent to zero risk aversion. Both infinite risk aversion and zero risk aversion are not plausible. The VOI instrument now had to establish the appropriate level of risk aversion in the original position–an aversion to risk that falls somewhere between zero and infinity. Obviously, the VOI does not yield unique solutions and thus loses its normative power.

(2) Although today’s context loves to pit a libertarian backlash against Rawls, at the time, it was actually a communitarian backlash that would emerge against Rawls. On a practical level, it should be pointed out that Rawls’ risk aversion basis for justice stemmed from the assumption of a pluralistic society, one that included the presence of a plurality of irreconcilable moral and religious preferences. Rawls assumed a rational basis for a pluralistic liberalism. However, the intense communitarian backlash against Rawls would (i) reject any universal basis for making moral judgments, (ii) opt for moral subjectivism and (iii) subordinate the individual to the norms and values of whatever community.

Communitarianism was a direct attack against Rawls, particularly the political liberties of his first justice principle.

(3) By the time the liberal vs communitarian debate died down in the academic literature, there arose to prominence the new disciplines of experimental game theory,neural economics, etc., along with the increasing notability of the role of biology in economics. Psychology and biology were now regarded as highly influential factors in the formation of human preferences.

(1) is a failure of liberal rationalism, (3) is an attack against the very assumptions of liberal rationalism and (2) was a direct attack against “rational pluralism.”

Rawls, twenty years later, would amend his Theory of Justice with the book, “Political Liberalism.” Rawls’ Political Liberalism was a retreat from his earlier work, an admission that his Theory of Justice had been built over a house of cards. No longer was his Justice Theory a categorical imperative. Indeed Rawls came to the conclusion that any uniformity in fundamental moral and political beliefs–that had been outlined in his earlier Theory of Justice–could only be maintained by an oppressive state force. So there is a shift. The shift was from rational to “reasonable,” from justice as moral to justice as political. The government should stay neutral between competing moral conceptions, and it is the intersection of the different conceptions–the “overlapping consensus”–that forms the reasonable basis of a political justice, from which the Rawlsian principles would still be affirmed.

Rawls Political Liberalism, however, is no more normative than his VOI. Empirically, the cultural war, the drug war and the National Security State present significant problems for Rawls’ political liberalism. There are obligations attached to the distribution of primary goods, obligations that violate Rawls’ first principle. The “overlapping consensus” denies Rawls’ principles of justice.

Rawls’ constraints on the discourse of “Public Reason,” to maintain official bounds for a stable reasonable pluralism, would invoke the same kind of oppressive State force Rawls cited in abandoning justice as a categorical imperative. Political Liberalism was published at the dawn of the internet age and digital communications; enforcing a “duty for civility” and official organs for public discourse as means for maintaining stability and legitimacy in the internet age would work against the intended ends.

Before he died, Rawls published a third iteration of his Justice Theory, “Justice as Fairness: A Restatement.” In this book, Rawls looked at the injustices in the US and pointed a finger at Capitalist Political Economy. So the “Restatement” eliminates the agnosticism of the institutions of Political Economy articulated in the first book. Now the Political Economy must be socialist(although not State socialism; rather some variant of property-owning democracy or democratic socialism).

The amusing question is how many cracks does a guy get at coming up with a supposed “normative” theory of liberal social justice? Fairness cannot be rationally universalized; nor can “reasonable” political consensus be expected to spawn John Rawl’s moral preferences. So the next step is to necessarily constrain the Political Economy preference.

It should be apparent that there is no “normative Rawlsian framework.”

Public Choice Failure

The Rawlsekian project also incorporates Public Choice. However, as I’ve pointed out in The Matrix as Ruling Class and The Calculus of Dissent, there is catastrophic empirical failure in treating government as a market. Specifically, the economic rent transfers dwarf the competitive outlays for such economic rent. The rent-seeking industry is way too small.

The Public Choice failure is actually evidence of a ruling class and the ruling class invalidates the Public Choice rationale for the hypothetical unanimity of the constitutional political framework.

Matt Zwolinski at BHL identifies this Rawlsekian project to be in close affinity to “Bleeding Heart Libertarianism.” But, from the above, we can outline how the Rawlsekian project actually reinforces a conclusion more aligned with a “Radical Libertarian Project.”

  • Rawls rejects the moral foundational basis of Justice originally presented in “Theory of Justice” as untenable
  • Rawls’ Political Liberalism retreats to a political foundation of Justice, the “overlapping-consensus”
  • Rawls, before he died, emphasized the “Public Reason” foundation of this “overlapping-consensus” and the necessity of a certain type of Political economy to underlie institutions of Public Reason
  • Rawls’ rejects welfare state capitalism and advocates instead for the political economy of property-owning democracy. But the 1990s essentially moved in that direction, with welfare reform and a new political economy built over expanding home ownership
  • Meanwhile, by the 1990s, Public Choice Theorists like Tullock had begun to identify serious potential problems with treating government as a market–namely, the rent-seeking industry is way too small relative to the economic rent transfers. Tullock tried to explain this away with an “inefficient market hypothesis.”
  • The Bubble pop in the late 2000s of real estate prices and the credit derivatives to insure against the risk of default of the mortgage securities that financed the expansion of a “property-owning democracy” set the stage for the greatest economic rent transfer in human history(TARP), demolishing in the process, the Public choice rationale of inefficient markets in rent-seeking. The only rational alternative now left was “ruling class.” So, in no small part, due to the “justice” pursuit of “property-owning democracy,” the reality of a ruling class became undeniably exposed.
  • So, from this outline, one might see why I’m insistent on a taxonomy that differentiates between liberaltarianism and libertarianism, noting that much of what passes for libertarianism actually should be reclassified as “liberaltarianism.” In this instance, the spectacular failure of a “liberaltarian normative framework” perhaps does yield a “best justification for libertarianism.” Of course, this justification is not exactly in the sense originally intended by the author.