Neither dancing angels nor pins. Problems, on the other hand…

Classical Liberalism: The purpose of government is to do those things – and only those things – which both must be done and which only it can do.

Democracy: The purpose of government is to do the things the voters ask it to do.

A classically liberal government in a democracy is asked to do something – anything – that it is not currently doing. If it accedes it is no longer a liberal government; if it refuses it is not a democratic government.

(This should cause more sleepless nights than it does.)

Classical Liberalism: Society has no right to compel its members to defend it.

Traditional public goods theory: Society’s members will not voluntarily defend it.

But if a society must be defended then it must compel its members to defend it. But then it is no longer a classically liberal society.

(This, too, should cause more sleepless nights than it does.)

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One thought on “Neither dancing angels nor pins. Problems, on the other hand…

  1. classical liberals might say that the public choice literature has resolved (1). In particular, Buchanan and Tullock’s “Calculus of Consent” equates the social contract with “unanimity”(==the intersection of agent preferences). The remaining competitive preferences are treated as von Neumann–Morgenstern a n-player cooperative game(government as a market). With log rolling(i.e, side payments), you end up with symmetrically shared payoffs that satisfy a necessary condition of democratic preference being a pareto optimal allocation of resources within a liberal system of governance.

    (2) traditional public goods theory is overblown. There are few, if any, public goods. Incentive structures can overcome the “problems” articulated by neoclassical rationality. An obvious modern example is open source software.

    Criticisms of (1)
    Buchanan and Tullock would later supplant log rolling with the tullock aution as the primary mechanism of redistributable rent-seeking. The problem, however, is that empirical data began to suggest that the “government market” in rent-seeking was not acting like a market. The anomalous condition is rents >>outlays(suggesting a permanent dominant coalition, a fact that would displace methodological individualism in terms of political competition). Tullock tried to explain it away with a ridiculous “inefficient rent-seeking hypothesis,” but in the end more or less admitted that he simply was not willing to intellectually embrace the libertarian conclusions of his analysis.

    That is, the State, in many ways, behaves much more like de Jasay’s firm than a marketplace of competitive agents. And this behavior is much more of a problem for the “protective state,” that is the social contract component, than the “redistributable state.”

    https://rulingclass.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/the-calculus-of-dissent/

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