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Reductio Ad Absurdum

April 29, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

I had really wanted to weigh in on last week’s Bleeding Heart Libertarians symposium on “Libertarianism and Land,” but believe it or not I’m still practicing law, and this past Thursday I finally sent off to a faraway court (well, a few hours away, anyhow) a major project that I’m hoping will do a client (and maybe even some other lawyers’ clients) some good, and on Friday I had a family law case set for a potentially very ugly evidentiary hearing settle at the very last minute.

But I have to say, a lot of what was written in the Symposium was either too deep or too pedantic for me, and reminded me of why I changed my mind about pursuing a doctorate in philosophy way back when. I had been looking forward in particular to the submissions of Hillel Steiner and Fred Foldvary, two leading “neo” Georgists, on the one hand, and of Kevin Carson, the genius-in-residence at the Center for a Stateless Society, on the other. I was all set to favor Steiner over Carson on the “Land Question,” but both of these two surprised me.

Steiner wrote, among other things, this:

So, cutting another long story short, the inference seems to be that, under the general rule for rights to natural resources, we should tax parents on the value of their children’s genetic endowments. Or more precisely, we should tax them on the value of the germ-line genetic information they jointly appropriate in conceiving an offspring. And this tax, like taxes on people holding rights to other natural resources, goes into the global fund, on which everyone has an equal claim. What this tax does is to effect a net transfer from those who have genetically well-endowed children to those who don’t. And those with poorly-endowed children are thereby supplied with extra resources to develop their children’s abilities and, thus, to offset their genetically-predisposed disabilities.

No thanks.

Carson, on the other hand, in his submission wrote:

Although I still favor the occupancy-and-use standard, I do so much less stridently than I once did. I believe that what the principled land rights theories have in common is more important than what separates us.

. . .

Since no particular set of land property rules can be deduced from fundamental moral axioms, they must be evaluated on utilitarian or practical grounds: i.e., the extent to which they maximize other, fundamental moral principles.

The chief normative values I believe a property rights regime should optimize are to guarantee to the greatest extent possible the ability of the owner to recoup her labor input (in the form of buildings and improvements) from the land, and to minimize the amount of overall privilege and rent extraction.

. . .

Foldvary acquitted himself quite well, and after everybody had said their piece posted this trenchant summation, thereby winning the Symposium:

Finer points aside, nobody has offered a specific and coherent and realistic more efficient and equitable alternative for public revenue than land rent or land value.

In other words, IMHO, even in a Stateless Society it would still be necessary to join with one’s neighbors to provide for, at a minimum, the common defense of land rights from barbarian hordes et al., and land rent or land value would be the most only natural and equitable source of revenue for funding this common defense of said land rights.

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