Study their behaviors. Observe their territorial boundaries. Leave their habitat as you found it. Report any signs of intelligence.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Extra Nolan Chart Dimensions

Not all political issues can be mapped onto the Nolan Chart's dimensions of economic self-determination and personal/civil self-determination.  Fundamental questions about the nature of property are largely orthogonal to these two dimensions.  It might make more sense to identify a separate dimension that measures how much one allows privatization/privilege in:
  • private (rival excludable) products: agriculture, artifacts (esp. capital)
  • monopolization of spatial resources (rival, often excludable): land, orbits, spectrum, rights-of-way
  • spoiling/consumption of natural resources (i.e. rival non-excludable goods): atmosphere, water, carbon sinks, sunlight, wind, game, underground oil pools
  • "intellectual property" (non-rival, largely non-excludable): copyright, patents, genetic info, blackmail, trademarks, "private" personal data
  • alienability of one's body parts (e.g. organ sales)
  • alienability of one's will (e.g. very-long-term contracts, indentured servitude)
Left would generally correlate with less privilege and Right with more, but many of us who reject the hard Right stance would also reject the hard Left stance as well.  I don't see a non-ad-hoc way to make geolibertarianism be the obvious happy medium; many of these seem to be free variables.

Property is not the only area where the Nolan Chart is incomplete.  Another candidate dimension is inclusiveness vs. exclusiveness (i.e. enfranchisement) according to attributes such as property ownership, religion, race, gender, citizenship, age, intelligence, sentience, sexual orientation, cryonic suspension, and computational substrate.  Who gets enfranchised is a logically separate question from what rights franchisees should enjoy. In the context of statism, enfranchisement of non-citizens suggests support not only for for liberal immigration, foreign aid, and human rights abroad, but also for free trade and humanitarian interventionism (as opposed to isolationism or imperialism).  Leftists are generally inclusivist, but they see fetal enfranchisement as an threat to women's enfranchisement, and often oppose even humanitarian interventionism.

An increasingly interesting possible dimension is futurephilia vs. futurephobia. Historically, rightists feared the future, while leftists and progressives believed history was on their side. Lately, leftists fear technological development even more than rightists.

At I have a javascript Nolan quiz that is higher-precision than the WSPQ, and that adds an extra question to distinguish ecolibertarians from royal/right libertarians.

Friday, January 16, 2009

When Freedom Is Lost, It's Usually "For The Children"

Single-payer federal health insurance for all children?

1. Unconstitutional.  Nothing in Article I Section 8 gives the federal government any authority to do this.  The Constitution is hardly perfect, but it can't protect us from the politicians (or from the mob) unless we protect it from them.

2. Why stop there?  If you're going to socialize and nationalize health insurance for children, then why not also nutrition, shelter, education, transportation, energy, retirement, and employment?  Oh wait, we've already done that for retirement, Bush has started nationalizing education (No Child Left Behind) and housing (No Speculator Left Behind), Obama is about to nationalize energy, and the rest of the economy is being steadily nationalized through subsidies, mandates, and bailouts.

Here is my challenge to any brainy do-gooders with the urge to use government power -- i.e., handcuffs, jails, and guns -- to enforce a feel-good vision on the rest of society.  For any force-based intervention you propose, please 1) identify the market failure you're trying to correct, and 2) explain why it cannot be corrected at a more decentral level -- state, metro area, county, municipality, or neighborhood.

Health care is indeed subject to market failure:
However, health care is also subject to massive government failure such as
  • tax preferences that artificially bind health insurance to employment, hide costs from consumers, and encourage over-insurance,
  • price controls dictated by a bloated mandatory insurance program that (thanks to high senior voting propensity) is funded via inter-generational income transfers,
  • laws against interstate competition in health insurance,
  • rent-seeking through legislated preferences sought by unions and hospitals and insurers and pharmaceutical patent holders,
  • artificial barriers to entry via professional licensure and excessive safety/efficacy regulations, and
  • laws preventing insurers and consumers from agreeing on lower-cost lower-coverage insurance.
America's healthcare market has for so long been so distorted by government interventions that it's hard for most people to see how a free market in healthcare would work.  Piling on more government interventions is not a smart response to the situation.  Instead, we need to replace the federal government's centralized tangle of health care bureaucracy and regulation with a decentralized market-based system in which government intervention is restricted to just correcting market failure at the most local possible level.

The market failure of free-riding on healthcare charity -- i.e. of under-donating to the safety net because you worry others will under-donate -- can be corrected at the state level or lower.  There is no state in the union so poor that it cannot afford to finance health insurance vouchers for its poorest citizens if its voters don't think they would be charitable enough to the sick among them.

The remaining market failures -- adverse selection, moral hazard, and asymmetric information -- are all knowledge problems, and only require tax incentives to correct.  Adverse selection by insurees can be corrected by tax incentives for insurees to join age-based risk pools (instead of our current brain-dead system of pooling risk by employer).  Moral hazard to over-rely on the safety net can be corrected by tax penalties for those who under-insure themselves against health catastrophe.  Asymmetric information held by doctors and hospitals can be corrected by tax preferences for providers who practice transparency. All these tax incentives could probably be done at the state level (even with interstate insurance competition), but even if initially implemented at the federal level this policy regime would be much smarter than any "single-payer" mandate -- no matter how messianic the leader whose armed henchmen would be enforcing it.

For more on market-smart health care policy, see

Friday, January 09, 2009

Whence the authority of the State?

How can individual officials of the State have any more rights, authority, or power than private individuals?

Everyone is created with an equal right to protect the rights of other individuals. However, certain procedural and substantive rights require a coordination framework to ensure their adequate protection:
  • Due process rights require coordination to avoid problems like conflict among competing courts or laws, double jeopardy, and inconsistent or capricious interpretation of rights.
  • Protection of common goods (i.e. natural resources) requires coordination of policy in the geographic extent of a resource.
  • Regulation of site monopolization, and the return of site rents due to provision of public goods, requires coordination throughout the region benefiting from a given public good.
These kinds of coordination cannot plausibly be achieved -- and thus the underlying rights cannot be protected -- without clearly defined geographic jurisdictions with the authority to impose standards of rights protection within them and at their borders.

When such a jurisdiction (i.e. rights-protection coordination framework) does not exist or is inadequate, anyone may homestead the right to provide it.  Where an adequate such framework is in place, random individuals may neither usurp that framework nor ignore its authority to protect rights.  Thus a state is legitimate to the extent that it provides such a framework.

The original question above is roughly analogous to the question of how an individual guardian can have any more rights, authority, or power over a child in her custody than other random private individuals.  The answer is that guardianship can be acquired through a symmetry-breaking process like homesteading, with a first-mover effect thus resulting in an asymmetry in authority over the person(s) in question.  The institution (and authority) of guardianship exists only because of the individual rights that could not be protected without it; the same is true of the State.  In both cases, the legitimacy of the institution depends on the consent of the governed -- not in the sense of having arbitrary veto or secession power, but rather in having recourse to a process of emancipation.  In the context of the state, that process is either revolution or secession.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

LP Behind The Curve On Animal Rights

Verifiable endangerment of a species or ecosystem that is part of the commons of a community is aggression against any non-consenting member of that community.  Persons must refrain from inflicting intentional cruelty on sensate beings, and respect their freedom in proportion to the cognitive capacity of their kind.

Prop 2 just passed in California, giving farmers until 2015 to eliminate the confinement of "pregnant pigs, calves raised for veal, and egg-laying hens in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs." The LPCA ExCom had approved a motion opposing the measure, over my lone dissenting vote of "neigh".  The LP ought to get ahead of the curve here, but we aren't yet institutionally capable of thinking in the shades of gray required by franchise issues like animal rights.  We barely have a handle on children's rights, and have never coherently addressed the rights of the unborn.

Last year Spain became the first nation to extend some individual rights beyond humans. It did so by adopting provisions of the 1993 Declaration on Great Apes:

For a summary of various declarations of individual rights throughout history, see