Every time a discussion of a Private Property Society comes up, a society where rules are set by the owner of his property, someone will raise the point of the far away outlier who has some pretty odd rules for his property.
It happened again at yesterday's post, Fraud in a Private Property Society.
A commenter replied to the post with this query:
Very interesting column, RW. In this PPS, suppose that Crazy Harry owns some land and has a rule that anyone who enters his land must be bare-headed, or he/she will be shot dead. This rule is posted at various places on the border of his land. Locals are well aware of Harry's crazy rules, and carefully avoid his property. However, George arrives on a train from the East Coast, and, through a cruel twist of fate, blunders onto Harry's land, having failed to see any of Harry's signs. Harry shoots George dead (did I mention that George is wearing a hat?). George's relatives are somewhat put out by this sequence of events. Do they, should they, have recourse against Harry?I think what must be done in these situations is to understand the underlying principle of the question which is never discussed. That principle can best be understood in the form of another question or actually a more complete original question "Should we have some outside body institute some sort of rules or regulations to protect us against the Crazy Harry's of the world when they have outlier rules for their property?"
But the minute we institute regulation over all private property, we have moved beyond the Private Property Society into a world of government where a man is no longer free to set his own rules and do as he pleases on his own land.
Of course, it is terrible that Crazy Harry shoots someone for failing to heed to a bizarre regulation, but car accidents are also terrible as are deaths by poisonous mushrooms.
The fact of the matter is that we live in a world of disequilibrium where all facts are not known to us in advance. To attempt to design the world as though we know in advance all possibilities leads to the most horrific totalitarian states. It has to because the only way you can even attempt to control masses of people is by making simple rules that limit all kinds of activity.
F.A Hayek called it a fatal conceit to think we can plan the entire world.
Most people actually recognize this on one level on a daily basis, That's why people get into cars every day even though death occurs to people in cars. Should we have a rule that says no cars are allowed because there are deaths?
Should we ban all mushroom picking because someone may not be aware what is a poisonous mushroom and pick it?
Risk can not be eliminated from the world, even when rules and regulations become very simple with totalitarians banning almost activities--and what a "life" that would be.
Now, let's turn back to the far out possibility of a Crazy Harry, who has crazy rules and a new person to the area who wanders on to the property and breaks a rule of the property and Harry plugs him. That would be a terrible death as are automobile accidents and people who die from poisonous mushrooms.
But we must ask, what is the alternative to this incredible stretch on how a person could die in a PPS?
And the answer is rules overriding private property, That is some form of government that sets rules for all properties, thus overriding the freedom of an individual on his own private property.
Thus, the question becomes: Do we want to start up government to prevent the one off-the-wall death that hypothetically might occur, a death seemingly less likely to occur than from an automobile accident or a person eating a poisonous mushroom? Government being a form of society that has resulted in hundreds of millions dead. A form of society where, as Hayek pointed out in Chapter 10 of the Road to Serfdom, the worst get on top. Do I really need to remind that Hitler, Stalin, and Mao were all government leaders? If we ever end up with a PPS, do we really want to overthrow it for a form of society that has been led by such monsters?
This planet we live on is a very harsh place, Using our minds, we can not end all harshness but only attempt to structure things in a manner to minimize the harshness. To point out that a particular form of society may result in outlier bad outcomes can be done by anyone given the nature of our planet. The real question becomes the question of the economist, "The harshness of this society compared to what?"
It seems a great folly to me to promote a society that moves in a direction away from PPS and toward a society that overrules private property respect and has brought us true monsters via the government structure.
Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher of EconomicPolicyJournal.com and Target Liberty. He also writes EPJ Daily Alert and is author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Follow him on twitter:@wenzeleconomics, on LinkedIn and Facebook. The Robert Wenzel podcast is on iphone and stitcher.