Monday, March 4, 2019

The Private Property Society and Communities

Mark A. has sent an important email about the PPS, below are his comments and my responses in blue. As you will notice, I get more and more concerned about his use of the term "community" as it becomes clear to me that he sees community as playing a fundamental role in the PPS.
I know your PPS Foundations book is not an attempt to make a from-the-ground-up case for PPS.  I don't know if you've laid out your argument in detail anywhere yet (I haven't viewed your debate with Walter Block yet).  Here is what I believe the outline for the PPS case. Do I have it basically right?
Actually, I believe I did make the ground-up case for PPS in my book. By calling is an outline, I meant that I did not contrast my view in detail against all other major philosophers and their views of society. But I do believe I made completely clear what my view is.
By starting with methodological individualism, we must not compare utility between people or make assumptions about what increases or decreases their utility except in one situation:  if any individuals voluntarily enter into an exchange, we can assume that each of them expects to have a higher utility after the exchange than before.
Yes, this is a point that Murray Rothbard makes when he correctly criticizes utilitarianism.
Since we expect individuals to be generally good at predicting the things that make them happy, most exchanges result in each of the individuals actually having higher utility than before. 
I am not sure we can make this claim if we want to be completely rigorous. All we can say is ex ante people make an exchange where they believe they will be better off.
We cannot say anything about non-participants of the exchange. It is possible, for instance, that an exchange involving two people makes each of them happier but lowers the happiness of everyone else in the population (eg jealousy).
This is true.
By allowing individuals to form and un-form exchange relationships with minimum friction allows each individual to explore the path to happiness that best suits himself. 
I am not sure what you mean by "un-form an exchange." There can be exchanges where it is agreed the exchanges can be unwound but there could be others that don't have this feature.
The communities that result (and dissolve) from these relationships are simply the expression of the subjective preferences of the individuals affected by those relationships. 
There can be communities within a PPS or there can be individuals that belong to no community. But those that would join a community in a PPS would do so because the community is in line with their subjective preferences as to what they want from the community. It may be far from a total alignment of subjective preferences, though. For example, I might be interested in living in a particular community with boring retired people because I consider it safe but have no interest in interacting with the members of the community in any way. And may have nothing else in common with them.
To the degree that the needs that gave rise to the community are satisfied, individuals will not desire to maintain the relationship with the community. Of course, if the needs are perennial (such as the need for enjoyable social interactions) or recurring (such as the need for food), the resulting community can be long lasting.
I am not sure what you are trying to get at here. There can be communities that form in a PPS but that is far from a necessary outcome. The PPS is simply: Leave me alone on my property and I will leave you alone on your property. Nothing else.
Now, we can certainly have interactions with other people in all kinds of ways, and avoid other people, and a type of informal community could emerge where no one is making any rules for anyone else but it seems you are attempting to introduce something close to a governmental set of rules in your sense of the term community. I reject this as a necessity.
Perennial needs are interesting because these give rise to potentially long-lived communities.  For example, the need of most people to live in a physically safe and pleasant environment would give rise to communities that can satisfy those needs.  One such community might introduce rules requiring membership dues to fund protection forces. Alternatively, another community could have rules ostracizing individuals who committing violent acts. 

Yes, your community is starting to sound more and more like government! I am granting communities could emerge occasionally but it is far from the way I see the PPS operating in general. In my view, I have a property and I hire police to protect my property based on the way I want my property protected, beginning and end of story. It seems to me that you don't recognize this as a possibility whereas I see it as the key manner in which a PPS would emerge (though an occasional tighter community amongst a small group could emerge in spots.)

In both cases, the definition of violence is arbitrary under the subjective preferences aggregated through the collective decision making process of the particular community.

I am really having a difficult time with this sentence. As far as I am concerned, physical violence against a person or thing is objective. The determination of punishment (if any) against a perpetrator of violence is not something that can be determined for all in an objective sense, such as an eye for an eye having to be the punishment or two eyes for one eye or whatever being the necessary objective punishment.

There is nothing in the PPS that wanders into the territory of "the subjective preferences aggregated through the collective decision-making process."

And you continue to stick to this community thing. The PPS is about everyone making rules on their own property with most people probably adopting very similar rules. This whole community thing is an outlier in the PPS.

It's like saying men can wear blue jeans in a PPS, well yeah, but that is not at the core of the PPS and really shouldn't be talked about as fundamental to the PPS.

I want to further point out that the PPS is not a theory that recognizes protection solely against violence as the core. It would probably be a very good thing for most people to hire a private police firm that protects against violence but they can protect against anything else a private property owner wants to protect against, say, people wearing orange pants where a property owner objects to that.

In this light, the libertarian non-aggression principle is not some theoretical necessity achieved through philosophical logic (there is no need for Missesian Utlitarianism or Rothbard’s natural rights).  Instead, the NAP is simply one of many rules (perhaps it is better described as a meta-rule) the results from some group of individuals sharing a common-enough set of preferences.

The NAP strikes me as a very sound fundamental guide of how to set rules on ones private property to protect oneself and at the same time to be welcoming to friends on one's own property. But there are no natural rights so it can't be that and utilitarianism fails because we can't compare utility across individuals, so it comes back to the PPS and the fundamental wiseness of agreeing, for subjective reasons, to leave others alone on their own properties. But it is not about "sharing a common-enough set of preferences." There is no "sharing." In a PPS, I will set my preferences any way I want. But most of us will do so in a manner that is "welcoming" to others so that we are not isoloated from all. But I don't see this as community decisions or any group sitting down hashing out the finer points. In my view, it emerges from a market in different sets of rules emerging where many over time adopt the same rules because they see the rules working. Not a case of kumbaya chants reached in harmony over a campfire as a set of rules emerge by a group as smoke billows through the air.
A society based on the two premises of methodological individualism and the goal of knowing that its participants are on a path toward greater happiness, is perhaps best called an agreement society

There are no necessary agreements in PPS other than: Leave me alone on my property and I will leave you alone on yours. It is about recognition and respect for private property and nothing else.

It has nothing, zero, to do with knowing other people are on a way to greater happiness. In a PPS, it is possible that many people could be acting in a manner that will result in them ending up in hell in permanent misery.

I think this is the same idea behind private property society - I just don’t think private property society captures the essential elements.  In fact, private property is only the result of the subjective preferences of the individuals involved.  If some group of individuals has preferences such that they organize as a socialist utopia, then all we can say is the resulting economy produces the most wealth its members’ preferences allows.  I believe you have said that the one PPS requirement is everyone acknowledges private property rights. I don’t believe this is necessary. Any group of individuals that share a common concern that their private property (once again, defined by the subjective preferences of the group) is imperiled, they will form a community to protect it.

Agh, the essence of our difference! You are still talking about some kind of community (government-lite?) that will protect properties of a group. In my PPS world, I am just going to phone the private police force I have contracted to protect my property.
Ultimately, I’m not interested in argument over which term better represents the ideas.  I’m mostly interested if I have a correct understanding of the logic behind the PPS.
The logic behind PPS from my perspective is simple. No communities required, unlikely for many to emerge, though nothing to stop some from emerging, but respect for private property protected by private police--with rules set by the property owner and no communities required to set any aggregate rules. Though most people will likely want to live in areas where reasonable rule, such as the NAP, is respected. But this is not because of community rules, aggregate thinking or, god forbid, any type of voting. It is because in the end most people are sane and want to live around other sane people and stay away from the yahoos.

It is in the end not planned rules by community rulers or anyone else but rather the emergence of general order because it benefits most from their own individual subjective perspective.


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