Thursday, May 9, 2013

Euvoluntary Exchange, Coercion, and the Burden of Proof

Talking on his new book today at GMU, Chris Coyne made a claim that made my hair stand on end. It's the supercharged precursor to Andrea's Question. In so many words, he asserted that the burden of proof is on those who would employ the coercive power of the state to effect change.

To an audience populated by liberty-friendly economists steeped in the traditions of Public Choice and the New Institutional Economics (eg your friendly authors here at EE), this comment raised about as many eyebrows as a village of Inuit discovering that polar bears poop on the ice.

But the way I see it (and Great Googly-Moogly, you should have been there to hear Bob Higgs' answer to my challenge on this point), the converse position is so deeply buried in the inframargins of both the political elite and the public that that particular point in spacetime is one of the few places anywhere or anywhen you can make that claim without eliciting at a bare minimum some sleeve-snickering.

And boy oh boy, this is central to what we discuss here. This is what we call a value disagreement. This is not a difference of interpretation that can be remedied by brute facts. It is a fundamental parting of the moral ways grounded in what entities have standing, legitimacy, or authority in society. This is some foundational stuff here. I fancy myself to imagine that the EE project is an attempt to map some common ground with folks who disagree with this basic principle, then to sketch out what happens when we deviate from this lil' circumscribed area, but sooner or later, we all have to confront upon whom falls this onus.

Right now, the overwhelming majority opinion holds that it's not on the political or intellectual elites who propose policy intervention.

So yeah, after that, Andrea's Question: what can we do about that?


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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?