Wednesday, November 26, 2014

It Must Be Kicked

The pessimist:
The optimist:
I fly my pennant for Team Aristotle. You might not recognize it in my proto-Chestertonian anarchism, but I agree with ol' Ari that the political life is the highest calling of the citizen. Unfortunately, the greatest rewards to participation in politics accrue to knaves in greater proportion than to honest folk. Of course the monopolists of force protect themselves first. I cannot endeavor to lay my finger upon a single instance anywhere at any time when that was not the case. The First Rule of Policing is as close to a universal truth in society as can be found.

Kaley v US, Bennis v Michigan... the ugly list of asset forfeiture cases that line up benefiting the organized banditry masquerading as a peace force bares the lie that there exists a gentleman's agreement between the sovereign and the governed.

My utopian comet has a police force. Law and order are crucial to commerce, to comfort, to general opulence. But the agreement between the enforcers and the median constituent would be euvoluntary. Enforce the natural law, uphold capital-J Justice, protect the innocent.

Then again, I can hardly blame the cops for shaking down citizens and acting as unaccountable thugs. Not too much anyway. Most of the fault lies with over-zealous legislatures who spend their hazy days making every effort to appease tumultuous constituents whose conflicting interests produce mountainous, inscrutable reams of rules so prodigious that any citizen might be apprehended at any time for reasons so arcane that they may as well be utterly capricious. And woe be unto thee if thou are the target of a prosecutor's or a politician's caprice.

It would be unreasonable to expect a marble bust of Pallas to emerge from a rout of snails. Is it no less unreasonable to expect an ideal rule of law to emerge from a coven of senators?


  1. The median constituent??

    What about the below-median constituent? Can that constituent be assumed (perhaps by some kind of proto-Caplanite probabilistic risk management strategy) to be up to no good? I suppose if law and order are crucial to general opulence, then non-opulence is evidence of a disordered life.

    Pallas is an asteroid, not a comet.

    1. Pallas was a major character in the Aeneid. He was slain in battle and his body was returned to his father, King Evander, on his shield.

      But your question about the median constituent is a good one. I didn't specify how to rank order constituents. I think Team Red folks would be prone to pick income or wealth. Team Blue folks would probably go for a random draw after throwing out undesirables like the very wealthy and violent criminals. Team Pink might give extra weight to marginalized groups, the more marginal the better. Team Grey would probably put those who wield force at the bottom of the pack.

      Up to no good? I suppose it depends on who you ask. I've not really done the full fanfic treatment of life on my utopian comet. Perhaps I should.

      Also, it does not follow that if law and order tends to produce *general* opulence that *specific* poverty is necessarily the result of personal disorder.

      Despite the fact that Bryan Caplan is a great friend of mine, I haven't the foggiest idea what a "proto-Caplanite probabilistic risk management strategy" is. I assume this is the Caplan to whom you refer.

  2. It's been awhile since I was subscribed to the Koch-funded Econlog blog, and I forgot my Caplanisms. Somehow I knew "probabilistic risk management strategy" was too much of a mouthful even for the classically-educated bowtie-wearing big-vocabulary set. A few quick searches confirm the term I was looking for was the somewhat less polysyllabic "statistical discrimination."


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