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I thought I'd take this time to reply to the critics of my littleessay on distributive justice. -----For Paul Hsieh:-----I'm not quite sure how to take your comments. Some of the time,you seem to be agreeing with me, because you say things like"the forced labor is cleverly _concealed_" which makes it sound likeyou agree that even in your counter-example the surgeon is stilldoing forced labor. But at other points, you appear to be arguingthat a different injustice than forced labor is achieving the sameeffect. Namely: the government first imposes what may be called"forced _leisure_" on everyone in a certain field, and then allowsexceptions for those that agree to its terms. -----Indeed, we could imagine this system under other circumstances. Imagine that after slavery was declared illegal in the United States,Alabama passed a law that barred blacks from every occupation. Then,it offered licenses to work to those that met its terms. And what wouldthe terms be? They could return to work for their previous masters,and receive minimal food and shelter. -----I'm not sure whether we should call the blacks' new condition"slavery" or whether we should just say that it is just as bad asslavery, since it has exactly the same effect. But it is hard tosee why this round-about means of achieving the same end shouldmake a moral difference. Rather, it appears to just be a meansof (as you say) concealing the fact that one thing is just as badas the other. Since you agree with my conclusion anyway, thisshould be pretty clear to you; but I venture to affirm that almostanyone would have difficulty arguing that this round-about mannerof extracting forced labor is morally less objectionable than slavery. (Unless they are confused by the round-aboutness itself, which asyou suggest is probably just a way of disguising what would otherwisebe a patent injustice.)---------------------------------------------------------------------For Alan Eaton:-----I'm having a little trouble understanding your reply. Are you sayingthat educators will charge high prices, and that the poor will cometo them to get hand-outs? Even supposing that e.g. medical schoolscould charge exorbitant prices, why would they automatically givetheir extraordinarily large profits to the medically needy?You do correctly describe how a monopolist would price (namely, ifthe value of the education he offered were very great, he couldextract a very high price for it), although normally we wouldexpect competition to drive price down to average cost (which inmy hypothetical economy is just the cost of getting someone toget out of bed and do some teaching). -----I'm also puzzled by your remark that morality in such a societymight change its emphasis. Are you talking about "morality" inthe anthropological sense of "what people in X think is right"?Or are you talking about morality in the objective sense of "whatis actually right"? Obviously morality in the latter sense cannotchange its emphasis. But maybe what you mean is that confrontedwith this hypothetical, you begin to think that you were wrongabout forced labor, and it is actually perfectly just in some cases. If that is what you think, then my thought experiment has utterlyfailed for you. All I could ask you to do it reflect further andsee if you are actually convinced of the propriety of forced labor,or if you have been too hasty in changing your initial intuition. ------------------------------------------------------------------For Steve Blatt:-----You make a lot of points here, so I'm only going to try with themain ones. -----1. Getting a Clearer Picture of the Pure Service Economy. -----I admit that it is a little hard to visualize at first. Let'sput it this way: for all of the goods that there _are_, thereis superabundance. Plenty of food growing everywhere, pleasantclimate, natural shelter in caves, etc. And let's add furtherthat none of the services involve transforming naturally occuringgoods into new goods; rather, they are things like surgery,maid-service, offering lessons, and so on. The world is a littlebare, but surely it is conceivable without the silliness of toastersgrowing on trees. -----2. Relevance-----What is the relevance of my hypothetical? I do indeed try to extendit to the real world; but I think that it is interesting in itselfto see _how far_ the redistributionist is willing to go. It isinteresting to see if this hypothetical will make him start drawinglines and admitting that justice constrains his pursuit of equalityand the like. Even if you don't buy my extension, I still thinkthe example is instructive if it merely points to "the limits ofredistribution," since so many advocates thereof seem to take itas an overriding good. -----3. Examining Origins of Property Holdings-----Well, I suppose that there are two senses in which one could bea redistributionist. The first (and normal sense) is that of aperson who believes that the even the results of a free market-- in which initial holdings were not taken from anyone by force --ought to be modified, by force if necessary. The second (andidiocyncratic) sense is that of a person who believes that somecurrent holdings are unjust and must be rectified by forcedtransfer from the unjust holders to the just holders. -----As far as I can tell, my argument only supports redistribution inthe second sense. And if someone tried to use my argument tojustify massive transfers from e.g. the current rich to the currentpoor, I would challenge their _empirical_, not their _moral_argument. I agree that stolen holdings ought to be returned totheir true owners; I just think that most current holding areheld by their just owners. -----Even on a very strict interpretation of property rights, accordingto which the transfer must be voluntary at each and every nexus,it is easy to avoid the conclusion that most current holdings areunjust. Most obviously, if we also hold strictly to the principleof individual guilt and individual restitution, it would be necessaryfor a complainant to show that a certain individual unjustly heldhis _own_ property. If NO individual can show this, then even ifthe chain of just transfers were broken some point in the past,why shouldn't current property be considered unowned or abandonedproperty which was re-homesteaded by the current possessor?-----Or consider the case where a criminal grabs your bag of gold dustand blows it to the wind. This dust is going to land on theland of a mass of individuals, and it will be completely impossiblefor you to recover it from them. Should we not then treat the_original thief_ as if he had simply _destroyed_ your property,and hold him accountable? And if he then killed himself and hadno estate, why should we think that an unknowable percentage ofthe population owes you an unknowable amount of restitution?Why not think that the robber has robbed you and escaped punishment,without in anyway placing guilt on the rest of the populace?-----4. Rules of Valid Argumentation-----Well, there are at least two rules for an argument to work. Firstof all, as I said in my first posting, it is necessary that thepremise be more initially plausible than the conclusion. If pis the premise and q the conclusion, then P(p)>P(q). This avoidsabsurdities like trying to argue that the external world existsbecause I can clearly and distinctly conceive of the idea of God,and God would not deceive me. -----Second of all (as Mike Huemer pointed out to me), it is also necessarythat the premise be more initially probable than the _denial_ ofthe conclusion. This avoids absurdities like trying to argue thatwe have no knowledge because all statements are either analytic orsynthetic. The denial of the conclusion (We have knowledge) is moreinitially probable than the premise, so the argument doesn't work. Mathem----------atically, P(p)>1-P(q). For example, my argument would be a good one if P(slavery is wrong)=.99and P(redistribution is right)=.7For .99>.7, and .99>(1-.7). 5. Is Having Children Wrong?, The Duty of Slaves to Commit Suicide, etc. Now Steve's attempt at reductio ad absurdum don't even slightlyconvince me, for they make a critical conflation:With regards to having children, all that my argument says is thatit is _wrong_ to _oneself_ impose forced labor on another. Itdoesn't say that it is wrong to fail to avoid it; nor does itsay that it is wrong to create another human being who is likelyor even certain to be victimized. Similarly, my argument thatslavery is wrong for the slaver to commit does not mean that itis wrong for the slave to submit to it or fail to kill himself. -----To put this in teleological/deontological terms, I am saying thatit is wrong to enslave people. This is distinct from it beingwrong to be a victim of slavery. We would only be driven toSteve's conclusion if we thought of slavery as a _teleological_moral cost which exceeded all others. Hence, the moral cost-minimizing solution requires the production of no further childrenand suicide for existing slaves. I however am saying that slaveryis a deontological moral wrong; it is wrong for it to be done atall, but it may despite this be teleologically good that peopleexist even if they are enslaved. In Nozick's terms, I see"no slavery" as a side constraint rather than a moral goal.----- --Bryan Caplan-----[Moderator's note: You know, Brian's essay and the little controveryit started might be a very interesting thing to include in the JASP. If Brian or one of his commentators would like to organize and editit all, I could very easily include it as a special feature. Larry]-----From: Ben Fischer B.D. Caplan's essay means to a prove the following conditional, where A =redistribution in a pure service economy and B = forced slavery in a pureservice economy:A -> BSince forced slavery is unacceptable in a just society, he argues, by*modus tollens* redistribution is unacceptable. In this response I meanto show that the conditional is false, at least in any interesting way.That is to say, I mean to show that it is possible to have a situation inthe pure service economy which would be acceptable to theredistributionist, yet would not entail any interesting kind of forcedslavery.We can imagine a certain group of people unhappy with the state of affairsin the society which Caplan describes. They come together to discuss whatthey see as a problem, that there is too much suffering in the pureservice economy. They agree that none of them will conduct business(i.e., conduct the kind of voluntary exchanges that Caplan describes) withanyone not in their group. Furthermore, everyone in their group will berequired (on pain of expulsion) to devote a certain percentage (whichmight differ from profession to profession) of their services to those whocouldn't otherwise afford them. In return for such a donation, theyreceive the privilege of trading with the other members of the group, aprivilege not otherwise available.The first question is whether such a voluntary association would satisfyredistributive requirements. If the organization was large enough, itsurely would. Assuming that the voluntary association is large enough,would forced slavery necessarily result? It would not for the people inthe voluntary association, for it is *voluntary*. Neither would thoseoutside the voluntary association be subject to any interesting kind offorced slavery. This latter group would have two options: join thevoluntary association or don't. If they do, the only question is whetherthey were *forced* to do so. Again, the voluntary nature of theorganization assures that they were not. Imagine that only one personrefused to join the voluntary association, and that that person neededemergency surgery. Without joining, that person will die. Yet if we want to say that this amounts to a kind of forced slavery, that the choicebetween joining the "voluntary" association and death is no real choice atall, we also have to say that the members of the voluntary association (orperhaps just the surgeons) are doing something incompatible with justice.If the voluntary association *is* submitting the lone holdout to forcedslavery, it is not interesting forced slavery, for in a system ofvoluntary exchanges like Caplan describes, we surely want to keep theright *not* to exchange. If the holdout chooses not to join, the sameargument obtains. If the voluntary association, in letting him die, issubmitting him to forced slavery (or, more accurately, killing him), it isnot an interesting crime. We cannot claim that the voluntary associationhas done wrong without denying the people in it to organize on the basisoutlined above, which we surely don't want to do.The likelihood of such a voluntary association ever forming is admittedlyvery low. However, in the pure service economy I suspect thatredistribution would never be a problem because the very wealthy, thesurgeons, say, would have to work so little that they would be bored andgladly perform operations for the poor. So I don't feel compelled to basemy argument on what is likely, for Caplan's is not--indeed, the pureservice economy itself could never exist. My point is simply thatCaplan's argument that redistribution entails slavery in the forcedservice economy fails. If a large enough voluntary association couldaccomplish the kind of institutionalized redistribution that Rawls, say,would favor, and it seems to me that it could, no interesting form ofslavery would exist and Caplan's argument fails. Ben [email protected] [email protected] Wed Apr 5 18:28:52 1995Received: from by (8.6.12/1.7/newPE)id SAA21115; Wed, 5 Apr 1995 18:28:48 -0400Received: from [] by (8.6.10/4.940426)id SAA01944; Wed, 5 Apr 1995 18:26:44 -0400Date: Wed, 5 Apr 1995 18:26:44 -0400Message-Id: To: (Recipient list suppressed)From: [email protected] (ASP-Disc)Subject: Re: a response to the problem of distributive justice in a pure service economyStatus: RFrom: "Bryan D. Caplan" Well, I don't disagree with Ben Fischer argument. Why would I?He imagines voluntary institutions which pressure people intohelping others; and these functions exert a redistributive function. But, as Ben points out, no one either in or out of the institutions isbeing forced, so were have voluntary redistribution. Very well. Then my argument only demonstrates the moral illegitmacyof redistributive organizations which were _not_ formed voluntarily. Since this describes every government which ever existed (need Imention Lysander Spooner's _No Treason_?), my argument only shows thatall of the redistribution which exists in reality is wrong. Whichis all that I ever intended to show. In fact, if we slightly modify Ben's example, we will see my intuitionin all its moral starkness. Imagine that Ben's association is formedby threatening to kill people who don't join. Once 50% of thepopulation is enrolled, the leaders of the group only threaten tooccasionally beat up non-joiners; another 40% of the population joins. The remaining 10% are then told that if they don't join, the 90%remaining will boycott them. Is _this_ acceptable? I doubt it. But this process describes the actual formation of states far betterthan any contract theory ever could, so it is _this_ hypothetical,not Ben's benign one, which should inform our judgments ofredistributive practices of actual governments. --BryanFrom [email protected] Wed Apr 5 18:29:09 1995Received: from by (8.6.12/1.7/newPE)id SAA21160; Wed, 5 Apr 1995 18:29:04 -0400Received: from [] by (8.6.10/4.940426)id SAA02019; Wed, 5 Apr 1995 18:27:27 -0400Date: Wed, 5 Apr 1995 18:27:27 -0400Message-Id: To: (Recipient list suppressed)From: [email protected] (ASP-Disc)Subject: Re: a response to the problem of distributive justice in a pure service economyStatus: RFrom: [email protected] (David Rader)Ben, Although your reply to the idea of forced slavery in a pure serviceeconomy does permit the possibility of redistribution through charity,it does not address the main point of the argument, namely: If a government forces redistribution against someone's will,is that just? Admittedly, in a republic, the government is elected by presumablya majority of the populace. And therefore any rules made by the governemtnhave the effect of being made by the majority of the electorate (hey, thisis an idealized situation - ignore politics and special interests). But,is tyranny by the majority any more excused for taxation than it is forracism, or (excuse the spelling) aparthied? If every person within society choses to willing donate part ofher labor for charitable causes, as you have outlined, that is fine. It isthe individual's right to do so. But, what if, as your great associationwas forming, another formed right along side it, and whose members pledgedthemselves to help each other (ie trade and perform services for oneanother) conditional on the an individual member donating to charity, ifhe felt like it. If this association grew large enough to be self-supporting,then it would very easily allow any member of society to chose to donate,or chose not to donate, as her individual right. I am sure you would have no problem with this. But, would the otherassociation? Would the humanitarians who wish to coerce other members ofsociety into donating some of their personal labor to charity think it wasokay if some people did not? Most importantly: if (as I assume would happen)most of the segregation between associations was based upon personaldonating choices (ie most of those who chose to donate would join theforced donation group, and those who did not want to donate would join the"your choice" group) would the two sides fight each other in order todetermine which chosen path was "correct"? Would they try to legislatethe legality of their view, in order to force the other members ofsociety to conform? You may scoff at the idea, but consider any of a number ofnational issues today, in which the choice is personal, and the effect issocietal. Both sides wage huge legal and legislature battles to try toforce the other side to conform. To name a few: gun control, abortion,prayer in school, farming, and environmental concerns. In each of thesecases, the pro and anti sides are polarized, and very hostile towardseach other. The battles have evolved from "is it right to ... " into"should someone be legally allowed to ..." And, because many peoplewho respect an individual's choice fight to protect that choice, asopposed to fighting in favor of a specific action, it is very difficultto determine which members of each "association" feel that an actionis right. The problem, as I see it, with each of these cases, is notthat individual members of society feel that one action is or is notmorally right. The problem is that one side of each argument haschosen to try to force every member of society abide by that side'smoral code. Morality is most likely not a universal truth. Andcertainly, no moral system that has been proposed is universallyaccepted. Forcing your own system upon other people is wrong,according to my personal view. And, in that way, any kind of forced action, be itdonations to charity, the refusal to allow abortions, the takingof guns, or the stopping of voluntary prayer sessions in schoolis wrong. Sorry, Ben, but I just don't think you can escape thefact that forcing members of society to give away their possessionsagainst their will is unjust. Certainly not by saying that in onesituation there could spring up a voluntary charity organization. daveFrom [email protected] Wed Apr 5 21:58:25 1995Received: from by (8.6.12/1.7/newPE)id VAA21425; Wed, 5 Apr 1995 21:58:20 -0400Received: from [] by (8.6.10/4.940426)id VAA11987; Wed, 5 Apr 1995 21:57:03 -0400Date: Wed, 5 Apr 1995 21:57:03 -0400Message-Id: To: (Recipient list suppressed)From: [email protected] (ASP-Disc)Subject: Re: a response to the problem of distributive justice in a pure service economyStatus: RFrom: Mike To David Rader:I can't resist answering this one, although I'm sure Bryan could answerit just as well. I agree with your central point, which is that you shouldn't force peopleto give to charity. But the justification you offer at the end of yourmessage renders your position incoherent. You say the reason we shouldnot force people to give to charity (i.e., the reason it is *unjust* toso force people) is that "morality is most likely not a universal truth"and it's wrong to force people to abide by one's own morality, in yourpersonal opinion. You seem to be overlooking the fact that the view you just offered, likethe view Bryan was defending, is a moral judgement. Therefore, it isobscure how you can defend its truth by claiming that moral judgementsaren't really true. Furthermore, I presume you would say that it waspermissible to use force to prevent people from comitting randommurders. Yet wouldn't this be 'forcing our morality' on the would-bemurderers?If you say that it is categorically wrong to use force against people,then that must mean that it is also wrong to use force to prevent peoplefrom using force; and so it winds up that people should be permitted touse force after all. From [email protected] Fri Apr 7 01:18:39 1995Received: from by (8.6.12/1.7/newPE)id BAA13435; Fri, 7 Apr 1995 01:18:36 -0400Received: from [] by (8.6.10/4.940426)id BAA23070; Fri, 7 Apr 1995 01:17:50 -0400Date: Fri, 7 Apr 1995 01:17:50 -0400Message-Id: To: (Recipient list suppressed)From: [email protected] (ASP-Disc)Subject: redistribution as charityStatus: RFrom: Ben Fischer Perhaps I didn't make all the implications of my argument clear. Supposethat a government decides that anyone who wants to stop paying taxes, etc.,can simply give up their citizenship and set up tiny principalitiesconstituted of the land that they own. But the old government is surelywell within its rights in denying these new principalities the right totravel on their land. Well, it is clear that the residents of thisprincipality, presumably only a family, would starve relatively quickly,unless they owned a farm. In that case, the government wouldn't be*forcing* anyone to participate in their system of redistribution (andother undesirable things, I suppose), but if the redistribution that doesexist is charity, it's of a strange kind. Essentially the governmentwould have presented its citizens with the choice of death orredistribution-entailing citizenship, but the conditions under which deathwould be "imposed" are perfectly reasonable. The government would just beexercising its right over the property it owns. In this way I avoid thequestion of whether redistribution is good public policy, but the denialof its morality entails a denial of the government's right to use itsproperty in any way it chooses. My point is that you cannot deny the right of the government to enforceredistributive policies without also denying them the right to use theirproperty in any way they see fit. In a way, the U.S. goes beyond the callof duty, for the choice isn't redistribution or death, but simplyredistribution or jail for income-tax evasion. This is another version ofSocrates' contract argument. If the government gives you the opportunityto make another choice (and surely it's reasonable to make allowances forage here), you are bound the strictures it sets on you, even death. I cansee no way that redistribution necessarily entails slavery of any kind,if there is a contract which you aren't forced to sign. Of course, the situation changes markedly in non-democratic systems. Ben [email protected]

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