Friday, August 21, 2009

Mixing Words

Libertarians frequently say that governments have a monopoly on coercive force. Is this such a bad thing? Monopolies restrict supply. Does this imply that competitive markets would result in a greater amount of force (at a lower price, of course, if that is of any consolation)?

I cannot wait to hear the comments.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

The contradiction of libertarians is even more blatant. They assume you have have competing private governments and that no private government would be able to take over an area and become a monopoly. OK, it that is true, we currently have a monopoly government in the US. So start a private government and stop that monopoly. If you can't, then the assumption that monopoly can't suppress competitors is wrong. Now I know what the usual comeback will be: "By definition, private governments will be competitive". If only the world could be saved by assumptions.

Anonymous said...

Whether coercive force is restricted or not is meaningless. It is how it is used, who it is used upon and who has it that matters. If I am the only one with a gun, it is irrelevant if I obtain more. What matters is if everyone has a gun or not. If we all have guns, then their maybe more potential coercive force, but it may not be realized since the Tit-for-Tat strategy is in play.

doclawson said...

I think it is simply incorrect to say government has a monopoly in the use of coercion. Today we have much government and yet there is plenty of private coercion in the form of crime.

Some might respond by saying government has a monopoly in the use of legitimate force. But even here, and leaving aside the difficult question of what makes government coercion legitimate, there are plenty of examples of the legitimate use of private coercion such as in the case of self-defense.

In my book, government is a criminal enterprise that competes with other criminals such as the mob. It happens to enjoy more legitimacy than the mob (though this is not true in some communities I suppose).

Maybe if we got rid of government, a million criminals would rise to fill the void and would result in more violence. But I doubt it. It is certainly hard to imagine wars on the scale of what we have seen in the last century without the state.

brent butgereit said...

But monopolies also raise the price. The question becomes about whether the violence produced by the government (which though less frequent would be more costly) is worse than the violence produced by "the market" (which would be more frequent but cheaper). Is it better to be punched hard in the face once or slapped around a few times? This might suggest that we would prefer the lower level of pain though more frequent: http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_ariely_on_our_buggy_moral_code.html

But, of course, the results are not conclusive.

Robert J. Moeller said...

Very interesting site you got here. I found it randomly while looking through fans of Milton Friedman on blogger. I am a grad student in Chicago and an aspiring writer with a blog of my own (rjmoeller.com). Check it out some time. Take care.

Anonymous said...

It reminds me of Arnold Kling and Will Wilkinson's recent discussion.

http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2009/08/what_is_real_fr.html

Justin M Ross said...

My thoughts are most similar to Lawson's, but with the monopoly analogy in mind...

Monopolists reduce supply to maximize profits in the constraint of a downward sloping demand curve. It is not that their mere being of monopoly reduces supply, it does so for a purpose.

What does the government monopoly maximize, and what is their constraint? It seems to me that they almost by definition do not bear the costs of their actions (ideally, they are a neutral 3rd party), so they are most likely to oversupply force.