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[Political Obligation] Fair Play and Presumptive Benefits Watch

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    (Original post by RawJoh1)
    I really didn't 'get' McDermott's paper when I read it.

    I don't think the turn to presumptively beneficial goods is just an epistemological dodge. [Beware - I'm almost certainly reading my own politics into Klosko here]. It's not merely that they're a convenient way of knowing that a particular good has benefited someone, as if in a world with perfect information (where everyone knows with certainty who benefits from what) we would have no need for the notion. Rather, the notion is defined in relation to conceptions of the good (and the lack of need for a reference to a comprehensive doctrine - see how I'm reading my own politics into it haha!). It carves out a area of distinctively political goods, which allows it to fit in remarkably well with political liberalisms generally, for we'd only incur obligations when we are provided with goods/bundles of goods that are in some sense justifiable. So instead of the bottomless obligations some people in this thread are worried about, we get a nice little limit on State action.

    Regarding redistributive taxation, I think an argument can be made that a "fair" burden will have the rich paying more. For, I think it's true that the rich benefit the most from the coercive apparatus of the State. Wilt Chamberlain would be ****** in the State of Nature.
    I've never been convinced by political liberalism for the simple reason that there are, in any modern decently sized society, so many different conceptions of the good (or, more importantly, views about the legitimate role of the state in enforcing those conceptions) that there is no real 'overlapping consensus'. If you think of the overlapping consensus as the intersection of the sets of principles that people would consent to, then it will be null. Now, of course, at this point some kind of move is made to only accommodate reasonable views within this overlapping consensus, but I cannot for the life of me see how ruling out some conceptions of the good by fiat before they are allowed to enter into political deliberation is an acceptable premise in an argument which purports to justify such deliberation. It leads clearly to the absurdity of people such as Rawls ruling out the views of anyone opposed to abortion as 'unreasonable' - surely a view on abortion should be something we get out of the overlapping consensus, rather than something we put in.

    What's more is that although, I agree, there are certain goods which are desired by anyone, no matter what conception of the good they hold (water is a good example) there is a further problem here for you in that different conceptions of the good have different views about whether or not it is appropriate or even permissible for the state to provide these goods. You simply are not taking these different conceptions of the good seriously if you insist that their opinions of how goods should be provided are irrelevant.

    As for redistributive taxation and your notion of 'fairness,' I have to say it doesn't correspond to any notion of fairness I recognise (and, perhaps, therefore, is a notion of fairness which would not be admissible into an overlapping consensus?). Economically, it makes sense to consider two things about a good: the cost of providing it, and the benefit of receiving it. Now your notion of fairness apparently assumes that the relevant point of comparison is the benefit that the recipient gains - but I think this is particularly wrong-headed given that the benefit has been, in some sense, forced upon them. Why should all of the consumer surplus accrue to the state?

    (Interestingly, I think the normal intuition - particularly among those on the left - is the opposite of what you rely on here. A lot of people decry as unfair, for instance, that pharmaceutical companies charge prices which are well above the cost to the pharmaceutical company. They don't think that fairness requires the pharmaceutical company to collect an amount corresponding to the benefit they provide, but, rather, that it is the level of disparity between the price charged and the cost of provision which is the relevant test of fairness.)

    Finally, your last point is, I think, quite weak; why should we take the state of nature as the relevant counterfactual? Yes, Wilt Chamberlain is probably better off under a modern redistributive state than he would be in the state of nature; but he would be even better off in a minimal state which only charged him the direct costs of providing him with services. How can you rule out this possibility as also being morally relevant?
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    (Original post by Richard_A_Garner)
    Except that if the argument only applies in the case of "political goods," and is yet also meant to lend legitimacy to the existence of those political goods, or a political system in which they are embedded, the argument becomes circular or question-begging. Nozick's approach, as is his approach in much of these things, is to say "your arguments that imply X in case Y also imply X in case Z, but you, and most people would oppose X in case Z, so they cannot support an argument that would imply X in case Y." I don't see how "ah, but Z is not a case of Y" is a good response.
    There's a difference, though: most people would be more supportive of the government donating essentials than donating useless things. Whatever reason is behind this can be used to fail the argument in case Z. This does imply some sort of modification to the argument, but yes.
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    (Original post by birdsong1)
    There's a difference, though: most people would be more supportive of the government donating essentials than donating useless things. Whatever reason is behind this can be used to fail the argument in case Z. This does imply some sort of modification to the argument, but yes.
    OK, but presumably to test this case you would presumably accept the same conclusion if it was somebody other than the government doing precisely the same things? So that if I provided an essential benefit to a group of people, whether they had all asked me to or not, and which those who don't want it have to go to considerable expense or hardship to avoid, all those who choose to pay me to ensure I do this have a right, that I can enforce, that anybody else who benefits from this also pays, regardless of the fact that they cannot avoid the benefit and never asked for it.
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    (Original post by Richard_A_Garnier)
    But this runs directly into my objection about the car lot providing cars for everybody in the community rather than just to those that pay. This "citizen's defence organisation" has decided to protect everybody in the community, not just those who pay it, and thereby created a free-rider problem where none need exist, and then used the existence of this free-rider problem to justify forcing everybody to pay for it.
    I don't see the force of the objection, because I think it is fairly plain that there are inescapable free-rider issues. If our citizens' defence force defends settlement A, but settlement B refuses to pay, then they can easily just protect settlement A, but I can't really see how one can selectively defend a section of 'fee-paying' settlement A - and this problem gets even worse with other public or geographically extended goods like clean air, water, etc. If you think such things can be provided in such a way so that only those who 'opt-in' benefit (like the Car park), I'd like to see an argument why - to me, it is difficult to believe.

    (Aside: Obviously, the amount spent on these public/preemptive/primary goods needs to be proportionate.)

    Whilst I'm sure that Rawls and other would like this argument to apply to the social liberal welfare state, too, I'm not sure it does. The fair play principle generally leads to a conclusion "and therefore X has a duty of fair play to make his own fair contribution." The "fair contribution" is key here, because it could easily be the case that those that benefit the most from the welfare state are not those that pay the most into it, and those that pay the most into it do not benefit much from it, so it is problematic to say that these people have made a "fair contribution" or whether their contribution is unfair.
    I agree that further work needs to be done, but I think one can justify (along these lines) the welfare state as an equitable arrangement behind some veil of ignorance (or a Hare-esque modification of how to universalize.) So if you happen to be (contentious issue right there) fit and healthy, it might well be that you lose out from a welfare state to where there wasn't one. But you would opt for, if you didn't know whether you would be rich and healthy or poor and sick, a society in which those who happen to be rich and healthy help out the poor and sick. So the 'fairness' isn't along Klosko's fair play, but some sort of universalizing principle over possible circumstances: given you would want this sort of society, and you have little, if any control over ending up rich and healthy as you are, it's only fair to pay your dues.

    'Fair contribution', then, isn't solely judged through the lens of how much you benefit given how things happen to be, but rather the contribution that would be agreed as fair for someone finding themselves in your position to make as determined by some 'impartial'/original position-esque/competant judge. This is an extension of (how I take) Klosko uses fair play, but to the lefty-inclined, it seems on the money - we'd naturally argue that people often have very little control over the circumstances they find themselves, for good or ill.


    I'm not sure this is correct: These people may not want welfare or socialised medicine if their lot in life was worse. Back in the good old days when there was a stigma attached to recieving welfare or charity, many people who were entitled to it refused it, more interested in picking themselves up by their own efforts.

    Or, on the other hand it could be the case that they would not want the welfare state if their lot in life was worse because they would rather turn to some other institution providing support for those who's lot in life was worse.

    In neither of these cases does the fair play argument seem to provide a defence of taxing these people. It only provides a defence of forcing those who want a service to pay for it, and we don't need to force these people.
    I agree these circumstances might be the case, but I'm not convinced they are probably so.

    If it is indeed the case that people are entitled to welfare/charity/state aid, then I think one could hope to persuade these people that they have nothing to be ashamed of (given the prior account about fortune etc.) Now if people still don't want to receive aid, then that is their right, but I find it hard to believe - given what we observe - that this number will be substantial.

    If welfare concerns could be met entirely through the voluntary sector, I have no objection. Unfortunately, I deem this unlikely, and unlikely for almost the same problems which have been discussed above - people either free-riding, or not paying because they don't anticipate needing the service. I don't think people on the receiving end of welfare will mind if its a charitable enterprise or a welfare state (or a bit of both.) If the citizenry can be convinced to pay of entirely their own accord about the extent of their (in my view, moral) obligation to the worse off, then that's great - and it also obviates the need for any need to enforce obligation. But I fear I might be missing your point.

    Well, you are ignoring enforcement costs. It could be the case that if the welfare state only covered those that had chosen to pay into it, all the money spent on enforcing taxation of those that haven't chosen to pay into it could be added to the welfare provision.
    Fair enough: the state should cease enforcement on prudential grounds. Again, I don't think this is a likely scenario. I'd also want to morally indict the citizenry on these grounds for failing to live up to their moral duties.
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    (Original post by GregoryJL)
    I agree that further work needs to be done, but I think one can justify (along these lines) the welfare state as an equitable arrangement behind some veil of ignorance (or a Hare-esque modification of how to universalize.) So if you happen to be (contentious issue right there) fit and healthy, it might well be that you lose out from a welfare state to where there wasn't one. But you would opt for, if you didn't know whether you would be rich and healthy or poor and sick, a society in which those who happen to be rich and healthy help out the poor and sick. So the 'fairness' isn't along Klosko's fair play, but some sort of universalizing principle over possible circumstances: given you would want this sort of society, and you have little, if any control over ending up rich and healthy as you are, it's only fair to pay your dues.

    'Fair contribution', then, isn't solely judged through the lens of how much you benefit given how things happen to be, but rather the contribution that would be agreed as fair for someone finding themselves in your position to make as determined by some 'impartial'/original position-esque/competant judge. This is an extension of (how I take) Klosko uses fair play, but to the lefty-inclined, it seems on the money - we'd naturally argue that people often have very little control over the circumstances they find themselves, for good or ill.
    This is, I guess, my main problem with 'fair-play' arguments: they're not really about people incurring obligations to pay a reasonable amount towards the cost of the provision of certain goods, they're about attempting to justify the whole modern state, redistribution and all. It's like a gigantic bait and switch - why talk about presumptively beneficial goods in the first place if no theoretical weight is being placed on it, when in reality your argument from 'fairness' comes from some kind of veil of ignorance consideration and nothing to do with the provision of public goods? The whole intuitive case for fair-play arguments comes from the understandable thought that accepting some tangible benefit while not contributing to the cost is morally wrong; but as the type of benefit gets weaker (hypothetical benefits? benefits for other people?), less and less intuitive work is being done by fair-play arguments and more by your (independent) veil of ignorance style argument.

    For instance, and this is just one example of incongruity between a genuine fair-play justification and the kind of full blooded justification that you and RawJoh are apparently going for, think about secession. If your justification of the state comes via its provision of certain non-rivalrous, non-excludable presumptively beneficial goods, you have no legitimate grounds to stop the peaceful secession of a group living in some area, provided that that group would be independently able to provide those goods for itself. But, of course, allowing this kind of secession would be fundamentally incompatible with the kind of redistributive state you want, for the simple reason that if you allow the net contributors to state coffers to secede, as they have every incentive to do, you will be left with only net recipients and therefore have no money to redistribute. Banning secession, on the other hand, would mean that my obligation to the state would apparently arise from the state providing me with 'benefits' I largely do not receive while it simultaneously forbids me, under threat of violence, from attempting to find an alternative supplier. That is, it is not any kind of 'fair-play' which is recognisable to me, at least.
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    (Original post by GregoryJL)
    I don't see the force of the objection, because I think it is fairly plain that there are inescapable free-rider issues. If our citizens' defence force defends settlement A, but settlement B refuses to pay, then they can easily just protect settlement A, but I can't really see how one can selectively defend a section of 'fee-paying' settlement A - and this problem gets even worse with other public or geographically extended goods like clean air, water, etc. If you think such things can be provided in such a way so that only those who 'opt-in' benefit (like the Car park), I'd like to see an argument why - to me, it is difficult to believe.
    Well, it depends on what you mean by defense. It seems plain to me that an organisation can say "We will protect against, or punish those that rob or assault you, but we will not protect against people assaulting you (i.e. some other person). Protection of person and property is pretty clearly a private good. The fact that an organisation chooses to provide it to everybody in a single community regardless of whether they pay, thereby creating a free rider problem, rather than to just those that pay is its fault.

    The problem, then, is about who is responsible for the free-rider problem.

    Beyond this, there are private solutions to public good and commons pools problems, through specifying and assigning property rights, and through contractual arrangements. Just one example would be for a company to refuse to provide anybody in a group with a service until everybody in it had agreed to pay. Another could simply be Axelrod's conclusions on the evolution of co-operation: Mutual co-operation is the rational strategy for self-interested people where the chances of future interaction are sufficiently high.

    I agree these circumstances might be the case, but I'm not convinced they are probably so.

    If it is indeed the case that people are entitled to welfare/charity/state aid, then I think one could hope to persuade these people that they have nothing to be ashamed of (given the prior account about fortune etc.) Now if people still don't want to receive aid, then that is their right, but I find it hard to believe - given what we observe - that this number will be substantial.
    Would they be entitled to keep their taxes then?

    If welfare concerns could be met entirely through the voluntary sector, I have no objection. Unfortunately, I deem this unlikely, and unlikely for almost the same problems which have been discussed above - people either free-riding,
    How would they free-ride? I suppose that benefitting from charity without donating yourself is possible. But beyond that, mutual aid schemes tend to internalise their benefits.

    or not paying because they don't anticipate needing the service.
    Which is not a market failure, it just means that they don't value that service highly compared to other things.
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    (Original post by Richard_A_Garner)
    OK, but presumably to test this case you would presumably accept the same conclusion if it was somebody other than the government doing precisely the same things? So that if I provided an essential benefit to a group of people, whether they had all asked me to or not, and which those who don't want it have to go to considerable expense or hardship to avoid, all those who choose to pay me to ensure I do this have a right, that I can enforce, that anybody else who benefits from this also pays, regardless of the fact that they cannot avoid the benefit and never asked for it.
    Sure, but keep in mind that other considerations may come up. You may not be able to provide a similar enough service as the government. For example, you may not meet general expectations. While people generally expect government to redistribute income, they may not expect you to do so. You would need to provide advertisement and inspire confidence in yourself. (Ironic, I know, but I think I would still trust the government with my tax money over "Richard Garner".) Also, I noticed you're making categorical claims that it'd be okay if you did such-and-such. But what if 1000 private institutions decided on their own to provide the current level of welfare? At some point, it becomes ridiculous (if only for that reason that redistributing necessities is more acceptible than luxuries). On the other hand, if welfare was, somehow, already being taken care of by the private sector, it would be unwise for the government to try to further intervene, so these objections do apply to everyone.
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    Apologies for delay.

    (Original post by Richard_A_Garnier)
    Well, it depends on what you mean by defense. It seems plain to me that an organisation can say "We will protect against, or punish those that rob or assault you, but we will not protect against people assaulting you (i.e. some other person). Protection of person and property is pretty clearly a private good. The fact that an organisation chooses to provide it to everybody in a single community regardless of whether they pay, thereby creating a free rider problem, rather than to just those that pay is its fault.

    The problem, then, is about who is responsible for the free-rider problem.

    Beyond this, there are private solutions to public good and commons pools problems, through specifying and assigning property rights, and through contractual arrangements. Just one example would be for a company to refuse to provide anybody in a group with a service until everybody in it had agreed to pay. Another could simply be Axelrod's conclusions on the evolution of co-operation: Mutual co-operation is the rational strategy for self-interested people where the chances of future interaction are sufficiently high.
    I agree that one can have a selective police force - but I don't think a selective defence militia seems very feasible. There are of course other issues a selective police force (like other solutions like these) would have to worry about, like how to regard incompetant people in 'uncovered' housholds and stuff. In a similar way to enforcement costs, there would, assumedly, be selection costs when you are trying to find out whether they paid for policing. And, again, one can look at clean air or other things as a public good that can innevitably drive free-riders.

    I'm somewhat sceptical of these private solutions - a 'no pay until everyone does' seems to suggest a hawk-and-dove like game of brinkmanship between those who want the service, but would be better off if someone paid their share. I agree that co-operative solutions are better (not just for self interest), but if so, then public goods wouldn't be an issue, because everyone would be happy to play ball to achieve them, ditto security, the rule of law, etc.

    Would they be entitled to keep their taxes then?
    No. But if these people are poorly enough off already to be requiring state handouts, I would like a government joined up enough not to tax whatever insufficient earnings they have. If they do have enough money to be getting by, then my prior claims about a defence for coercive tax apply.

    How would they free-ride? I suppose that benefitting from charity without donating yourself is possible. But beyond that, mutual aid schemes tend to internalise their benefits.
    I'd think the majority of benefactors from most charities never contributed to it. I confess I don't really see what's so great about a mutual aid scheme but so bad about a state with progressive taxation. The former seems a lackadaisical and less effective execution than the latter of the same principle.

    Which is not a market failure, it just means that they don't value that service highly compared to other things.
    No, not a market failure, but so what? The failure I anticipate is that these mutual aid societies will be stratified by wealth, due to the wealthy wanting to cater for their own difficulties and interests. Besides any possible impediment to liberty, I think it is unfair and immoral that the poor (whom in my view, the great bulk are so through matters outside of their volition or control) must rely on whatever they can scrabble together and whatever (insufficient) handouts the wealthy provide to aid their difficulties, when they deserve far more, and this entitlement could be, but won't be, supplied by those who have a duty to do so (and I don't think, even with any supposed efficiency benefit of the private sectors over the state apparatus, that this will obtain in Libertopia.) The fact that these are functioning Markets, to me, is an irrelevence.

    (Original post by DrunkHamster)
    This is, I guess, my main problem with 'fair-play' arguments: they're not really about people incurring obligations to pay a reasonable amount towards the cost of the provision of certain goods, they're about attempting to justify the whole modern state, redistribution and all. It's like a gigantic bait and switch - why talk about presumptively beneficial goods in the first place if no theoretical weight is being placed on it, when in reality your argument from 'fairness' comes from some kind of veil of ignorance consideration and nothing to do with the provision of public goods? The whole intuitive case for fair-play arguments comes from the understandable thought that accepting some tangible benefit while not contributing to the cost is morally wrong; but as the type of benefit gets weaker (hypothetical benefits? benefits for other people?), less and less intuitive work is being done by fair-play arguments and more by your (independent) veil of ignorance style argument.

    For instance, and this is just one example of incongruity between a genuine fair-play justification and the kind of full blooded justification that you and RawJoh are apparently going for, think about secession. If your justification of the state comes via its provision of certain non-rivalrous, non-excludable presumptively beneficial goods, you have no legitimate grounds to stop the peaceful secession of a group living in some area, provided that that group would be independently able to provide those goods for itself. But, of course, allowing this kind of secession would be fundamentally incompatible with the kind of redistributive state you want, for the simple reason that if you allow the net contributors to state coffers to secede, as they have every incentive to do, you will be left with only net recipients and therefore have no money to redistribute. Banning secession, on the other hand, would mean that my obligation to the state would apparently arise from the state providing me with 'benefits' I largely do not receive while it simultaneously forbids me, under threat of violence, from attempting to find an alternative supplier. That is, it is not any kind of 'fair-play' which is recognisable to me, at least.
    You are right, but I hope I haven't been offering a bait and switch - I've been pretty clear, I hope, that an extended concept of rationality is needed to do the work I want it to do. But fair play considerations are still involved, because these are those I think which limit state interventions in Soclibtopia. If people are divided in good faith over the merit of a good (eg. the Tate Modern), then I don't think the state should provide it out of general taxation. It is when public/presumptive or whatever goods are around which people don't disagree in good faith over whether these would be important, nor can the state afford defection when coercion comes into play - albeit, for wider goods along the lines of a modern welfare state, an extension along the lines of veil of ignorance or supra-circumstantial universalization comes into play.

    Naturally, no secession is allowed in soclibtopia. But I'd say it is fair play, or at least preventing unfair play on the part of the wealthy wanting to go to their own state where they can avoid the needs of the more needy yet no less deserving. Assumedly, after a while, this seceeded state would develop at least relative poverty on its own, and so net requirers of wellfare services (if tehy existed) would arise. If all the above on a 'proper' state is true, then such a secession is just a tax evasion on the part of the seceders, as they've unburdened themselves of their needs to poor.

    As will be unsurprising, I don't think moral duties become attenuated by national divides anyway. So, really, one might suggest that the present world is already in the situation you describe in your thought experiment, although obviously not generated through that mechanism.
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    (Original post by GregoryJL)
    Apologies for delay.



    I agree that one can have a selective police force - but I don't think a selective defence militia seems very feasible. There are of course other issues a selective police force (like other solutions like these) would have to worry about, like how to regard incompetant people in 'uncovered' housholds and stuff. In a similar way to enforcement costs, there would, assumedly, be selection costs when you are trying to find out whether they paid for policing.
    Private property presently protected by private security bears a sign announcing it to be so. This means that people can know that the owner of such property has paid. Houses without such signs have not paid.

    Lets take a section written by Bruce Benson, which relates to police protection, but could relate to other private goods:

    (Original post by Bruce Benson)
    A wide variety of individual and cooperative arrangements can be anticipated that would emphasize the protection of persons and property (prevention) and the recovery of losses suffered by victims. Individuals may choose to protect themselves and their property by owning guns, installing burglar alms, building fences, barring windows, and so on, much as they do today. The rights to do such things are private property rights that clearly would be supported by privately enforced customary law.

    Cooperative arrangements by groups would also arise. The benefits to be shared by watching and patrolling geographic areas are considerable, and thus incentives are strong to support such efforts. In some communities or neighborhoods where individuals budget constraints are more binding than time constraints, residents would contribute their time to a voluntary patrol. In others, where budget constraints are less binding, people would contribute money to hire a private security firm or firms, which in turn would furnish patrols, watchmen, guards, electronic watching devices or whatever the community wished to pay for.

    Although there may be free-rider incentives inherent in such localized
    watching,)' over time contractual arrangements would probably arise to internalize the deterrent benefits of patrol systems, thus eliminating the free-rider problem. This development might not actually take long in a highly mobile society like ours. Enterprising residential and business real estate developers would quickly see the benefit of establishing developments that offer, as part of the purchase price of a home or business location, a guarantee that everyone in the development has signed a legally biding contract to contribute to the community's security arrangements. Such communities already exist, of course. In some areas a person who buys property has to agree to pay a fee that covers the cost of the private guard and patrols (as well as street maintenance, street lighting, etc., if the entire community is privatized). As people move, for whatever reason, these sorts of contractual arrangements would attract increasing numbers, since such communities would be relatively safe from violations of individual property rights. This is particularly true since those least likely to free ride because of their strong concern for protection would find such contractual arrangements quite attractive, leaving relatively large numbers of free riders in other, non-contracting neighborhoods.

    Voluntary arrangements without legally binding contracts (that is, those that allow free riding) would become relatively less effective, and neighborhoods so characterized would face relatively greater threats to persons and property. As the threat increased more people would move out, or the cost of free riding would increase to a level such that more and more of those who remain would be willing to contract for joint purchase or production of protection. Free riders would face the increasing ire of their neighbors, ultimately backed by ostracism, and be prevented from consuming any benefits of living in the area that they can be excluded from. Communities that fail to internalize the benefits of group protection because of free riders would find themselves at a competitive disadvantage with those that eliminate free riding. Property values would fall. The cost of free riding would rise tremendously under privatization. None of this means that all free riding must be eliminated as every individual (or even every community) contracts to internalize the deterrent benefits of protection, of course. Communities may conceivably exist and survive without developing such security systems, although their "citizens" would probably have either very high levels of self-protection or have little they feel is worth protecting. (There clearly are people who have opted out of the current legal and social system roaming the streets of most major cities and many of the nation's wildernesses).
    I can't see why similar arguments wouldn't apply to other goods who's provision involves free-rider problems. It would mean that a local community could organise its defence. Such communities could federate together, too.

    And, again, one can look at clean air or other things as a public good that can innevitably drive free-riders.
    Well, not all public goods need involve free-rider problems. Some are, for instance, Chicken Games rather than prisoners' dillemma games. I have read, for instance, of societies where irrigation systems match such a situation: Everybody benefits if the irrigation system is kept clean and unclogged, so they can get the benefits even if they don't contribute to doing so. However, unlike a prisoners' dilemma game, the costs of being a victim of a free-rider are lower than the costs of the irrigation system clogging up, so that it may be preferable for people to free ride off your efforts to clean it rather than risk being a victim of free riding.

    Then some public goods are iterated n-person prisoners' dilemma games, as I have already discussed: Free riding would not be rational in such situations if free-riders can be identified and the chances of future interaction are high. This would mean that in local communities public goods might not be under supplied (it also means that political support for special interest laws is more likely to occur than opposition to those special interest laws, even where the costs exceed the benefits of the law's provision, unless the victims are other special interests).

    Some public goods are assurance games: Hugh Heffner found that the local TV station broadcast nothing but white noise after midnight, so he paid the station to play cowboy movies he loved. Everybody else who could recieve the broadcast benefitted from this, but he didn't mind, because he got his cowboy movies.

    All this means that the existence of public goods doesn't imply a problem, necessarily.

    However, I still am not persuaded by the notion that if I am in reciept of the benefit of a public good that I haven't asked for, and that I have to go to considerable expense to avoid, or lose the ability to enjoy or exercise certain rights to avoid, I can be said to have a duty to pay for the continued provision of that benefit. Klosko's argument either seems question-begging or it seems non-falsifiable. It says, basically, "The fair play argument holds in cases where the good is X." Nozick's argument against it says, "The argument to create obligations based on fairly to contribute to the provision of X would create obligations to provide Y, but nobody thinks they would apply to Y, so they cannot apply to X." Klosko's response is "Ah, but Y is different from X." The very instance that somebody comes up with a good who's benefits it is possible to free-ride from where people would say it is counterintuitive that we have a duty of fair play to contribute to, Klosko can say, "oh, well in that case the good is trivial, unlike national defense or clean air." It seems impossible to test his theory.

    Moreover, you still have not answered the objection that Scandanavians benefit from the enforcement of the Clean Air Act as do UK citizens, so surely the argument would justify taxing them.

    I'm somewhat sceptical of these private solutions - a 'no pay until everyone does' seems to suggest a hawk-and-dove like game of brinkmanship between those who want the service, but would be better off if someone paid their share.
    Of course it does: That is precisely what a free-rider implies. Free-riders are people who think that the good is worth more than it costs to provide, but don't pay, because they can get it without doing so. If the situation involves people who don't pay because they don't think that the good is worth what it costs then this is not a free-rider problem. So, by hypothesis, creating a situation in which the good is not provided to people unless they pay will eliminate the free-rider problem. Saying that nobody gets it unless everybody pays accomplishes that - it creates a situation where people who think that the good is worth more than it would cost them to get it cannot get it unless they pay.

    I agree that co-operative solutions are better (not just for self interest), but if so, then public goods wouldn't be an issue, because everyone would be happy to play ball to achieve them, ditto security, the rule of law, etc.
    Well, I don't think they are a problem, at least relative to the associated costs of trying to resolve them through creating an intervening state. David Friedman has said that market failure is a good argument for ststae intervention and a better argument against it. This is because there are market failures in political processes, too. Just to take one large one: Everybody benefits from good government, The result is that the provision of good government has positive externalities making it either commons pool or a public good.

    I'd think the majority of benefactors from most charities never contributed to it. I confess I don't really see what's so great about a mutual aid scheme but so bad about a state with progressive taxation. The former seems a lackadaisical and less effective execution than the latter of the same principle.
    The issue is about means, not ends: Charities and friendly societies do not force people to give them money. They do not do what, for anybody else, would amount to robbery.

    Moreover, the fact that they rely on voluntary contributions (in theory. In practice they generally get state funds - Barnardos recieves 80% of its money from the state and may suffer in efficiency because of it) means they they have to be more careful to make sure what they are doing with their funds is effective, and that resources are not wasted, and that this effectiveness is achieved at the lowest cost. This means eliminating fraudulent claims and providing aid in a way that encourages the needy to provide for themselves rather than turn to dependency. I have calculated, elsewhere, that even if the total contribution to charity was only a third of the amount of money that the state raises, the amount going to the fulfill the purpose for which it was raised would exceed the amount the state provides, since charity would be more careful not to provide to those that can provide for themselves (conservatively, half of all claimants) and since private charity conforms to Friedman's law: It on average costs half as much as government equivalents do.
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    (Original post by GregoryJL)
    You are right, but I hope I haven't been offering a bait and switch - I've been pretty clear, I hope, that an extended concept of rationality is needed to do the work I want it to do. But fair play considerations are still involved, because these are those I think which limit state interventions in Soclibtopia. If people are divided in good faith over the merit of a good (eg. the Tate Modern), then I don't think the state should provide it out of general taxation. It is when public/presumptive or whatever goods are around which people don't disagree in good faith over whether these would be important, nor can the state afford defection when coercion comes into play - albeit, for wider goods along the lines of a modern welfare state, an extension along the lines of veil of ignorance or supra-circumstantial universalization comes into play.
    Well if it's an extended theory of rationality you're going to be appealing to, the chances are we certainly won't agree - I think the attempt to built too much (morality, in particular) into rationality is a great shame. There are certainly areas of overlap between morality and rationality, but generally I find that the claim that there is some kind of stronger dependence or coextensiveness is often used to do more philosophical work than the concepts will allow - Kant's moral theory is a pretty good example of this, IMO.

    People don't just disagree about what goods are required, but also about how they should be produced. It may well be the case that every conception of the good requires, say, fresh water, but not every conception of the good agrees that the state should be the provider of fresh water. So if you're going for a Rawls-style political liberalism, I think you have to take this into account. I was watching a lecture by David Schmidtz the other day, and he made the point, which I found extremely revealing, that all of Rawls' talk of 'conceptions of the good' doesn't really make sense - until you realize that he means 'conceptions of the good as a consumer'. If all people disagree about is how to consume certain goods, it might well be reasonable to talk about state provision of a basic minimum, or minimax, or whatever. But of course that the state provides the goods itself is not part of any overlapping consensus. If you are going to treat different conceptions of the good seriously (and not just with respect to their consumption habits) you have to take into account reasoned disagreement over the role of the state too - some of these conceptions, at least, are going to be theories about individuals as producers as well as consumers.

    Naturally, no secession is allowed in soclibtopia. But I'd say it is fair play, or at least preventing unfair play on the part of the wealthy wanting to go to their own state where they can avoid the needs of the more needy yet no less deserving. Assumedly, after a while, this seceeded state would develop at least relative poverty on its own, and so net requirers of wellfare services (if tehy existed) would arise. If all the above on a 'proper' state is true, then such a secession is just a tax evasion on the part of the seceders, as they've unburdened themselves of their needs to poor.

    As will be unsurprising, I don't think moral duties become attenuated by national divides anyway. So, really, one might suggest that the present world is already in the situation you describe in your thought experiment, although obviously not generated through that mechanism.
    Anyway, I think this illustrates my point quite nicely. It shows manifestly that the motivation for making people obey the state is not "you should pay some reasonable costs towards public goods the state provides you with" but it is instead some antecedent notion of fairness which is doing all the work. If you think that justice requires some kind of veil of ignorance considerations, then you have an argument - one which doesn't work in my opinion, but one which is an argument nonetheless. A long and laboured trek through the theory of reciprocity is not what is doing any work at all, which is why this argument frustrates me. If you're going to rest your justification for the welfare state on some notion of fairness, then we can have that discussion - just don't try and make out that our obligation to acquiesce is really one generated by the receipt of certain goods. If your stance on secession shows nothing else, it's that it's not the provision of actual goods which generates obligations, or else you should have no problem allowing groups to splinter off so long as they can provide these goods for themselves.
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    FFS Nozick's 'counterexamples' are ********. They completey miss the point:

    "Nozick’s arguments against the principle of fairness consist of a
    series of counter-examples designed to intuit our feeling
    that it does not generate political obligation. In Nozick’s example a
    community decides to set up a PA system where every
    person must contribute by reading news or singing etc on one particular
    day. Our protagonist might benefit from the system
    but he would ‘rather not have any of it and not give up a day than have
    it all and spend one of your days at it’ (Nozick 1974:94).
    So it seems as if fairness does not generate obligation because in this
    case the protagonist does not want the PA system.
    Nozick refines the principle so as to make it that the benefits you
    receive must be greater than the burdens that you have
    acquired. Despite this Nozick argues that the scheme still does not
    generate political obligation because whilst the protagonist
    in the refined system gets more benefits than burdens it is still
    possible that the others in the scheme get far more benefits
    compared to burdens than the protagonist does.

    It seems that Nozick has misunderstood the principle of fairness in an
    important respect. The problem that has arisen above
    is not really a problem because whilst we must accept that it is unfair
    that the protagonist do the same amount of work when
    others benefit more from a scheme it seems that principle of fairness
    rules decisively against this. Nozick has confused the
    notions of equal and fair where the latter is ‘doing a part
    proportionate to the part of the benefits received’(Simmons 1986:120).
    This seems to agree with out intuitions about what is fair: we should
    only do the amount of work in proportion to the burdens
    we receive and in our case it is not proportionate for the protagonist
    as soon as we look at his fellow ‘members’ who benefit
    much more but do the same amount of work. So Nozick fails because he
    has not presented a case where the principle of fairness
    applies and thus cannot be used as an argument against fairness. Whilst
    in this case Nozick has not produced a case where
    the principle of fairness does not generate political obligation we
    could easily modify Nozick’s example so that it is a proportionately
    fair system but we still have an underlying problem. This much deeper
    problem regards what Rawls calls ‘acceptance’ and by
    extension what we mean by participation. Nozick’s example points to an
    example where the protagonist did not really accept
    the benefits and was an outsider to the scheme and thus Hart’s
    requirement to conduct a ‘joint enterprise’ is not fulfilled.
    Acceptance is clearly at least necessary to generate political
    obligation because if it were not then unwanted receipt of
    benefits could allow political obligation to arise. For example if I
    were to come into a large sum of money by participating
    in a pyramid scheme and I donated money to a charity then if all we
    need is receipt then the charity would be required to
    participate but this is clearly wrong and so by reductio ad absurdum
    receipt is not enough; we need acceptance. So Nozick’s
    example fails for two reasons; there is no acceptance and it confuses
    equality and fairness."

    As usual Nozick creates a smokescreen of ********.
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    (Original post by tomheppy)
    FFS Nozick's 'counterexamples' are ********. They completey miss the point:
    You are pretty much correct. This is precisely what A John Simmon's argues, too, that Nozick's examples of applications of the principle of fair play.
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    (Original post by tomheppy)
    FFS Nozick's 'counterexamples' are ********. They completey miss the point:

    "Nozick’s arguments against the principle of fairness consist of a
    series of counter-examples designed to intuit our feeling
    that it does not generate political obligation. In Nozick’s example a
    community decides to set up a PA system where every
    person must contribute by reading news or singing etc on one particular
    day. Our protagonist might benefit from the system
    but he would ‘rather not have any of it and not give up a day than have
    it all and spend one of your days at it’ (Nozick 1974:94).
    So it seems as if fairness does not generate obligation because in this
    case the protagonist does not want the PA system.
    Nozick refines the principle so as to make it that the benefits you
    receive must be greater than the burdens that you have
    acquired. Despite this Nozick argues that the scheme still does not
    generate political obligation because whilst the protagonist
    in the refined system gets more benefits than burdens it is still
    possible that the others in the scheme get far more benefits
    compared to burdens than the protagonist does.

    It seems that Nozick has misunderstood the principle of fairness in an
    important respect. The problem that has arisen above
    is not really a problem because whilst we must accept that it is unfair
    that the protagonist do the same amount of work when
    others benefit more from a scheme it seems that principle of fairness
    rules decisively against this. Nozick has confused the
    notions of equal and fair where the latter is ‘doing a part
    proportionate to the part of the benefits received’(Simmons 1986:120).
    This seems to agree with out intuitions about what is fair: we should
    only do the amount of work in proportion to the burdens
    we receive and in our case it is not proportionate for the protagonist
    as soon as we look at his fellow ‘members’ who benefit
    much more but do the same amount of work. So Nozick fails because he
    has not presented a case where the principle of fairness
    applies and thus cannot be used as an argument against fairness. Whilst
    in this case Nozick has not produced a case where
    the principle of fairness does not generate political obligation we
    could easily modify Nozick’s example so that it is a proportionately
    fair system but we still have an underlying problem. This much deeper
    problem regards what Rawls calls ‘acceptance’ and by
    extension what we mean by participation. Nozick’s example points to an
    example where the protagonist did not really accept
    the benefits and was an outsider to the scheme and thus Hart’s
    requirement to conduct a ‘joint enterprise’ is not fulfilled.
    Acceptance is clearly at least necessary to generate political
    obligation because if it were not then unwanted receipt of
    benefits could allow political obligation to arise. For example if I
    were to come into a large sum of money by participating
    in a pyramid scheme and I donated money to a charity then if all we
    need is receipt then the charity would be required to
    participate but this is clearly wrong and so by reductio ad absurdum
    receipt is not enough; we need acceptance. So Nozick’s
    example fails for two reasons; there is no acceptance and it confuses
    equality and fairness."

    As usual Nozick creates a smokescreen of ********.
    I don't agree. On your first point, it's conceivable that someone would benefit a lot but still not be obligated to contribute.

    On your second point, well ... if we have to talk about "acceptance" then this just collapses into consent theory, which is precisely the conclusion Nozick wants (ie. that only consent can generate obligations other than to respect rights).

    Thanks for the comments guys, this has been interesting.
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    (Original post by RawJoh1)
    I don't agree. On your first point, it's conceivable that someone would benefit a lot but still not be obligated to contribute.

    On your second point, well ... if we have to talk about "acceptance" then this just collapses into consent theory, which is precisely the conclusion Nozick wants (ie. that only consent can generate obligations other than to respect rights).

    Thanks for the comments guys, this has been interesting.
    I responded to the 2nd question in my essay but didnt post it here.
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    (Original post by RawJoh1)
    I don't agree. On your first point, it's conceivable that someone would benefit a lot but still not be obligated to contribute.

    On your second point, well ... if we have to talk about "acceptance" then this just collapses into consent theory, which is precisely the conclusion Nozick wants (ie. that only consent can generate obligations other than to respect rights).

    Thanks for the comments guys, this has been interesting.
    Doesn't Simmons try to show that acceptance of benefits need not constitute consent? He has his example of the community with a poor water supply who's members decide to dig a well. However, one guy thinks the idea is stupid and crap and wants nothing to do with it. The others finish their well, and happily get their nice clean water, and he doesn't. He gets disgruntled with this, and sneaks out after nighfall to steal water from the well. Simmons says that it can still be true to say that this fellow did not consent to the scheme, and this person would have a duty of fair play to contribute to maintaining the well.
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    (Original post by Richard_A_Garner)
    Doesn't Simmons try to show that acceptance of benefits need not constitute consent? He has his example of the community with a poor water supply who's members decide to dig a well. However, one guy thinks the idea is stupid and crap and wants nothing to do with it. The others finish their well, and happily get their nice clean water, and he doesn't. He gets disgruntled with this, and sneaks out after nighfall to steal water from the well. Simmons says that it can still be true to say that this fellow did not consent to the scheme, and this person would have a duty of fair play to contribute to maintaining the well.
    Aye I love that example "don't think I'm consenting to your stupid scheme!" he shouts as he gets water.

    It's subtly different from consent, but close enough to it for Nozick's purposes. Certainly, it's so close to consent that the principle of fair play (as formulated by Rawls/Hart) can't do the work it needs to do.
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    (Original post by RawJoh1)
    Aye I love that example "don't think I'm consenting to your stupid scheme!" he shouts as he gets water.

    It's subtly different from consent, but close enough to it for Nozick's purposes. Certainly, it's so close to consent that the principle of fair play (as formulated by Rawls/Hart) can't do the work it needs to do.
    Well, I think that the example allows Simmons to say that there can be situations where people benefit from a scheme without having consented to it, and can still thereby come under a duty of fair play, contra Nozick, and yet, contra Rawls, most of the benefits of the state aren't like this, especially the benefits of living in a society where most people act legally, and so do not produce duties of fair play.

    I would go further than Simmons, though, and say that even when I go out of my way to accept a benefit, I can still not be bound by a duty of fair play in some cases. This would be in cases where either a) the provider of the benefit (or somebody else) has prevented me from getting the benefit from somebody else, where I would otherwise have been able to, b) has prevented somebody else from providing me with that benefit where otherwise they would be able to, or c) where the provider of the benefit has purposefully chosen to supply it in a way so that it is possible for me to free-ride when it would have been easy for them to do otherwise.
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    (Original post by Richard_A_Garnier)
    Well, not all public goods need involve free-rider problems. Some are, for instance, Chicken Games rather than prisoners' dillemma games. I have read, for instance, of societies where irrigation systems match such a situation: Everybody benefits if the irrigation system is kept clean and unclogged, so they can get the benefits even if they don't contribute to doing so. However, unlike a prisoners' dilemma game, the costs of being a victim of a free-rider are lower than the costs of the irrigation system clogging up, so that it may be preferable for people to free ride off your efforts to clean it rather than risk being a victim of free riding.

    Then some public goods are iterated n-person prisoners' dilemma games, as I have already discussed: Free riding would not be rational in such situations if free-riders can be identified and the chances of future interaction are high. This would mean that in local communities public goods might not be under supplied (it also means that political support for special interest laws is more likely to occur than opposition to those special interest laws, even where the costs exceed the benefits of the law's provision, unless the victims are other special interests).

    Some public goods are assurance games: Hugh Heffner found that the local TV station broadcast nothing but white noise after midnight, so he paid the station to play cowboy movies he loved. Everybody else who could recieve the broadcast benefitted from this, but he didn't mind, because he got his cowboy movies.

    All this means that the existence of public goods doesn't imply a problem, necessarily.
    I'm somewhat conversant in game theory, so I can follow this. But I don't follow how this description of games means that public goods aren't problematic. I can see they aren't necessarily problematic, but that doesn't mean that private solutions will probably work. You know that these games can be unstable (hawk-and-dove) or, with a minor change in initial conditions (ie, knowing or having a good idea when the game will end, or cutting it short yourself) have pareto optimal solutions which we wouldn't like (ie, always defect on a prisoners dilemma if you can determine how many rounds to be played.)

    It seems to me the evil cudgel of state oppression can modify these games to ensure that these defection or brinkmanship problems do not arise.

    However, I still am not persuaded by the notion that if I am in reciept of the benefit of a public good that I haven't asked for, and that I have to go to considerable expense to avoid, or lose the ability to enjoy or exercise certain rights to avoid, I can be said to have a duty to pay for the continued provision of that benefit. Klosko's argument either seems question-begging or it seems non-falsifiable. It says, basically, "The fair play argument holds in cases where the good is X." Nozick's argument against it says, "The argument to create obligations based on fairly to contribute to the provision of X would create obligations to provide Y, but nobody thinks they would apply to Y, so they cannot apply to X." Klosko's response is "Ah, but Y is different from X." The very instance that somebody comes up with a good who's benefits it is possible to free-ride from where people would say it is counterintuitive that we have a duty of fair play to contribute to, Klosko can say, "oh, well in that case the good is trivial, unlike national defense or clean air." It seems impossible to test his theory.
    I don't know about Klosko, but I've offered some criteria to distinguish Y from X here: deniability in good faith, and community loss from defection (see above). Now, you are welcome to counter-example these, but it seems to me there is an intuitive difference between Nozick's counter-examples and the sort of public goods that are being driven at, and it doesn't strike me as insurmountable that we can give these intuitions argumentative form - my own attempt at a distinction isn't that great, but I can't see anything immediately wrong with it.

    Moreover, you still have not answered the objection that Scandanavians benefit from the enforcement of the Clean Air Act as do UK citizens, so surely the argument would justify taxing them.
    Sorry, wasn't intentional to drop this. I would argue just the opposite. The clean air of Scandinavia is, if anyones, the 'property' of the scandinavians. If we shunt polution into their air, we owe them compensation. Similar things apply to polluting a river upstream of another community, etc.

    Of course it does: That is precisely what a free-rider implies. Free-riders are people who think that the good is worth more than it costs to provide, but don't pay, because they can get it without doing so. If the situation involves people who don't pay because they don't think that the good is worth what it costs then this is not a free-rider problem. So, by hypothesis, creating a situation in which the good is not provided to people unless they pay will eliminate the free-rider problem. Saying that nobody gets it unless everybody pays accomplishes that - it creates a situation where people who think that the good is worth more than it would cost them to get it cannot get it unless they pay.
    That seems pretty dodgy to me. One person could defect out of irrationality or spite of the wider community, and the rest of them are then screwed. I don't see any obvious solutions (threatening him, paying on his behalf, etc.) which are any better than the sort of things you think it would be unfair for a state to do in providing a public good.

    Well, I don't think they are a problem, at least relative to the associated costs of trying to resolve them through creating an intervening state. David Friedman has said that market failure is a good argument for ststae intervention and a better argument against it. This is because there are market failures in political processes, too. Just to take one large one: Everybody benefits from good government, The result is that the provision of good government has positive externalities making it either commons pool or a public good.
    I don't think I follow here, which is undoubtedly my fault. Maybe try again with verbal idiot-proofing?

    The issue is about means, not ends: Charities and friendly societies do not force people to give them money. They do not do what, for anybody else, would amount to robbery.
    Sure, but so what? No one on the left is going to say that the state is no better than a robber. They will offer justifying reasons as to why the state taking your money or fruits of your labours under threat of force is different to someone else doing it.

    Moreover, the fact that they rely on voluntary contributions (in theory. In practice they generally get state funds - Barnardos recieves 80% of its money from the state and may suffer in efficiency because of it) means they they have to be more careful to make sure what they are doing with their funds is effective, and that resources are not wasted, and that this effectiveness is achieved at the lowest cost. This means eliminating fraudulent claims and providing aid in a way that encourages the needy to provide for themselves rather than turn to dependency. I have calculated, elsewhere, that even if the total contribution to charity was only a third of the amount of money that the state raises, the amount going to the fulfill the purpose for which it was raised would exceed the amount the state provides, since charity would be more careful not to provide to those that can provide for themselves (conservatively, half of all claimants) and since private charity conforms to Friedman's law: It on average costs half as much as government equivalents do.
    I'd like to see two things before I address this.

    1) What do you mean when you say that at least half of all claimants can 'provide for themselves'? Do you mean that a) more than half of all claims for state aid - in whatever form - are fradulent (that sounds like a stretch to me - in the little charity work I do, I reckon not more than 5% are fradulent claimants) or b) more than half of people can 'provide for themselves' - which seems to me irrelevant, as I'm happy to redistribute more than just getting people out of absolute poverty.

    2) Presume what you say about charitable giving is true. How many times more would we need to give to charity, above current levels, to reach this 'one third' figure of state expenditure? To be honest, I anticipate people deciding to spend this hypothetical tax break entirely on themselves. This is another reason I'm deeply cynical about Cameron's plan on 'releasing the voluntary sector' to pick up the slack from public sector budget slashing. Care in the community, last I checked, was not a resounding success.

    Why do you think that these things (encouraging effectiveness, better discriminating between the genuinely needy and the fradulent, avoiding dependency) apply to private actors, but not state ones? Exactly the same motives seem to apply to charity employees and civil servants here. I don't see how the former are more encouraged than the latter not to squander the money ineffectually.


    (Original post by DrunkHamster)
    Well if it's an extended theory of rationality you're going to be appealing to, the chances are we certainly won't agree - I think the attempt to built too much (morality, in particular) into rationality is a great shame. There are certainly areas of overlap between morality and rationality, but generally I find that the claim that there is some kind of stronger dependence or coextensiveness is often used to do more philosophical work than the concepts will allow - Kant's moral theory is a pretty good example of this, IMO.
    Really? I think Kant's problem was often that the categorical imperative under-reached because of specification issues which he never resolved (it didn't help he supplanted his various 'case studies' with healthy amounts of his own moral prejudice unjustified by the categorical imperative.) Later thinkers, like Hare, I think nailed universalizability so it could function as a foundation for morality. A lot of Rawls (to the extensive poverty of my reading) is the application of this sort of universalizing to the social sphere.

    People don't just disagree about what goods are required, but also about how they should be produced. It may well be the case that every conception of the good requires, say, fresh water, but not every conception of the good agrees that the state should be the provider of fresh water. So if you're going for a Rawls-style political liberalism, I think you have to take this into account. I was watching a lecture by David Schmidtz the other day, and he made the point, which I found extremely revealing, that all of Rawls' talk of 'conceptions of the good' doesn't really make sense - until you realize that he means 'conceptions of the good as a consumer'. If all people disagree about is how to consume certain goods, it might well be reasonable to talk about state provision of a basic minimum, or minimax, or whatever. But of course that the state provides the goods itself is not part of any overlapping consensus. If you are going to treat different conceptions of the good seriously (and not just with respect to their consumption habits) you have to take into account reasoned disagreement over the role of the state too - some of these conceptions, at least, are going to be theories about individuals as producers as well as consumers.
    I'm not feeling the teeth over this meta-problem. If there is an overlapping consensus on our minimal state, that implies these things are 'public goods' simpliciter - no further normative claim is being made about how these things should be provided. Naturally the lefty (and Rawls) will suggest that these should be provided out of a common pool of labour, but why this is so is part of a subsequent argument.

    So I don't really see the problem. One can simply affirm that Rawlstopia (or Soclibtopia) should be created by democratic election. There is no guarantee that would indicate overlapping consensus (as I understand the term), but it might be sufficient consensus. I'd be happy to say, in this case, that the goods arrived from a Rawlsian imposition (even on those who disagree) outweigh the ills of the coercion on those who do disagree. I presume Rawls has to call on similar resources if he wants to legislate on matters considered obviously good when there is a faction in his state that has reasoned disagreement with it (besides, wtf makes a disagreement 'reasoned' anyway besides consensus recognition that the other side isn't barking and warrants a parochial judgement?)

    Anyway, I think this illustrates my point quite nicely. It shows manifestly that the motivation for making people obey the state is not "you should pay some reasonable costs towards public goods the state provides you with" but it is instead some antecedent notion of fairness which is doing all the work. If you think that justice requires some kind of veil of ignorance considerations, then you have an argument - one which doesn't work in my opinion, but one which is an argument nonetheless. A long and laboured trek through the theory of reciprocity is not what is doing any work at all, which is why this argument frustrates me. If you're going to rest your justification for the welfare state on some notion of fairness, then we can have that discussion - just don't try and make out that our obligation to acquiesce is really one generated by the receipt of certain goods. If your stance on secession shows nothing else, it's that it's not the provision of actual goods which generates obligations, or else you should have no problem allowing groups to splinter off so long as they can provide these goods for themselves.
    I perhaps should not have been so hasty. Soclibtopia doesn't have a problem with seccession necessarily. It does have a problem when such secession is a cynical attempt to avoid paying community dues (ie. all the rich people setting up Wealthystan next door for the sake of a hefty tax break.)

    But none of the above is somehow entirely divorced from reciprocacy or public goods considerations. Firstly, any sort of original position argument runs off reciprocacy, although it is a reciprocacy regarding hypothetical states of affairs (which is precisely Hare's insight to solve the Categorical imperatives problems of specious specification. Given you are a big fan of one of the formulations about treating people as ends, aren't you fussed about this line of thought?) I said right at the start I am happily moralizing across ideas of fairness and justice. I think people are at moral liberty to defect from the states laws if there is no good moral reason for them (Peter has implied that this has problems with it - I confess I don't see them, but I'm far his inferior at political philosophy.) The reason to accept paying for presumptive goods is fair play in terms of reasonable expense to provide a good no one is actually willing to forego (I can miss my library - I can't miss my police force.) I think it goes further than an obligation to pay for those goods you wouldn't be in good faith willing to forego in your present and projected circumstances, but rather it is an obligation to pay for goods you wouldn't in good faith be willing to forego if you happened to be anyone else. That's an extension, sure, but it isn't doing all the work.
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    (Original post by GregoryJL)
    I'm somewhat conversant in game theory, so I can follow this. But I don't follow how this description of games means that public goods aren't problematic.
    Oh, I didn't say that they aren't problematic. I said aren't necessarily problematic. And often the costs of solving them out weigh the costs created by them (every time there is a group of people at a pelican crossing, everybody else free-rides off the contribution of whomever presses the button to operate the crossing... but we wouldn't say that taxing people crossing at pelican crossings to employ somebody to press the button was worth avoiding that problem!)

    I can see they aren't necessarily problematic, but that doesn't mean that private solutions will probably work. You know that these games can be unstable (hawk-and-dove) or, with a minor change in initial conditions (ie, knowing or having a good idea when the game will end, or cutting it short yourself) have pareto optimal solutions which we wouldn't like (ie, always defect on a prisoners dilemma if you can determine how many rounds to be played.)
    Oh, indeed, although moving from two player to n-player games helps here, too. For instance, iteration doesn't solve the prisoners' dilemma if there are a fixed number of turns, because players know to defect on the last turn... so, why don't eighty year olds go on killing rampages? The lesson of Axelrod's approach to the prisoners' dilemma is that "what comes around goes around," so it is rational not to treat others badly when you are likely to interact with them again in the future, and so they have an opportunity to treat you badly. But if you are over eighty, that likelihood drops a fair bit, so why not go on rampages? I suspect that the reason is that nobody would trust eighty-year olds if you did.

    It seems to me the evil cudgel of state oppression can modify these games to ensure that these defection or brinkmanship problems do not arise.
    Unless the state is itself subject to them, which I have said, it is.

    I don't know about Klosko, but I've offered some criteria to distinguish Y from X here: deniability in good faith,
    I'm not sure what this means.

    and community loss from defection (see above).
    Oh, sure, but that is a different interpretation of fair play: Rather than saying that free-riders have duties of fair play to contribute their fair share because the benefit at others expense, it says that free-riders have a duty to contribute because if they don't the project becomes unsustainable. That would imply that free riding at the margin may not be unfair.

    Now, you are welcome to counter-example these, but it seems to me there is an intuitive difference between Nozick's counter-examples and the sort of public goods that are being driven at, and it doesn't strike me as insurmountable that we can give these intuitions argumentative form - my own attempt at a distinction isn't that great, but I can't see anything immediately wrong with it.
    Well, I'm fairly persuaded by Simmons' argument that Nozick's scenarios are not examples where the fair play principle is supposed to apply, on the grounds Simmons provides, that the benefits have to be "closed" benefits rather than open ones (i.e. that you have to go out of your way to get them rather than out of your way to avoid them), and that they have to be accepted rather than merely recieved. Nozick's PA example is of an open rather than closed benefit, and his book thrusting examples are of recieved benefits rather than merely accepted benefits.

    Sorry, wasn't intentional to drop this. I would argue just the opposite. The clean air of Scandinavia is, if anyones, the 'property' of the scandinavians. If we shunt polution into their air, we owe them compensation. Similar things apply to polluting a river upstream of another community, etc.
    OK, but what about, for instance, things like National defence free-riding? The chances that somebody would risk invading Canada are pretty slim because the chances that the US would intervene to halt such a thing are high, whether they have treaties to do such a thing or not. Given this, Canadians free-ride of US military defense spending, and should have a duty of fair play to contribute (unless Simmons is correct, that the principle only applies to benefits that are open and accepted rather than closed or merely recieved, in which case, benefitting from US defence spending, whether you are American or Canadian, does not create a duty of fair play to contribute to such spending).

    That seems pretty dodgy to me. One person could defect out of irrationality
    They could, but then we have a different problem. The free-rider problem is supposed to be that self-interested utility maxisers acting rationally under the requisite conditions will select courses of actions that lead to a sub-optimal outcome. If we alter those conditions so that they cannot maximise utility by pursuing that course, it seems a bit dishonest to change the problem to their lacking rationality. We could just as easily say that free rider problems might not emerge because people will irrationally not choose to defect.

    or spite of the wider community, and the rest of them are then screwed.
    Perhaps, though in practice a company might not request universal compliance, but only a certain number. Many public good problems are not really public good problems but assurance problems. Under these, people are willing to contribute to obtain a good but are not sure if sufficient others are willing to do so too. If a company says, OK, we will supply the good, but we want a minimum number of sign ups for the project first free riding doesn't cease to be a problem but becomes less likely, and that assurance problem is solved. Take, for instance, subscribing to a rubbish collection service: A firm supplying this service may only offer it in a particular area if it can be sure of a certain number of customers.

    I don't see any obvious solutions (threatening him, paying on his behalf, etc.) which are any better than the sort of things you think it would be unfair for a state to do in providing a public good.
    Well, the problem with the state solution is not that they are unfair but that they violate rights. However, you also face the problem that the state also creates market failures: How will you internalise the benefits of voting or campaigning for good laws or policies, so as to avoid free riding off the provision of such laws or policies? If you don't, votes for such laws will be undersupplied. Then you have the massive negative externality problems involved (beneficiaries of government policies may not exclusively be the ones who pay for them - other tax payers do, too, for instance). There are major information problems with asymetric information (people in government may know more about something than those they are selling policies too).

    I don't think I follow here, which is undoubtedly my fault. Maybe try again with verbal idiot-proofing?
    Well, suppose you vote for a law. The politicians provide the law, and you go to various expenses to try and get them to supply the one you want - voting is not costless, and voting wisely, or making an informed vote is even less so, and campaigning is less so again. So, at expense to yourself, you try to get a law passed by influencing politicans. Now, who benefits from its passage? Just you? Unlikely. Is it possible to exclude the benefits of the law from those that don't also vote and campaign for it? Unlikely. But given that, pluss the fact that making an informed vote and campaigning is costly, there is an incentive to free-ride, is there not? So the provision of such a law will be subject to a free-rider problem: People's incentives would be to not bother contributing to the campaign for the law's passage or voting for it, in the hope that somebody else votes instead. The result is that there will be insufficent "spending" on the law, so producers won't supply it.

    Or, we can present the scenario in the typical prisoners' dilemma way:

    _________________________Player One
    __________________Spend on the law________Don't spend
    Player _____Spend______3,3_____________ _______1,4_____
    Two
    ___________Don't_______4,1______ ______________2,2____
    __________Spend_________________ ____________________

    Plainly rational self-interest would, as in normal free-rider situations, lead to people not spending - making informed votes and campaign support - leading to a sub-optimal outcome.

    But, suppose that the benefits of the law do go to those who vote and campaign for it... but not all the costs of providing the law or policy go to them. Some are externalised onto other people; taxpayers, perhaps. If the total costs of supplying the law outwiegh its benefits, then on a normal analysis, it should not be supplied. But if the people that get the law don't have to factor those costs in, then the law will be supplied to them even when its costs outweigh its benefits... just like in pollution problems: Under normal analysis of pollution as an externality it costs, say, a steel manufacturer £20,000 to make some steel, and a customer is willing to pay as much as £30,000 for the steel, so they agree an exchange at £25,000 and both benefit... except the steel works issues out clouds of sulphur dioxide forcing a land owners down wind to change his land use to a less profitable use, costing him £20,000. Now the real costs of producing the steel are £40,000, meaning that supplying the steel costs more than it is worth. But, unless the producer is made to take account of these full costs, he will continue supplying it. Just take out "steel" and "sulphur dioxide" and add "law" and "taxes" and you get the same problem - laws that cost more than they are worth may be supplied unless producers, or ultimately consumers, are made to take account of those costs.

    I could go on, but this is getting long. The issue is called public choice theory and its development was what earned James Buchanon the Nobel Prize in economics.

    Sure, but so what? No one on the left is going to say that the state is no better than a robber. They will offer justifying reasons as to why the state taking your money or fruits of your labours under threat of force is different to someone else doing it.
    Some of them might, and they would probably fail. Others might, alternatively try to just say that robbery is not always wrong, and isn't in these cases. Of course, they would then face the problem of why the state should be exclusively entitled to rob in those cases.

    I'd like to see two things before I address this.

    1) What do you mean when you say that at least half of all claimants can 'provide for themselves'? Do you mean that a) more than half of all claims for state aid - in whatever form - are fradulent (that sounds like a stretch to me - in the little charity work I do, I reckon not more than 5% are fradulent claimants) or b) more than half of people can 'provide for themselves' - which seems to me irrelevant, as I'm happy to redistribute more than just getting people out of absolute poverty.
    The latter. It is possible to support oneself on about £100 a week ( that is food, at £15-20, rent at £60, and an emergency fund, or stuff for bills, etc. Mere housing benefit plus jobseekers' allowance pays more than that, and those are only two out of 50 odd schemes. Plenty of people who are legally eligible for support could support themselves without it. And we are not talking about absolute poverty, here either. I knew a woman, single mother of an eleven year old, she and her son lived at her mother's, she recieved tax credits, child benefit, and other things, coming basically to a total of £15,000 a year (I know this because she turned down jobs for that much at 30 hours a week on the basis that she was getting that much on benefits). On the other hand, the most I have ever earned was as an assistant manager (out ranking her - she worked beneath me) on £13,000 a year.

    Your comment about being willing to redistribute to get people out of poverty is also irrelevent. Redistributive taxes do not only fall on the willing or those happy to pay them, but on all taxpayers. If people are willing, they don't need to be taxed.

    2) Presume what you say about charitable giving is true. How many times more would we need to give to charity, above current levels, to reach this 'one third' figure of state expenditure? To be honest, I anticipate people deciding to spend this hypothetical tax break entirely on themselves. This is another reason I'm deeply cynical about Cameron's plan on 'releasing the voluntary sector' to pick up the slack from public sector budget slashing. Care in the community, last I checked, was not a resounding success.
    Well, after the 1834 poor law reform charitable giving rose so that the average middle class household gave 10% of household income. If the average household income is £40,000, that is £4,000 per household. Double for charity being twice as efficient, so that is £8,000. Double again for eliminating those that don't need support, making £16,000 (already enough to pay somebody a decent living!), and then multiply by the number of such households - possibly some 20,000,000 maybe? Seems like quite a bit to me.

    Why do you think that these things (encouraging effectiveness, better discriminating between the genuinely needy and the fradulent, avoiding dependency) apply to private actors, but not state ones? Exactly the same motives seem to apply to charity employees and civil servants here. I don't see how the former are more encouraged than the latter not to squander the money ineffectually.
    Because if you think Oxfam is not doing good with your money you will stop paying them and give to somebody else. If, on the other hand, you think that the DSS is not doing good with your money, you will stop paying them and go to prison! Charities haveto persuade you that it is worth you giving them your money. The state just has to tell you how nasty prison is. Charities have persuade you that they will do better with your money than anybody else could. The state just has to persuade you that you will go to prison if you give your money to anybody else.

    And this is beside the fact that charities tend to be better informed as to the nature of the problems they are trying to resolve.
 
 
 
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