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Thursday, December 08, 2011

Magical Super-People

I know, this is old, but I thought of it again in the car yesterday, and it still cracks me up, so I thought I should post it.

Here's Roderick Long on magical super-people:
While Robicheaux recognizes that government is “made up of people just like us,” she writes as though it is really made up instead of magical super-people, since she implies that ordinary people would be unable to perform tasks like road maintenance, food inspection, college instruction, and police protection without rulers giving orders.
 Other magical super-people that some folks believe in:

Architects: Some folks think ordinary people would be unable to design houses without them.
Brain surgeons: Some folks think ordinary people would be unable to hack away at a brain tumor without them.
Philosophers: Some folks think ordinary people would be unable to come up with crazy schemes like anarcho-capitalism without them. (Oh, wait, this last one is correct.)

Of course, no one thinks that any of these people are "magical super-people." They just think the best way to get brain surgery done is to go to a brain surgeon, and the best way to get police protection is to have a government provide it. You may disagree about the latter, but it is absurd to posit that the reason someone believes it is that she thinks government employees are "magical super-people."

8 comments:

  1. On a loosely related note... why are the magical super-cows attacking Bob Murphy's site again?

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  2. Because they hate freedom.

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  3. I think Rod's word choice is a little off, but here's how I interpreted it (I'm being a bit of a devil's advocate here, as I'm not sure I believe in all of this): "magical super-person" in this context means having an aura of respectability, authority and competence as a result of being a government employee with an official seal of approval. In other words, people think roads should be built by governments, because that's just the sort of thing governments do. How else would we have roads if governments didn't build them? (This is not to say governments shouldn't build roads, but that many people automatically assume they're the only ones that can get it done)

    The point seems to be that Robicheaux (whose letter I haven't read) implicitly reveres the government as an institution, in a way that leaves her unable to think beyond the status quo. (The flipside of this is that she disregards private associations as truly powerful institutions) Libertarians offer a strange alternative that is difficult to put your head around, because most people don't truly question the necessity and quality of political authority. There's something "magical" about the power of coercion that people feel drawn to.

    Of course, by this point I've redefined "magical super-people" so far beyond anything it actually sounds like, so I'll chalk this one up for Roderick's sloppy writing. He does make it seem like folks who work in IT could easily maintain their roads in their spare time (if only the market was freed enough, of course) or other autarkic nonsense.

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  4. Most anarcho-capitalists believe there will still be police officers AND brain surgeons in the ancapistan utopia. They just think they won't be provided by government.

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  5. The problem here is just sloppy reading. Did you guys skip these words?

    "she writes as though"

    "... without rulers giving orders"

    > They just think the best way to get brain surgery done is to go to a brain surgeon, and the best way to get police protection is to have a government provide it.

    I don't think Long wants each person to be responsible for building roads if the state did not do it. Maybe you disagree about whether private road companies would do better or worse than the state, but this is an empirical question.

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  6. Ok, Marris, imagine this dialogue:

    Gene: Marris, you write as though you are a giant, brainless, jellyfish.

    Marris: Hey, that's rather insulting!

    Gene: Sloppy listening! Sloppy listening! Didn't you notice I said "As though"?! Gotcha!

    I certainly did notice the "as though." I did not find it to lessen the assinity of Long's remark one bit, just as the "as though" above would not make my remark any less insulting.

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  7. "Most anarcho-capitalists believe there will still be police officers AND brain surgeons in the ancapistan utopia. They just think they won't be provided by government."

    You don't say. It's not as if anything in my post would indicate I already understood. that point. ("They just think the best way to get brain surgery done is to go to a brain surgeon, and the best way to get police protection is to have a government provide it. You may disagree about the latter...")

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  8. And marris slinks off, tail between legs.

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