That Both Participants Think an Exchange Is Mutually Beneficial...

does not mean it is!

But Adam Ozimek at least writes as if it does mean that. What would Ozimek say about an adult male propositioning a thirteen-year-old girl? If she goes along with his suggestion, would Ozimek proclaim that the government was interfering with "mutually beneficial exchange" if it prosecuted the guy? If not, then he has already accepted the idea that "paternalism" can sometimes be A-OK.

Now, it is a good question as to how far paternalism should extend, and how much we should protect people from their own choices. But Ozimek's pat response to Bloomberg simply pretends the question does not exist.

And note: This has nothing to do with "statism": an anarchist legal order would have no less burden to decide these questions than would a "statist" one, unless it were to be pure anarchy in the bad sense, where, say, the mentally incapacitated could be forced to follow through on "contracts" totally exploiting them. Perhaps Bloomberg has extended paternalism way too far; I am amenable to such an argument. But Ozimek should stop confusing the fact that, ex ante, both participants to a voluntary exchange must think that they will benefit from it, with the ex post conclusion that they will, in fact, do so.


  1. Paternalistic relationships are proper to the pater, not some bureaucrat.

    1. Well, at least you recognize that *some* "mutually beneficial exchanges" ought not to be allowed.

      But do you really mean to be so restrictive? What if you were a judge in ancapistan, and the case before you was one where an ingratiating young gold digger got an elderly Alzheimer's patient to sign his fortune over to her -- all "voluntarily," of course. Would you merely throw up your hands and say "I'm not his father"?

    2. @traumerai: There doesn't seem to be any reason to believe your assertion.

    3. Jim, if you believe that there are legitimate paternalistic relationships, then just by the etymology of the word, a father can make the best case for being in one!

      Gene, if I was a judge in ancapistan, I could only hear cases from parties who voluntarily placed themselves under my jurisdiction. If the facts were as you presented, then I'd rule that the elderly patient did not have the capacity to contract and that the contract was therefore void.

      No I don't mean to be so restrictive as to limit such relationships to the father; I'd widen the scope to both parents. But this is the only situation where paternalism should be allowed by default.

      Now there are always going to be cases where I believe that force should be used outside of strict self-defense; e.g. the defense of others. Perhaps this is defending the Poles from the Nazis, or abused children from their parents, or a pre-emptive strike against an Islamist regime intent on destroying America, or defending my neighborhood from meth (or raw milk) pushers.

      Of course, there are going to be non-supporters. The difference would be that I could not forcibly draft and extort money from them in order to pursue my aggressive (though just) cause. I'd have to organize and gather the resources myself and shoulder much more of the risk.

      And I imagine I'd have an easier time getting volunteers and mercenaries to rescue an abused child than getting volunteers and mercenaries to trespass into theaters and convenience stores and destroy 32oz beverage containers.

    4. "Gene, if I was a judge in ancapistan, I could only hear cases from parties who voluntarily placed themselves under my jurisdiction."

      Say what?! What about murderers and robbers? Or do you mean "who before the altercation in question had placed themselves under your jurisdiction"? Even that sounds absurd: the people under your jurisdiction can be robbed and killed with impunity by anyone outside of it?! That is certainly not the way Friedman's or Rothbard's or Murphy's ancapistan works.

      "If the facts were as you presented, then I'd rule that the elderly patient did not have the capacity to contract and that the contract was therefore void."


    5. "What about murderers and robbers?"

      Situation 1: Alice robs Bob, and they both have service from an arbitration/enforcement provider.

      The arbitration agencies select me as the judge. I judge that Alice indeed robbed Bob and must make restitution. The agreed upon enforcement agency makes this happen. This is the normal mode in ancapistan.

      Situation 2: Alice robs Bob, but only Bob has a arbitration/enforcement services. I'm the judge. I judge that Alice indeed stole but the enforcement arm of the agency may only attempt to force Alice to pay if Bob had signed up for that service. Of course that sort of mercenary work is going to be expensive but Bob has to weigh the risk and reward himself. Perhaps he just has insurance for robberies and mercenary service for murder.

      Situation 3: Alice robs Bob but only Alice has arbitration service. The only way I could act as a judge and have the enforcement service go after Alice is if her contract allowed me to do so.


      Well if two parties who voluntarily signed contracts with arbitration agencies that then agreed that I should be the arbiter (whose judgement would be carried out by an agreed upon enforcement agency) makes me a paternalist in your view, fine.

  2. But, but, traumerei, you are interfering with their voluntary arrangements!

    1. Are you suggesting that Alice robbing Bob was a voluntary arrangement? Or was that not the arrangement you were referring to?

    2. Of course not that one. The young gold digger and the senile man. As far as he can recall who he is and who she is, he says he is happy with the arrangements. But his son brings a lawsuit. And let's clarify the situation a bit further: the old man had been leaving everything to found a university, not to the son, and the son just wants that will restored. And the father is really dotty: for instance, he can't even remember what university is being talked about when that topic is raised. Occasionally, he can't recognize the woman whom he supposedly wants to leave his money to. And so on. But, whenever he can remember her for a moment, he says, "Oh, yes, my darling Rose! She should have money."

      You're the judge. Do you overturn the new will?

    3. So assuming that the senile man and gold digger had both contracted arbitration services and that these providers had agreed to have me decide the issue, then ... provided that the change of inheritance from the university to Rose was done under a manner approved by his arbitration provider (acceptable witnesses, without duress, in a clear state of mind, etc.), I'd award the inheritance to the gold digger - particularly if the man had previously setup a trust when he created his first will only to go through the hoops of dissolving it and creating a new will after meeting Rose.

    4. "In a clear state of mind"

      Well, no, the premise is that the old fellow is really never in a "clear state of mind."

    5. So his arbitration provider allowed him to change his will despite not being sound of mind?

      Okay, well considering that my arbitration philosophy clearly requires a will to be made by someone who is demonstrably sound of mind, his provider would probably not agree to me arbitrating in the first place.

      But if his arbitration provider chose me anyway, yeah, I would not recognize the changed will.

    6. Good for you, traumerei: you realize some paternalism is justified, even in ancapistan v

    7. The difference is that someone who chooses to use the services of an arbitration provider enters into that arrangement voluntarily and enjoys the ability to switch providers as specified by their agreement.

      A young child has no such luxury with their parents who exercise unilateral control. This unilateral and involuntary arrangement is what characterizes paternalism for me - and it exists in the family but not in the ancap arbitration industry.

    8. Traumerei, aren't even you a little embarrassec to be so slippery about your blatant paternalism? Yeah, the old man entered into some agreement with your ancap agency years ago -- so what? Now he says his beloved Rose is all he cares about. He now "wishes" to disavow any association with you that hurts his dear Rosie.

      Admit it: you believe paternalism is sometimes fine. That only makes you a decent human being, traumerei! It shouldn't be so hard to admit you really are one of us, rather than a freakish Rothbardian mutant!

    9. As I stated in the very first response, I think paternalism is perfectly fine for parents.

      The old man entered into an agreement years ago committing himself to a certain course of action now. It matters. If Rose wants the money so badly, she can wait until a moment of acceptable lucidity as agreed to and determined by his arbitration provider. Then they can go through the agreed-upon steps to change the will.

      I don't consider myself a strict Rothbardian - nor do I adhere necessarily to Friedman or Murphy. Unlike Murphy, I would have seriously considered lynching (or at least kidnapping and imprisoning) Peisistratus.

      Defending others from aggression is paternalistic and I'm for that as well - but I'm not for threatening people who don't want to join me. That's how I believe a decent human being should act.

  3. I think this blog should have warning labels, and people can only be allowed to read 16 posts per visit.


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