What would Russ Roberts say?

This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the US department of energy. I then took a shower in the clean water provided by the municipal water utility. After that, I turned on the TV to one of the FCC regulated channels to see what the national weather service of the national oceanographic and atmospheric administration determined the weather was going to be like using satellites designed, built, and launched by the national aeronautics and space administration. I watched this while eating my breakfast of US department of agriculture inspected food and taking the drugs which have been determined as safe by the food and drug administration.
At the appropriate time as regulated by the US congress and kept accurate by the national institute of standards and technology and the US naval observatory, I get into my national highway traffic safety administration approved automobile and set out to work on the roads build by the local, state, and federal departments of transportation, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of a quality level determined by the environmental protection agency, using legal tender issed by the federal reserve bank. On the way out the door I deposit any mail I have to be sent out via the US postal service and drop the kids off at the public school.
After spending another day not being maimed or killed at work thanks to the workplace regulations imposed by the department of labor and the occupational safety and health administration, enjoying another two meals which again do not kill me because of the USDA, I drive my NHTSA car back home on the DOT roads, to my house which has not burned down in my absence because of the state and local building codes and fire marshal’s inspection, and which has not been plundered of all its valuables thanks to the local police department.
I then log on to the internet which was developed by the defense advanced research projects administration and post on freerepublic.com and fox news forums about how SOCIALISM in medicine is BAD because the government can’t do anything right.


This brief post
made me think of Russ Roberts’ general intention behind Invisible Heart – empathetic classical liberalism. Roberts’ sort of describes the brilliance and majesty of iPencil stories, the power of choice and the wonderment of spontaneous orders. Isn’t it all so obviously good? Dan Klein’s friend Joy would certainly agree.
When we compare Roberts’ project to this post (or something like it) – mainly an artistic device that communicates an opposing perspective – it holds another implication that the conclusions of social science are merely matters of interpretation. In that sense social science is no science at all.
At this point the debate almost inevitably appears empirical. From which source is the majority of social order stemming from – voluntary exchange or governmental design and prodding? Can we measure this, if yes then how do we know that we’re doing it right?
Robert’s approach wins here, his ongoing collection and restating the beauty of iPencil stories gives his readers a vision as to the infinite complexity and size of the economy.

Pete asked about Seasteading.

And my response:
I don’t think secession type movements can sustain on ideology alone. So I’ll ignore it momentarily.
My first impression is that Tiebout competition would drive “good” results. Regardless of whether the heads of such movements, “get the rules right,” increasing the supply of governance should drive down price. Leaders would want a greater tax base through economic prosperity. Rational expectations plus economic freedom index shazaam! global prosperity.
That’s probably a best case scenario. More likely:
Whether the growth / transition periods of these islands was fast or slow would determine their sustainability. It might help to think of young states, post war contexts, post soviet contexts, post natural disaster contexts… geez! wonder why this sparked your interest Pete?
My guess is these experiments would be stuck in a sort of horse race between being captured by existing interests on the one hand and failing to develop on the other. Much like the market place, certain policy baskets can systematically crowd out particular sectors – inexpensive private schools, small scale charity, why not sizes and or types of governments? Maybe existing states are benefiting from economies of scale so these newbies wont be able to provide competitive public goods packages?
My guess is that the market is dynamic in service offerings enough and debilitating in taxation and regulation enough currently that some industry more probably some slough of industries would find some significant gains from moving to a stateless society. Server hosting has been one to date, so were many financial serves essentially – Cayman islands bank accounts and the like.
If small scale experiments had long periods of developing then mechanisms to increase the scale and quicken the pace of development could be ensured through constitutional foresight. But in such a case owners of current capital would have to share the role as Kirznerian entrepreneurs. One could only expect innovation in government when the owners of existing dominant capital stocks also discovered the opportunities for improvement. But only in so far as those benefits of innovation outpace their current benefits gained through the status quo.
Since larger scale sea-steads or sea steads that could develop more quickly would presumably have a better chance of survival than perhaps large scale corporations would fund such projects, such a dominant vested interest in the original stages would likely try to insulate its corporate interests. If firm zero that was attracted to seasteadia was Microsoft and they fronted a bunch of money to build infrastructure etc. I doubt they would be honky dorey if Apple was the next invite.
In this sense the world the world would look a lot like it does now, but hopefully wealthier.