lunedì 3 maggio 2010

Anarchy in rubbish collection

Very interesting post on a blog I didn't know of since a couple of days ago (I love the subtitle). There's a comment of mine which is quite abstract but I hope interesting. It's an application of Austrian institutionalism, let's say, a theory I don't know much about (I've always focused on the business cycle). Let's see it as Menger's theory of money: first came private money, then government seized it. First come social rules, than government power seizes it. To believe in the creation of money and rules by government fiat is constructivism. However, the comment was a little difference: it was about the "natural history of the growth of power", very jouvenelian.

"Very nice post.

Starting from a situation of no formal institution and no informal rules of conduct, which might be called anomy, there are instances in which the latter form much earlier than the former.

The economic organization of the POW camp saw cigarettes becoming the foundation of a price system quite naturally. Nigerian scavengers show the same pattern, as examples I've heard about of self-generated rules, regulations and entire legal systems (maybe the Law Merchants).

But freedom is a public good: it benefits everyone, but none in particular. Wait some time and a hierarchical structure will form, and the libertarian scavengers will become citizens of the Free Republic of the Wasteland, and a political elite will form and rule the rest of society.

Just a matter of time. In the West, it took centuries... but power has private benefits and public costs, and thus it is a public evil, whereas liberty is a public good. No doubt about which of the two will win in the long run: we are living in a tragedy of the commons and have no clue about how to solve it, mass democracy have only made things worse because there has never been so much concentration of power and loss of social capital.

It's not wealth, in conclusion, that begets power: it's time. Soon after the establishment of the Free Republic of the Wasteland, the libertarian scavengers will lose all of their social capital and will become incapable of cooperating without the loving care of their political elite, just like Tocqueville's Americans could do everything by themselves, and present-day Americans need a loan from a chinese peasant."

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