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WWND?

That's "What Would Nozick Do?" about the bailout and the American residential real estate market? Richard Epstein tell us.

And this has to be the first time in recent memory that a popular op-ed has been organized around Nozickian themes.

Update:

I'll also note that the odds on me doing two posts, one of which is about "Nosek" and the other about the virtually identical sounding "Nozick" must be pretty slim.

Cornellian (mail):
And this has to be the first time in recent memory that a popular op-ed has been organized around Nozickian themes.

But hopefully not the last.
10.8.2008 4:10pm
donaldk2 (mail):
Very enlightening. Would like to see more - yes!
10.8.2008 4:20pm
Jmaie (mail):
Will an Obama presidency lead to more anti-Nozickian government actions? Highly probable.

Would a McCain presidency be any better?
10.8.2008 4:24pm
Pragmaticist:
Don't just do something, stand there!
10.8.2008 4:30pm
steve lubet (mail):
Epstein (channeling Nozick) laments that "the current congressional fixation called for a relentless increase in homeownership relative to renting," as though the current financial crisis is due largely (or perhaps entirely) to recent increases in mortgage availability.

But Congress had nothing to do with the creation of the complex instruments such as deriviatives, CDOs, and credit default swaps -- all of which were developed by private enterprise -- that are responsible for turning a relatively small default problem into an international liquidity crisis.
10.8.2008 4:41pm
richard cabeza:
But Congress had nothing to do with the creation of the complex instruments

So the financial instruments' complexity -- and not the fact that they were, in any risk assessment not perverted by government meddling, bad debt -- led to the liquidity crunch?
10.8.2008 4:43pm
steve lubet (mail):

So the financial instruments' complexity -- and not the fact that they were, in any risk assessment not perverted by government meddling, bad debt -- led to the liquidity crunch?


In a word, Yes (although there is more to it than complexity).
10.8.2008 4:45pm
Adam J:
richard cabeza- well, that... but I believe it is mostly the fact that the banks and investors made a huge highly leveraged bet on the profitability of subprime mortgages but/because they vastly underestimated their risk.
10.8.2008 4:57pm
Arkady:
Before y'all swoon over Nozick, understand that ASU was not without its critics. See, e.g., "Robert Nozick, Libertarianism, And Utopia," Jonathan Wolff, University College London, arguing that there is a fundamental--and perhaps fatal--tension between two fundamentals of Nozick's theory: liberty and property rights. Wolff puts it:


The apparent difficulty is easy to state. One person's property right over an object is equivalent to everyone else's lack of liberty to use the object in question without permission. If I have a right to my house, you may not use it without my consent. Thus one person's ownership entails another's lack of liberty. And this is clearer still in the case of the original appropriation of property. If a field is unowned then both you and I are at liberty to use it. The minute you appropriate it I can no longer use it without your permission. This gives rises to two problems. The first is a worry for any theory of property acquisition: what could you possibly do to any object that could justify these future restrictions on my liberty? Second, and of particular concern to a libertarian, if the acquisition of property rights and liberty conflict, how can we decide which to favour?


I'm not saying Nozick has no response to this (whether he's successful, I leave to the reader), only that one should bear in mind that Nozick's book was a work of philosophy, and was not proof against criticism. Polemicists often write as if philosophically congenial theories are not philosophically controversial. Unfortunately for the the polemicist, this is very rarely, if ever, true.
10.8.2008 5:05pm
Michael B (mail):
Not directly on topic, but from last night's debate:

Brokaw: Is owning a unicorn in America a privilege, a right or a responsibility?

Obama: Well let's talk about this Tom, because there's a lot of information out on this.

Brokaw: Privilege, right or responsibility?

Obama: Well, owning a unicorn should be a right for every American.

Brokaw: And wee little fairies, a privilege, a right or a responsibility?

Obama: Well yes Tom, that should be a right too ...

Now substitute health care for unicorn and fairies, rewrite two or three sections of the Constitution - surreptitiously via the courts - and slam bam, unicorns and health care for one and all, for free! Because it's a right, because it's "just".

File under: you ain't seen nothin' yet, friends and citizens.
10.8.2008 5:05pm
Nunzio:
Prof. Lubet,

CDOs and credit default swaps are derivatives. They derive, ultimately, from the bad mortgages. Notably, credit cards and car loans produced derivative instruments as well, but they're not experiencing any problem. They would if Congress mandated lenders to give car loans and credit cards to people who are very bad credit risks.

In legalese, the evidence is more than sufficient to show that Congress is a proximate cause of this mess.
10.8.2008 5:24pm
NickM (mail) (www):
It's not a relatively small default problem. In some major population centers, half the properties being sold in recent months are foreclosure-sales or lender-owned sales. Default rates from some banks' entire real estate loan portfolios are now in the 15% range. Some market estimates put one-sixth of single-family homes at no or negative equity. And unless the LIBOR rate comes down dramatically or adjustable-rate loan resets are postponed or cancelled, it's going to get a lot worse in the next few months.

Nick
10.8.2008 5:33pm
Thales (mail) (www):
"In legalese, the evidence is more than sufficient to show that Congress is a proximate cause of this mess."

I'm afraid this is nonsense, interesting as the Nozick discussion is. Richard Posner has a much more lucid take on it:

"The theme in the readers' comments to which I would like to respond, and it is also a theme in the Wall Street Journal's editorial comments on the financial crisis, is that government policy, rather than the free market, is responsible for the crisis--government policy in the form of encouragements spurred in part by Congress to home ownership through the government-chartered though private Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac home-mortgage companies, low interest rates imposed by the Federal Reserve Board, and lax supervision by the Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulators. I wish it were true. And what is true is that the government, including Congress, the Federal Reserve Board, and the SEC, were complicit in contributing to or creating some of the preconditions for the crisis--cheap credit and lax regulation. But there is a difference between creating and merely exacerbating a crisis. Moreover, it is a paradox to exonerate the market on the ground that the government did not do enough to regulate it!

I believe that the basic causes of the crisis were six factors internal to the market system. The first was abundant and therefore cheap global capital--the result of private economic activity--and, consequently, low interest rates, which encouraged borrowing. The second factor was a housing bubble caused in part by those low interest rates and in part by aggressive marketing of mortgages. The third was new financial instruments that businessmen believed reduced borrowing risks and so increased optimal leverage. The fourth was the difficulty of "selling" a conservative business strategy to shareholders in a bubble environment. Borrowing more and more at low interest rates while home or other asset values are rising enables financial institutions to make higher profits, and a firm that refuses to jump on the bandwagon will as a result experience lower profits and will have difficulty convincing shareholders that they really are better off because the higher profits of the competing firms are unsustainable.

The fifth factor was sheer uncertainty--was it a bubble? If so, when would it end? Would the new financial instruments assure a safe landing if it was a bubble and it burst? And the sixth factor was that the downside risk to highly leveraged financial institutions was truncated by generous severance provisions for their executives, authorized by boards of directors that were not effective monitors of executive decisions.

Cycles of boom and bust are intrinsic to capitalism. Government can make them more serious, and sometimes less serious, but if you take away government you will still have periodic economic crises."

Posner blog
10.8.2008 5:36pm
Adam J:
Nunzio- uhhh, except when you consider that the lenders that were "mandated" by Congress to give mortgages sold less subprime mortgages then lenders that were not regulated (like Countrywide- which was a independent mortgage broker not regulated by the Community Reinvestment Act).
Also, credit cards have no security, and car loans have poor security, every lender knows they're unlikely to get their money back by repossessing a car and therefore give smaller credit lines to risky borrowers. On the other hand, lenders apparently assumed that the housing market was strong enough that they would have sufficient security for a subprime mortgage. Obviously, they were wrong.
10.8.2008 5:36pm
Thales (mail) (www):
"CDOs and credit default swaps are derivatives. They derive, ultimately, from the bad mortgages. Notably, credit cards and car loans produced derivative instruments as well, but they're not experiencing any problem."

Well, the credit default swaps derive, ultimately, from the credit of the underlying referent, which may or may not be an mortgage backed security--the outstanding CDS market is huge and encompasses much more than mortgages, and while MBS declines began the downward spiral, the huge leverage ratios and systemic risk of a few sellers of CDS protection (such as Bear Stearns and AIG) threatened the entire global economy. More fundamentally, once one part of the interwoven system began to unravel, no one could value the assets of or trust the credit of other financial institutions--it's been a giant global run on banks, where the government central banks have become lenders of *first* resort because literally no one else will lend money.
10.8.2008 5:44pm
Hoosier:
I was at Notre Dame with his son. From what I can tell, Nozick's first response would be to spark up a fatty.
10.8.2008 5:45pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Oh, and credit card and auto asset backed securities have experienced significant declines in value as well, due to the mistrust of any complicated financial instrument that now pervades the market.
10.8.2008 5:46pm
Nunzio:
Thales,

I'm not disagreeing with you. The CDS market is insane. They could have 50 times the losses as the underlying asset they're based off (and, of course, it's not just MBS they cover but that is the big driver of this meltdown). They should have been regulated but weren't by Congress.

My only point is that Congress shouldn't be let off the hook on the subprime mess even though the market made it exponentially worse. The FMs cost us $200 billion all by themselves. We ain't getting that money back.
10.8.2008 5:55pm
gab:
I was looking at an AMEX credit card deal just the other day. (AMXCA 2004-4 A) Charge-offs on this deal have gone from 3.52% in June of last year to a current rate of 6.14%.

It's not just the "mistrust of complicated financial instruments" that's driving auto- and credit card-backed ABS lower, it's actual default rates on the collateral.

Oh, and last time I checked, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac weren't in the credit card business..
10.8.2008 5:56pm
T Gracchus (mail):
Nozick's theory in ASU was not, ultimately, non-patterned. Acceptance of the Lockean Proviso entails commitment to a pattern theory. (This is, in part, because the Lockean Proviso requires access to minimal levels of resources; I think it ends up requiring much more than that, but at least that.) Even assuming there is a theory of acquisition in ASU.
10.8.2008 6:04pm
beamish:
The best 'What Did Nozick Do' story.
10.8.2008 6:05pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
It's not a relatively small default problem. In some major population centers, half the properties being sold in recent months are foreclosure-sales or lender-owned sales.
That's somewhat misleading; that's because nobody in his right mind would sell right now unless forced to do so.
10.8.2008 6:06pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Gab: True enough--the collateral isn't performing because consumers are getting screwed (partly by bad decisions, partly by circumstance), and no one is buying (or selling) the ABS because no one knows how badly they will perform or trusts the rating agencies' models--and now commercial banks can't risk loaning long to anyone, and their short term assets are insufficient to cushion them. It's reciprocal causation, and it's really nasty.
10.8.2008 6:07pm
PC:
Nunzio, the market for CDOs exploded because Greenspan kept the interest rate at 1%. This forced institutional investors to look for higher returns to meet long term obligations because treasuries provided a very poor return. Lowering interest rates is a double edged sword.

CDSs are a fine mechanism to manage risk when you are using them to manage your own risk. They are dangerous when they are used to speculate in an unregulated market. And CDSs only account for about 10% of the OTC derivatives market. I'm not sure how much of that 10% applies to the housing market, but CDSs cover more than CDOs.
10.8.2008 6:07pm
Adam J:
Nunzio- Fannie and Freddie were public for profit corporations before this disaster, the only significant things government did wrong with them was give them implicit backing and failed to adequately regulate them. Also, if the problem is the GSEs and not the market, why is Farmer Mac doing just fine? (well they were except the idiots held vast quantities of Lehman Preferred and Fannie Mae and took some big losses for it)
10.8.2008 6:15pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):

Would a McCain presidency be any better?


I'd hire McCain for four years just to get the Obama Genie back in the bottle.

In was unaware of Nozick- but this is why I come here.
10.8.2008 6:26pm
Adam J:
Glenn &Michael- what is the preoccupation with bizarre metaphors to imaginary creatures when discussing Obama?
10.8.2008 6:38pm
Anderson (mail):
(1) "What Would Nozick Do?"

-- Reject implicit comparisons with religious messiah figures.

Did I guess right? Do I win?

(2) Someone explain to me please how health care, which exists, is like unicorns, which do not.

No, not you, Michael B -- I need to hear it from someone I can understand.
10.8.2008 6:42pm
PC:
(2) Someone explain to me please how health care, which exists, is like unicorns, which do not.

For roughly 40 million people in the US they are actually the same thing: imaginary.
10.8.2008 6:44pm
Tomm:
gab: I'm not sure that AMEX deal is a great example. Even though charge-offs have gone up significantly, it has a pretty good cushion built in. The senior tranche is only paying out LIB1M + 9 bps, while the WAC is around 19%. That's why it is currently trading at only a slight discount.
10.8.2008 6:45pm
c.gray (mail):

Fannie and Freddie were public for profit corporations before this disaster, the only significant things government did wrong with them was give them implicit backing and failed to adequately regulate them.


Actually, the evidence is that career managers at Fannie &Freddie resisted buying into the market for Subprime &Alt-A -backed CDO paper until Congress pressured them to do so. Their was plenty of foolishness going on inside the GSEs, but mass purchases of subprime paper required government intervention to get started.

The government didn't exactly fail to regulate the GSEs. Congress, in a bipartisan effort, used regulation to force them to pursue the business plan that lead to their recent bankruptcy when it became clear to just about everyone, even Barney Frank, that subprime-backed CDO paper was seriously overvalued...
10.8.2008 6:47pm
Nunzio:
PC,

I agree with all your saying. But I still think Congress deserves a lot of blame for pushing for more subprime housing loans. There's certainly plenty more blame to go around but for all these assholes in Congress to try and pass it all off on Wall Street (who deserves a lot of the blame too) is just disingenious politics.

Barney Frank and Chris Dodd (and others) should be hauled in front of the oversight committee as well as Wall Street typhons.
10.8.2008 6:51pm
Michael B (mail):
"Someone explain to me please how health care, which exists, is like unicorns, which do not."

Health care as a "right," that's what was indicated.
10.8.2008 6:52pm
Anderson (mail):
Michael B, *all* rights are imaginary. There is no right to free speech in nature -- try as you might, you won't find it.

Something becomes a right by common consensus, subject to practical limitations (pace Jefferson and his "inalienable rights" all of which are alienated daily).

It is no more absurd for health care to be a right than for universal adult suffrage to be a right, absurd tho the latter seemed to many a century or two ago.
10.8.2008 6:59pm
PC:
Nunzio, I wouldn't try to absolve congress or Fannie/Freddie in this mess. I think Fannie and Freddie should have their logos next to the definition of moral hazard. Seeing Frank and Dodd patting themselves on the back after the "bailout" bill was passed made me ill.

Blame is obviously going to be placed, but there's enough blame to go around that the vast majority of DC and Wall Street should hire defenestration consultants to help plan a quick exit.
10.8.2008 7:03pm
Michael B (mail):
Anderson, you presume a great deal. You're forwarding a Rortian conception of rights ("socialization goes all the way down"), or one where legal positivism is declared to be the accepted paradigm. You are free to argue that point, but you cannot simply declare it to be fact, via fiat. All you're doing is reciting your own underlying dogmatic conceptions and positing them as fact. They are no such things.

Further, and further shedding light on your presuppositions posing as fact, using your rationalization virtually anything could be declared to be a right once some type of consensus is reached. Home ownership, for example, under a Fannie and Freddie, et al. regime? Or perhaps every little girl has a right to a puppy? Doesn't that make some sense as well?

And to be yet more explicit, following is what was indicated, now with emphases:

Brokaw: Is owning a unicorn in America a privilege, a right or a responsibility?

Obama: Well let's talk about this Tom, because there's a lot of information out on this.

Brokaw: Privilege, right or responsibility?

Obama: Well, owning a unicorn should be a right for every American.

Now substitute health care for unicorn and fairies, rewrite two or three sections of the Constitution - surreptitiously via the courts - and slam bam, unicorns and health care for one and all, for free! Because it's a right, because it's "just".
10.8.2008 7:13pm
Adam J:
c.gray - "Actually, the evidence is that career managers at Fannie &Freddie resisted buying into the market for Subprime &Alt-A -backed CDO paper until Congress pressured them to do so." Please, show me that evidence that Congress pressured them.
10.8.2008 7:14pm
Anderson (mail):
Okay, Michael B, why don't you tell me what a "right" is?

If you're arguing it's absurd that health care could be a right, then I think you owe us a definition of "right" under which that absurdity is evident.

Or, you could just go on about unicorns.
10.8.2008 7:40pm
NickM (mail) (www):
David M. N. - i think the housing bubble has already established that lots of Americans are not in their right minds.

While I grant that people are not motivated to sell in a lousy market, just the normal "forced" sales because of death, divorce, long-distance moves, etc., historically have accounted for a substantial portion of sales.

Nick
10.8.2008 7:47pm
Michael B (mail):
Anderson,

I'm not "going on" about unicorns. You asked for an explantion and I gave it - i.e. the fact I previously indicated health care as a right, not health care as a commodity or health care in general. But I'll attempt to flesh it out a bit further. Respectfully, the following:

It's one thing, as is inherently done within the very preamble of the Constitution, to establish liberty as a fundamental right - and to constitute the resources of the nation and the state in a manner to help insure that right is established and maintained, primarily for citizens.

It's another thing entirely when vast resources (***) are leveraged and presumed upon, which in turn and additionally begin to infringe upon others' liberty and more basic constituting rights in general (i.e. those explicitly established, not "tacitly" in penumbra and emanations, in the Constitution).

In short, reality matters, and that's one of the lessons we should be learning as a result of the Fannie and Freddie, etc. set of problems. You can establish some rights via a legal positivist formulation, but you cannot override reality itself via positivist conceptions and decrees.

*** e.g., economic/financial resources; legal guarantees, including tacit Constitutional guarantees, also including subsequent judicial review which will enlarge those "rights" further still, for example into areas of commerce. Such a positive economic "right" is qualitatively different from a right to liberty, a right to keep and bare arms, a right to petition the govt., etc., all of which help secure the right of liberty, but they are not positive economic "rights".

That is obviously a sketch or the beginnings of an outline only, but it serves to make some fundamental points.
10.8.2008 7:58pm
Nunzio:
Whether or not health care should be a right, Obama is pushing health care as a right by making everyone get health insurance. (40% of the 40 million uninsured are ages 18-34, generally people with the lowest risk of health problems).

If you can afford health insurance, you'll have to pay for it, whether you want to or not. If an insurance company won't insure you because of a pre-existing condition, then you can buy into the federal government's plan.

Health insurance companies make money by taking in more from premiums (counting investments on those premiums) than they pay out in claims.

So Obama's plan, whether you agree with it or not, is sort of saavy but could be viewed as a tax on the middle class in that they will have to buy health insurance whether they want it or not. If he gave a direct right to health care, people without insurance could just go to the doctor or hospital and have them bill the government for the health care (like Medicare). Of course taxes, especially on the middle class, would have to be raised to pay for this.
10.8.2008 8:06pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"In a word, Yes (although there is more to it than complexity)."

The complexity seemed to work just fine until folks stopped making their mortgage payments.
10.8.2008 8:15pm
Sagar (mail):
beamish,

great link! now we know what Nozick would do, as opposed to say :)
10.8.2008 8:16pm
Adam J:
c.grey- also, it's kinda fundamentally strange to blame Freddie and Fannie here... they've merely the middlemen between the buyer and seller... that is the mortgage originators and investors. If Freddie and Fannie were securitizing subprime mortgages merely because they were caving to Congress, we still wouldn't be having this crisis. If that were the case then nobody would be buying the securities, because the investors wouldn't be subject to the same pressure at Freddie and Fannie- and the only damage would be the Freddie and Fannie.

Clearly, it was market pressure that had Freddie and Fannie caught up this irrational exuberance... whenever they had a mortgage backed security offering of subprimes, they found investors lined out the door waiting to buy them.
10.8.2008 8:31pm
Michael B (mail):
Nunzio, that may well be a different aspect of the health care set of issues, but it is not what is implied by making it a right.

Forcing people, via legislation, to maintain at least a minimal level of health insurance - similar to forcing people to maintain auto insurance if they choose to own and drive a car - is a different issue. It may be related tangentially and in some more critical ways and it can be argued, pro and con, on its own merits, but it is not part of the health care qua right argument properly understood.
10.8.2008 8:35pm
Nunzio:
Adam J.,

The Chinese and Russian gov't bought quite a bit of the FM securities precisely because they believed the federal government backed them up, despite Barney Frank's and others protestations to the contratry.

In this belief, they were right because the government is bailing the FMs out and making good on their obligations (and it's definitely a bailout). Now either Frank lied at the time or is not as smart as the government officials in China or Russia.
10.8.2008 8:53pm
Adam J:
Nunzio- I agree that the guarantee was a problem, and certainly increased risk, but its been there for 70 years- its a little difficult to claim this was the "proximate cause".
10.8.2008 9:50pm
Anderson (mail):
So, Michael B, you're not going to tell us what a "right" is?

but could be viewed as a tax on the middle class in that they will have to buy health insurance whether they want it or not

Exactly. Having people who don't want health insurance buy in anyway, increases the pool and is (in principle) indistinguishable from funding universal health care. Obama's plan, which appears less radical than Hillary Clinton's would apparently preserve a lot of the existing insurance structure; I am not thrilled about this but it's a complex, politicized issue &I'll defer to the Experts.

Lots of rights require taxation to be of any effect -- the right to property isn't much use without police and courts, for instance.
10.8.2008 10:03pm
MnZ:

Epstein (channeling Nozick) laments that "the current congressional fixation called for a relentless increase in homeownership relative to renting," as though the current financial crisis is due largely (or perhaps entirely) to recent increases in mortgage availability.

But Congress had nothing to do with the creation of the complex instruments such as deriviatives, CDOs, and credit default swaps -- all of which were developed by private enterprise -- that are responsible for turning a relatively small default problem into an international liquidity crisis.


Professor Lubet, while Congress did not create these complex instruments, the instruments did increase the availability of mortgages. Therefore, I suspect that people in Congress who supported expanding home ownership were reluctant to rein in these complex instruments. On the flip side, people in Congress who supported the banking and finance industry were reluctant to rein in the mortgage business. Those two groups would have formed a rather powerful coalition.
10.8.2008 11:19pm
Gabriel McCall (mail):
A right to go about one's peaceable business without interference from the state- "negative rights", or "liberties"- is an entirely different matter from a right to compel others to serve me against their will- "positive rights" or "entitlements".

When you speak of a right to free speech, that right does not impose a burden on anyone else to do anything affirmative- it prohibits some sorts of actions, but does not require any. However, a right to health care imposes a burden of positive action on other people: someone must provide that health care. There is thus a clear philosophical distinction to be made between them.
10.8.2008 11:58pm
Nunzio:
Adam J.,

I don't think they were "the" proximate cause but "a" proximate cause. If the Wall St. guys were the ones who robbed the apartments Congress was the building owner who hired the 80-year-old stoned security guard who buzzed the robbers in.
10.9.2008 12:56am
Obvious (mail):
Beamish: If Nozick's use of rent control after writing AS&U somehow defeats the theory of justice there developed, I assume you also long ago tossed the theory of democracy on viewing the despicable and corrupt public and private actions of elected officials at all levels, too numerous to list (but see almost any daily paper)?

Anderson: Your understanding of inalienable rights is flawed; inalienable rights make claims of justice, not metaphysics. Of course inalienable rights are alienated on a daily basis. Jefferson was not so dull as to not know this. He lists many such injustices in his list of grievances against George III, in the Declaration. The point is not that inalienable rights CAN'T be alienated; it is that it is UNJUST to abridge inalienable rights, either absolutely or at least prima facie. That's pretty basic stuff.
10.9.2008 1:14am
c.gray (mail):

Please, show me that evidence that Congress pressured them.


Uh huh. It's just coincidence that Congress held hearings on the GSEs and their regulatory regime in 2004. And that same year, after a decade of keeping its holdings of subprime and alt-a mortgages and related securities below 10% of its balance sheet, Fannie and Freddie began gobbling up this junk like a starving pig at a feed trough, piling it on until 40% of their assets were in this form just 30 months later.


also, it's kinda fundamentally strange to blame Freddie and Fannie here... they've merely the middlemen between the buyer and seller...


Duh. I AGREE. The GSE executives did _exactly_ what they thought their political patrons in Congress wanted. Given the odd legal status of the GSEs, they can hardly be blamed for this.

The GSEs did not "cause" the current crisis. Like a lot of other large financial institutions, they contributed to it. But they came in at the tail end of the bubble. That's why they were among the first to collapse. A disproportionate share of the junk they financed and retained was the most seriously overvalued.

But the GSEs weren't placing bets any dumber than the ones being placed by the Big 5 on Wall Street, Fortis in Belgium, Northern Rock in England or, apparently, a still rising number of Landesbank in Germany. All of them arrived at the party years before the GSEs did.
10.9.2008 4:24am
Anderson (mail):
Your understanding of inalienable rights is flawed; inalienable rights make claims of justice, not metaphysics.

Uh, no shit. That is why it's debatable whether there can be a "right" to health care. Does justice require it, or not? It's a serious subject, which is why stupid comparisons to "unicorns" do not suffice.

Gabriel McCall: Isaiah Berlin's essay is not the last word on the subject. The "right to be left alone" is not definitive. Leaving aside that such rights require enforcement against one's fellow citizens as much as against the state (see "property, police" above).
10.9.2008 9:55am
Aeon J. Skoble (mail):
T Gracchus: "Acceptance of the Lockean Proviso entails commitment to a pattern theory. (This is, in part, because the Lockean Proviso requires access to minimal levels of resources"
I don't think that's right. Once we have society, the proviso is always automatically met whenever there's a (just) transaction, since all acquisition requires an exchange. The Proviso might say something about initial acquisition of unowned natural resources in the S of N, but is tautologically always met once we're in a society. So that doesn'r commit Nozick to patterned distribution at all.
10.9.2008 10:41am
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):

Glenn &Michael- what is the preoccupation with bizarre metaphors to imaginary creatures when discussing Obama?


bizarre? imaginary??
10.9.2008 12:11pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):

(2) Someone explain to me please how health care, which exists, is like unicorns, which do not.

For roughly 40 million people in the US they are actually the same thing: imaginary.


what's imaginary to 40 million Americans is health insurance. healthcare exists.
10.9.2008 12:14pm
Gabriel McCall (mail):
Isaiah Berlin's essay is not the last word on the subject. The "right to be left alone" is not definitive. Leaving aside that such rights require enforcement against one's fellow citizens as much as against the state (see "property, police" above).


Nor was my post intended to be the last word, either. It might be fun to delve in detail into the Nozick/Berlin disagreement, but that was not my intent and this blog probably isn't the place to do it anyway. I was simply pointing out that there is a clear and important distinction to be drawn betweeen positive and negative rights, and that conflating the two does nothing to promote effective argument or clear communication. Analogizing a right to health care with a right to police protection is one thing, since both are positive rights. But there aren't enough similarities between a right to health care and a right to free speech to draw useful comparisons between them; they're entirely different sorts of concepts even if the word "right" is unusefully used to refer to both.
10.9.2008 12:57pm
beamish:
Obvious, I wasn't making a point about Nozick's political philosophy but passing along an amusing story in light of the title of the post. I hope you enjoyed it.
10.9.2008 2:15pm
Obvious (mail):
beamish: It's a well-known story, among libertarians, and while I'm glad it allowed you a chuckle, it is actually rather sad, for some, when they see an obviously intelligent and presumptively principled man ignoring his stated principles to save some money, using the power of the state in ways he had previously argued were unjust. Sorry, just don't see the humor there.

Anderson: To further clarify the Nozickean point Professor Epstein was arguing, some rules of justice make demands of you, others place side-constraints. Nozick argued that rights are best viewed as side-constraints (by "best", here, I mean most logically consistent, able to explain more of our intuitions about rights than alternative conceptions). Thus, we have a right to liberty; our right to liberty is not violated unless others ignore the side-constraint on their actions (Do anything you want, as long as you don't violate X's liberty.) We do not have a right to health care, because that would impose on some positive duties to others. (Doctors, don't take vacation, as it limits others' rights to health-care; don't charge what the market will bear for your services; don't restrict your services in a way most beneficial to you, etc.) I'll take Anderson more seriously when he begins to argue that Americans have a right to the best legal representation that money can buy, free for the poor, at a highly discounted price for those over 65, and at highly regulated prices for the rest of the citizenry.
10.9.2008 2:52pm
Fedya (www):
Where do I go to exercise my right not to pay for other people's health insurance?
10.9.2008 3:04pm
Arkady:

I'll take Anderson more seriously when he begins to argue that Americans have a right to the best legal representation that money can buy, free for the poor, at a highly discounted price for those over 65, and at highly regulated prices for the rest of the citizenry.


Would you settle for a simple provision of counsel in criminal cases if the accused cannot afford a lawyer? I think Nozick would have agreed with the holding of Gideon.
10.9.2008 6:31pm
Michael B (mail):
"So, Michael B, you're not going to tell us what a "right" is?" Anderson

In fact, I did, if in a suggestive manner only, sketching out some delimiting frameworks, taking some realities into account.

By contrast, you've resolutely staked out a navel gazing, abstracted position, content to rely upon "experts" and flippantly dismissive of anything that might distract you from your navel gazing, ideational activity. For example, you failed to respond when I suggested home ownership - e.g., under a Fannie and Freddie regime - might also be considered a right.
10.9.2008 8:14pm
Obvious (mail):
Arkady asks me "Would you settle for a simple provision of counsel in criminal cases if the accused cannot afford a lawyer? I think Nozick would have agreed with the holding of Gideon."

While it may well be true that Nozick would agree to the Gideon decision, I doubt it would be as a result of his commitment to non-patterned principles of justice. I suspect it would be because, like other libertarians, he saw the modern state as so stacking the deck against the individual (with, for example, the vast expansion of federal laws, rules, regulations) that Gideon could be seen as simply leveling the field.

However, in analogizing the claims that all citizens have A RIGHT to medical care vs legal services, Gideon doesn't even come close. If that were all a right to health care implied, we need merely open up the VA health system to everyone; I assure you people would not be happy with that result. People want the best health care available, they want it for free or minimal cost, and they expect they have a right to it. I'm not a lawyer, but I bet you're not willing to argue that public defenders represent the best legal services available.
10.9.2008 10:24pm
Hoosier:
I'll also note that the odds on me doing two posts, one of which is about "Nosek" and the other about the virtually identical sounding "Nozick" must be pretty slim.

And yet not as slim as two variants of "Chetwilliger."
10.9.2008 10:27pm
David Warner:
Rawls 700 billion, Nozick 1

We're gaining on him!
10.10.2008 4:16am
Michael B (mail):
As to health care, there is also this (brief video that explains a great deal as pertains to 1) individual health care, 2) politicizing issues in a manner that elides fundamental aspects of the issue in question and 3) similar to #2, socialism's inherent maladdictions in presuming to "solve" such deeply systemic issues.
10.11.2008 3:31pm