David Friedman Answers Some Questions

David Friedman recently released his third edition of Machinery of Freedom, a book which advocates for Anarcho-Capitalism from a unique, Friedmanian, pragmatic, utilitarian, and empirical, rather than a priori or deductive, perspective.

I bought it and I recommend you do the same. The Kindle version is available here for $3. The hard copy is soon to be released. I haven’t read it yet, although I have read a portion of the first edition which is available free for anyone to read here on his website. At any rate, this is not a book review.

David did an AMA on 1/28/15, ostensibly in part to boost interest in the new release. It was my pleasure to ask 16 questions, 9 of which were ultimately answered, including questions I did not expect him to answer for reasons of controversy or other reasons. This article will simply show my questions with the answers, and I will also include questions from other people which I thought were either interesting or the response from David to the question was.

My Questions

  1. What area of economics needs study right now?
    1. “Three different answers:
      1. Coase has argued that we need to develop a version of economics that takes transaction costs, institutional design, contract design, and a lot of related stuff more seriously. One can view his two famous articles as a reductio ad absurdum of the current state of economics, since it implicitly assumes away transaction costs.
      2. What I referred to in a blog post as the extensive margin—applying economics to things it hasn’t been applied to before. Becker was an old example, Peter Leeson a more current one.
      3. I think someone should apply behavioral economics to macro, that being where I suspect it would be most relevant.”
  2. I am enrolling in a phd Fall 2015, what should I write a thesis on?
    1. Something that interests you. I have a few ideas for research projects on my page. http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Miscellaneous/ideas_for_research_project.htm
  3. What is Patri up to and have the grandkids expressed interest in economics?
    1. “Neither of my other two children is likely to pursue economics, although both find it interesting. No idea what Tovar and Izzie will end up doing.”
  4. Who is your favorite economist still alive and contributing to the field?
    1. “I don’t have a favorite. I like Bryan Caplan. Peter Leeson has done a bunch of fun things.”
  5. As a physicist and economist, have you looked into econophysics and what do you think?
    1. “I have not.”
  6. Is seasteading currently the best way to get to a market oriented polical economy and/or what are some other good approaches?
    1. “Seasteading is a neat idea. My guess is that it won’t work, but it could do a lot of good if it did. Online commerce protected by encryption is another. Free cities in poor countries another.”
  7. Do you think it would be good or bad to allow selling votes?
    1. “There’s an interesting old idea that carries it further–make citizenship marketable. Including the vote.”
  8. What are your thoughts on jury nullification?
    1. “I like to say that some ideas are both true and dangerous, and this sentence is an example. So is jury nullification. It seems obvious that one ought not to vote to punish someone for doing something that you don’t think should be illegal, and if I was on a jury I don’t expect I would. But if everyone believes that, there are some pretty unattractive possible consequences. You murder someone for arguing for views you strongly disapprove of and rely on at least one person on your side of the controversy on the jury to get you off.”
  9. Who, if anyone, are you pulling for in the 2016 Pres. election?
    1. “At this point, probably Rand Paul among the major party candidates. But if the LP nominates the same candidate they did last time, I expect that if I vote I will vote for him.”
  10. Is going into academia something you would recommend to a young adult in today’s world?
  11. What are some practical ways to help further libertarianism?
  12. What do you think is your father’s best contribution to the field? Your mother’s?
  13. What is your favorite change to the new Machinery of Freedom?
  14. Do you support attempting to unify Chicago & Austrian approaches, or would this be a dirtying of the Chicago approach? If unification is potentially ideal, is there a suggested starting point?
  15. What are some great schools, informal organizations, and/or particular sources such as specific books from which to learn economics today, if any exist?
  16. Do you consider yourself an agnostic atheist? Have your thoughts changed regarding religion or worldview over time? If so, how?

Other People’s Questions

  1. “We can all expect DRO’s or PDA’s to have varying internal structures, but how would you personally design one of your own design if you could? And your opinions on Hoppe’s theoretical Aristocracy would be nice too.”
    1. David: “I wouldn’t. I believe in division of labor, and building a firm isn’t something I have expertise or experience on. I’m not familiar with Hoppe’s theoretical aristocracy.”
      1. He pretty much says Plato’s theory on “rule of the best” is theoretically sound if they have a vested self-interest in maintaining a profitable domain over what they oversee, namely by owning it. Monarchy comes close, while being more prone to instability, but still better than democracy which leads to dictatorship more often. Whenever I look at discussion of modern Aristocracy, I think of a Corporate Board of Directors, only with a more strenuous selection process. Just looking for more opinions from the experts. EDIT: Discussion Link
        1. David: “I like to say that the best form of government is competitive dictatorship–the way we run restaurants and hotels. The customer has no vote on what’s on the menu, an absolute vote on what restaurant he chooses to eat at. Constructing monopoly institutions in which the people making decisions really get the net benefit of those decisions is hard. One can argue that limiting voting to land owners is one approach, on the theory that the land can’t move, so things that make the society on net better or worse will tend to end up capitalized in land values.”
  2. “Thanks so much for the second AMA, Dr. Friedman! I have a couple questions: I remember in the past you have described your ethical positions as similar to Huemer’s, as intuitionist. Has this changed at all or do you still feel this way? Could you give a little info as to why? A link is great too. What would you say is the most convincing or valid critique of anarcho-capitalism, as you described in Machinery? What is your reply to that? I’m writing my English paper on related topics so insight would be greatly valued! Thank you so much! See you at ISFLC!”
    1. David: “1 – I have a chapter on the subject in the third edition of Machinery. My position has not changed, although I am somewhat less confident of it, due to a critique of the argument to which I don’t feel either I or Huemer has an entirely adequate rebuttal. 2 – The most convincing critique is probably the nonexistence of modern A-C societies, which suggests that they may be unstable under current circumstances. A second possible critique, having to do with the economies of scale problem, I discuss in the third edition, coming out of Buchanan’s review of Machinery back when it was first published.”
      1. “Can you expound on that critique against intuitionism? As to Huemer, have you read his Problem With Political Authority and if so, did you find it compelling?”
        1. David: “The critique is moral nihilism plus evolutionary psychology. The evidence for intuitionism is the large degree of overlap among different people’s moral intuition, rather like the large overlap between their perceptions of the physical world. The critique is that the overlap can be explained as due to selective pressure in the environment we evolved in–those are the moral beliefs that led to reproductive success. 1- I read and liked the first half of Huemer’s book, haven’t got around to reading the second half.”
  3. “If you could remove the government overnight with the push of a button (all the government bureaucracies and employees all gone), would you? I ask because Rothbard was an abolitionist and wouldn’t hesitate to push that button. But would you as a utilitarian?”
    1. David: “No. It takes time to develop alternative institutions. And I’m not a utilitarian. Take a look at the index entry in the second edition of Machinery for “utilitarian.””

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