In comments to this entry at QandO Blog, David Sculer asks what Billy Beck characterizes as an enormous question:
Yes, that idea occurred to me as well and I pitched it at a dozen or so
econ-bloggers but didn’t get much reaction. A detail that probably
should be considered in this regard is how such a thing could be privatized.
first alternative that occurred to me was insurance. But, of course,
flood insurance is the province of the federal government, too, and the
way it’s been explained to me is that the federal government does it
because the private sector just won’t do it. It’s a market failure. I’d
be interested in being corrected on this.
Every other mechanism I could think of sounded pretty darned medieval like the castles on the Rhine collecting tolls.
How do you see it being done?
Now, read Billy’s answer carefully; very carefully:
Dave Schuler—You ask an enormous question. And the enormity of it goes
to point out the fact of what I keep calling "The Endarkenment". What
this is really about is learning all over again
what values are, what production is, how it happens, and why. There is
a huge complex of concepts between your question and action on the
street, and they have been lost in the place where they were born,
which fact is the essence of what I just today said is "something that
borders on the religious concept of mortal sin". The fact that you
cannot imagine the answers to your question is appalling, but don’t
take it personally: you’re not the only one who can’t see, and you’ve
been positively taught not to. We are many generations into this. It
started happening long before you were born.
about producing enormous values. I put it to you that they are no less
possible to private concerns than (in generally accessible examples
that I’ve used before) General Motors or General Electric. You write:
"A detail that probably should be considered in this regard is how such a thing could be privatized."
very first thing is to realize that this would only be a restoration of
the proper ethical and political order by which this country flourished
in the first place, to the limited extent that it actually found
practice here. Everyone fond of the constitution should realize that
the public works of New Orleans that we’re talking about are direct
descendents of Section Eight of that document and its presumption of
authority to produce certain goods that are certainly no less "public"
than Wal-Mart is, today, in that millions of people benefit from them.
That premise has merely been extended from "roads", into the sort of
thing that we’re talking about: the assertion of an interest
so "public" that it is simply taken for granted and never seriously
questioned. And that’s how people grow up to wonder how these things
could possibly happen without government.
They’re going to have
to be taught that there is no such thing as a "market failure". The
entire essence of that complaint is that some people are not producing
what others want them to. The consequence is rationalization
of forcing them to do so. And that is the point at which positive
destruction of values, per se, begins, in myriad ways. They
are destroyed in the epistemic fact that people no longer seriously
consider what values are or where they come from, and in the practical
facts of billions of dollars worth of individuals’ blood, sweat, and
tears going down the drain when defective principles grind up against
THE REAL WORLD, as it’s constantly shouted at me by the lame.
Well, we’re looking at THE REAL WORLD, now. Everyone should look long and hard.
There is a hell of a lot of work to do, and it goes far beyond the scope of comment here.
But the very first thing to do is to teach people how to think.
that happens, it will be possible to point out to them not only that
production of values on this scale is possible without government, but
that it is actually far easier and more effective with the directly
simple device of a division-of-labor economy than with the obviously decrepit device of government.