Thursday, May 17, 2007


Over at Cato Unbound, Dan Klein has prompted a thoughtful discussion with Richard Epstein, Ed Glaeser, and Liam Murphy. The whole exchange has to be read to be fully appreciated. The writers discuss the usefulness of the distinction between actions that are coerced vs. those that are voluntary. Is the minimum wage an example of coercion? Is any coercion acceptable?

I always prefer to add space, geogrpahy and exit to such discussions. People do choose to trade residential rights for protections. This is how and why they choose particular private neighborhood associations (private governments). Libertarians, I suppose, can abide all of this as long as the units of government are geographically small enough to make easy exit possible. Efficient rights-for-protections trades are also vetted this way. This is the objection to large cities regulating land use but under the guise that they are offering property protections that people want.

I would apply this test to all possible coercions. In other words, I want a Bill of Rights, checks and balances, etc., and a judiciary that takes them all seriously and all the rest. But to be safe, I want the bulk of legislation/regulation done at local enough levels where easy exit is possible. This is why I like clear and easy rules for neighborhood secession.

This is also why I go a little nuts when I hear talk of the importance of "regional governance to solve regional problems."