Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Arguing with Libertarians About Apples

"I would like to ask you to answer this question with yes or no: "If If I pick apples and somebody comes and takes more than half (roughly 65% in my country) to help somebody else, is this ethical?"

How many apples are you picking? Are you being a greedy pig and picking so many apples that the rest of us are like, What the fuck? Where'd the apples go? Are you then selling your apples for prices that most of us can't afford and even throwing away some excess apples because you make more money selling a few at high prices than you would by selling all of them for a reasonable price and you can't give away the extras lest you devalue your apples which as I've said are now CRAZY valuable because such a small minority control the apple market?

Is that whats happening? Because in that case my answer is YES. Totally ethical.


Anonymous said...

I love it!

Brian Jones said...

The post is a little unclear but I'm going to go ahead and assume the wasteful greedy hypothetical guy is the owner of an apple orchard.

Frederic Bastiat had an expression... "What is seen, and what is not seen."

Let us assume that you see the orchard owner refusing to give away the part of his crop he can't sell at a high price. You know for a fact, he's a greedy bastard. Let us assume that he lets the apples he doesn't sell rot on the vine. Let us assume that his actions cause people to go hungry or worse yet, they are hence forced to eat deep fried food which makes them sick over time. Let's call the orchard owner Joe.

What is not seen?

What is not seen is what might occur in the future and in fact, is likely to happen.

Bob decides sees Joe making so much money with his strategy that he buys a new luxury car every year, is adding onto his house, putting in a pool and worst of all, starts dating Bob's girlfriend.

Bob goes out and buys some land and starts a competing apple orchard. He can make a comfortable living by selling all of his apples which he has to do vs. Joe's evil scheme because his entry into the market lowers prices for everyone (supply and demand) and now Joe has to either find another productive use for the apples he would have thrown away, or sell them on the market also, lest he be forced to drive a 1982 Oldsmobile. Bob who is now more popular because he's not a greedy bastard and people buy from his if prices are equal forcing Joe to lower his prices more. His girlfriend doesn't leave him though because life isn't always fair.

In the end, the free market forces innovation because one profitable scheme isn't going to keep paying off forever. Someone is gonna come along and figure out how to get around giving money to the ahole.

Oh and let's say Joe has some sort of monopoly on apples because only he knows the secret to growing them. Then Bob might plant pears which would become the new favorite.

Now excuse me while I finish my coffee... not tea.

Your Libertarian Friend.

Tudor Iliescu said...

And my reply was:

"I might agree with you, mr. Keith, but please answer me this: who decides how many is too many? And who checks to see what I've done to the apples on my farm? The state?! Well, I might have a problem with that. And I think you'd too, if a state official came to check how many apples you're picking, how many you're eating, how many you're throwing away (maybe you're just saving them for later) and how many you're selling. Besides the intrusion, wouldn't all this be very inefficient?"

KLJ said...

I'm glad Bob has the money to buy an orchard. Unfortunately what is in fact happening is that too many of the Bobs and Joes out there are in collusion and the small orchards get driven out of business.
Regulation against monopolies and trusts are hard won and will hopefully be strengthened rather than done away with.
Libertarians seem to forget the tyranny of the market that we suffored before the workers movements gains, the gains that you rally against.

KLJ said...

Tudor, Yeah, I'm concerned about that too. Thats why, rather than try to throw out the state completely and go back to chimp like savagery, I work for transparency and I vote, and demonstrate, and campaign, and otherwise participate in a process that see us at the most remarkably comfortable and free period for working people in history.

KLJ said...

Sorry about the comment moderation. Its turned off now. Had a bit of a troll problem a while back but I think its settled.

Jen Hancock - A Happy Humanist said...

Keith - this is an absolutely brilliant post. Succinct and to the point and yes - totally ethical! Sharing now.

Simone said...

Brian's example is just another of Libertarian idealism which ignores so many realities like collusion, as Keith mentioned, and that Bob is trying to gain footing in a market where his orchard is 1000th the size of Joe's. This idealistic example makes it sound like when Bob enters, they're soon on equal footing. Not even close to reality.