Mencius Moldbug, Sighted but Uncited

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Arnold Kling shares a bit of a paper by Edward Stringham on vertically integrated proprietary communities that provide law — which he calls Mencius Moldbug, sighted but uncited. What would Moldbug say? This:

The only possible answer is “nothing bad, I should hope!” — since I started blogging in 2007, and Stringham’s paper is dated 2006. Fortunately, since I am not actually a professor, my corpse is not good eating.

Of course, as Stringham discusses, many people have had this basic idea in the modern era, most famously Nozick. This is because it’s basically a good idea. Of course, it is not a new invention at all. It is simply a recovery from a dark age in which everyone was browbeaten into thinking, that Plato, Aristotle and Socrates were morons. Thus it is directly accessible to anyone — especially in the era of Google Books.

What this modern political-science tradition has mostly avoided, whether through ignorance or discretion, is the eerie resemblance of their discoveries to the classical or pre-democratic law of nations — eg, as laid down by, say, Vattel. And also well-known as the antique jus gentium. What is a “proprietary community?” L’état, c’est moi. (You can see that in Stringham’s case it is discretion, because surely he has read Hans-Hermann Hoppe. But does he cite Hoppe? Nooo…)

For example, what is the economic policy you’d expect a sovereign run on the profit motive to adopt? A: mercantilism. Look at how the early free-traders scoffed at their Colbertian predecessors for amassing huge reserves of gold and silver. Wall Street has another name for this: “retained earnings.”

For extra credit: in the ’30s, what economic policy was most dramatically effective in restoring commerce and ending unemployment? In what country was this policy most conspicuously practiced? Hint: its leader wore a mustache shorter than his lip.

So this great herd of professors has come around, painfully and quantitatively, to what Robert Filmer knew in 1680. Presumably once they realize the political implications and translate them into Anglo-American history, they will all be Jacobites like me. Prince Alois to the throne! Gentlemen, it is not too late.

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