Bryan Caplan: Non-State Legal Systems | Who Shaves the Barber? #35

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Bryan Caplan

Does the law need to be provided by the state?

Economist Bryan Caplan breaks down the law into three components: rule formation, arbitration, and enforcement. For all three, he provides examples of how these are already provided without the state in many contexts. He also explains the theoretical reasons we shouldn’t be surprised to find law provided without the state, usually better than the state does. He goes on to speculate how the law could be provided if there were no state at all. Finally, he considers two common objections: that law without the state leads to chaos, and that providers of legal services in a world without the state will inevitably collude and come together to form a new state.

Next week: Peter Klein: Infinitism and Pyrrhonism



Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.
Click here for the full list of episodes!

Topics discussed

1:14 – Non-state law that already exists
2:23 – Innovation in the creation of new rules (copyright)
5:11 – Private enforcement of law: private security, ostracism, bonds
7:32 – Private arbitration and private rule formation
9:13 – Benefits of competition
13:54 – Expanding role of contracts
19:03 – Private law without contracts
20:24 – Law without any government
27:34 – Collusion objection and economies of scale
29:27 – Tyler Cowen’s collusion argument from network industries


The Case against Education (Bryan Caplan)
Bryan Caplan (homepage)
“The Economics of Non-State Legal Systems” Part 1Part 2Part 3 (Bryan Caplan)
Law as a Public Good: The Economics of Anarchy” (Tyler Cowen)
Outline of a Critique of Tyler Cowen’s ‘Law as a Public Good’” (Bryan Caplan)
Networks, Law, and the Paradox of Cooperation” (Bryan Caplan, Edward Stringham)
Adjudication as a Private Good” (Richard Posner, William Landes)…

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Bryan Caplan: The Case against Education | Who Shaves the Barber? #34

Download this episode / Watch on YouTube / RSS Feed / iTunes

Case against Education

Why do students go to school? The usual answer is to learn. But if this is true, why do students rejoice at canceled class? Why do they prefer an easy “A” instructor over a difficult one who has more to offer? Why don’t they just sit in on classes for free, which you can do at many of the best schools? And why is the final year of school so much more lucrative than other years, given that we don’t usually learn more that year?

These problems and others fall into place when we consider that we go to school more for the degree than for the education. The main purpose of education is to send a signal to employers, says economist Bryan Caplan. Employers pay more for college-educated employees not because what they learned in school was itself useful, but because the fact that they got the degree demonstrates that they must be generally smart, disciplined, and conformist. This makes little difference to the individual – you should still go to school and send that signal. But for society, this makes education a bad deal; status, unlike learning, is zero-sum, making much of the education system a waste of resources. In this interview, Caplan explains the signaling model in more detail, addresses objections, and predicts what would happen if his prescriptions were followed.

Next week: Bryan Caplan: Non-State Legal Systems



Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.…

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Wage Slavery Is Real and Appropriately Named

“Wage slavery” is a controversial concept. As with “patriarchy”, plenty deny its existence. I will argue that it is quite real and that the “slavery” in the phrase is not misleading or inappropriate.

The two questions are distinct. I’ll tackle the existence question first, then argue that it is appropriately named.

Is it real?

A “wage slave” is a wage laborer who

a) depends on her wages to survive;

b) must work under subpar conditions to earn those wages; and

c) has no reasonably accessible alternatives that are significantly better.

(c) is crucial. Someone who depends on wages to survive but could switch to a different and cushier line of work if she wanted to would not be a wage slave. Someone who, on the other hand, could only switch to other jobs with similar conditions, would be a wage slave.

So defined, it should be obvious that wage slavery exists. Most people reading this depend on wages to survive. If you’ve ever been to a hotel or restaurant, chances are that you’ve been invisibly served by people who work under subpar conditions (to say nothing of sweatshops in China, etc.). Finally, given that these people are working in subpar conditions, they’d probably take a significantly better alternative if it were reasonably accessible to them. That they don’t is a strong indication that those alternatives aren’t, in fact, reasonably accessible.

There are two ways I can see of challenging the existence claim. The first is by asking: what standards are we using to judge “subpar conditions”?

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