Авторы: 159 А Б В Г Д Е З И Й К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Щ Э Ю Я

Книги:  184 А Б В Г Д Е З И Й К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Щ Э Ю Я

B. The Unanimity and Compensation Principles

Utilitarian economists, even more than their philosophic confreres,

are eager to make "scientific" and "value free" pronouncements on public

policy Believing, however, that ethics are purely arbitrary and subjective,

how may economists then take policy positions? This chapter will explore

ways in which utilitarian free-market economists presume to favor a free

market while attempting to refrain from taking ethical position^.^

One important utilitarian variant is the Unanimity Principle, based

on the criterion of "Pareto optimality" that a political policy is "good" if

one or more people are "better off" (in terms of satisfying utilities) from

that policy while no one is "worse off." A strict version of Pareto optimality

implies unanimity: that every person agrees to, hence believes that

he will be better off or at least no worse off, from a particular government

action. In recent years, the Unanimity Principle as groundwork for a free

market of voluntary and contractual agreements has been stressed by

Professor James Buchanan. The Unanimity Principle has great attractions

for "value-free" economists eager to make policy judgments, for far more

than in the case of mere majority rule; surely the economist can safely

advocate a policy if everyone in the society favors it. While the Unanimity

Principle may at first appear superficially attractive to libertarians, however,

there is at its heart a vital and irredeemable flaw: that the goodness

of free contracts or unanimously approved changes from the existing situation

depends completely on the goodness or justice of that existing situation

itse2f. Yet neither Pareto Optimality, nor its Unanimity Principle variant,

can say anything about the goodness or justice of the existing status

quo, concentrating as they do solely on changesfrom that situation, or zero

point7 Not only that, but the requirement of unanimous approval of changes

necessarilyfreezes the existing status quo. If the status quo is unjust or

repressive of liberty, then the Unanimity Principle is a grave barrier to

justice and liberty rather than a bulwark on its behalf. The economist

who advocates the Unanimity Principle as a seemingly value-free pronouncement

for liberty is instead making a massive and totally unsupported

value judgment on behalf of freezing the status quo.

The commonly accepted "Compensation Principle" variant of

Pareto optimality contains all the flaws of the strict Unanimity Principle,

while adding many of its own. The Compensation Principle asserts

that a public policy is "good" if the gainers (in utility) from that policy

can compensate the losers and still enjoy net gains. So that while there are

losers in utility from this policy at the beginning, there are no such losers

after the compensations take place. But the Compensation Principle

assumes that it is conceptually possible to add and subtract utilities interpersonally,

and thereby to measure gains and losses; it also assumes

that each individual's gains and losses can be precisely estimated. But

economics informs us that "utility," and hence gains and losses in utility,

are purely subjective and psychic concepts, and that they cannot

possibly be measured or even estimated by outside observers. Gains and

losses in utility therefore cannot be added, measured, or weighted against

each other, and much less can precise compensations be discovered.

The usual assumption by economists is to measure psychic losses in utility

by the monetary price of an asset; thus, if a railroad damages the

land of a farmer by smoke, it is assumed by the compensationists that

the farmer's loss can be measured by the market price of the land. But

this assumption ignores the fact that the farmer may well have a psychic

attachment to that land which is far greater than the market price, and

that, furthermore, it is impossible to find out what the farmer's psychic

attachment to the land may be. Asking the farmer is useless, since he

may say, for example, that his attachment to the land is much higher

than the market price, but he may well be lying. The government, or

other outside observer, has no way of finding out one way or the other.8

Furthermore, the existence in the society of just one militant anarchist,

for even if the economist merely shares in everyone else's value judgment, he is making a

value judgment nevertheless.

whose psychic grievance against government is such that he cannot be

compensated for his psychic disutility from the existence or activity of

government, is enough by itself to destroy the Compensation Principle

case for any government action whatsoever. And surely at least one such

anarchist exists.

A stark but not atypical example of the fallacies and the unjust devotion

to the status quo of the Compensation Principle was the debate in

the British Parliament during the early nineteenth century on the abolition

of slavery. Early adherents of the Compensation Principle were there maintaining

that the masters must be compensated for the loss of their investment

in slaves. At which point, Benjamin Pearson, a member of the libertarian

Manchester School, declared that he "had thought it was the slaves

who should have been compen~ated."P~re cisely! Here is a striking example

of the need, in advocating public policy, to have some ethical system,

some concept of justice. Those of us ethicists who hold that slavery is criminal

and unjust would always oppose the idea of compensating the masters,

and would rather think in terms of requiring the masters to compensate

the slaves for their years of oppression. But the "value-free economist,"

resting on the Unanimity and Compensation Principles, is, on the contrary,

implicitly placing his unsupported and arbitrary value imprimatur on

the unjust status quo.

In a fascinating exchange with 'a critic of the Unanimity Principle,

Professor Buchanan concedes that

I am defending the status quo . . . not because I like it, I do not

. . . . But my defense of the status quo stems from my unwillingness,

indeed inability, to discuss changes other than those

that are contractual in nature. I can, of course, lay down my

own notions. . . . But, to me, this is simply wasted effort.

Thus, tragically, Buchanan, admitting that his idea of ethics is one of purely

subjective and arbitrary "notions," is yet willing to promulgate what can

only be an equally subjective and arbitrary notion on his own groundsa

defense of the status quo. Buchanan concedes that his procedure:

does allow me to take a limited step toward normative judgments

or hypotheses, namely to suggest that the changes seem

to be potentially agreeable to everyone. Pareto efficient changes,

which must, of course, include compensations. The criterion

in my scheme is agreement.

But what is the justification for this "limited step"? What's so great

about agreement on changes from a possibly unjust status quo? Isn't

such a limited step also an arbitrary "notion" for Buchanan? And if

willing to proceed to such an unsatisfactory limit, why not go still

further to question the status quo?

Buchanan proceeds to assert that:

[Olur task is really . . . that of trying to find, locate, invent,

schemes that can command unanimous or quasi-unanimous

consent and propose them. [What in the world is "quasi-unanimity?"]

Since persons disagree on so much, these schemes

may be a very limited set, and this may suggest to you that

few changes are possible. Hence, the status quo defended indirectly.

The status quo has no propriety at all save for its existence

and it is all that exists. The point I always emphasize

is that we start from here not from somewhere else.1°

Here one longs for Lord Acton's noble dictum: "Liberalism wishes

for what ought to be, irrespective of what is."" Buchanan's critic, though

far from a libertarian or a free-market liberal, here properly has the last

word: "I certainly do not totally object to seeking contractual solutions;

but I do think that they can't be projected in a vacuum which allows

the status quo power structure to go unspecified and unexamined."12