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Great Quotes (iii)

Third installment of Great Quotes.

Some of you may be familiar with Richard A. Epstein already. He graduated from NYU Law School and is a fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University. He is the author of over 20 books ranging from Natural Law, Tort Law, Libertarian beliefs, the Constitution and other legal areas. He is incredibly smart and precise and reading some of his work is an exhaustive experience if you are not fluent in legalese. In the end you will come out wiser though. Today I'm going to draw some quotes I found useful from his 1998 publication of:
Principles for a Free Society: Reconciling Individual Liberty with the Common Good

On John Locke's theory of 'First Possession'

In the end, therefore, the strongest justification for the strict rule that first possession yields complete ownership, not the lien for labor, is not one of individual desert. IT is one of modest prudence. It is therefore more congenial to Hume, who defended the rule for the boost it gives the "stability of possession" over external objects. In the long run, we are all better off if the surplus in things remains well defined with a single owner, than if each and every owner surrenders some of what he has acquired in exchange for the right to some portion of the surplus of lands acquired by others. The first-posession rule leaves each thing with a determinate owner, who is then capable of entering into voluntary transactions over the thing with other persons. These transactions are facilitated, as Locke rightly noted, by the existence of both money and durable goods, which render unnecessary any limitation on how much one person can acquire on his own account. A simple functionalism thus explains the appeal of the rule.

On Natural Law versus Positivism

The Natural Law theories insist that valid laws must satisfy certain minimum moral standards; positivist theories reject any such requirement.

On mandatory insurance coverage

The pressures should be resisted, for the bare identification of a gap in insurance coverage does not justify legislative nullification of the older common law maxim. Indeed, private decisions not to write insurance often have useful social consequences which social insurance cannot supply. Federal flood insurance, for example, has the unfortunate effect of inducing people to build homes and plant crops in high-risk locations. The subsidy thus distorts investment in this market, as in so many others. Then once the losses occur, federal disaster programs are often administered in slipshod fashion. How much comfort should we take in knowing that a Missouri farmer received $@00,000 in disaster aid following the 1993 Mississippi floods for his land, house and equipment which he purchased three weeks before for only $138,000? Matters are only made worse when the governments that mandate the subsidies refuse to pay for them, chiefly by prohibiting the companies that write specialized insurance from the leaving the state. The net effect is that the capital of the firm which has been acquired for national business is siphoned off into those states that impose these exit restrictions on insurance companies.

On Social Welfare

This confrontation was made unavoidable by the initial decision to place all contributions in a common pool. Yet all of these results could have been avoided if any initial shortfall had been made up out of general revenues, leaving individuals to contribute to their own retirement plans, adopting whatever formula they saw fit. If some measure of government compulsion is deemed necessary to guard citizens against their own improvidence, the law need only require them to set aside some fraction of their wages in personal retirement accounts that one could, as one saw fit, invest in stocks or bonds. Ordinary pension plans do not require all employees to follow the same investment strategies. There is no reason Social Security has to lock everyone into investment strategies they don't want. Less altruism leads to less political conflict, and to more responsible individual behavior.

In the book, Epstein illuminates the role and benefit of Liberty in other legal cases that are too long to write here, so that should be incentive for you to check it out.