Comment: That's a really good

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That's a really good

That's a really good question. This is something definitely worth exploring more in detail. I recognize it's a fine line -- once you start making exceptions to the NAP, where does it end?

I suppose I believe in something like a 'NAP bounded by societal wealth maximization'. For more information I would very strongly suggest 'The Economics of Justice' by Richard Posner, especially the first few chapters.

EDIT: Here's a more concrete example of what I mean by wealth maximization.

Say A has a diamond necklace. B steals it. Should it be public policy that B must return the necklace to A? A strict utilitarian may say that the policy should be that B gets to keep the necklace, if B gets more utility out of it than A. A strict NAP-er may say that A must return it, on the basis that it is A's property. This opens up the question of, how do you enforce that B returns the diamond necklace to A? My answer is that this is where it is permissible for the government to step in. In economic terms, the court has no idea who values (in willingness to pay terms) the necklace more, because the act of theft prevented a free market transaction from occurring. In other words, if B truly valued (in willingness to pay terms) the necklace more than A, then he should have paid for it. Then everyone would know for sure that (at least at the time of the transaction), the trade would have been wealth-maximizing. But without the free market transaction, the court has no way of knowing which party possessing the necklace would be wealth-maximizing, and so the best it can do is return of the necklace to A. Notice how in this example I start from the NAP position, but then work in some "utilitarian" (really wealth maximization) considerations. It also has a role for the courts to make some determinations, which of course presupposes their existence.