I can’t comment on each and every voluminous word of my friend Mike’s on this Interpersonal Comparisons of Utility debate we’re having. I’ve got too many other commitments. Let me confine myself, then, to just this little bit. He writes
“The answer to this is that ‘we’ are not making an interpersonal utility comparison. Society has already made that comparison implicitly when it prohibited theft, and we can infer that it has decided that it’s better off with that prohibition than without it.”
As a libertarian, I of course agree with Mike. The prohibition of theft is entirely justified. But we are now not discussing libertarianism. Rather, what is at issue between us is the Austrian claim, which he continually denies, that interpersonal comparisons of utility (ICU) are invalid.
“Society” as such, made no such determination to the effect that laws against theft are justified. Rather, only the overwhelming majority supported it. But, suppose that the minority of thieves, who oppose laws prohibiting theft, lost more utility from this legislation than the rest of us gained? Is this impossible? Not for the neoclassical economist who’s side Mike is now taking.
I suggested to Mike that he read this:
Rothbard. Murray N. 1997 . “Toward a Reconstruction of Utility and Welfare Economics.” reprinted in “The Logic of Action” Vol. I. Lyme, NH: Edward Elgar. pp. 211-254; http://www.mises.org/rothbard/toward.pdf
He shows no evidence of having done so. I really don’t think we can get to the bottom of this issue until and unless he does, and demonstrates why Murray was wrong on the ICU issue.
Walter E. Block, Ph.D.3:11 pm on July 12, 2020 Email Walter E. Block