In his latest missive on the ICU issue, Mike says this:
“By recognizing that a society has a law against theft, we bypass the unanimity problem.”
Try as I might, I just don’t see my way clear to agreeing with this. But society has lots of laws, not only just ones against theft. There are also laws compelling us to pay taxes, mandating the employers pay minimum wages. The Nazis had laws vitiating against Jews, gays, homosexuals, blacks, Romany and other non Ayrans. I don’t see how this in the slightest allows us to say that when A steals from B, social utility decreases. Social utility consists of the economic welfare of both of them. But A benefits (he wouldn’t steal was this not true, at least not ex ante), while B loses (he prefers to keep his own money; did he not, he would have voluntarily made a donation of it to A). How we can add them up and declare that B’s loss is greater than A’s benefit is simply beyond me.
Suppose that Nazi Germany had a law stipulating that it is alright for Ayrans to compel the “inferiors” mentioned above to give them money, against the will of the latter. By Mike’s reasoning, could we then conclude the very opposite: that the victim’s loss is now less than the perpetrator’s gain? That seems to be where his logic is taking him. But this is equally false, unless we support ICU, which allows us to make such comparisons in the first place. But where is Mike’s defense of ICU?
Austrians support ordinal utility. I like apples better than bananas and bananas better than carrots. I just purchased a shirt for $20. I prefer this clothing more than the money, and the person who sold it to me made the opposite ranking. So far, so good. But praxeologists take a dim view of cardinal utility. We take the position that to say apples give me 20 utils of pleasure, bananas 10, and carrots 5, and that therefore I like apples twice as much as bananas and four times as much as carrots, it nonsensical. But ICU is an aspect of cardinal, not ordinal, utility. It allows us to say that Mike likes shoes at the rate of 100 utils, while Walter likes bicycles a the rate of 50 utils, and that therefore Mike lies footwear twice as much as Walter likes bikes. Does Mike really want to support this?
I enjoy a good debate. But, unless Mike says something new, I’ll not be contributing any more to this one. I’m too busy with other writing commitments.
But I must end with a compliment to him. As far as I’m concerned, his position is roughly the equivalent of 2+2=5, or the earth is flat, or voluntary trade is not mutually beneficial ex ante, or man doesn’t act. Yet, brilliant scholar that he is, he has been able to give me a good run for my money in defending ICU. I wouldn’t have thought that possible before running into him on this. My hat is off to him.3:49 am on July 13, 2020 Email Walter E. Block