Obi-Wan Kenobi: Anakin, Chancellor Palpatine is evil!
Anakin Skywalker: From my point of view, the Jedi are evil.
Obi-Wan Kenobi: Well, then you are lost!
Star Wars: Episode 3 – Revenge of the Sith
A commenter has asked that I take a peek at this working paper from Caplan and Gochenour. It doesn’t really read like an academic treatise, but that’s something for another day (I intend to do this in 5 parts). Today, I want to lay a brief groundwork regarding the authors’ assumptions.
Paradigms are powerful things. They enable us to organise, systematise and internalise the outside world. Whatever we observe, we do so through a paradigm. Without a paradigm, we would literally make no sense of our senses. This power of a foundational framework comes at a cost, however. Paradigms also act as filters that accentuate or attenuate the importance we place on particular phenomena. More importantly, however, they contain the axioms on which we base our reasoning; they form the very logic by which we examine things. If a paradigm contains an incorrect axiom, it is impossible to detect by logical reasoning. At some point, all arguments become essentially circular, because all arguments are based on axioms.
Turning our attention to the topic at hand, a term that appears many times throughout the paper is ‘distortion’, or variants on the theme. The problem with using terms that denote deviancy from a norm, is that the employment of such terms establish a tacit definition of that norm, and that definition is rarely even acknowledged, let alone examined. Yet to have any hope of reaching a meaningful conclusion to the topic, it is necessary to know the assumptions on which that conclusion is based, and on what basis they are considered valid. Such is not the case in this paper. Here, the assumptions are left unacknowledged, rendering much of it gibberish to one who rejects the premises.
The assumed norm we find here is the Propertarian position of private property in land, manifested in a couple of specific ways that LVT is determined to change behaviour from an ideal (we’ll look at these in detail later), and thus is regarded as a distortion. If this assumption is accepted uncritically by the reader, then the paper seems quite robust. Look at the base, though, and the edifice reveals itself to be extremely precarious.