Adam asks, “Is a “no” from a private property owner truly different in kind than a “no” from a government official? Why?”
The facile answer is that a private property owner cannot deprive you of life or liberty except perhaps by dint of prior circumstances. Those of you who follow me at Euvoluntary Exchange will recognize the distinction between coercion by force and coercion by circumstance. The government official who says “no” is directly responsible for any bad outcome. The shopkeeper isn’t.
But that’s facile, since as Bruenig via Gurri correctly notes, it hardly matters to the customer.
The question, at least to me, is one of comparative institutional analysis. Under which system is our hypothetical customer more likely to starve or be beaten: one in which the state retains all veto power, or one in which buyers and sellers are jointly accountable to each other?
The virtue ethicist in me suspects that eudaimonia is at best an unlikely accident that just barely might occur in a totalitarian regime. More likely, if the state is the only entity that is able to say “no”, oppression by scarcely-accountable political elites governing in far mode conforms to both theoretical political economy and the empirical judgement of history. Private dignity isn’t a free lunch, but it is a prerequisite for human flourishing.
But I thank you for the softball question nonetheless, Adam. It’s nice to be fondled with kid gloves once in a while.
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