I do not intend to buy the book, but Sean Gabb’s review of Kevin Carson’s recent work is well worth reading. Carson is a sort of radical anarchist-libertarian who has interesting things to say. He is worth paying attention to; and Sean gives what looks like a very fair appraisal. And reading Sean’s review got me thinking about one supposedly arcane issue: bankruptcy law.
I thought about this because Mr Gabb, whom I would consider to be a libertarian in the Rothbardian tradition – with a Burkean twist – and Mr Carson are opponents of limited liability laws. I am not so opposed, but I can certainly concede the force of the point, and I think a similar point applies to the bankruptcy codes of some western countries. I have come across several instances recently of the “pre-pack”, in which a business goes into liquidation, the firm’s assets are sold off to supposedly the highest bidder, and the firm is re-started, Phoenix-like, under the same management, often in exactly the same business and line of work. I know of at least one business rival of my firm who has done just that and has, as a result, been more or less given, for free, hundreds of thousands of pounds in credit, while his creditors get the shaft. In a pure free market order, a rather more drastic outcome might be felt by this debtor, not least, the blackening of his or her business reputation. Indeed, if I recall from history, debtors used to go to jail.
Now, there may be good reasons for bankruptcy protection laws: they ensure that the chances of creditors getting their money back are enhanced by continuing a business as a “going concern”. But a balance needs to be struck, since if the law is too lax, it surely means that many borrowers get away scot-free with heavy debts and as a result, the average cost of credit goes up for the rest of us, good and bad risks alike. The law of unintended consequences strikes again.
Anyway, I am sure Carson’s book, which covers a wide field, will get plenty of attention.