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More thoughts on the Uber ban in London

Patrick Crozier has written his own thoughts on this just now, but I have some thoughts of my own. I cannot remember being so angry about a decision out of London for some time.

Brian Micklethwait and others on this blog have written in the past about why Uber is such a big deal in how the case for capitalism and the free market can be made. And I have already seen evidence from people who are on the Left side of the spectrum that they are angry about this ban, in ways that are not always intellectually consistent, but also useful in showing how this could be a teachable moment about free enterprise. Consider that tens of thousands of Uber drivers will no longer be able to earn a living in this way; sure, some of them will work for other taxi firms as they try to fill the gap that is left, but that will take a certain amount of time. Established taxi firms such as Addison Lee are no doubt delighted. Car leasing firms will see drivers sell up, causing goodness-knows what troubles. Besides the drivers, there are also all those software and support service people who will be made redundant. Many of them are young and may not be all that political; some may even be quite leftist. What will they think of Labour now, I wonder?  All those bearded hipsters dreaming of creating clever businesses have been told, in essence, to fuck off unless you do something that doesn’t challenge anyone too much. Great.

For all that Mr Khan likes to strike poses as being more supposedly electable than Jeremy Corbyn, he shows that under all the different images, he is an advocate of rent-seeking socialism, happy to play to whatever unionised groups are around. He talks endlessly about the need for “more resources”, and has been remarkably useless as far as I can see in terms of making London safer overall. In fact, one safety casualty of banning Uber and similar entities is that it will once again be quite difficult at times for people to get a taxi, such as late at night and in bad weather, increasing the risks to people in certain situations. The Law of Unintended Consequences.

Another effect of this ban is the message it broadcasts to the wider world and those of business: make sure you pay politicians lots of money and creep up to them, otherwise we could find fault and ban you. If you disrupt unionised, regulated business models you are unwelcome, and will be punished. And the kicker is that the current mayor is a Remainer, a man who has, fatuously, claimed that our exit from the Single Market is a disaster because of the loss of trading opportunities. Well, it appears that his enthusiasm for such things is limited when practical, actual cases of competition arise.

Anyway, here is a press statement from the Institute of Economic Affairs, which neatly summarises the issues. It comes from Mark Littlewood, Director General at the IEA:

“Transport for London’s decision to not renew Uber’s license strikes a huge blow to competition and innovation within London’s transport market. If this ruling is upheld, it will ruin flexible working opportunities for the 40,000 city drivers who use the app – many for their livelihood, and many to top-up low wages.

“The ruling also inconveniences the 3.5 million Londoners who regularly use the service, and reasserts the dominance of the city’s taxi cartel, which only the wealthiest residents can afford to use with any sense of frequency.

“Apps like Uber have a large role to play in our increasingly dynamic economy, and it is a mistake to cling onto out-dated views of working arrangements. Uber is not an ’employer’ – it is simply a platform that allows drivers and customers to meet and trade under a specific set of rules.

“Banning Uber, and clamping down on the Gig Economy more generally, is a restriction upon freedom of choice, both for Uber’s drivers and passengers. In doing so, Transport for London has privileged the views of a powerful minority who wish to restrict consumer choice over the will of millions of ordinary Londoners.”

“Today’s decision is an assault on drivers and customers alike, and a victory for protectionism.”

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46 comments to More thoughts on the Uber ban in London

  • pete

    It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

    Uber is very popular with many people who like to think of themselves as influential, creative, modern and trendy, the kind of people who pretend to be caring and liberal but who don’t think at all about workers poor terms and conditions if they like a product or a service.

    They’ll be messaging their MPs about this from their sweat shop, suicide net bedecked factory made iPhones as we speak.

  • Michael Taylor

    Hopefully a learning moment for London: vote Labour, get Labour.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    Pete, it is worth pointing out that even the “sweat shops” in which mobile gizmos get made are vastly better for those in them than the alternatives, and of course they usually lead to other, better jobs if growth continues.

    I speak to Uber drivers and unless they are brilliant liars, they don’t complain about working in an evil environment.

    Sorry but your comment bugged me.

  • Mr Ed

    it is worth pointing out that even the “sweat shops” in which mobile gizmos get made are vastly better for those in them than the alternatives

    Even if some of the staff are committing suicide? I know that working conditions in the PRC can be grim, but come on.

  • Mr Ed

    it is worth pointing out that even the “sweat shops” in which mobile gizmos get made are vastly better for those in them than the alternatives

    Even if some of the staff are committing suicide? I know that working conditions in the PRC can be grim, but come on.

  • Mr Ed

    My previous post was somehow duplicated, but in terms of the OP, what is Uber’s response to the factual basis for the refusal to renew their licence? Do they dispute it?

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    Mr Ed writes: Even if some of the staff are committing suicide? I know that working conditions in the PRC can be grim, but come on.

    My point was that in most cases where people carp about sweatshop labour – and demand that it be shut down (sometimes they genuinely think this will improve labour conditions, sometimes for more cynical, protectionist reasons), they overlook the fact that in poor countries, the choice is between working in a crappy job that might lead to a less crappy one, and not working at all. This is the point ignored by defenders of minimum wage laws, ever-expanding forms of paternity leave, annual leave, other benefits in the workplace, etc.

    Of course, China, to take the PRC specifically, as you raised the example, is a Communist-run state, and not a purely free enterprise one. But the basic point stands. and by the way, China is now offshoring jobs to places such as Thailand and Vietnam, so I guess China is now an evil exploiter of poor countries nowadays.

  • Watchman

    Mr Ed,

    Tim Worstall pointed out the suicide rate for Apple-contractor employees in China was less than the average – and that might partially because of the big nets, since those stop people jumping off and killing themselves, and are therefore preventative (i.e. a good thing).

    I think the entire Apple is evil employer story came from a bunch of lunatics with no statistical ability trying to out-virtue their apple-using friends. And it’s a useful analogy to those attacking Uber – there is the same dislike of a big company which is reaping the rewards for disrupting the existing economy without consideration of the disruption this would cause or the fact that disruption has benefitted the majority of people immensely. It is perhaps significant that the attacks are also made through what seems to be very dubious assertions of worker’s rights…

    Anyone know a good filmmaker – there is the kind of off-kilter documentary that Channel 4 sometimes show available here really, studying the way in which these protests work and their strange assumptions. And showing them off not to be driven by concern for people, but by a reactionary dislike for disruption.

  • Watchman

    Johnathan Pearce,

    Whilst China is a long way from ideal, taxes are a lot lower and the regulation required to start a business is not actually that much more than here, albeit there a faceless bureaucrat (if you are fixed into the system, then you can put a face in and get somewhere – just knowing the person is effective) has to approve it whereas here you just run the risk of lawyers doing it…

    It is something of a criticism when an explicitly and as far as I can see actually communist country is not actually notably worse to do business in than the UK.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Apologies if someone else has already posted this, but Megan McArdle wrote a fine article in 2015 called “Uber Serves the Poor by Going Where Taxis Don’t”. As she says,

    in terms of letting you do something you couldn’t do before, Uber provides the biggest benefit to people who live in lower-income neighborhoods, not in rich ones. That’s where dispatch is often unreliable, where street hails are rare, and where many residents don’t have a car. A new study suggests that in low-income areas, this benefit of Uber is potentially very large. (Uber paid for the study, which was executed independently by respected researchers.)

    Another way that Uber (or companies like Uber, I’m not wedded to that particular company) disproportionately helps the poor is by employing them. Many Uber drivers are ethnic minorities and/or immigrants. Some people are hostile to the company on those grounds alone. For myself, I think it is good to see immigrants getting a strong foothold in the UK labour market in a field where barriers of race and class don’t count for much. Or rather, I thought it was good to see that. If this ban persists (I have read credible claims that it is a negotiating ploy that will be reversed when Uber make the necessary show of contrition to TfL) we will have the opportunity to see how well in comparison we like seeing all these ethnic minorities and immigrants newly unemployed.

  • Paul Marks

    Either one believes that government has a legitimate “licensing power” or one does not.

    I do not NOT.

    I agree with Chief Justice Sir Edward Coke in the case of Dr Bonham (1610) that there is no such “crime” as peacefully engaging in a trade without a piece of parchment called a “license” – and that the Monarch in Parliament has no power to make it a “crime”. This was reaffirmed by Chief Justice Sir John Holt a century later.

    But then came the Blackstone Heresy of Sir William Blackstone – with his evil doctrine that the Monarch in Parliament could do anything it liked (for example making having brown eyes a “crime” punishable by death).

    Although Sir William Blackstone claimed (repeatedly claimed) to believe in Natural Law (natural justice) the implication of his doctrine was to destroy it as a limiter on government – in PRACTICE the legal doctrine of Sir William Blackstone leads to the same Hell as that of Thomas Hobbes and Jeremy Bentham. an absolute and unlimited state.

    Indeed the American Founders did indeed “cite Blackstone” as the establishment books say – accept they were citing Blackstone as what they were fighting AGAINST.

    Of course if Sir William was correct – that is the end of the story for Uber.

    Indeed if Parliament wishes to give “Transport for London” the power to execute everyone under six feet tall, that is fine as well.

  • bobby b

    I do get a kick out of seeing so many committed liberals defending Uber because it’s cool and trendy while going against so many of their underlying philosophies.

    I wonder if we couldn’t set up something similar for crop pickers across California and the Southwest of the USA. Workers looking for work could log on and be offered daily work picking crops as they ripen. Wages would vary depending on how time-critical the picking is and on how many workers respond.

    In fact, it would be the exact system that was made famous in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, the Depression-era story of displaced farmers thrown off of their land into the world of migrant farm work. They just lacked the smartphone apps to make it more efficient.

  • nemesis

    Watchman
    ‘Anyone know a good filmmaker –’

    You may be thinking of Martin Durkin,

    http://www.martindurkin.com/about

    And has also tweeted about Uber
    https://mobile.twitter.com/Martin_Durkin?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

  • Fraser Orr

    My question is not “why did London pull Uber’s license” but rather “why the hell do they need a license in the first place? It isn’t freaking brain surgery, it is just giving people a lift.”

  • Thailover

    “Unintended consequences”?

    What consequences would be unintended? Let me clue you in. They don’t GIVE A RAT’S SHIT about you standing in the rain unable to hail a cab.

    Their intentions are not misled or misplaced or mistaken. They’re EVIL.

    There used to be something in the states called Rights of Contract. That died about 100yrs ago.
    Rights of contract is, in essence, where you can I can enter into an agreement for exchange of goods or services and it’s no one else’s damned business if we do unless we’re planning a crime that involves violating the rights of others. Now our rights take a back seat to government PERMISSION. (A “permit” is permission), which is, of course, a VIOLATION OF RIGHTS.

    There is no fuzzy understanding of the safety of people vs what people want, etc. There is no “good intentions” by the self appointed Masters. They know full well what they’re doing, and it’s not reflected in their propaganda.

    Banning Uber is a violation of individual rights. Period.

    Full Stop.

    Personally, I could not care less about Uber or Lyft. I’ve never used either. My points/assertions above are not coming from a place of personal umbrage. But i do take umbrage when it comes to totalitarianism and the obvious violation of individual rights.

  • Thailover

    Bobby B wrote,

    “I do get a kick out of seeing so many committed liberals defending Uber because it’s cool and trendy while going against so many of their underlying philosophies.”

    Free trade is voluntary exchange or trade, (or what Trump would call a “deal”) that’s a means of giving people what they want for a price they consider affordable.

    Trade only occur when all parties involved decide that their lives would be improved by it. Gee, I guess we don’t want THAT now do we.

    After the amazing marxist revolution didn’t occur after WWI, the bewildered and confused Neo-Marxists concluded that the unwashed masses must have been “seduced” by fruits of capitalism and thus the Frankfort school and Critical Theory was born.

  • bobby b

    “Trade only occur when all parties involved decide that their lives would be improved by it. Gee, I guess we don’t want THAT now do we.”

    I get a lot of petty, schadenfreude-type satisfaction out of mentioning (in conversation with liberals) the labor brokers in the depression who were sent out by the grove owners to hire cheap labor and who then got the workers bidding against each other into poverty. I remind them of Steinbeck’s writings.

    They start earnestly nodding and agreeing that those brokers were the devil’s spawn, and that the economic system that created them was hell on earth, and then I ask them how Uber is different.

    Sometimes – not often – people can end up questioning their long-held assumptions when faced with a seeming contradiction. Sometimes they even acknowledge that capitalism maybe isn’t the bright-line evil they’ve been brought up to see – that the starving Okie families aren’t the consequence of it.

    Usually they just end up mad and sputtering. But that’s fun too.

  • Since we have two Uber-threads going, I’ll ask my question again. 🙂

    Statistically small number of Uber drivers do bad things. Response: ban Uber.

    Will the politicians who decided this permitted the application of this logic to other groups?

  • Paul Marks

    Thailover – rights of contract was what the Common Law judges were trying to defend, against both the King and Parliament (as Mark Twain said “no man’s life or property is safe – when the legislature is in secession”), but as Mr Ed would point out – these days judges do not believe in Civil Society (rights of voluntary contract) any more than Parliament or the officials do.

  • Paul Marks

    There is no such crime, in Common Law, as engaging in peaceful and honest trade without a piece of parchment called a “license”.

    Sadly it appears that only powerless people now believe that.

    Once there were great man such as Chief Justice Sir Edward Coke and Chief Justice Sir John Holt.

    Now we have Prime Minister May and Mayor Khan.

  • Chip

    Who has a worse safety rating – Iraqi refugees or Uner drivers?

    Which one is offered classroom time for intent to harm, and which is banned?

  • JohnW

    How much of their earnings have ALL of these Silicon Valley geniuses invested in the theoretical or practical defense of liberty and free markets?
    And how much of their earnings have they invested in the manifest destruction of free markets and free people?

  • Thailover

    Paul Marks, well said. JohnW, great question.

  • Fraser Orr

    Question: do we all really believe in a free and unfettered right to contract? How would you feel about the following contracts, assuming both parties decided it was in their best interest:

    1. In exchange for paying off my bankruptcy debt I agree to enter into slavery with your for the rest of my life.

    2. In exchange for paying off my bankruptcy debt I agree to enter into slavery with you for the next twenty years.

    3. I am a person with limited intellectual capacity and I agree to invest all my life savings into a plot of land that you are REALLY sure has a seam of gold worth billions?

    4. In exchange for a vow of marriage she agrees to be subject to your beating me as a wife, forcing me to have sex with you on demand, and, although I have not right to break the contract, you can do it by sending a text.

    5. I am desperate, dying of a horrible disease and this guy with a bottle of snake oil tells me that he has sold lots of them and many people have told me that it was quite effective.

    Should these sorts of contracts be enforceable? There is no force or fraud, just poor judgement.

  • Mr Ed

    Fraser,

    3. I am a person with limited intellectual capacity and I agree to invest all my life savings into a plot of land that you are REALLY sure has a seam of gold worth billions?

    A fraudulent, innocent or negligent misrepresentation, making rescission and/or damages available.

  • Laird

    Fraser, why should the State get involved in “poor judgment”? You should bear responsibility for the consequences of your own actions. Relying on the State to protect you from yourself merely creates mental cripples. And who decides that it is “poor”, anyway? By what right? (However, in your scenario of the person with “limited intellectual capacity”, depending upon just how “limited” it really is that could constitute fraud.)

  • bobby b

    Fraser Orr
    September 24, 2017 at 2:30 am

    “Question: do we all really believe in a free and unfettered right to contract?”

    Once you have a society, you’re going to have varying interpretations of what behavior is acceptable and what is not. You may fracture your society down into smaller and smaller units based on what people who join those units believe in this regard – people who believe I can contract with you to buy heroin from you over there, people who think slavery is never acceptable in that corner – but you’re always going to end up with consensuses (by group) about public policy.

    Can I contract with you to kill me for $10 because I’m too scared to pull a trigger? Maybe in one group, not in others. Can I sell myself to you in slavery? Can I buy the right to beat and rape you at will? Can you take my money in exchange for a fake cure for my loathsome disease? It all depends on what the policy – the moral code – of our particular group is.

    You’re asking the question backwards, I think. Can you act in a way that your group abhors and prohibits merely because you’ve clothed the act in an agreement with another to perform it?

    Freedom of contract is always going to be delimited by the moral code of your group – your society. Get yourself into the right group, and all of your proffered actions will be enforceable contracts.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Laird
    > Fraser, why should the State get involved in “poor judgment”?

    I agree Laird, but my question is if we are truly all willing to accept the consequences of such unfettered, unmoderated contracts. Or do we demand, as Bobby suggests, that there is some limits moral behavior that we have to comform too? Perhaps the slavery contract is the best example.

    Or alternatively, imagine I am very poor and my kids are in dire need. Let’s say old man Rockerfeller is dying and needs a heart and lungs. Is it ok for me to sell my still beating heart to him to save my kids?

    I think this question needs to be asked in the context of accepting that we are fine with a bodyguard risking his life to save his protectee, or sending a soldier on a nearly suicide mission for the good of all.

    Mr. Ed, I tried to construct my examples to specifically exclude cases where fraud was involved, so if I did an inadequate job, I apologize. I think fraud is a difficult concept because there is no bright line between the truth and deception, it is most certainly a spectrum, and often quite subjective. Which is to say although there are things that are plainly true, and things that are plainly not true, there are many things that are kind of sort of true, depending on your perspective.

  • Alisa

    Fraser, my unwillingness to accept certain conduct or practices does not necessarily translate into my willingness to legislate against them. Civil society provides for other ways to deal with such things, and there is a reason why scenarios such as yours above have no real documented occurrence AFAIK, other than in fiction written by people with a certain agenda.

  • Alisa

    I think fraud is a difficult concept because there is no bright line between the truth and deception

    Legally – maybe, morally – not really: if I sold something to a person with unusually limited mental capacity, knowing full well that a “normal” person would laugh me out the door, then I clearly defrauded the former.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Alisa, I’m not at all sure I agree. Just to take one example, my number 4, this isn’t not just undocumented, it is common place. (excuse the triple negative, I hope you get my point… lol)

    4. In exchange for a vow of marriage she agrees to be subject to your beating me as a wife, forcing me to have sex with you on demand, and, although I have no right to break the contract, you can do it by sending a text.

    If a woman agrees to these things because of a vow of marriage and her religious convictions and puts as such in writing (such as agreeing to be treated as a good wife of such and such a religious sect) are we really to say that she has given up her right to be protected from assault and rape and has no way out because of that agreement that she freely entered in to?

    Were I such a woman and my man just gave me a good beat down before forcing me to have sex in a manner that injured me further, and I were to take it to court demanding relief, would a valid defense be: “She agreed to abide by this sect’s holy book which authorized these things (chapter x, verse y,) and she made that agreement freely and in full possession of her senses.”

    This isn’t a theoretical example, it is something half a billion women deal with on a daily basis.

  • Mr Ed

    Fraser, your example is in fact very instructive in how the law is messed about with by judges, who in England were the Courts of Equity, the bastard father of socialism, with their imputing conscience and discretionary remedies. Here, it would be an ‘inequitable’ bargain (something unknown to the Common Law) and in Equity, the judge steps in with his conscience and declares the bargain void and might positively injunct restitution.

    And from there any number of equitable remedies destroy the certainty of the law. There is also the Non est factum defence, ‘It is not my deed’ when a party signs a contract incapable of understanding it, rendering it void.

  • Alisa

    Fraser, if this is your example of civil society in action, then you and I probably understand the term very differently.

  • bobby b

    Fraser Orr
    September 24, 2017 at 8:14 pm

    “Were I such a woman and my man just gave me a good beat down before forcing me to have sex in a manner that injured me further, and I were to take it to court demanding relief, would a valid defense be: “She agreed to abide by this sect’s holy book which authorized these things (chapter x, verse y,) and she made that agreement freely and in full possession of her senses.””

    In a Sharia court, yes. Which would support an argument that Islam is more libertarian than British civil society, if libertarianism was truly simply reducible to “don’t impose your rules on me.”

    But there’s a bit more to it than that.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Mr Ed, so you are arguing that there should be a mechanism (such as the now largely extinct courts of equity) to override freely entered into contracts? Which is to say there is no absolute right to contract?

    @Alisa, I’m not quite sure what “civil society” means here. The point I was making is with respect to the right to contract in whatever manner you chose to do so. The unfortunately wife here freely agreed to the terms of the contract, perhaps with a little bit too much Disney in her heart, but surely not in a manner uninformed. So either she has the right to make that contract, under the auspices of the much lauded right of contract, or there are some contracts that are beyond the pale. And if the latter, what criteria we use becomes a very important question, for as Laird asks, who gets to decide?

    @Bobby B, I was not at all talking about Sharia courts, in fact, FWIW, I wasn’t specifically thinking only of Islam, there are certainly some sects of Christianity similarly brutal, and two hundred years ago nearly all sects of Christianity were similiarly brutal. No, I was talking about the legal argument in a truly libertarian court, with full respect to the right of contract. What possible means of relief does this poor lady have given her mistake of entering into a perpetual contract with her monstrous husband? She freely agreed to the terms, why is her backing out any less egregious than me backing out on a $10,000 loan at 450% interest? Legally speaking of course, in the former case obviously the human cost is dramatically different.

  • Mr Ed

    Fraser,

    No I am not, I am simply saying what the law is, Law and Equity merged in the 1870s. Since then statute has piled in with wider concepts such as a statutory basis for ‘unfair’ contract terms, and judges snip at the term ‘freely entered into’ with Marxism-founded exploitation theories.

  • Alisa

    Alisa, I’m not quite sure what “civil society” means here.

    Civil society is the mechanism which not only provides solutions for issues such as raised by you, but more often than not prevents them from arising in the first place. More fundamentally, a civil society is a group of free individuals, sharing common interests as a result of freedom to associate, disassociate and cooperate. Communities guided by rules such as Sharia law (and certain Christian, Jewish or other sects may or may not be included) are anything but examples of civil society.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Alisa, let me see if I understand your argument… From the offered examples we are not good with a wholly unfettered right to contract, we need some sort of moderating force. The moderating force you propose is a “civil” society, perhaps meaning certain shared institutions, moral codes, and expectations of behavior that would prevent the most egregious types of contracts I mentioned.

    I get your argument. Do you think we live in such a society today?

  • Fraser Orr

    @Mr Ed, so you are saying that we don’t have a right of free contract, which is evidently true. Since there are obviously some contracts that shouldn’t be freely entered into, what, besides the caprice of judges or legislation, do you propose as a moderating force.

  • Laird

    Fraser, I think you are asking useful questions but approaching them from the wrong direction. As bobby b said some posts back, “Freedom of contract is always going to be delimited by the moral code of your group – your society.” You are talking about using a society’s legal system and its courts in the context of a contract which you, personally, find abhorrent. You were basically suggesting that the court should invalidate it on some moral basis, and assuming that in a “libertarian” society which believed in unfettered freedom of contract a court would reflexively uphold it. But such a society could just as easily take the position that “this is not a matter in which we care to be involved” and leave the parties to sort it out on their own. Using the resources of society (its courts) to render judgment, and especially using those resources to enforce that judgment, is a form of subsidy, paid by the taxes of all the residents. It is entirely appropriate for that society to decline to use its resources in that way. Then if someone claims a contractual right to rape another, and the victim runs away, his means of enforcing that contract are severely limited, and his “victim” would likely have little difficulty in finding others to assist her, with which the state would not interfere.

    This, incidentally, is why I favor restoration of the ancient concept of “outlawry”. Someone who has acted in such a manner that it is clear he has rejected the norms of the society in which he lives should forfeit any right to the protections that society would otherwise afford. That means the protections of the police and the law; he is entirely on his own, and could be robbed or murdered by anyone with impunity. You would have a much more civil and peaceful society, since all the bad apples would either be dead or leave very quickly.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Laird, all well and good, but that sure sounds like a slippery slope to me. To be clear I am not advocating either side of the position, just discussing it with you all. I’m not sure the answer.

    But if we say that the courts can just decline to enforce a provision that society finds abhorrent, how is that any different than rule by judge? What, for example, if society finds it abhorrent to force a poor college student to pay off his loans that he honestly entered in to? What if society finds it abhorrent to evict a little old lady because she can’t pay her rent to the big bad landlord? Or what, if you have married someone and entered into a prenup, is to prevent the judge from simply declining to enforce the prenup because you have been a scoundrel, and everybody is pissed at you, or simply because you are male and “what about the children?”

    Or, since the judge is the arbiter of what “society” wants, what if the judge is bought off by some local developer who wants your house at a discount price, and he refuses to honor your rights in regards to your property?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNt5FnMK2sM

  • Darryl Watson

    It looks like the availability of torches and pitchforks will decrease, as demand rises. Hopefully, rope also experiences short supply.

  • Alisa

    Alisa, let me see if I understand your argument… From the offered examples we are not good with a wholly unfettered right to contract, we need some sort of moderating force. The moderating force you propose is a “civil” society, perhaps meaning certain shared institutions, moral codes, and expectations of behavior that would prevent the most egregious types of contracts I mentioned.

    Close Fraser – but not quite, because the meaning I assign to the concept of ‘rights’ depends on the context. We may have god/nature-given right to life, property and pursuit of happiness as far as each of us is concerned on a strictly personal level, but in the human societal context these rights take a different meaning – namely, an implicit (or explicit, as in written laws enforceable by force) agreement that sets out various rules as to when a particular god-given/man-made right held by someone takes precedence over some other such right held by another person, under what circumstances, to what degree, etc. IOW, no right is ever wholly unfettered in the societal context, even though on a strictly personal level it may be an absolute and self-evident truth. And no, there is no contradiction between these two meanings, because if the societal meaning does not suit me, I could (at least theoretically) go live on a desert island, and enjoy my god/nature-given rights to the extent that said god/nature may grant me in practice.

    Do you think we live in such a society today?

    Yes, but unfortunately to a very low and ever-diminishing degree.

  • Mr Ed

    ‘A moderating force’?

    The Common Law, and the iniate moral compass we all have, if we stop pretending that evil is not evil. Or, if you like Manx Breast Law, you can tell, if you stop to think, what is right and wrong, and that cuts both against rogues and regulators.

    ‘This deal is unconscionable.’

    And

    ‘This regulation is absurd.’

  • Fraser Orr

    @Mr Ed, so you are saying that we don’t have a right of free contract, which is evidently true. Since there are obviously some contracts that shouldn’t be freely entered into, what, besides the caprice of judges or legislation, do you propose as a moderating force.

    @Mr Ed, but who gets to decide what is unconscionable or absurd? Regulation is one thing, but when you sign up for the unconcionable what right has someone to change your obligations later?

    What if I think it is unconscionable that students have to pay back their debts? Plenty of people do. What if I think it is unconscionable for a landlord to evict a little old lady who hasn’t paid her rent for six months? What if I think it is unconscionable for a doctor to charge a for his services and actually demand the patient pays (or in Britain, substitute dentist for doctor.) This isn’t bs or theory, there are many people who would think these things were unconscionable.

    The whole point here is that if contracts are not reliable, are not enforced as written, or if there is no predetermined moderating force against which a contract can be known to be invalidated, then contracts become guess work, and frankly society comes apart at the seams. If you can’t rely on a contract, freely entered in to, then what can you rely on?

    I don’t know the answer. But I find it something worth thinking about.

  • Mr Ed

    @Mr Ed, but who gets to decide what is unconscionable or absurd?

    A judge.