Tag Archives: convivial order

Convivial costs

This is a brief addendum to my earlier essays on Conviviality and Good Governance.

In writing my recent paper about diesel cars, I found myself using the idea of “social cost.” The Business Dictionary defines this as “the expense to an entire society resulting from a news event, an activity or a change in policy.” Wikipedia calls it “the private cost plus externalities.” An externality from something is a cost or benefit that affects a party, who did not choose to incur that cost or benefit.

This set me thinking about how a convivial order, which includes a minimal system of good governance, would deal with such costs. (I’m assuming that an unintended benefit to others, or positive externality, wouldn’t require any action by anyone – except that the doer might choose to stop doing it.) The most obvious example of such a cost is the cost to others of pollution, such as air pollution, water pollution and noise pollution. But it can also be applied to other activities, such as the cost to innocent individuals of bad, politicized regulations and taxes. In this paper, however, for simplicity I’ll use the word “polluter” for the party causing such a cost.

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About ten years ago, the Belgian philosopher of law Frank van Dun published a paper entitled “Concepts of Order.” In that paper he gives, among much else, an account of what he calls the convivial order. In this order, “people live together regardless of their membership, status, position, role or function in any, let alone the same, society.” It appeared in a book “Ordered Anarchy: Jasay and His Surroundings,” published in 2007 as a tribute to Anthony de Jasay. It has been preserved on the Internet on Anthony Flood’s website here [1].

Around the same time, the German-American libertarian philosopher Hans-Hermann Hoppe published a paper, “The Idea of a Private Law Society” [2]. That paper outlines some of the institutions, which might maintain order and justice in societies without political states.

Recently, I re-read Frank van Dun’s work in this area, and I find it seminal. I was surprised and rather disappointed to find no evidence of anyone having tried to build on his framework in the intervening decade or so. So today, I’ll try to build on the theoretical ideas of Frank van Dun and the practical suggestions of Hans-Hermann Hoppe. I’m going to sketch a picture of how people might be able to live together, and resolve their disputes, without a state or a “sovereign.” Read more