Lizardbreath, meet Charter Cities

by Henry Farrell on June 11, 2012

On “Unfogged”:, Lizardbreath continues the ‘fuck me or you’re fired’ debate

bq. The Crooked Timber discussion is pretty good, with attention to issues of abuse of power, and how sex work is fundamentally different from other work, so even if you think it should be legal, there should be more protections for sex workers. What I found interesting, though, is a simple point that’s implicit but not really highlighted in the CT conversation: that using consent as a baseline rule of thumb for determining whether someone is being wrongfully mistreated or injured in an interaction between people isn’t useful at all. … And while bringing sex into it helps drive my belief that there’s something wrong with quid pro quo harassment even where the victim consents, I don’t think there’s a specific sex-only problem with consent. Unpaid internships work just as well: in a tight labor market, you can get people who are willing to work hard and usefully without pay so that they have the experience for their resumes, and may be able to get paying work in the future. People who do this sort of unpaid work are clearly straightforwardly consenting to do it. They’re still being exploited by their employers, and an agreement to work for an employer for free, in the absence of an educational or charitable motive, is still the sort of thing that should be prohibited. Workplace safety rules? People will consent to take jobs knowing that they’re likely to get hurt — the workers’ knowledge and consent does not mean that it’s all right to leave the safety guards off the machine tools. … lack of consent can tell you there’s a problem, but the presence of consent doesn’t, by itself, give rise to any kind of presumption that an employment or other relationship is not a serious problem.

And, on email, by coincidence, Doug Henwood points me to this “very interesting discussion of charter cities by David Ellerman”:

bq. One of the interesting sidelights of the charter cities and seasteading debates is how they “out” the lack of any necessary connection between liberalism and democracy. As Mallaby puts it in the FT article about Romer: “In mild professorial language, [Romer] declares that poor countries should hand control of these new cities to foreign governments, which should appoint technocratic viceroys. The better to banish politics, there must be no city elections.”

bq. For classical liberalism, the basic necessary condition for a system of governance is consent. Consent could be to a non-democratic constitution which alienates the right of self-governance to some sovereign–which in the case of a charter city would be the technocratic viceroys, or their principals such as some well-meaning foreign governments. Consent plus free entry and exit suffice to satisfy the governance requirements of classical liberalism. Classical liberalism per se sees no moral necessity in democratic self-governance at all (with or without safeguards). Most modern libertarians are not “against” democracy; it nice if you have it (and it works well with safeguards) but it is also OK if you don’t have it but have a consent-based non-democratic governance regime with good rules and the possibility of exit.


Response: Part I

by Francis Spufford on June 11, 2012

For a novel about utopias, there’s something almost disconcertingly utopian about being read this way.  All this generous attention; all this ideal intelligence.  Thank you, everybody.  There’s even a Soviet rationalisation available to me to ease the moral strain of being in receipt of this pocket-sized, individual portion of critical happiness.  Like the inhabitants of Akademgorodok, the privileged science city in Siberia which plays such a large part in Red Plenty, I can choose to tell myself that being Crooked Timberized is only an early and individual manifestation of a good fortune that is shortly to become universal.  One day, every book will be read like this.  In the radiant future, every author will be ringed by symposiasts asking demanding yet perceptive questions.  Every topic will have its conceptual underpinnings set into casually dazzling order by a Cosma Shalizi essay.  And all the springs of co-operative wealth will flow abundantly.

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