Even in a Violent Exchange, You Prefer What You Receive over What You Give Up

From this post, we see how we derive the fact that a person who engages in an exchange must value what he is receiving over what he is giving up.

Note that I am doing this from the point of view of one actor, but it applies to both. It’s interesting that, even with violent exchange, this analysis could be used to say that the individual being coerced also values what he is receiving over what he is giving up.

For example:

If Thievery Tom points a gun at Innocent Irene and demands that she give up a banana for his orange, she too is engaging in an exchange. Although violent, she is still purposefully acting, and (assuming she goes through with it) she thus prefers the state where she gives up the banana for the orange over the state where she retains the banana and he retains the orange. In other words, she prefers the orange to the banana.

I’m not sure if this can constitute a meaningful objection to the distinction between voluntary and involuntary action, but it’s something to think about.

My only response to this at the moment is that there’s a very real sense in which doesn’t value what she is receiving over what she is giving up. I don’t remember Rothbard responding to this sort of objection in Man, Economy, and State, and have not read enough Mises to say whether he responds to it or not.

The way it is solved likely revolves heavily around the introduction of voluntary action vs. involuntary action in the logical argument. As I come across this again in Mises or Rothbard, I’ll think about it.

One more thought: if someone responds, “well, of course she now has a new preference scale because of the introduction of a coercive individual,” I could say “well, anytime someone comes along and even offers an exchange, the other individual’s preference scale might change because of the introduction of the voluntary individual.”

And again, I’m not saying this is a meaningful objection nor am I saying that it can’t be easily “solved.” Just something I am thinking about at the moment.

Photo Credit: photographer padawan *(xava du) via Compfight cc


Posted on November 28, 2013, in Economics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. If anything at all, I think this objection would criticize the voluntary-involuntary distinction on the grounds that it is arbitrary from the viewpoint of praxeology.

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