Sunday, June 03,2007:
Corporate solution to rape
A global alliance of corporate think-tanks has come up with an ingeniousmarket-based system for limiting the incidence of rape. It's called"rape-rights trading" or, more informally, "cap and trade". Here'show it works.
First, the government puts a limit on the total number of rapespermitted per year. The limit may be constant, or may slowly increase ordecrease over time, depending on what the government considers achievable; butthe point is that there is a limit.
Second, this limit is divided among the self-confessed rapists inproportion to the frequency with which they have committed rapes in the recentpast. The result is that each rapist receives an annual allocation of rape-credits, each credit conferring the right to commit onerape.
Third, rape-credits are traded on the open market, like stocks orbonds. The trading in rape-credits leads naturally to trading in derivatives andfutures, and hence in annual allocations (constructed as sequences offutures).
The efficiencies of this arrangement are self-evident. Those rapists who canmost easily reduce their rapes will be most willing to sell credits, while thosewho have the greatest urge to increase their rapes will be most willing to buycredits. The equalization of supply and demand will determine the price ofcredits and, like an invisible hand, maximize the sum of satisfactions bytransferring credits to those who get more satisfaction from raping, from thosewho get less. Meanwhile, all the rapists will naturally strive to meet theirrespective quotas in the most economical manner.
In spite of these manifest advantages, certain incorrigible Leftists complainthat the initial allocation of rape-credits would reward rapists for past rapes.Accordingly they have proposed an alternative scheme, tendentiously called"rapist pays", whereby the government would simply fine, tax, orotherwise penalize the rapists. As the corporate think-tanks explain, such ascheme would be a most cruel violation of property rights. Establishedrapists, by investing considerable skill and capital in their activities, havejustly acquired ownership of the right to continue those activities andreceive the satisfactions derived therefrom. Any fine or tax on the activitieswould amount to partial or complete confiscation of the satisfactions, while anyother penalty would amount to some other form of interference with the propertyowners' enjoyment of their property.
This attack on property rights is not merely implicit, but open andshameless. Some Leftists, for example, argue that property rights acquired bymere custom, i.e. without explicit agreement, are justifiable only in so far asthey do not interfere with the equal rights of other parties. In answer to this,the think-tanks point out that if the same principle were applied to propertyin land, it would lead to the conclusion that customary possession of apiece of land confers a right of ownership of that land only while there island enough, and as good, left over for others. But, with insignificantexceptions such as John Locke, from whomthe words "enough, and as good" are quoted, such a proviso has not beenentertained by the philosophers of freedom.
Indeed, if the Lockeanproviso were accepted, it would mean that owners of land must compensatenon-owners of land as soon as there is not "enough, and as good" left over. Andwhat could the compensation be but the rental value of the land over whichownership is asserted? As David Ricardo inconsiderately pointed out, land acquires a rental value precisely when thereis not "enough, and as good" that can be had for nothing. Thus we would reachthe absurd conclusion that the rent of land belongs to the community, to be usedfor public revenue in lieu of taxation. This is none other than the"Single Tax" doctrine championed by such teachers of unrighteousness as the Most Rev. Dr.Thomas Nulty and Mr.Henry George — the latter of whom had the chutzpah to call himself afree-marketeer, just because he wanted every market except the land market to befree from tax while the one tax that he wanted to impose would have beenassessed by the market.
Certain Left-Liberal apologists further contend that even if the customaryexercise or formal purchase of a rape-credit conferred ownership of that credit,it would not confer ownership of any subsequent increase in the market value ofthat credit. The think-tanks respond that if this contention is likewise appliedto land, it implies that the owner or purchaser of land has a right ofproperty in the present rental value of the land but not in anysubsequent increase in that value, in which case the increase could be taken forpublic revenue without injustice to the land owner. But, again withinsignificant exceptions (such as John StuartMill), this conclusion is not entertained by reputable writers on liberty. If, as is generally acknowledged, the owner or purchaser of landautomatically acquires ownership of any subsequent increase in the value of thatland, then, by the same logic, the owner or purchaser of rape-creditsautomatically acquires ownership of any subsequent increase in the value ofthose credits.
While the think-tanks welcome rape-rights trading between private entities,they warn against any sort of treaty or "protocol" thatwould provide for rape-rights trading between States, because theparticipating States, in their efforts to comply with their respective quotas,might be tempted to fine or tax rapists within their borders rather thanestablish their own internal rape-rights trading regimes. For exactly the samereason, the various Greenies and other Leftists who criticize rape-rightstrading between private entities are quite willing to tolerate such tradingbetween States.
Citing the precautionary principle, the corporate researchers warn that theimposition of a simple `rape tax' might be irreversible because it wouldpresumably be accompanied by cuts in other taxes, in which case the subsequentabolition of the `rape tax' would require either the reinstatement of the oldtaxes or the imposition of new ones — either option being politically difficult.Rape-rights trading would avoid this problem because any profits due toappreciation of rape-credits would accrue not to the government, but to privateentities, leaving no opportunity for tax cuts.
While opposing the fining or taxing of rapists as a stand-alonepolicy, the researchers acknowledge that any rape-rights trading schemewould need enforcement mechanisms, including a heavy fine for any rapist whocommits a rape without having or purchasing a valid credit. The severity of theproposed fine is solely for the purpose of strong enforcement and has nothing todo with the expectation that, as the option of paying a fine would compete withthe option of buying a credit, a low fine would impose a low ceiling on thevalues of the rape-credits held by established rapists. Indeed the ceiling wouldbe higher than the fine, because the purchase of a credit would betax-deductible while the fine would not. [Editor's note: Thetax-deductibility of rape-credits makes us wonder exactly what sort of "rape"the corporations have in mind. But we don't ask questions. We just print thepress release.]
As for the Leftists' objection that the initial allocation of rape-creditswould reward past rapes, the researchers, citing the famous Coase theorem,explain that economic efficiency depends only on internalizing the marginal costs and benefits of future decisions. The initial allocation of costs and benefits is a matter of equity, notefficiency; and equity consists solely in respecting property rights, includingthose conferred by past behavior.
"In short," the researchers conclude, "as the market has a solution to everyother problem, it has a solution to rape. There is no need for socialist `rapetaxes' that punish enterprise and impose personal safety on all of us whether wewant it or not."