Black Swan Laws, Burke, and Libertarianism

January 16th, 2012

One of the logical and natural implications of my opposition to black swan laws is that I oppose most laws in general–and this (un)surprisingly dovetails with my general libertarian beliefs. This need not be the case, and I hope to clarify this objection.

The types of laws that black swan thinking rejects are those that are enacted in the immediate response to a very specific black swan event, and aim to prevent just that event from re-occurring. Granted, these types of laws are far and few between, but their efficacy are usually minimal.

Laws that are aimed at broader, structural issues, and which are drafted with time and consideration for possible effets on society are less symptomatic of black swan law (though I would argue that most likely these laws are based on best-case-scenario understandings of fact, predictions which seldom come true).

So not all laws fail the black swan test.

But even the former type of laws need not be normatively bad. There is–and I acknowledge this even if I think it is wrong–a human desire to upset the status quo when something bad happens. Think of something as simple as a team firing its head coach after losing a big game, even if the loss was out of the hands of the coach. Or, after the collapse of a company, firing the CEO, even if the downfall was due to broader market circumstances. It works the other way around too. Giving a coach or player a HUGE bonus after a single good game/stretch of games. Check out “deviation from the mean.”

Anyway, it seems a strong part of human nature to react quickly and feel the need to do something. FDR always spoke about the need for bold experimentation. In other words, you have to do *something* even if that something makes you worse off than you were before. To the extent that this desire to do something is present, black swan thinking is irrelevant. People won’t be able to see two inches past the immediate future, and will dwell on just doing something. This is something I’ll have to think about more.

Also, the general objection that my theory essentially codifies libertarian belief (not passing laws). Though it can be seen as somewhat Burkean. Just maintain the status quo. Burkeans and libertarians seldom agree, I suppose, to the extent that both want to maintain the status quo–libertarians to promote liberty (older laws made us freer), and Burkeans to prevent Jacobin revolutionary change.

Anyway, food for thought. I am re-reading Black Swan now, so I should have some more written in the near future.