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Knowledge, Calculation, Conflict, and Law

Note: An updated and revised version of this article is included as chap. 19 of Legal Foundations of a Free Society (Houston: Papinian Press, 2023).


Stephan Kinsella, “Knowledge, Calculation, Conflict, and Law” (review essay of Randy E. Barnett, The Structure of Liberty), Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics 2, no. 4 (Winter 1999): 49–71 [pdf].

The second edition of Barnett’s book, published in 2014, concedes one of my criticisms (of his use of liberal instead of libertarian and several instead of private property:

Were I writing the book today, however, I might change one term. I might use the term “private property” rather than the term “several property” that I borrowed from Hayek, who himself borrowed it from Scottish Enlightenment thinkers. I preferred “several property” because it emphasized the need to recognize jurisdiction over resources among the several or many individuals and associations that comprise a society. Were property held in the private hands of a very few, this type of “private property” would not address the problems of knowledge and interest. But in the interest of clarity and the avoidance of jargon, “private property” would have been clearer and, I now think, preferable.

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