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Tuesday, December 09, 2014


Bioshock and Economic Liberty

Recently, over the Steam Black Friday sale, I picked up, among other games, Bioshock.  It is a highly enjoyable game, and one of the most interesting aspects of the game is its universe and the characters within it.  The basic premise of the game is that, in the 1950s, an Ayn Rand-superhero-esque genius named Andrew Ryan... I'll just let him tell you in his own words.  This is the opening monologue of the game.

"I am Andrew Ryan, and I'm here to ask you a question. Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow? 'No!' says the man in Washington, 'It belongs to the poor.' 'No!' says the man in the Vatican, 'It belongs to God.' 'No!' says the man in Moscow, 'It belongs to everyone.' I rejected those answers; instead, I chose something different. I chose the impossible. I chose... Rapture, a city where the artist would not fear the censor, where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality, where the great would not be constrained by the small! And with the sweat of your brow, Rapture can become your city as well."

Later on, when the character is walking through a park built at the bottom of the ocean (called Arcadia) Ryan gets on the radio with your character and says the following.

"On the surface, I once bought a forest. The parasites claimed that the land belonged to God, and demanded that I establish a public park there. Why? So the rabble could stand slack-jawed under the canopy and pretend that it was paradise 'earned'. When Congress moved to nationalize my forest, I burnt it to the ground. God did not plant the seeds of this Arcadia - I did."

While Ryan is an all-around reprehensible character that does some highly questionable things, the true liberty economist will actually sound something like Andrew Ryan (philosophically if not morally).  By the logic of liberty economics, a person's property is their own to do with as they please, whether it is to sell, use, or destroy (Ryan's question of "Is not a man entitled to the sweat of his brow?").  Thus, if a person wishes to raze an entire forest to the ground out of pure spite, so long as they own the forest and they do not harm another person in the process, they are perfectly at liberty to do so: i.e., if there isn't someone in the forest when it is burnt.  

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