23 February 2010

Travelblog: The Castle -- The Review

This 1997 Australian movie tells a David-v.-Goliath story of a man who defends his home -- his castle -- against a State condemnation that would turn his land over to developers.

The movie's theme is similar to the Kelo case, but it differs in outcome. In this movie, the little guy wins, defended by the notion of what's fair.

(If you didn't see the recent news, it turns out that all the pain and suffering in Kelo was for naught -- the land developers who leveled people's houses went bankrupt.)

Unfortunately (as with Avatar), the little guy loses in the real world, because "fair" is discarded in favor of efficiency. And for that tragedy, we have economists to thank. Pretty sad, indeed, to consider that I belong to a caste of accidental killers -- people propounding policies for "the general welfare" that end up benefiting the few at the expense of the many. I wonder what Mssrs. Hicks and Kaldor think of their theory, the one that justifies a move that increases "aggregate social welfare, even if it's at someone's expense, if the winner can -- in principle -- compromise the loser." The trouble is that this compromise rarely occurs after the action, even when it is promised before the action.

Bottom Line: Better to respect people's rights than take those rights away in exchange for some promise of "making them whole."

1 comment:

Drew Moxon said...

I would guess that Hicks would argue that because there is no compromise after the action, then the welfare gain does not take place as originally prescribed so it is not necessarily optimal. That's pure speculation :)