Sunday, February 7, 2016

Buchanan's Law

Reply to reply: The Demand For Defense?


Because, when goods are rivalrous and excludable, with limited beneficial or detrimental externalities, market pricing reflects roughly the true cost.  While congress may, via advisors, come up with a cost that is approximately the true cost, they are not as precise as the market itself. - Galloism

When congress gives more money to the DoD... and the DoD spends this additional money on more resources... then this logically means that there will be less resources available for all the other possible uses... such as farming.  If the DoD hires Terence Tao... then all the brainpower that Tao allocates to defense can't also be allocated to farming.

Right now you're confident that congress gets the supply of defense right.  But you're not confident that congress can get the supply of food right.  This is logically absurd.  As I've tried to explain to you countless times before... it's impossible for congress to be able to get the supply of defense right without also being able to get the supply of food right.  This is because allocating more resources to defense logically means allocating less resources to food.  Every allocation requires sacrificing the alternatives.  This is the most fundamentally basic law of economics.

You can't logically be a part-time socialist.  If you trust a committee to determine how much of the country's resources should be allocated to defense... then by the most fundamentally basic law of economics... you must also trust the committee to determine how much of the country's resources should be allocated to food.

Except... committees have never done a good job determining the supply of food.  According to the most fundamentally basic law of economics... this means that committees have never done a good job of determining the supply of defense.   Which is why I'm not a socialist.  I believe that taxpayers should be free to choose where their taxes go.  Each and every consumer would decide for themselves whether we truly need more defense.  When making this decision... they will automatically consider whether more defense is worth less food.  Each and every consumer will decide for themselves whether Terence Tao should allocate his brainpower to improving the supply of...

A. defense
B. food
C. other

As an aside... it just struck me as really strange that I have to say... "the most fundamentally basic law of economics".  Doesn't this law have a name?  No.  It doesn't.  So, for efficiency sake, until somebody comes up with a better name... I'm going to refer to this law as Buchanan's Law.  Buchanan is my favorite recently dead economist.

A nation cannot survive with political institutions that do not face up squarely to the essential fact of scarcity: It is simply impossible to promise more to one person without reducing that which is promised to others. And it is not possible to increase consumption today, at least without an increase in saving, without having less consumption tomorrow. Scarcity is indeed a fact of life, and political institutions that do not confront this fact threaten the existence of a prosperous and free society. - James Buchanan, Richard Wagner, Democracy in Deficit: The Political Legacy of Lord Keynes

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Corey Robin vs John Stuart Mill

Corey Robin:

The poorer they are, says Vox’s Dylan Matthews, the more likely millennials are to support a government-guaranteed living wage, the redistribution of wealth, and an expanded safety net. - Corey Robin, 90% of what goes on at The New Yorker can be explained by Vulgar Marxism

J.S. Mill:

It is also important, that the assembly which votes the taxes, either general or local, should be elected exclusively by those who pay something towards the taxes imposed. Those who pay no taxes, disposing by their votes of other people's money, have every motive to be lavish, and none to economize. As far as money matters are concerned, any power of voting possessed by them is a violation of the fundamental principle of free government; a severance of the power of control, from the interest in its beneficial exercise. It amounts to allowing them to put their hands into other people's pockets, for any purpose which they think fit to call a public one; which in some of the great towns of the United States is known to have produced a scale of local taxation onerous beyond example, and wholly borne by the wealthier classes. That representation should be coextensive with taxation, not stopping short of it, but also not going beyond it, is in accordance with the theory of British institutions. But to reconcile this, as a condition annexed to the representation, with universality, it is essential, as it is on many other accounts desirable, that taxation, in a visible shape, should descend to the poorest class. In this country, and in most others, there is probably no labouring family which does not contribute to the indirect taxes, by the purchase of tea, coffee, sugar, not to mention narcotics or stimulants. But this mode of defraying a share of the public expenses is hardly felt: the payer, unless a person of education and reflection, does not identify his interest with a low scale of public expenditure, as closely as when money for its support is demanded directly from himself; and even supposing him to do so, he would doubtless take care that, however lavish an expenditure he might, by his vote, assist in imposing upon the government, it should not be defrayed by any additional taxes on the articles which he himself consumes. It would be better that a direct tax, in the simple form of a capitation, should be levied on every grown person in the community; or that every such person should be admitted an elector, on allowing himself to be rated extra ordinem to the assessed taxes; or that a small annual payment, rising and falling with the gross expenditure of the country, should be required from every registered elector; that so every one might feel that the money which he assisted in voting was partly his own, and that he was interested in keeping down its amount.   
However this may be, I regard it as required by first principles, that the receipt of parish relief should be a peremptory disqualification for the franchise. He who cannot by his labour suffice for his own support, has no claim to the privilege of helping himself to the money of others. By becoming dependent on the remaining members of the community for actual subsistence, he abdicates his claim to equal rights with them in other respects. Those to whom he is indebted for the continuance of his very existence, may justly claim the exclusive management of those common concerns, to which he now brings nothing, or less than he takes away. As a condition of the franchise, a term should be fixed, say five years previous to the registry, during which the applicant's name has not been on the parish books as a recipient of relief. To be an uncertificated bankrupt, or to have taken the benefit of the Insolvent Act, should disqualify for the franchise until the person has paid his debts, or at least proved that he is not now, and has not for some long period been, dependent on eleemosynary support. Non-payment of taxes, when so long persisted in that it cannot have arisen from inadvertence, should disqualify while it lasts. - J.S. Mill, Considerations on Representative Government 

Are modern "liberals" ever going to address the fact that the free-rider problem, which is the very point of taxation, is just as much a problem when it comes to democracy?

See also:

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Steven Johnson Is A Chanidget

Reply to story: Maximum Wage by Steven Johnson


You're walking in your neighborhood when all of a sudden Usain Bolt, the world's fastest man, sprints past you with an obese midget clinging to his back.  You think to yourself... "Ahhhh... he is able to run so fast because he has a very fat midget clinging to his back."

You're a chanidget.   You think that countries prosper because of governments...

[Silicon Valley] is both an apex of modern capitalism and one of the most politically progressive sectors in the country; that it celebrates entrepreneurial energy but also has a passion for radically different economic models; that it rewards both garage startups and open source-style projects like Wikipedia; and that its long history of building on government-funded innovations makes it much more appreciative of the role of the state in driving progress than most business sectors. 

In order to help you understand the problem with the state's role... lets first consider some common ground...

But even in the tech sector there are zero-sum games that must be accounted for: most importantly, the zero-sum game of attention and passion. There is a finite pie of human intellectual talent available to us at any given moment — the pie is growing, but it’s finite nonetheless — and how that attention and passion gets directed has a dramatic impact on the slope of the progress curve. Every market sends out signals encouraging certain kinds of problem-solving, certain kinds of skills. Nine years ago, the loudest signal was telling college students to become experts in credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations. I think we can all agree on how that worked out. When markets send out signals this conspicuous, attention and interest are like a giant field of sunflowers; they shift, slowly but inexorably, toward the brightest light. Through that shift, other, fainter stars lose their followings. That is zero-sum gameplay, too.

For the most part this is correct.  I've written about value signals before and have even terribly illustrated the concept...

Batman isn't omniscient.  So if the city really needs him... then it would behoove the city to display the bat signal.  Producers aren't omniscient either.  So if we want them to produce valuable things... then it behooves us to accurately communicate our valuation of the things that they produce.

Personally... as somebody who loves plants... I think your sunflower comparison might be better than my batman comparison.  Maybe it wouldn't even be too difficult to terribly illustrate some sunflowers facing a bright sun with a dollar sign on it.

Here's where you shoot yourself in the foot...

Right now the tech market, even with its admirable pay ratios, is signaling to the world that inventing a new app for teenagers to flirt and banter can be thousands of times more valuable than becoming a high-school principal in a troubled district. 

Of course the sunflowers face the sun (inventing new apps) rather than the moon (becoming a high-school principal).  Inventing a popular new app is incredibly more profitable than becoming a popular high-school principal.  Here's how I've terribly, and randomly, illustrated this concept in the past...

I shared this illustration in this blog entry... Don't Give Evil Robots A Leg To Stand On!  Don't give evil robots a leg to stand on?  Yeah... right?  That makes sense doesn't it?

Here's a less random, but equally terrible, illustration...

Your argument is that the tech market overvalues apps.  You're arguing that there should be maximum wages.   You're arguing that the sun is too bright.

But is the problem really that the sun is too bright?  What if the problem is that the moon isn't nearly bright enough?

You started your story praising the government's role in driving progress.  Your basic premise is that the government is somehow good at picking winners.  Except... here you are entirely neglecting the fact that the government also determines the value of plenty of high-school principals.   Yeah it's true that the private sector determines the value of apps... but it's also true that the public sector determines the value of many high-school principals.  So given that you're so certain that high-school principals are incredibly undervalued... then perhaps you should take a closer look at your basic premise.

The best way to take a closer look at your basic premise is to consider the fact that people can't choose where their taxes go (pragmatarianism FAQ).  Right now you can't reach into your pocket... pull out some tax dollars... and give them to a high-school principal.  No matter how undervalued you believe the principal is... you can't give him your public dollars (aka "taxes").

Can you give your private dollars to the principal?  Of course you can!  I really love the idea of people voluntarily giving more money to the government.  Unfortunately... for some reason... liberals really hate this idea.

Anyways, I'm pretty sure that you're not going to give very many of your private dollars to some principal.  But the question is...  how many of your public dollars would you give to some principal?  This is a wonderful question.  I'm pretty sure that this is the most important question ever.

In your story you mentioned Linux...

The Android operating system is a fork of the open-source operating system Linux, which was collectively authored by thousands of people all over the world, with no traditional ownership model for their creation. 

Not sure if you're familiar with what Eric Steven Raymond has written about Linux...

The history of Unix should have prepared us for what we're learning from Linux (and what I've verified experimentally on a smaller scale by deliberately copying Linus's methods [EGCS]). That is, while coding remains an essentially solitary activity, the really great hacks come from harnessing the attention and brainpower of entire communities. The developer who uses only his or her own brain in a closed project is going to fall behind the developer who knows how to create an open, evolutionary context in which feedback exploring the design space, code contributions, bug-spotting, and other improvements come from hundreds (perhaps thousands) of people. - Eric Steven Raymond, The Cathedral and the Bazaar

See the part about harnessing the attention and brainpower of entire communities?  This is why markets work.  Everybody participates in the creation of value signals.  Therefore... the value signals in the private sector reflect the maximum amount of attention and brainpower.  Valuation in the private sector is inclusive rather than exclusive.

You also mentioned Wikipedia in your story.  But did you know that Wikipedia was inspired by an essay by Friedrich Hayek?

The problem is thus in no way solved if we can show that all the facts, if they were known to a single mind (as we hypothetically assume them to be given to the observing economist), would uniquely determine the solution; instead we must show how a solution is produced by the interactions of people each of whom possesses only partial knowledge. To assume all the knowledge to be given to a single mind in the same manner in which we assume it to be given to us as the explaining economists is to assume the problem away and to disregard everything that is important and significant in the real world. - Friedrich Hayek, The Use of Knowledge in Society 

What Raymond said about Linux is exactly the same as what Hayek said about markets.  Raymond and Hayek used different words and different examples but it was the same exact concept...

Google and IBM’s Watson can discover patterns in the big data they vacuum up, as can NSA surveillance programs. But compare the viewpoint of a GoogleMaps car that indiscriminately records everything as it drives down the street to how two people can walk down the same street and notice entirely different things with respect to shops, restaurants, and passersby. People have different perspectives. Individuals are curious about different things. They assign different values to what they encounter. - Richard E. Cytowic, Your Brain on Screens

People are different so they spot different things... and they also spend different amounts of money/time on the different things that they spot.  The more people that spot, and spend more money/time on, the same thing... the more likely it is that other people will also spot it and spend on it.  Spending allows us to bring valuable things to the attention of others.

How many of your tax dollars would you spend on some principal?  I don't know.  The government doesn't give you the chance to spend any of your tax dollars on any principals that you happen to spot.  The government doesn't give me the chance to spend any of my tax dollars on any principals that I happen to spot.  Nobody is given the chance to spend any of their tax dollars on any principals that they happen to spot.  Why isn't anybody given the chance to use their tax dollars to communicate their valuations of any principals?  It's because you don't believe that the public sector needs our attention or brainpower or knowledge.   Therefore, the value signals of principals in the public sector do not reflect the valuations of consumers... they reflect the valuations of committees.   There's a name for this type of system: socialism.

You think that our country prospers because of socialism.  This is what makes you a chanidget.  But you really don't have to be a chanidget.  You're a smart guy.  And I already showed you where the bug is in your premise.  If you agree that it's a bug... then all you have to do is remove it.  If you don't agree that it's a bug... then... I'm all ears.  Use your knowledge and brainpower and talent and creativity to convince me that the public sector doesn't need your knowledge and brainpower and talent and creativity.

Regarding inequality... if we created a market in the public sector... do you think principals would all receive the same amount of money?  Do you think teachers would all receive the same amount of money?

Do you think any teachers would be a superstar like J.K. Rowling is a superstar?  Can you imagine yourself giving your public dollars to a teacher in England like you give your private dollars to an author in England?  Can you imagine J.K. Rowling giving her public dollars to Salman Khan like Salman Khan gives his private dollars to J.K. Rowling?

A global market for public goods would be just as beautiful as a global market for private goods.  Imagine everybody in the world being free to spend their public dollars on education, conservation, space exploration and cancer research.  Imagine when we have just as many superstars in the public sector as we have in the private sector.  Imagine when we have more superstars in the public sector than in the private sector.  

Is the sun too bright?  Nope.  The moon isn't bright enough!

See also: An Economic Critique of Peer Progressivism

Bueller's Basement

Last night I had a dream that I was talking to my girlfriend in the living room.  I went to another room... where, much to my surprise, I found my girlfriend.  How could she possibly be in two places at the same time?  My brain jumped to the most logical conclusion.  Evidently I had been dating twins all along!  The next conclusion that my brain jumped to was also very logical... threesome!!!  Unfortunately... as soon as I came to this conclusion... I woke up.  Evidently the conclusion was too logical.  Ughhhh.  I really robbed myself!

When I told my girlfriend about the dream she laughed and said that I was being greedy.

I really love the dynamics of relationships.  Which is why I really love the idea of threesomes.  Adding a third person to a relationship makes the relationship far more dynamic... and far more fascinating.

So it makes me really sad that there are so few movies and shows that really dig into the dynamics of three-way relationships.  In fact, only two movies come to mind.  What makes it terribly tricky... is that I can't even mention these two movies without spoiling them.  They are fucking wonderful movies but I can't even mention them!   All I can say is that they are foreign and on Netflix.

Given the opportunity to allocate my Netflix fees... then I would certainly allocate a huge chunk of my fees to these two movies.  I wonder how many other people would also do so?   How bright would the value signal be?  How many producers would respond to it?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Most Important Reveal Ever

Reply to reply: The Demand For Defense?


No, it really wouldn't, and it doesn't matter if they boycott the president or not. By removing Congress' power of the purse, and the budget bills that are thousands of pages long defining HOW each agency can spend its money, the president can simply redirect funds from one agency to another - including his own. 
Boycott all you want. It doesn't matter. - Galloism

If boycotting doesn't matter... then again, you're not critiquing pragmatarianism. If it doesn't matter how much money the people do not give the president... then again... you're not critiquing pragmatarianism.

In a pragmatarian system... the amount of money that a government agency receives would reflect the agency's credibility/legitimacy/necessity. If you choose to give the president your money... then you're giving him your stamp of a approval. You're verifying/vetting/vouching his particular use of society's limited resources.

Personally, I don't give my money to the NRA. Am I boycotting them? No. I simply believe that there are more valuable uses of my limited money. If you're a vegetarian... you don't buy meat. Are you boycotting the producers of meat? Yes. You strongly believe that there are far more valuable uses of your limited money.

And no matter how much you "boycott" the president funding wise, the constitution doesn't change. The constitution only changes if you comply with the requirements for constitutional change. Namely, you need to get 2/3 of both houses of congress to pass an amendment, sending it to the states, and then get 3/4 of the state legislatures to approve it under the procedures established by those states. - Galloism

If a tree falls in the forest, but nobody hears it, does it make a sound? If the constitution says we need a president, but nobody funds him, does he matter? If the law says that marijuana is illegal, but nobody funds its enforcement, does the law matter? If the law says that gays shouldn't be allowed to marry, but nobody funds its enforcement, does the law matter?

Every single one of our laws was created without knowing the actual demand for them. Most people don't realize this because they don't think that there's any real difference between voting for something and spending for something. Voting for something reveals popularity. Spending for something reveals demand. Demand depends entirely on personal sacrifice. Voting in no way shape or form requires you to reach into your own pocket and put your own hard-earned money where your mouth is. As a result... many, maybe even most, of our laws are total bullshit. Allowing people to choose where their taxes go would clearly show us which laws are worth keeping and which laws were worth discarding.

We don't exist for the laws... the laws exist for us. We don't exist for the president... the president exists for us. And the only way that we can truly discern whether the people genuinely want the president to exist for them is by allowing everybody to choose where their taxes go.

And barring thousand page funding bills, under your system, you can allocate whatever you want, but if you don't fundamentally change the structure of the government, the president can simply force redistribution of those allocations because he controls the hiring/firing of directors of those agencies. In order to do so, it would require a constitutional amendment, which requires vast political will, and a deep understanding of the current structure so it could be modified to suit your vision. This is why I keep harping on common ownership and control. If you do not change the common ownership and control of these agencies, your system will do nothing except give more power to the president. Full stop. - Galloism

It's not very significant to me that the president controls the hiring/firing of directors. You know why I'm not too worried about it? It's because, in a pragmatarian system, the taxpayers would control the president's funding.

Right now congress controls the tax rate. You know why I'm not too worried about it? It's because, in a pragmatarian system, the taxpayers would control congress's funding.

Let me geek out and quote Frank Herbert... "He who controls the spice controls the universe." In a pragmatarian system it would be... he who controls the funding controls the universe. And who would control the funding? Taxpayers.

Right now for most people it really doesn't matter how much money taxpayers would choose to give the president. This information isn't important to them. They aren't pragmatarians. They have absolutely no interest in knowing what the demand for the president is. Or they erroneously believe that voting reveals the demand for the president.

In order for a pragmatarian system to be implemented... enough people have to really appreciate the value of actually knowing the demand for the president. Enough people have to say, "It's a really huge fucking problem that we don't know the demand for the president or defense or environmental protection or public healthcare or cancer research or public education or space exploration or any other good supplied by the public sector!!!!" When enough people say this and believe it... then, and only then, will taxpayers be allowed to choose where their taxes go. So if, and when, pragmatarianism is implemented.... for most people it will be extremely meaningful and important to learn just how much money taxpayers are willing to give to the president. The amount of funding that the president receives will determine his fate. The president will know this. Taxpayers will know this. Everybody in the world will know this.

One time my girlfriend received a candle as a gift. This candle was a little different though because buried deep in the wax was a ring of unknown value. She was pretty happy to get the candle so she quickly set it on the coffee table and lit it. Then she went on youtube and started watching videos where people discovered which rings were in their candles. I think these are called "reveal" videos or something. Anyways, between the candle and the videos... I quickly fell asleep. I woke up shortly afterwards to find my girlfriend energetically trying to dig through the wax with a chopstick or something in order to get to the ring. Needless to say patience probably isn't her strongest suit. She couldn't take the suspense. It turned out the ring in her candle wasn't that valuable.

Actually... I might have mentioned something to her about the possibility of using a chopstick. I admit to being a little curious about the value of the ring. But as a pragmatarian... I'm infinitely more interested in knowing the value of the president and everything else in the public sector. The suspense is really killing me. Unfortunately, there's no way for me to cheat. I can't simply pay a psychic to tell me the true value of everything in the public sector. Instead, I simply have to try and persuade everyone that it would be really worth it to know the actual demand for public goods. I have to try and get them very interested in the "reveal". I have to try and persuade them to become pragmatarians.

So when you're critiquing a pragmatarian system... it's entirely necessary for you to appreciate that most people in the country will be extremely interested in the reveal. People in other countries will probably be very interested in the reveal. Maybe people on other planets will be tuning in to watch our first reveal. They will be reminiscing about their planet's very first reveal. They will be excited to compare the results of their first reveal with the results of our first reveal. For us on planet Earth it will be by far our most important "reveal" ever. People in other countries will want to have their own reveal. The suspense will be killing them.

Right now you're arguing that the reveal won't be that important. As if it really won't matter to the millions and millions of pragmatarians how valuable the president is. As if it could turn out that the president is entirely worthless... but it would still be business as usual. As if the people would say, "Ho hum, the president is worthless... nobody funds him... but no worries about him going about his regular business as if he was actually important to us. There's no problem with a worthless person living in the White House, flying around in Air Force one and meeting other presidents."

Imagine through mass mind control I could hire and fire directors of PETA and the NRA at my will, and the directors know this, and people MUST donate $100 amount to one of those two organizations by law. Does it matter which one? - Galloism

It still matters because people would still be very interested in the reveal. If it turned out that PETA was far more valuable... but you disrespected the reveal by shifting PETA's funding to the NRA... then people would disrespect you. And if people were not permitted to disrespect you... then clearly that would be a problem.

Rose Bowl vs Syncaris pasadenae

Reply to reply: The Demand For Defense?


1. Global warming is the consequence of a shortage of conservation (broadly speaking). True/False - Xero
Just to stop you right here: False. At least in any meaningful way. Conservation doesn't even enter into the issue until relatively recently, only once the impact of industrial byproducts was better understood. Before that, conservationism didn't mean, "reducing industrial outputs," and (broadly speaking) it still doesn't. Conservationism is mostly about preserving wilderness in some shape or form. No amount of Teddy Roosevelt style conservationism could have stopped global climate change, short of virtually the entire world being made a park. - Quokkastan

A friend in Australia was telling me how he saw some freshwater shrimps in one of his local streams. Out of curiosity I checked to see if there happened to be any freshwater shrimps here in Southern California. It turned out that there is a local species of freshwater shrimp... Syncaris pasadenae. Well... at least there used to be one here. Now it's gone. Because of the Rose Bowl. Fucking Rose Bowl killed my little freshwater shrimp. Fucking Rose Bowl!!!!

The Rose Bowl is only a few minutes away from where I live. You know how many events that I've attended there? ZERO. I could care less about sports. I shit on sports. Fuck sports. Sports killed my freshwater shrimp. Sports forever robbed me, and everybody else who will ever exist, of the chance to ever see Syncaris pasadenae.

What if, back in the day, taxpayers in Southern California had been given the chance to allocate their taxes? Would the shrimp's habitat been conserved or developed? I'm guessing that it still would have been developed. I'm pretty sure that it still would have been developed. But what if everybody in California had been given the chance to allocate their taxes? I'm thinking that it would have been slightly less likely that the land would have been developed. But what if everybody in the US had been given the chance to allocate their taxes? Then it would have been even less likely that the land would have been developed. But what if everybody in the US and Canada had been given the chance to allocate their taxes? Again, it would have been even less likely. What if everybody in the US and Canada and England had been given the chance to allocate their taxes? Again, even less likely. What if everybody in the US, Canada, England and France had been given the chance to allocate their taxes? Again, even less likely. So what if everybody in the entire WORLD had been given the chance to allocate their taxes? It would have been far less likely. In fact, it would have been so less likely... that I think there might have been a good chance that the shrimp's habitat would have been conserved rather than developed.

Does this mean that the Rose Bowl wouldn't have been built? No... it just means that the Rose Bowl would have been built on land that nature lovers around the world would have spent the least amount of money to protect. Again, with emphasis... the Rose Bowl would have been built on land that nature lovers around the world would have spent the least amount of money to protect.

What would happen if we finally learned from our mistakes and gave taxpayers the freedom to shop in any country's public sector? Then nature lovers would want the most conservation for their tax dollars. They would want the most biodiversity for their buck. Anytime land was being sold anywhere... nature lovers around the world would be able to decide whether it was worth it to try and use their tax dollars to buy the land. Nature lovers around the world would debate the conservation value of every piece of land for sale in the world. And it would be heaven. Pure fucking heaven.

Why can't you clearly see that it would be heaven? Why don't you clearly see that the current system is hell?

The chance that [CITES] listing would even help in their rescue from extinction is uncertain and the lists become difficult to regulate if they become too cumbersome. Many of the species referred to here are not threatened by trade but by land conversion and deforestation. In addition, other species will become extinct without our ever being aware that they were threatened, while others will become extinct without us even being aware of their existence. One can predict that, as the ineffectiveness of CITES to save species becomes ever more widely appreciated, the reluctance to support the convention will become more evident. - Harold Koopowitz, Orchids and their Conservation

Consider another scenario. You are a professor at a major university and one of your doctoral students calls from Costa Rica. He has picked up some orchid plants from broken branches on the forest floor. The usual fate of orchids that fall is premature death. This is a young man who is intensely committed to conservation and hates to see anything die. You have to tell him to abandon the plants because it would be too difficult for him to get CITES papers. - Harold Koopowitz, Orchids and their Conservation

The usual pattern, however, is more like that of Zambia where it is legal to turn a branch bearing live orchids into charcoal but it is illegal to take the orchids off the branch to export before burning the wood. - Harold Koopowitz, Orchids and their Conservation

From the last section of the chapter... which is titled, "Could the money have been better spent?"

The amount of money spent annually to enforce CITES must be enormous. To this must be added the cost of travelling to the various meetings of committees and conventions. If only part of the money spent on CITES over the last 25 years had been made available to actual and real conservation activities, such as buying up forested lands or policing preserves, the world would now be a better place and conservation would have been far better served. - Harold Koopowitz, Orchids and their Conservation

Check out this passage by George Monbiot...

On Friday, a few days after scientists announced that the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is now inevitable(4), the Ecuadorean government decided that oil drilling would go ahead in the heart of the Yasuni national park(5). It had made an offer to other governments: if they gave it half the value of the oil in that part of the park, it would leave the stuff in the ground. You could see this as blackmail or you could see it as fair trade. Ecuador is poor, its oil deposits are rich: why, the government argued, should it leave them untouched without compensation when everyone else is drilling down to the inner circle of hell? It asked for $3.6bn and received $13m. The result is that Petroamazonas, a company with a colourful record of destruction and spills(6), will now enter one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, in which a hectare of rainforest is said to contain more species than exist in the entire continent of North America(7). - George Monbiot, The Impossibility of Growth

... and compare it to this passage by David Pearce, Dominic Moran and Dan Biller...

The economic approach stresses the fact that any expenditure always has an opportunity cost, i.e. a benefit that is sacrificed because money is used in a particular way. For example, since biodiversity is threatened by many factors, but chiefly by changes in land use, measures of value denominated in monetary terms can be used to demonstrate the importance of biodiversity conservation relative to alternative uses of land. In this way, a better balance between 'developmental' needs and conservation can be illustrated. To date, that balance has tended to favour the conversion of land to industrial, residential and infrastructure use because biodiversity is not seen as having a significant market value. Economic approaches to valuation can help to identify that potential market value, whilst a further stage in the process of conservation is to 'create markets' where currently none exist. Market creation is the subject of a separate OECD initiative (OECD, forthcoming). - David Pearce, Dominic Moran, Dan Biller, Handbook of Biodiversity Valuation A Guide for Policy Makers

We roughly know the private sector's valuation of Ecuador's extremely biodiverse rainforest... $3.5 billion... and we know the public sector's valuation... $13 million. $13 million? That's how much the world's public sector values Ecuador's incredible biodiversity? Seriously? Are you fucking kidding me? Why the hell would you look at that number and think, "Oh yeah, that sounds about right"?

Did the government ever ask you how much of your tax dollars you'd be willing to spend to protect Ecuador's biodiversity? Because the government sure didn't ask me. Did the government ask any member of this forum? How many people in the world did the government ask?

There are more than 7 billion people on this planet. How many of them did the government ask? Absolutely none of them. Because that's not how governments work. But that's exactly how they could and should work. If we allowed taxpayers to shop in any country's public sector... then each and every taxpayer would decide for themselves exactly how many of their hard-earned tax dollars they'd be willing to spend to try and protect Ecuador's incredible biodiversity. And I'm pretty sure that nature lovers around the world would be willing to spend a lot more than $13 million to try and protect Ecuador's biodiversity.

Let's try and simplify things as much as possible.

Maybe nature lovers are in the minority. But what if nature lovers are rich? Then they're screwed by the current system... and so is nature. The government takes the money from the wealthy nature lovers and hands it over it over to the military industrial complex. But if we allowed taxpayers to shop in any country's public sector... then neither nature lovers nor nature would be screwed. A lot more tax dollars would be spent on conservation.

What if nature lovers are poor? Then, with the current system, nature would be still screwed. But what if taxpayers could shop in any country's public sector? Nature lovers wouldn't be able to spend very many tax dollars on nature... but they are still going to want the most biodiversity for their buck. So they'll shop around. And I really want nature lovers to be free to shop around. Why? Because I love nature.

What do you love? If you love music... then you immensely benefit from other music lovers being free to shop around for the best music. If you love books... then you immensely benefit from other book lovers being free to shop around for the best books. If you love clothes... then you immensely benefit from other clothes lovers being free to shop around for the best clothes.

I want to see and know what other nature lovers would spend their taxes on. I want to compare notes with them and debate with them. I want to be very happy when they bring a very great deal to my attention. I want to cry when some developers manage to outbid us. I want to be ecstatic when we manage to outbid some developers.

Right now I'm not out there fighting developers because I recognize that it's not even close to a fair fight. It's not a fair fight because the government takes a big chunk of our money to spend on conservation. But it doesn't spend it on conservation... it wastes it on the drug war and other stupid things. So rather than being out there fighting developers... here I am instead... trying to fight for the chance to fight on far more fair ground. I want all of us nature lovers to be free to use our own tax dollars to fight for conservation. Who am I fighting against right now? The developers? Nope. You. You stand between me and the developers. You're hugging the developers with your words like I want to hug the trees with my taxes.

Maybe you don't truly love the developers? Great... so please stop protecting them from me. Allow me to spend my taxes to fight the developers. I'd love it if you also wanted to spend your taxes to fight the developers... but I'll completely respect that you might have other priorities. I might not agree with them... but I'll be damned if I don't respect your freedom to fight a different fight. Because... it's entirely possible that your fight is more important than my fight.

That was a very long-winded way to not admit you were wrong. -  Quokkastan

You wrote...

No amount of Teddy Roosevelt style conservationism could have stopped global climate change, short of virtually the entire world being made a park. - Quokkastan

I hoped that you were simply being facetious when you said that it would have been necessary to turn virtually the entire world into a park in order to effectively combat global warming. 

So I endeavored to explain why developers are far more likely to outbid conservationists. Unfortunately, it didn't do the trick. Let me try again.

A shopping mall is a private good. A rainforest is a public good. If taxpayers were allowed to choose where their taxes go... would taxpayers be free to spend their taxes on private goods? Nope. So developers wouldn't be able to spend their taxes to buy rainforest land in order to convert it into a mall. Why not? Because again, a shopping mall isn't a public good. Conservationists, on the other hand, would be able to spend their taxes to buy the rainforest land in order to conserve it. Why? Because again, a rainforest is a public good. 

With the current system... taxpayers haven't been free to choose where their taxes go... so lots of land was developed that should have been conserved. How much land? Well... we'd find out if taxpayers could choose where their taxes go. Conservationists would be able to buy developed land in order to undevelop it. They would plant trees on the land and the trees would help combat global warming.

Help to combat global warming in much that same way that a band aid helps to heal a slit throat. 
I seem to be depending on the assumption that you have preexisting knowledge of the topic that you clearly do not. So, for clarity's sake:
Global warming is not primarily caused by deforestation. Nor can it be effectively combated merely by reducing deforestation. Even if all of the damage to the world's forests were miraculously undone, it would have little effect on global climate change.
As conservation has historically focused on combating the destruction of wild habitat, and not the reduction of CO2 emissions produced from the combustion of previously locked carbon deposits (the true driving force of climate change), no amount of additional conservation throughout history could have stopped global warming. - Quokkastan

 Oh... so you want to school me eh? Ok. Around how many acres of forested land would it take to completely absorb the CO2 emissions from one average factory? Honestly I don't know the answer. But it seems pretty straightforward that factories produce CO2 and trees consume CO2. So by improving the tree/factory ratio... we could reduce emissions.

Now, let me take the opportunity to try and school you. See my username? It's "Xerographica". I stole it from Tillandsia xerographica. Tillandsia xerographica is an epiphyte. Epiphytes are plants that grow on trees. Unlike parasites, epiphytes don't steal any nutrients from the tree. They just use the tree for support. It's estimated that where epiphytes are dense enough... they absorb just as much CO2 as the trees themselves do. This means that a forest filled with epiphytes can absorb twice as much CO2 as a forest without any epiphytes.

The very common moth orchid... aka Phalaenopsis... is also an epiphyte. Millions and millions of this epiphyte are produced each year. Unfortunately, most people simply toss them in the trash when they are done blooming. But imagine if after the moth orchid was done blooming... everybody attached them to trees. Then an incredibly massive amount of CO2 would be absorbed. The "minor" detail is that the reason that most people don't attach their moth orchids to the trees is that... even if they wanted to... most people live in places that are too cold for the moth orchid to survive the winter. Moth orchids are pretty close to being the least cold tolerant orchid. Their cold tolerance could be greatly increased if they were crossed with far more cold tolerant species.

Epiphytes don't have to be attached to trees in order to grow. They can pretty much grow on any suitable substrate as long as they are given enough light and water. For example, here's an orchid that I attached to a tire...

Cattleya Orchid Mounted On Tire

Because epiphytes can grow on pretty much any solid surface... this means that if we really wanted to we could cover houses, skyscrapers, factories, cars and even ourselves with epiphytes. Cities covered in epiphytes wouldn't just absorb a ridiculous amount of CO2.... they would also help conserve and even increase biodiversity.

Were you aware of any of this? I'm guessing not. And it's really doubtful that congress is aware of any of this either.

Markets work because they tackle problems from many different angles. And by doing so, they increase the chances that the problems will be solved.

There's more than one way to tackle global warming. Centralization, by definition, doesn't simultaneously tackle problems from different angles. Therefore... the reason that global warming is still a problem is entirely because of centralization. Once we create a market in the public sector... then the collective intelligence, energy and enthusiasm of the entire planet would be free to tackle our most pressing public problems from a variety of different angles. Of course I can't guarantee that the best solution will be discovered overnight... but I can guarantee that progress depends on difference.

It wouldn't help much. The rainforest processes up to 20% of the oxygen in the world. 
Ocean algae and other ocean plants produce 70-80%.  - Galloism

You and I return from the grocery store with 20 bags of groceries in the car. I grab 10 bags while you grab 2 bags.

Me: You should grab the remaining 8 bags
You: It wouldn't help much because you're carrying most of the bags

Just because the ocean absorbs more CO2 than the land does... really doesn't mean that the land isn't capable of absorbing a lot more CO2. Planting a gazillion trees and planting a gazillion epiphytes on each tree could potentially result in the land absorbing just as much CO2 as the ocean.

Now you're trying to tell me that, by conservation, you meant "planting very specific shrubs everywhere." Something it clearly doesn't mean. - Quokkastan

Ex-situ conservation doesn't mean conservation?

Best yet, you don't even know what effect that would have, you're just guessing it would solve the problem. - Quokkastan

I'm pretty sure that the effect of planting more trees and epiphytes on those trees would be to absorb more CO2. Pretty sure.

And you don't seem to know much about the world's carbon cycle, including the fact that it's the world's oceans which absorb the vast majority of atmospheric CO2. - Quokkastan

The ocean does the heavy lifting... therefore the land shouldn't shoulder more of the burden?

You're embarrassing yourself now. It may not be easy to admit when you're wrong, but it's good for you, and we all would have respected you more. Now everybody knows you're wrong, and also knows you're dishonest. - Quokkastan

When you argue that ex-situ conservation isn't conservation... then I'm pretty sure that you're the one who's shouldering most of the embarrassment in this thread.

One time, in the Army, I did an atomic situp in front of a bunch of people.

See what I did? It was obvious that you were struggling under the weight of considerable embarrassment. So I told a really embarrassing story about myself in order to help lighten your load of embarrassment. As the saying goes... many hands make light work.

Memo To Zimbabwe: You're The Biggest Winner!!!

Reply to reply: The Demand For Defense?

Primary topic: People being free to spend their taxes in any country's public sector.


Defence value is not as simple as adding up how many soldiers/guns/weapons person A likes to have for his country, then add how many person B likes, then person C, person D, etc. If everyone wanted 1 soldier then you may as well conscript the whole country (which is dumb), if everyone wanted zero soldiers (which is suicidal), then that's the best birthday present you'd give ISIS and all of America's enemies. Sure these are hyperbolic extremes, but they illustrate just unwieldy and nonsensical this model of yours is when applied to defence. - Connori Pilgrims

Uh, I think "we" got our units of measurement confused. Maybe it's my fault because I picked cigarettes? Demanding one cigarette isn't the same thing as demanding one solider. You consume a cigarette but you don't consume a solider. You can't pay the DoD and expect them to ship you a solider in a box. We're talking about a public good here. Demanding one cigarette is the same thing as demanding X amount of defense. I demand $5,000 dollars worth of defense... you demand $10,000 dollars worth of defense. If we were the only people in the country then the optimum amount of defense to supply would be $15,000 dollars worth of defense.

Of course, because we're talking about public goods, we can't all order defense on April 15. So it's necessary that people be free to shop in the public sector at anytime throughout the year. Extreme hawks would always want more defense... so they'd always be happy to spend their taxes on defense. Moderates will be happy to chip in once defense funding falls below a reasonable level. And extreme doves will never want to fund defense no matter how low its funding gets.

So we can imagine a bell curve. People on both extremes will never be happy with the amount of defense being supplied while the people in the middle will be more or less comfortable with the amount of defense being supplied. The "normal" people will have no trouble sleeping at night but the "deviants" will toss and turn worrying about the supply of defense. Just like I toss and turn worrying about the supply of pragmatarianism. Do you toss and turn worrying about the supply of pragmatarianism? No? You should.

To make a long story short... the optimal supply of defense is the amount that allows the maximum number of people to sleep soundly at night.

Why exactly are you a fan of people *not* having the freedom to shop in any country's private sector? 
*- I presume you meant that I was *not* a fan. - Connori Pilgrims

Eh? I was asking you to explain why you support people's freedom to shop in any country's private sector.

People have the choice to shop in any country's private sector - if that country is open to free trade at least. The worst thing that happens from that is I get cheap and shitty products that I must either exchange or replace. - Connori Pilgrims

This wasn't a very ringing endorsement of people's freedom to shop in any country's private sector. It seems like you can take it or leave it... which would explain why you're not such a fan of people being free to shop in any country's public sector.

"Shopping" for security abroad is little different from putting your life in the hands of mercenaries. History has clearly shown us that no nation state lasts long if reliant on mercenaries for its defence, because those mercenaries aren't loyal to you, but to money. Even if they don't turn against you because someone gave them a better offer, very recent history with Blackwater and modern PMCs has shown they are not much more efficient than the regular military in doing even rear-line security jobs and tasks, in fact they're largely unaccountable to third parties and prone to abuse and corruption just as much if not moreso than state forces. - Connori Pilgrims

Again... eh? If I, as an American taxpayer, could shop in Israel's public sector and allocate my tax dollars to their DoD... then I wouldn't come back to the US with an Israeli solider in my suitcase. Their DoD would simply take the money that I gave them and spend it on whatever they needed to better protect Israel. Why would I, as an American taxpayer, want to give my tax dollars to the Israeli defense department? I can guess... but you guess first. You're the one who's opposed to giving American taxpayers the option to shop in the public sector of other countries. Although... maybe you were opposed to it because you thought it meant buying mercenaries abroad. Which it really doesn't. But if you're opposed to American taxpayers shopping in their own public sector... then it would seem impossible for you to support them shopping in any country's public sector.

If you love Russian, Chinese or other foreign forces and trust them more than the US armed forces to protect you, then you have the option of immigrating out of the United States and to those countries. At least you're just affecting yourself by that. - Connori Pilgrims

I'd be a little surprised if you were unfamiliar with term "brain drain"...

There is another more obvious difference from 1914. The whole of the warring nations are engaged, not only soldiers, but the entire population, men, women and children. The fronts are everywhere. The trenches are dug in the towns and streets. Every village is fortified. Every road is barred. The front line runs through the factories. The workmen are soldiers with different weapons but the same courage. These are great and distinctive changes from what many of us saw in the struggle of a quarter of a century ago. There seems to be every reason to believe that this new kind of war is well suited to the genius and the resources of the British nation and the British Empire; and that, once we get properly equipped and properly started, a war of this kind will be more favorable to us than the somber mass slaughters of the Somme and Passchendaele. If it is a case of the whole nation fighting and suffering together, that ought to suit us, because we are the most united of all the nations, because we entered the war upon the national will and with our eyes open, and because we have been nurtured in freedom and individual responsibility and are the products, not of totalitarian uniformity, but of tolerance and variety. If all these qualities are turned, as they are being turned, to the arts of war, we may be able to show the enemy quite a lot of things that they have not thought of yet. Since the Germans drove the Jews out and lowered their technical standards, our science is definitely ahead of theirs. Our geographical position, the command of the sea, and the friendship of the United States enable us to draw resources from the whole world and to manufacture weapons of war of every kind, but especially of the superfine kinds, on a scale hitherto practiced only by Nazi Germany. - Winston Churchill

Why am I opposed to giving people that much power over public goods? Simple, because they are public goods. Goods that affect people other than myself. What others choose affects me, and in turn what I choose affects them. It would be one thing if everyone was enlightened enough to make such public goods choices with due consideration for the wellbeing of others, but I'm not about to put that hypothesis to the test, especially if it means getting the country I'm in screwed over. - Connori Pilgrims

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. - Adam Smith

You expect congress to make public goods choices with due consideration for my wellbeing. My wellbeing? In the private sector I have to spend so much time and energy going around telling producers what works for my wellbeing. I shop and shop and shop. For example, I go to the store and buy some artichokes. In doing so I tell Frank the farmer, "Hey! You correctly guessed that my wellbeing depends on artichokes! Thanks! Good lookin' out! Here's some money! Keep up the good work!"

Yet here you are telling me that congress can know what works for my wellbeing despite the fact that I've never once in my life shopped in the public sector. It boggles my mind. It blows my mind. It bears repeating with emphasis... congress can know what works for my wellbeing despite the fact that I've never once in my life shopped in the public sector. If you even suspect that this is true... then please... don't hide your insight under a bushel. Start a thread here, there and everywhere and say "Hey folks! Shopping is entirely redundant! It's entirely unnecessary for us to spend so much of our limited time and energy using our cash to communicate what works for our wellbeing."

If you could enforce your monopoly with coercive power and I was within a realm where you could easily enforce said monopoly, then that might be not ridiculous. Unfortunately, you do not have a monopoly over coercive power in this forum (only the Mods do). You have no power over me to enforce such a claim, nor I over you. So it is ridiculous. - Connori Pilgrims

You're really missing why it's ridiculous. I'm not sure how though. If what I'm selling is truly the best... then why should I mind if you shop around? If I do mind that you shop around... then it stands to reason that what I'm selling truly isn't the best.

The US government on the other hand can enforce its monopoly on force within its territory by arresting you and/or destroying any proxy force you shopped for abroad and brought to US soil without its consent. If I decided I wanted to bring into the US a battalion of Spetsnaz for my personal security or hell just because I want to you'd bet I'd I'd be investigated and probably deported or arrested. - Connori Pilgrims

Heh yeah... no. As I explained earlier in this post... you totally misunderstood. Whose fault is that? When I asked which country's military would be the biggest winner if taxpayers could spend their taxes in any country's public sector... and I answered...Zimbabwe!... then you imagined a bunch of American taxpayers returning from Zimbabwe with a bunch of mercenaries or Zimbabwean soldiers. Hehe. I'm chuckling out loud. What I imagined was a bunch of American taxpayers and French taxpayers and Australian taxpayers and Brazilian taxpayers all going to the Zimbabwean defense department website and making a big tax payment. It was just a bit of fun randomness to imagine that, out of all the militaries in the world, Zimbabwe's military would receive the most funding from foreign taxpayers. It begged the question of what, exactly, was so great about Zimbabwe's military? Why did so many taxpayers around the world want to help fund it? That's a good question right?

In reality... I really wouldn't bet that... of all the countries in the world... Zimbabwe's military would receive the most funding if most taxpayers in the world could spend their taxes in any country's public sector. I was hoping that you might provide a much more likely country... but you totally misunderstood the exercise. I'm sure it was my fault.

But it does stand to reason that... if most taxpayers around the world could shop in the public sectors of most countries... that one country's military would be the biggest winner. Which country would it be? And which country's military would be the biggest loser? Germany! Am I right? All two of the world wars were started by Germany. But of course the premise of pragmatarianism is that it wasn't the German people's fault... it was their planners' fault. But... still... I'm guessing that Germany's military wouldn't rank very high on most people's funding list. It might rank higher than Iran's military or North Korea's military. Would either of those two country's prevent foreign taxpayers from shopping in their public sector? Would they say... "No... you foreigners can't give your money to our military! We forbid it!"

How high on the list would Afghanistan's and Iraq's military be? Those would be pretty tricky. They are in a prime place to fight the terrorists... but there would certainly be worries that their governments might go back to being controlled by the extremists. Except... if you're the guy in charge of the Afghan or Iraqi army... are you going to really want to bite the hand that funds you? Oh... so I guess this is why it would make sense for Iran and North Korea to forbid foreigners from funding their militaries.

We often debate whether or not the US should be the world's police. We'd find the answer out pretty fast if most taxpayers around the world could shop in our public sector.

Right now you're not interested in knowing American taxpayers' answer to the question of whether America should be the world's police. Which means that you're not interested in knowing Canadian taxpayers' answer to the question of whether America should be the world's police. Which means that you're not interested in knowing Zimbabwean taxpayers' answer to the question of whether America should be the world's police. Which means that you're not interested in knowing Brazilian taxpayers' answers to the question of whether America should be the world's police. You're not interested in knowing any taxpayer's answer to the question of whether America should be the world's police.

You think that congress can come up with the most accurate answer to the question of whether America should be the world's police. You think that congress's answer to the question of whether America should be the world's police is going to be more accurate than the world's answer. This is because... not only can congress know what works for the wellbeing of every American.. congress can also know what works for the well being of every human. Right? Or wrong? If I'm wrong... then how could congress's answer be more accurate than the world's answer?

You think that congress can come up with the most accurate answer to the question of whether America should protect the world's biodiversity. You think that congress's answer to the question of whether America should protect the world's biodiversity is going to be more accurate than the world's answer. This is because... not only can congress know what works for the wellbeing of every American.. congress can know what works for the well being of every human. Right?

If taxpayers around the world could shop in the public sectors of most countries... I wonder which country's "EPA" would be the biggest winner? Zimbabwe's EPA!

If taxpayers around the world could shop in the public sectors of most countries... I wonder which country's "National Cancer Institute" would be the biggest winner? Zimbabwe's NCI!

Zimbabwe's DoD, EPA and NCI would be the biggest winners in the world! Maybe I should send Zimbabwe a memo to let them know.

Which brings us back to my point that you didn't understand... or agree with. If you're so certain that the US's DoD, EPA and NCI are the best in the world... then why would you mind if taxpayers had the freedom to shop around? Since you don't want taxpayers to have the freedom to shop around... it seems likely that you're under the impression that Zimbabwe's public goods truly are far better than the US's public goods.

I had avoided the questions previously for the simple reason that I have no exact numbers; as you've plainly stated I am not omniscient (and neither are you). - Connori Pilgrims

Oh, I don't need exact numbers. I know that you're assuming that at least some people would choose the option to directly allocate their taxes. Or else you wouldn't bother opposing an option that nobody would choose. And I know that you aren't assuming that everybody would choose the option to directly allocate their taxes. How could you possibly oppose an option that everybody would choose. This leaves you somewhere between nobody and everybody. I don't need to know exactly where... but it would help if you could hazard a guess.

We will need a social experiment, in your case one encompassing the whole US, to find out with certainty. Thing is, do you really want to find out? - Connori Pilgrims

Well... I'd certainly vote for it. Unless you manage to present a very convincing argument in that thread you're going to start.

I myself will admit that I am actually curious of the potential results of a pragmatarian experiment; but as I alluded to earlier I'm personally not yet at the stage where I would casually just toy with the lives of millions of people just to see if they can make proper, rational pragmatic choices without screwing over their fellow citizens. - Connori Pilgrims

See... this is exactly why it would help if you could provide some ballpark numbers regarding 1. what percentage of the population would choose the option to directly allocate their taxes and 2. what percentage of the purse that they would control.

And to be clear... unless you truly and strongly believe that shopping isn't necessary to inform producers of what works for our wellbeing... then you're already casually toying with people's lives. You're supporting a system for no good or real reason.

Saying that some treatment is working to manage some patient's illness is, in fact, toying with their life if you don't actually truly know with any degree of certainty that the treatment is doing more good than harm. Personally, I've searched and searched and searched and have found absolutely no evidence or logic to support the belief that the treatment is doing more good than harm. Everything that I've found leads me to the conclusion that the treatment is hurting more than helping.

Under Mao Zedong... the entire country was operated on the basis that it wasn't necessary for shopping to inform producers of what works for the people's wellbeing. What happened? Millions of people starved to death. Then, in 1978, Deng Xiaoping took over and began to implement market reforms. What happened? Millions of people were lifted out of poverty. Why? Because at least some of the country was operated on the basis that shopping is necessary to inform producers of what works for the people's wellbeing.

China gives us concrete evidence that...

1. preventing shopping does more harm than good
2. allowing shopping does more good than harm

If preventing shopping doesn't work at all... then why should we suspect that it partially works? We really shouldn't. If, in the absence of shopping, producers/planners can't get the supply of food right... then why in the world should we suspect that they'll be able to get the supply of defense right? German planners certainly didn't get the supply of defense right. Neither did Japanese planners. We won the war so it might seem like our planners got the supply of defense right. Same with the Korean war? And the Vietnam war? And the war in Iraq and Afghanistan? What about the war on drugs? Or the war on poverty? If you're willing to bet our supply of food on your belief that producers don't need shoppers to get the supply right... then, and only then... will I believe that you're not currently toying with the lives of millions of people.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Overvaluing Frank The Artichoke Farmer's Productivity?

Reply to reply: Are you confident in congress's competence?


You are making erroneous conclusions because you do not think through the economic impact that follows, when low-end salaries are enhanced. And which is not at all the same consequence when high-end salaries are increased - whereupon people simply bank their additional salaries (or speculate with the money), which does nothing intrinsically to enhance the economy. - Lafayette

Let's say that I'm hungry.  I go to the farmer's market where I find Frank the farmer selling artichokes.  Which is great because I really love artichokes!  What do you think happens next?  Do you think I simply hand Frank my money in exchange for his artichokes?  Of course not.  First I look at the prices... and if the prices seem reasonable... then I carefully inspect the artichokes.  If I'm happy with the quality of the artichokes... I pick out the best ones and put my money into Frank's hand.  

This is where you, the well-intentioned liberal economist, step in.  Before Frank can put the $3 dollars that I gave him into his pocket... you take $1 dollar out of Frank's hand.  Except, since I'm the one who just gave him that money... you essentially took the money out of my hand.  What do you do with the $1 dollar that you took out of my hand?  You put it in the hands of Frank's employees.

The thing is... the money that I gave Frank was my valuation of his productivity.  But, evidently, you're certain that I overvalued Frank's productivity.  Not only are you certain that I overvalued Frank's productivity... but you're also certain that I undervalued his employees' productivity.

I overvalued Frank's productivity?  I undervalued his employees' productivity?

First... who in the world are you to say that I've overvalued Frank's productivity?  Are you my son?  Are you my father?  Are you my brother?  Are you my best friend?  Are you my lover?  Are you the customer waiting behind me?  Of course not!  You're some random economist who doesn't even know me or Frank.  Yet, despite the fact that you don't know me or Frank... you're stupidly certain that I overvalued his productivity.

Second... I didn't even valuate the productivity of Frank's employees.  Why in the world would I valuate their productivity?  I'm not their boss... Frank is!  He's the one who employs them.  I don't employ them.  I don't even know them.  I have absolutely no idea whether they are the most productive workers in the world or the least productive workers in the world.  Given that I'm entirely clueless about the productivity of Frank's employees... it would be utterly nonsensical and completely detrimental for me to even try and valuate their productivity.  Yet... you're stupidly certain that I undervalued Frank's employees.

This isn't what you're telling me of course.  What you're telling me is that I'm not thinking things through.  From your perspective... the money that you took from my hands and put into the hands of Frank's employees will be quickly spent.  How will it be spent?  It doesn't matter.  It doesn't matter if the money isn't spent on producing a greater abundance of artichokes... what matters is that the money will be spent on something.  Which is a good thing because any and all spending will "enhance" the economy.  As if the reason that the sluggish economy needs stimulation has absolutely nothing to do with your mindless meddling and everything to do with inadequate demand.

When you read the Bible story about the prodigal son... does it make you happy or sad when he quickly squanders his inheritance?

Does it make you happy or sad that Esau sold his inheritance to Jacob for a bowl of soup?

Does it make you happy or sad when lottery winners quickly squander their new found wealth?

Does it make you happy or sad when natural disasters force people to spend their savings in order to rebuild their lives?

Does it make you happy or sad when you forget to back-up your work and a disaster forces you to start all over again?

Does Adam Smith make you happy or sad?

Capitals are increased by parsimony, and diminished by prodigality and misconduct. - Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations

Does Ludwig von Mises make you happy or sad?

Now one of the main functions of profits is to shift the control of capital to those who know how to employ it in the best possible way for the satisfaction of the public. The more profits a man earns, the greater his wealth consequently becomes, the more influential does he become in the conduct of business affairs. Profit and loss are the instruments by means of which the consumers pass the direction of production activities into the hands of those who are best fit to serve them. Whatever is undertaken to curtail or to confiscate profits impairs this function. The result of such measures is to loosen the grip the consumers hold over the course of production. The economic machine becomes, from the point of view of the people, less efficient and less responsive. - Ludwig von Mises, Planning for Freedom

Does Ludwig Lachmann make you happy or sad?

Moreover, what is a resource today may cease to be one tomorrow, while what is a valueless object today may become valuable tomorrow. The resource status of material objects is therefore always problematical and depends to some extent on foresight. An object constitutes wealth only if it is a source of an income stream. The value of the object to the owner, actual or potential, reflects at any moment its expected income-yielding capacity. This, in its turn, will depend on the uses to which the object can be turned. The mere ownership of objects, therefore, does not necessarily confer wealth; it is their successful use which confers it. Not ownership but use of resources is the source of income and wealth. — Ludwig Lachmann, The Market Economy and the Distribution of Wealth

Does J.B. Say make you happy or sad?

Taxes upon transfer, besides the mischief of pressing upon capital, are a clog to the circulation of property. But, has the public any interest in its free circulation? So long as the object is in existence, is it not as well placed in one hand as in another? Certainly not. The public has a perpetual interest in the utmost possible freedom of its circulation; because by that means it is most likely to get into the hands of those, that can make the most of it. Why does one man sell his land? But because he thinks he can lay out the value to more advantage in some channel of productive industry. And why does another buy it? But because he wishes to invest a capital, that is lying idle, or less productively vested; or because he thinks it capable of improvement. The transfer tends to augment the national income, because it tends to augment the income of the two contracting parties. If they be deterred by the expenses of the transfer, those expenses will have prevented this probable increase of the national income. — J.B. Say, A Treatise on Political Economy