Wednesday, August 24, 2011


The pragmatarian approach advocates that taxpayers should be allowed to directly choose which government organizations (GOs) receive their individual taxes. So it makes sense that the primary criticism of pragmatarianism revolves around how other people would allocate their taxes.

This criticism doesn't hold much weight for me though because so far I haven't found anybody that would admit to intentionally paying for failure. The first sentence on that White House Office of Budget and Management page says...
For too long, the U.S. Government has funded programs based upon metrics that tell us how many people we are serving, but little about how we are improving their lives.
In other words, for too long our taxes have been paying for failure.

If a GO doesn't produce results...would you continue to allocate your taxes to it? If a private organization (PO) produces better results than a GO...would you continue to allocate your taxes to that GO? It is my firm belief that the people who earn the money have the strongest incentives to ensure that their money is not wasted.

A while back I ran across this interview where Milton Friedman is asked which of the Cabinet Departments he considers to be redundant. With this interview in mind I decided to create a similar survey.

This survey asks how you would allocate your individual taxes among the 15 Cabinet Departments. But, I also included Congress in the selection. The more you trust Congress not to waste your money the more of your taxes you would allocate to Congress.

This survey only represents the top two of the three tiers in the pragmatarian system. With a pragmatarian system tax payers would be able to divvy up their individual taxes among three different tiers...Congress (top), Cabinet Departments (middle) and individual GOs (bottom).   Each GO would have a fundraising progress bar on their website and tax payers would be able to pay their taxes at any time throughout the year. They would pay their taxes directly to the GOs and the GOs would give them a receipt and send a receipt to the IRS.

Taxpayers will no longer be blindly shelling out their money to a faceless organization. They will become donors altruistically supporting the public goods that they believe to be essential to the well being of our society. The focus will no longer be on will be on contributing. The process of contributing to the common good of society will go from impersonal to personal. The associated feeling will no longer be a "cold prickle"...instead it will be a "warm glow".

Department % of Your Taxes
Agriculture %
Commerce %
Congress %
Defense %
Education %
Energy %
Health %
Homeland %
Housing %
Interior %
Justice %
Labor %
State %
Transportation %
Treasury %
Veterans %
BB Code

Feel free to share your surveys in the following forums...

Friday, August 12, 2011

If the door says pull...why are you pushing?

Here's a response I recently posted over at the Ron Paul Forums...

erowe1, right now we hold guns to people's heads and tell them to contribute a lot of money to the public good (pay taxes).  If we stopped pointing the gun at people...meaning taxes were completely voluntary...would people still contribute the same amount of money to the public good?

No, obviously not.  Because of the free-rider problem the LEVELS of public goods production would drop.  When I was in Afghanistan there were numerous other NGOs providing assistance for the Afghans.  However, the American military provided 50 times more assistance than all the NGOs in Afghanistan combined.  We provided greater overall levels of assistance but at greater cost per unit.

Right now your plan is to reduce taxes to 0%.  The minor detail in your plan is that we live in a Democracy.  It's tug of war and there are just as many people on the other side.  Good or bad the people on the other side depend on the public goods and services that your taxes pay for.

Here's an excerpt of one of the questions asked at the end of the Tea Party Movement and Government discussion on C-Span...

...seeming to claim that this is a major historic moment and that what we are going to see is almost a permanent national commitment towards limited government. Um, I'm skeptical, and I'd like you to perhaps review what you think, Mr. Bell, since Mr. Tapscott is gone, is the key evidence that proves that a corner has been turned. And the reason that I am asking...the reason why I am skeptical is that you could look at Teixeira and Judis thesis, I think it was around 2005, when they were predicting a permanent progressive majority. You can look at some articles in 2003 after the first Bush mid term election arguing that there is a permanent Republican majority. You can go back all the way to 1912 when Taft drove out the progressives from the Republican Party and see that pro-limited activist government have been going at it all this time for almost 100 years now and it seems that one side periodically gains the upper hand and then the other side periodically gains the upper hand and each side, when they periodically gain the upper hand, claims a permanent victory. You can see these claims often. And then they go down in flames. So I'm wondering why you think that at this time the conservative limited government movement has won after 100 years of this and that the progressive state activist side has lost.

It's a pendulum that swings back and forth to SOME degree because conservatives have something to offer (less taxes) and liberals have something to offer (more public goods).  When the pendulum swings too far in one direction then either higher taxes or less public goods sets it swinging in the opposite direction.  Will the pendulum ever reach moderate libertarians?  Probably not.  And I'll bet good money it certainly will never reach Anarcho-capitalists.

Here's what the libertarian Spencer Jayden has to say on the matter...

What can't be denied is how liberals managed to move government policy in a left direction for almost a 100 years, so slowly that they never earned the scorn libertarians do.

The pattern is clear.  Right now you're like that gifted little kid in the Far Side comic strip that is pushing on the door when the door clearly says PULL.  If the door isn't opening by pushing then try pulling.  If we're not making significant progress trying to push public goods over to the free market then we need to try pulling the free-market over to public goods.

I know it's hard but we need to stop solely focusing on the gun that is pointed at our head.  Instead we should make the obvious point that it's our hard earned money and we should be able to choose which public goods it helps support.  Given a choice, people will choose the public good which provides them with the most bang for their buck.  As inefficient government organizations lose funding they will be forced to cut costs and operate more efficiently.

The result will be direct competition between the private market and the public market for the production of public goods.  The invisible hand will decide the ideal division of labor between the two markets.  If it's true that the private market can produce all public goods more efficiently than the public market then gradually funds will be redirected from the public market to the private market.