Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Crooked Timber Liberals

Here is my response* to the liberals over at the Crooked Timber blog congratulating themselves for successfully attaining a small present good...
...for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favorable, the later consequences are disastrous, and vice versa. Whence it follows that the bad economist pursues a small present good that will be followed by a great evil to come, while the good economist pursues a great good to come, at the risk of a small present evil. - Frederic Bastiat, What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen
You liberals always fight for small present goods and then blame others for the great evils that we always have to deal with way down the road...when the "car ends up in the ditch". Is it good that people get paid higher wages? Yes...of course! The problem is that setting wages/benefits above market value will always eventually lead to inefficient allocation of labor. Is it a bad thing when labor is inefficiently allocated? Yes...of course!

Bastiat shared this basic economic truth in 1848 and liberals still haven't gotten around to reading his essay. The fatal conceit of liberals is that they think that a small group of planners can have enough information to make informed economic decisions. We all have some information but no planners have access to enough information to make informed economic decisions for the entire country. This is the basic economic truth that Hayek wrote about in his essay on partial knowledge.

We are all just blind men feeling different parts of the elephant. We all have bits of truth derived from our very limited perspectives. So how do we see the big picture truth? Certainly we shouldn't average everybody's perspectives...you don't average bits of truth. The blind men would never have been able to "see" the elephant if they had averaged their perspectives. We can only see big picture truth by adding everybody's truth together.

Wait! Don't you liberals write me off as some crazy Austrian economist groupie just yet! Because, how crazy could I be if I appreciate your basic truth that people would free-ride off the contributions that others make to the common good? Well...I guess I could still be pretty crazy...but...just how many Austrian economists acknowledge your basic liberal truth?

When we take the liberal bit of truth and add it to the libertarian bit of truth...what do we end up with? Pragmatarianism. We all want public funds to be efficiently allocated. We all want our taxes to be put to the best possible use. Therefore, we should allow each and every taxpayer to directly allocate their taxes. This would provide them with the opportunity to add their pieces of the puzzle to the picture. When each and every taxpayer maximizes the benefit they derive from their tax allocation decisions...then the benefit to society as a whole will be maximized.

Am I a troll? Naw, what kind of troll advocates political tolerance? Pragmatarianism is, if nothing else, a system that maximizes political tolerance. You allocate your taxes to the functions of government that you think are ethical and I'll allocate my taxes to the functions of government that I think are ethical. You don't think war is ethical? So be it! You don't think the war against drugs is ethical? Neither do I! Voters would determine the functions of government and taxpayers would determine which functions to fund.

According to Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr..."to have doubted one's own first principles is the mark of a civilized man." I'm not asking that you doubt your first principles. I'm not asking that you wisely acknowledge your ignorance like Socrates did, " ...it seems that I am wiser than he is to this small extent, that I do not think I know what I do not know". I'm not asking that you even consider the possibility that somebody might have access to truth that falls outside your limited perspective. What I'm simply asking is that you be tolerant of other people's first principles. If doubting one's first principles is the mark of a civilized man...then what is it a mark of to merely tolerate other people's first principles?

*My comment is still "awaiting moderation".  A couple other comments were posted after mine so I guess the moderator took issue with my comment.  I wonder how many other comments they took issue with besides mine?  After I submitted my comment a person wrote..."So, other than being wrong about basically everything, the conservatives here are doing just fine."  Well...

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