Monday, November 28, 2011

Other People's Values

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain... Time to die. - Roy Batty, Bladerunner
Nobody wants to have their moments lost in time like tears in rain.  That's why we should always make back up copies of our photos...and discussions?

Here's a discussion that I'm making a back up copy of...just in case.  It's a discussion that I had with Linda Beale, the tax expert liberal professor.  The discussion, which took place on Beale's entry on Repatriation Holiday Lobbying -- Money Speaks, came to mind when Seth decided to play devil's advocate over at his blog...Two Ways of Saying the Same Thing.  His argument was that liberals would not be happy spending their own money..."most of government will be at the whim of the wealthy unless we somehow collectively allocate the wealthy’s taxes for them."

The logical problem with this type of argument is that it is a hasty generalization.  We all engage in hasty generalizations to some extent...but liberals would be up in arms if you generalized welfare recipients as being lazy...yet liberals see no problem generalizing the wealthy as being selfish and evil.

But would liberals reevaluate their generalization if all the billionaires gave 90% of their wealth to non-profit organizations?  Or would liberals still consider the wealthy to be selfish because nobody was given the opportunity to "vote" on which public goods the billionaires spent their money on?

The question accurately do votes convey value?  How accurately do votes convey all the moments we've experienced in our lifetimes?  Don't get me wrong...we need democracy to settle certain social conflicts (ie whether marijuana should be legal)...but when it comes to the efficient allocation of public goods...nothing beats incorporating people's true values by forcing them to consider the opportunity costs of their tax allocation decisions.

We are all just blind men touching different parts of a elephant.  We all have access to a limited amount of truth.  What truth do we have access to?  We all have access to our own unique individual values...which reflect all the unique moments that we've experienced in our lifetimes.  You can't generalize or average values and hope to discover the actual scope of government.  Reality is not the average of moments experienced.  The only result of trying to impose your values onto other people will be a situation exactly akin to blind men arguing over the scope of government.

How can we end this gridlock?  How can finally resolve this battle of values?  All it takes is to recognize, respect...or at least tolerate other people's values...even if they are diametrically opposed to our own.

Here's the bottom line for the discussion between Linda Beale and myself...
Why would I assume that your experiences and values are any less valuable than my own? If I'm not going to make that assumption about you...then I'm certainly not going to make that assumption about taxpayers as a whole.
That's what I wrote to Beale early on in the discussion.  And here's what she wrote at the end of the discussion...
sure, values are ultimately at stake in the decisions that are made by government and by people. But that's not the discussion we've been having. We've been talking about facts like feasibility of mechanisms, empirical evidence about public and private sector activities, etc. 


"The conservative world view vs. the liberal world view has been the source of political disputes for many millennia."

You should've quite while only moderately behind.

The modern conservative ideology, as espoused by the contemporary American far right, is between a half and one and a half centuries old (depending on how you count and what policy ares you look at). Modern liberalism is maybe half a century old in its current form, with precursors going back two and a half centuries or so. Social democracy is around one and a quarter century old. These are all comparatively young as ideologies go.

Now, even if you had been right about the age of the bullshit you espouse, it would still not have been a valid argument. People practised bleeding cures for millennia. People thought the Sun went around the Earth for millennia.

"It isn't as simple as saying one view is right and the other is wrong."

If you had said "I have mine, and screw the rest," then we would have had a policy disagreement, and people may disagree on this without being provably wrong. But when you say "less regulation benefits everybody," then you are making an objectively false statement. When you say "balanced budgets enhance growth," then you are objectively in error. When you say "the US government is broke," then you're lying (the US federal government has been definitionally solvent since it pulled out of Bretton Woods - that was the main reason it pulled out). When you say that lower taxes create jobs, then you're objectively wrong.

I don't see any reason to respect bullshit, or compromise on matters of fact. "For successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled." - Feynman

"The argument that smaller government (not zero government) is better for society as a whole is a subjective one"

But that is not the argument you made. "Better for society," depends on your subjective assessment of the value of the people government protects from the predations of oligarchs, and on your subjective valuation of economic stability relative to the power and prestige of banksters. What you claimed was that deregulation is "better for everyone." Which is quite clearly bullshit for all commonly accepted definitions of "improvement" and "everyone."

"Progressives tend to have more faith in government bureaucrats and conservatives tend to have more faith in the private sector."

The private sector cannot satisfactorily provide for - healthcare, unemployment insurance, pensions, disability insurance, education, infrastructure, macroeconomic stability, etc. That's just simple empirical reality. You may argue that these areas are unimportant, or that they are less importance than your right to not pay taxes. But you cannot, if you wish to interact with the reality-based community, argue that the private sector does them better than the public.

Macroeconomic stability, in particular, is just flat out impossible for the private sector to provide, since it requires an investor of last resort who is definitionally solvent. The public sector will always, no matter how corrupt, inefficient and incompetent, do that better than the private sector, because the private sector cannot do it at all.

That you have "faith" in the private sector is neither here nor there. Economic policy should not be a faith-based initiative.

- Jake

Posted by: JakeS | October 05, 2011 at 01:41 AM

Jake, Peter is certainly more right than you are when it comes to the age of these fundamental concepts.

From around 55 BC..."Gaius gracchus proposed a grain law. The people were delighted with it because it provided an abundance of food without work. The good men, however, fought against it because they thought the masses would be attracted away from hard work and toward idleness, and they saw the state treasury would be exhausted."

According to the charity laws of Judaism...the highest form of giving is to help the recipient become self-reliant.

I like the part where you said "simple empirical reality". That's really great!!! You're definitely the kind of person that I'm certain will completely embrace pragmatarianism.

All pragmatarianism does is allow taxpayers to directly allocate their individual taxes among the various government organizations at anytime throughout the year.

Of course the allocation decisions of taxpayers will reflect your "simple empirical reality". How could they not? Why in the world would taxpayers allocate their taxes according to some ridiculous faith-based fantasy? Taxpayers all want the most bang for their buck...not surreal antiquated obfuscation.

Taxpayers are in the perfect position to substantiate your claim. Actually...they are the only ones that can substantiate your claim. Their cumulative opportunity-cost decisions will reveal to everybody the reality that you've been trying to share all along.

Isn't pragmatarianism the best? I'm sure you'll fully support it. Now you'll have the perfect opportunity to let your actions speak louder than your'll be able to put your money where your mouth is!

Posted by: Xerographica | October 05, 2011 at 06:09 AM


such allocation schemes sound halfway plausible on paper but are utterly unworkable. How would you be able to fund long-term cancer research through NIH if you didn't know how many dollars you would have from year to year? The same thing applies to all long term planning. One big problem that we have right now is that too much is short-term--due to Congress's response to moneyed lobbying. We need more long-term thinking, not less.

The taxpayer allocation scheme is problematic for another reason. It assumes informed taxpayers. The biggest lesson one can derive from voting results from populations that have huge majorities in favor of INCREASED rights to unionization, INCREASED taxes on the rich/progressivity of taxation, and INCREASED protection of the environment is that people don't understand the sometimes complex interrelationships of agencies and regulations and businesses and particular votes cast by lawmakers. Of course, that is why we have a representative government to set policies--to allow those representatives to become more expert than the people themselves. But we need a certain threshold of education to ensure that voters keep politicians in line--if those experts are captured by Big Business they will allow the oligarchs to dictate the policy in their favor. We have been moving in that direction since Reagan's election and are now moving at an accelerated clip due to the consolidation of power in the ranks of the uberrich and their corporations.

Posted by: Linda Beale | October 05, 2011 at 02:08 PM

Linda, how unworkable would it be if donors to PETA and donors to the NRA had to pool their donations together and elect representatives to decide how to split the money between the two organizations?

It shouldn't be too hard to imagine the would be the same thing as you and Peter arguing over whose experiences and values are more valuable.

My mother endured a very long and terribly agonizing death from throat cancer. I basically watched her slowly starve to death because gnawing hunger was less painful than trying to swallow. What more information do I need?

It's fine that you want to reduce military spending but having served in Afghanistan for a year I would gladly help fund our efforts over there to support the same basic freedoms that so many Americans take for granted. What more information do I need?

Having graduated from UCLA with a degree in International Development Studies...I certainly do not take public education for granted. What more information do I need?

Why would I assume that your experiences and values are any less valuable than my own? If I'm not going to make that assumption about you...then I'm certainly not going to make that assumption about taxpayers as a whole.

The amount of public goods information that congress has access to is minuscule in comparison to the amount of public goods information that taxpayers as a whole have access to.

Posted by: Xerographica | October 05, 2011 at 03:03 PM

Your response is an illustration of the problem. You use anecdote and individual preferences on a small number of items to suggest you would fund cancer research (I assume), and the military--specifically apparently the war in Afghanistan and therefore you think it would be relatively easy to have direct democracy decisionmaking on government expenditures. To what extent? How much to each? How would you determine what is reasonable? Which budgets would you review, which development projects, which future forecasts? Why would you not support basic physics research or the performing arts? What if basic physics research was ultimately important to complex cancer research? Is it because you don't know enough about them or because you are anti-them that you don't support the things that you don't choose to support?

How would cancer research take place if it is funded for several years by three people at $100 each and another year by 2 million at $1000 each, when it needs long-term commitments for lab spaces, researchers (and research assistants), and all that research entails?

You are talking in pipe dreams that might at best work for relatively small cooperatives of people with fairly close values and objectives, but would be utter chaos for any modern society with its hundreds of millions of denizens and almost uncountable number of problems needing to be addressed and prioritized from global warming to food-borne infections. That is of course one of the reasons that programs tend to go on auto-pilot, except for those on which considerable attention is focused. But there is some value in that approach--if enough attention gets focused, the program will be reviewed more deeply. Else it should probably go along at base-budget funding

A statement such as yours that "the amount of public goods information that Congress has access to is miniscule compared to the amount that taxpayers as a whole have access to" reveals a lack of understanding of process. Taxpayers as a whole actually do not have as much access as congress. Everyone has everything that is in the public domain, though that "potential access" is much much larger than actual access potential. The point of committees is to have expert staffers (as well as the congressional research service, the JCT, the CBO and similar groups) to develop studies to answer questions that congressional reps in the course of assessing the right course. The problem, of course, that I raise in my post is the concern about the degree of lobbying by special interests that warps that review. But look at the misinformation that most taxpayers have about everything from 9/11, civil rights, economics, taxation to war. A huge proportion of Americans that are not in the top 20% think they are in the top 20% of the income distribution. A huge majority of Americans thinks that income in America is distributed almost evenly, with a little bit more going to the top than to the bottom. That couldn't be further from the truth--which is that the very top garners significantly more than anybody else. Those facts are "out there" but people are either too ignorant to understand them, or too fixed on a particular dogmatic position to be able to distinguish fact from fiction. And of course there is an awful lot of money being spent to mislead Americans on these issues in order to get them to vote against interest. It would be even worse with "direct democracy" voting on what the government would spend money on (even assuming away the other huge problems, like the question of how you do long-term planning with short term volatile funding).

YOur response to Jake reveals considerable naivete about how decisionmaking can work in dynamic group settings--20 people sitting in a room and agreeing to develop a plan by consensus is not the same as 300 million living together in a country where all want clean water, clean air, jobs, food, shelter, a decent life, protection from crime, protection from natural disasters, etc. but have 300 million opinions about what it takes to accomplish that and mostly wrong information about how it is being accomplished (or not) today.

I am involved in my law school's budget advisory committee and it requires me to delve into considerable detail, just for our small budget of under $15 million. Imagine considering what is worthy, and why, and how much when there are so many things on which it can be spent. That is why Congress has worked out a system of committees, with those who represent us developing expertise. It worked pretty well up until about 1980 when the right-wing machine became so adept at obstructionism that most of the decisions now are made reflecting the minority's views.

Anyway, enough said. You appear to be on a libertarian hobbyhorse of remaking the institutional structure along the lines of the anarcho-libertarian concept that taxation is theft. That view treats the status quo property distribution as some kind of god-given natural state, and then treats the state as an usurper taking that away through taxation. Nuts. The state is there before or at least simultaneously with the markets, and thus what any of us "has" is partly predetermined by what the state offers and subtracts. You might want to read the "Myth of Ownership" for some backgrounding on these issues.

Posted by: Linda Beale | October 05, 2011 at 06:36 PM

Linda, never mentioned anything about taxes being theft so not quite sure where you got the impression that I'm an anarcho-libertarian. Perhaps you noticed on your blog traffic statistics where I linked to this entry from Kent's blog?

If that's the case then you should try and read through my comments on his entry a bit more carefully. Kent is an anarcho-capitalist...he believes that the private sector can produce everything better than the public sector can. So I tailored my arguments accordingly.

If Kent had been a socialist then I would have tried the exact opposite approach. If you don't believe me take a look at my relatively short entry on the joy of writing checks to the government.

See, I'm a new breed...I'm a pragmatarian. I take my cue from Deng Xiaoping...that guy was so cool. He went around saying that he didn't care if a cat was black or white...what mattered was whether it caught mice.

I'm not dogmatically attached to any particular ideology like you, Jake, Kent and Peter are. I could care less whether an organization is public or private...all I care about is results.

All pragmatarianism says is that taxpayers, like you, will, given a choice, look at results and allocate their taxes accordingly. For example, it doesn't matter to most taxpayers whether the public or private sector comes up with a cure for cancer. But the public will certainly benefit by increased competition between the two sectors.

"How would cancer research take place if it is funded for several years by three people at $100 each and another year by 2 million at $1000 each"

This kind of funding fluctuation occurs because the government leadership is replaced every few years by the opposite faction...but it certainly wouldn't happen with a pragmatarian system. Funding would be relatively steady because demand for cancer research is relatively constant.

Obviously, just because I allocated my taxes to a GO in no way implies that I would have a say how they spent the money. Just because somebody donates to PETA in no way implies that they get to run PETA. So it will be completely up to the organization leadership to decide whether physics research is relevant to cancer research.

Committees are perfectly fine. I'm not saying that we should get rid of any committees. If taxpayers are happy with how congress is spending their money then they would have the option to allocate 100% of their taxes to congress.

Given that you mentioned would seem logical that you would appreciate the ability to bypass any obstructions and put your taxes directly into the organizations that need it the most.

If we had a pragmatarian system then the whole national healthcare debate would be a moot point. The amount of funding that national healthcare received would determine the percentage of the population that would qualify for coverage.

The top 1% of taxpayers pay for 40% of total taxes while the bottom 99% of taxpayers pay for 60% of total taxes. So...what? There are no public goods that the rich can exclusively benefit from. And not sure if it would be of any benefit trying to generalize how the rich would allocate their taxes.

Yeah, there's certainly a lot of misinformation out there. The thing is...there's a strong correlation between education and income. People who are better educated tend to make more money and pay more taxes. These people, like you, have the necessary critical thinking skills to effectively separate fact from fiction.

Plus, to find any relevant facts they'll just need to visit a GO's website. Each GO website will have a fundraising progress bar and some relevant information demonstrating merit and effectiveness.

Just like the website Charity Navigator analyses the financial health and effectiveness of various non-profit organizations so too will there be several independent organizations set up to do the same thing for GOs. Or maybe Charity Navigator will just expand to include GOs as well.

Posted by: Xerographica | October 05, 2011 at 08:46 PM

I'm not going to reargue your arguments. I've addressed them and you haven't really responded. Saying that better educated people make more money and pay more in taxes so will make better decisions in this allotment process is about as naive as the rest. This is not a matter of education but a matter of the inability of each and every taxpayer to be sufficiently informed about all the issues and interrelationships to allot his or her tax dollars in any way that would make sense or for any resulting aggregate allotments to make any sense.

Posted by: Linda Beale | October 05, 2011 at 09:27 PM

Linda, up until relatively recently quite a few people applied your same logic to the allocation of private goods. Here are some of the countries that still have planned economies...Cuba, Libya, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Belarus, and Myanmar.

It seems pretty straightforward that markets are incredibly more efficient at allocating private goods.

There is only one difference between public and private goods. With public goods people can free-ride off the contributions that others make to public goods...which decreases the financial incentive for companies to provide public goods.

This problem can be corrected simply by forcing people to pay taxes. Once people are forced to pay taxes then the market can be used to decide how to efficiently allocate public goods.

1. Planners fail at efficiently allocating private goods.
2. Public goods are not significantly different than private goods.
3. Therefore, planners fail at efficiently allocating public goods.

I'm not making any judgments regarding the tax rate or which goods should be considered public or private. All I'm saying is that markets have long since been proven to be better at efficiently allocating goods.

What's naive is you thinking that a relatively small group of planners could ever allocate public resources as efficiently as 150 million taxpayers could. It demonstrates that you are completely clueless as to how private goods are allocated. Thank goodness that you do not need to know how the invisible hand works for it to work.

Unfortunately, it seems pretty obvious that you need to know how the invisible hand works in order to support pragmatarianism.

Posted by: Xerographica | October 06, 2011 at 04:14 AM

there you go again. Equating discussion of private sector, money-making, "risk it but maybe win it" activities with activities in which the government provides needed intervention because the private sector won't/can't do it, and the question of how to make the decisions about which of those areas to invest resources.

Posted by: Linda Beale | October 06, 2011 at 08:33 AM

X (cont'd)
Public goods are clearly quite different from private goods--if you can't see that, our discussion is useless.

Markets have NOT "long since been proven" adept at the kind of decisionmaking we are discussing. That is anti-empirical thinking. As I have said, there is no such thing as a "market" without government. The concept of "government free markets" is an absurdity.

The kind of arguments you engage in are unsupportable by the facts. But you just continue to assert your assumptions as though they were facts.

Moreover, the "invisible hand" is one of the most overused and wrongly used metaphors in economic discussion--and used in ways that Adam smith himself would find unsuitable, since he thought that there was a genuine problem when the propertied upper class overtook decisionmaking.

Nuff said.

Posted by: Linda Beale | October 06, 2011 at 08:37 AM

Linda, you aren't going to get any argument from me that the government provides needed intervention because the private sector won't/can't do it. Again, I'm a pragmatarian...not a libertarian.

The problem is that the government has no idea how to prioritize its interventions.

"When it is impossible to observe what individuals are willing to give up in order to get the public good, how can policymakers access how urgently they really want more or less of it, given the other possible uses of their money?" - Patricia Kennett

Pragmatarianism forces taxpayers to consider the opportunity costs of their allocation decisions. This would allow the interventions of government to accurately reflect the values of taxpayers.

Taxpayers can say that they want this and that and some other thing but their allocation decisions will speak louder than their words.

Posted by: Xerographica | October 06, 2011 at 09:19 AM

No, your "pragmatarianism" does not give the goverment an idea how to prioritize its interventions, nor does it "force" anyone to consider opportunity costs. There is nothing that can require taxpayers to make considered judgements, anymore than there is anything to require voters to do so.

You haven't addressed obvious flaws in an idea that has enormous transaction costs and transition costs to get off the ground, is likely to lead to even more dominance by the wealthy in the decisionmaking apparaturs (those with more money pay more taxes--though not enough--and have more control of how that tax money is used, so will likely use it to benefit themselves) or the many other obstacles I have mentioned.

Posted by: Linda Beale | October 06, 2011 at 10:21 AM

Linda, obviously there are enough voters that want marijuana to be illegal. But how much of the other public goods that they value (defense, infrastructure, border security, etc.) would they be willing to forgo in order to help finance the war against drugs? That is the question that millions of taxpayers would be forced to consider when deciding how to allocate their taxes.

The amount of money that the drug war received would determine how much the government intervened in this area.

Obviously, if somebody is in the ridiculously small minority of people that only care about one public good then they won't be forced to consider the opportunity costs of their allocation decisions. But the rest of us will be forced to make hard choices that we are not currently forced to make.

What's interesting to consider is that, when taxpayers are forced to be directly responsible for funding the public goods that they value...what percentage of taxpayers will be happy to pay more than their fair share of taxes?

What are the transaction costs?

Yes, the wealthy will "purchase" more public goods just like they can purchase more private goods. The difference is that...unlike with private goods...we would all benefit when they "purchase" public goods. Public goods are, by their very definition, non-excludable.

There are no serious obstacles to overcome because this system already works for the non-profit sector. The only difference will be that people will be forced to allocate a percentage of their income (as determined by the tax rate) among the various public organizations.

One "obstacle" that is sometimes mentioned is the cost of fundraising. But with good fundraising practices it is standard for non-profits to receive $5 for every $1 they spend on fundraising...which is a ridiculously high return on investment.

Look, this probably won't happen in our lifetime but it's as a progressive concept as they come. Just like we can look back and realize how was absurd for one king to control all the too will people eventually look back and realize how absurd it was for 535 people to control all the taxes.

Just like there were plenty of people who thought that the king had some kind of "divine" wisdom so too are there plenty of people who think that just because congresspeople are elected it imparts some sort of special wisdom when it comes to deciding how taxes should be allocated. It shouldn't take more than an hour of watching C-Span to realize that this is far from the case.

If you're genuinely interested in finding out if this concept would work then just propose it to your friends and ask them to predict which public goods would be underfunded. Compile a list of their responses and see if you don't notice a pattern emerging. At the very minimum it's an interesting intellectual exercise.

Posted by: Xerographica | October 06, 2011 at 04:19 PM

Jake--re organizational decisionmaking versus individual decisionmaking--yes, clearly the difficulty individuals have in assessing information and making decisions in real time is a key aspect of the problems with X-type "solutions" to tax policy. Of course, even organizational decisionmaking can face some of these same problems, with the usual result then being a tendency to favor the status quo. There are other types of organizational decision-making problems, such as the ones the US now faces with the obstructionism of the right, which is willing to sacrifice the organization in order to satisfy dogmatic, ideological objectives.

Posted by: Linda Beale | October 08, 2011 at 04:18 PM

X--no, there would be no reasonable way for individuals to make decisions about prioritizing the myriad functions of government, because their individual decisions would be compromised or reinforced by others' decisions. And worse, those with the most would carry the most weight (which those with the least would be all to aware of from the outset).

Posted by: Linda Beale | October 08, 2011 at 04:37 PM

If you think the government has a myriad of functions...then how many functions do you think the private sector has? If the market truly couldn't handle efficiently allocating the relatively small percentage of public functions...then it certainly would have long ago failed at efficiently allocating all of the private functions.

The primary failure of the market is that because of the free-rider problem there is little financial incentive to produce public goods. The primary failure of the government is that planners only have access to a microscopic percentage of the information available to society as a whole.

The solution is simple...donations to government organizations should be 100% tax deductible.

What's interesting is that even though you're a liberal and Peter's a conservative...both of you agree that a market system wouldn't be able to handle efficiently allocating the relatively small percentage of public goods.

Posted by: Xerographica | October 13, 2011 at 07:37 AM


(1) It isn't just the number of functions, but also the type.
(2) The private sector clearly fails at allocating monies appropriately, even among areas that we consider most appropriately handled by the private sector. To take just one example, that's why the US car companies quite innovating with the 'easy money' of newly opened markets in South America (only remedying the problem in connection with the financial crisis) and why CEOs make much more than they should based on their value-added to the enterprise, while workers make less than their value-added to the enterprise (etc.)
(3) The private sector simply, inherently, can't handle appropriately inherently government functions like forcing itself to take account of "externalities".
(4) You are wrong on primary failures but you are even more wrong on your socalled pragmatarianism solution--i've exposed the numerous flaws in your logic on several posts. I won't do it again here but other readers should look at the comments for exchanges between X and me on these issues.
(5) Pappas' contributions to the comments at ataxingmatter are revealing because he sometimes acknowledges what the facts show but then goes on to espouse his "beliefs" in conservative ideology anyway.

Posted by: Linda Beale | October 13, 2011 at 01:39 PM

Linda, people's values are "wrong" when they pay CEOs the big bucks but congress's values are "right" when they bail out the auto industry? Yet congress's values are "wrong" when they block national healthcare?

Let me values are wrong while your's are right? That's why I started off this discussion with my personal help you consider the possibility of other people's values having value even if they are not the same as your own.

How is it that I can respect your values while you cannot respect my own?

There's nothing wrong with me valuing the EPA more than I value bailing out the auto-industry. There's nothing wrong with you valuing public healthcare more than you value national defense.

Our values as a whole are the only thing that can objectively and "correctly" determine the allocation of public resources. Votes do not accurately reflect values. Forcing taxpayers to consider the opportunity costs of their individual taxes is the only way we can ensure that limited public resources are used as efficiently as possible.

O how they cling and wrangle, some who claim
For preacher and monk the honored name!
For, quarreling, each to his view they cling.
Such folk see only one side of a thing.

Posted by: Xerographica | October 13, 2011 at 05:44 PM

You're playing the old 'bait and switch' trick. We aren't having a values discussion. We're having a facts discussion. Your solution doesn't work, for the various reasons I've outlined. Your responses don't address most of the flaws, or continue to assume away the exposed flaws.

Posted by: Linda Beale | October 13, 2011 at 06:37 PM

Linda, no bait and switch's always been about values. How could the topic of the allocation of public resources be about anything but? The information that congress will never have access to is how much of one public good you would be willing to forgo for another public good.

This concept is known as opportunity's the only way to accurately determine values...and it's the only way to ensure that limited public resources are allocated as efficiently as possible.

You don't seem to be a fan of obstructionism...yet you definitely don't approve of allowing me to directly support the government organizations that I value. I'm not quite sure how that's any different than hyperpartisan obstructionism. You seem to be only happy when my dollars support your values.

Posted by: Xerographica | October 13, 2011 at 07:51 PM

sure, values are ultimately at stake in the decisions that are made by government and by people. But that's not the discussion we've been having. We've been talking about facts like feasibility of mechanisms, empirical evidence about public and private sector activities, etc.

Posted by: Linda Beale | October 13, 2011 at 11:05 PM

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