Thursday, December 8, 2011

Confirmation Bias and Pragmatarianism

JHC, in a recent comment on my Crooked Timber Liberals entry, shared this article...Your Money, Your Choice.  Much to my pleasant surprise the author of the article, Cait Lamberton, discussed the potential value of allowing taxpayers to have a greater say how their taxes are allocated.  It's always enjoyable to have our conclusions confirmed...aka...confirmation bias.

The thing is...it's not confirmation bias because the author of the article is a liberal/progressive!  A Ph.D no less!  Is this a reasonable rationalization?  Well...in my entry on deontological ethics vs pragmatic ethics I considered that both a "pragmatic" communist and a "fair" natural rights libertarian came to the same conclusion that I was full of BS.  So, just on its own, it doesn't necessarily mean much when people from opposite sides of the political debate come to the same conclusion.

Just how self-aware am I?  Is there a bell curve of self-awareness?  One time an English professor criticized me for writing too self-consciously.  For some self-awareness introspection check out Kent's blog entry...Are We Doomed To Be Wrong?.

Kent (see his critique of pragmatarianism) shared a link to my entry on the Blind Men and the Scope of Government...and a link to Cracked.com's list of 5 Logical Fallacies That Make You Wrong More Than You Think.  Those two articles seemed to have presented a challenge to his very strong anarcho-capitalist conclusion.  Was Kent fazed by these challenges?  No way.  Nevertheless it was still somewhat entertaining to watch him so deftly escape from the possibility of being wrong.  Kent...kinda like an anarcho-capitalist Houdini.

As a pragmatic ethics kind of guy I wallow in anything that demonstrates just how wrong we are.  The more cause for self-doubt the better.  As Socrates said, "...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."  And as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "to have doubted one's own first principles is the mark of a civilized man."  Therefore, doubting our principles makes us wise and civilized!  So with great relish I checked out Cracked.com's list of stuff that makes us wrong.

#5. We're Not Programmed to Seek "Truth," We're Programmed to "Win"

How true is this?  If you love playing devil's advocate then this especially applies to you.  It certainly applies to me.  For example...in a recent entry I encouraged people to become the devil's advocate for public goods.

Where is the intersection between winning and truth?  Is it true that history is written by the conquerors?

When I first thought of pragmatarianism I certainly did not consider it to be truth.  Neither did any of my friends...so it was fun to play the devil's advocate for pragmatarianism.  Several years passed with pragmatarianism being nothing more than a purely hypothetical situation.  It wasn't until I genuinely considered anarcho-capitalism...and experienced a sliver of self-doubt...that I recognized the truth in acknowledging that nobody has a monopoly on truth.

#4. Our Brains Don't Understand Probability
Now take it into the realm of politics. The U.S. has spent $1.3 trillion on the war on terror so far. That was in reaction to about 14,000 total deaths from international terrorism from 1975 to 2003. That's more than $90 million spent for each person killed. 
If you point out that this money would have been better spent preventing industrial accidents (which kill twice as many people per year than died in the World Trade Center) or, even better, curing cancer (the equivalent of about 200 WTC attacks each year), you'll be told, "Say that to the 9/11 victims, hippie!"
People are more likely to gamble with other people's money than they are with their own.  Therefore,  taxpayers should be allowed to consider the opportunity costs of war.  Having served in Afghanistan...and having greatly valued our efforts over there...and having lost close family members to cancer...I'd like to pretend that I'm not biased one way or the other.  Forcing taxpayers to make hard decisions with their own individual taxes is the only way to guarantee the maximum benefit to society.

#3. We Think Everyone's Out to Get Us
In one study, subjects were asked to rate the likelihood that strangers would share pretend winnings with them. The subjects figured about half were trustworthy enough to share. When it came time to actually share, about 80 percent came through. The subjects thought the world was almost twice as corrupt as it actually is.
This is also where you get claims like, "Those conservatives don't really think taxes are too high, they secretly hate poor people!" or "Those liberals don't really think the poor need assistance, they're secretly communists!" It's impossible to learn anything from a conversation with someone who you think is lying to you. The more arguments you get into with those lying extremists from the other side of the aisle, the more you learn about how they lie, the faster your brain turns off after they start talking. 
Maybe the anarcho-capitalists are right that the free-rider problem is not that big of a problem.  Or maybe anarcho-capitalists are proof positive that people have to be coerced into paying taxes.  Allowing taxpayers to directly allocate their taxes would reveal which public goods, if any, the free-rider problem applies to.

#2. We're Hard-Wired to Have a Double Standard
The reality is, of course, that you were on completely different roads. The assumption that everyone's circumstances are identical is so plainly wrong as to be borderline insane, but everyone does it. Pundits and politicians alike mock the unemployed as lazy, even though their own data shows that for every five unemployed people, there is only one open job. "I don't understand, can't you all just become radio talk show hosts like me?"
Right, we're all just blind men touching different parts of an elephant.  The Truth can only be arrived at by integrating all our unique perspectives and values.  Our true values can only be revealed by forcing us to put our money where our mouths are.  Therefore, taxpayers should be allowed to directly allocate their individual taxes.

#1. Facts Don't Change Our Minds
That is why confirmation bias exists. We read a news article that supports what we believe, and we add it to the "I'm right about this" column. News articles that contradict what we believe are dismissed. We make up a reason -- maybe the source is part of the conspiracy from the other side or whatever it takes to make sure the "I'm wrong about this" column remains empty.
This explains why the Ostrich Response to pragmatarianism is by far the most common response.  For another perfect example check out how neither Team Hayek nor Team Keynes responded to my compromise...Opportunity Costs for Thee, But Not For Me.

Well there you have it.  The 5 logical fallacies that make you wrong more often than you think also happen to make me right more often than I think.  But I might be wrong.

39 comments:

  1. A couple days I also wrote an entry on confirmation bias after reading something by Micheal Shermer. It is pre-scheduled to post tomorrow morning.

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  2. Look forward to seeing if your entry confirms my conclusion.

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  3. Oh, and I have been wrong plenty of times. I have no problem with "pragmatarianism" other than your willingness to force everyone to participate against their will. If it's that much better, it should hold up just fine on a voluntary basis. If you have to resort to force, then maybe it's not as good as you think. Convince me and maybe I'll join. Hold a gun to my head and I'll defend myself from your violence.

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  4. If you have a preconceived idea that government is basically unjustified then the likelihood you're going to come up with ideas which would create a genuinely absurd and dysfunctional gov't goes up. See "pragmatarianism."

    OTOH, if you think Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, et al, were reasonably competent political thinkers then the idea of representative government wouldn't be quite so S.C.A.R.Y.

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  5. Kent, here are the two possibilities...
    A) the govt is necessary
    B) the govt is not necessary

    Consumers do not purchase unnecessary private goods and taxpayers would not "purchase" unnecessary public goods. A pragmatarian system would allow taxpayers to highlight which parts of the govt, if any, were truly necessary.

    How would it help your cause to know which parts of the govt that taxpayers believed to be truly necessary? It would help your cause by identifying which non-profit organizations needed to be developed in the private sector. If you meet people's public goods needs in the private sector then they would see the govt as entirely unnecessary.

    Your moral arguments just aren't cutting it. For the betterment of society nearly everybody is willing to have their liberties infringed to some degree.

    If you genuinely want to change society then you have to cater your argument to society.

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  6. mattski, did the liberal Ph.D. who wrote Your Money, Your Choice also have preconceived ideas that the government is basically unjustified?

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  7. Xerographic

    You posit:
    A) the govt is necessary
    B) the govt is not necessary

    and
    "Consumers do not purchase unnecessary private goods"

    You offer an incorrect premise - that humans make choices based only on necessity.

    Humans make choices based on "wants"
    - which is a set of choices that include only a few "necessities" and mostly "desires".

    Must men act with evil because it is necessary?

    To believe such must mean that we do not believe there are more answers to our problems other than actions of evil.

    But the Universe shows this is a lie.

    There are a near-infinite number of solutions for every problem - however, it only takes one solution to solve one problem.

    Further, every solution to a problem creates a new problem - this is the way the Universe works. .

    Human progress is measured by the resulting problem being simpler than the problem previously solved.

    Thus, humans have CHOICE.

    We chose which solution we think benefits us in solving the problem.

    Some men believe that the best choice of a solution is evil, for they see short-term benefit and are willing to trade away long-term gain that a better choice may have realized but too far in the future for them.

    Some men are too lazy to work for or consider other solutions other then evil - it appears easier for them to club others over the head as a solution then the hard work of negotiating with other men.

    There is nothing necessary about any human system - humans lived without such systems in the past, thus, such systems are unnecessary.

    The choice of which system benefits us is just that - a choice.

    The real question then is:
    "Do we chose evil?"

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  8. Black Flag...you might want to take a look at my entry on Anarcho-capitalism vs Civilization.

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  9. matt

    Being a competent political thinker does not make you infallible.

    With no experience is the theory of limited government - all the thought-experiments would never suffice above actual implementation.

    In the end, we see limited government a failure, and under close inspection we can see why.

    It embeds an internal contradiction:

    How do you enforce the law upon the entity that creates and enforces the law?

    It will pragmatically chose when and where it will enforce upon itself - and will decline enforcing on itself anytime such enforcement enfeebles itself.

    The answer to the evil of government is not to try to bury it in paperwork of "constitutions".

    Like all evil, government is studious and patient. It will dutifully fill in all the forms and the paperwork necessary to hang you by your neck.

    The answer to evil is always -and simply - do not act with evil.

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  10. So, in dialogue with Kent, I see that you offered this justification:

    In my words,
    If you can determine the direction of the proceeds of theft from other men, others have a right to steal from you.

    But it is all theft. Changing the direction of the proceeds does not change the fact of theft, but merely those that benefit from it.


    So you steal my milk, but you allow me to chose where another man's stolen wheat goes.

    Nope, sorry, you stole my milk and whether or not I can determine the proceeds of other theft changes nothing.

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  11. Government is NOT necessary.

    "For the betterment of society nearly everybody is willing to have their liberties infringed to some degree."
    I am generally willing to not always do everything I have a right to do, but I am not willing to have others infringe upon my liberty. One is choice, the other is coercion.

    And you assume I want to change society. I don't. Society will change whether I want it to or not as soon as people stop allowing themselves to be enslaved. You can do that right now without anyone else changing. Stop choosing slavery.

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  12. Kent has a key point.

    A free man CHOOSES when and where and to what extent he enforces his rights.

    You come to my house and smoke.

    I do not like smoke in my house.

    I do like your company.

    I CHOSE whether the pleasure of your company vs. the perversion of smoke in my house.


    There is no right to not smoking in my house.

    The right:

    I GET TO DETERMINE WHO AND WHO CANNOT SMOKE IN MY HOUSE.

    Many freedom fighters get confused between the action and the right of action.

    Do not stray:
    The right of action ALSO includes the right of mitigation.

    I can equally NOT enforce my right as to enforce my right.

    In my family, I rarely enforce my consequences of my rights.

    I CHOSE -the fundamental of all rights- which actions I enforce and those I do not.

    My enforcement is wholly based on my desire.

    I desire happiness for my family.

    Therefore MY RIGHT of choice, I decide to forgive the CONSEQUENCES of other choices.

    Now, I know there is a whole lot of background reasoning here that is not exposed by the first blush of argument.

    If you sense discomfort at some part of this argument, do not hesitate to present it.

    We will work through it.

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  13. Many "unfree" men are confused about the actions of free men.

    They think that if the rights of free men are violated, that free men must assault the abuser to death.

    But it is because they do not understand freedom to begin with, they do not understand free men.

    A man steals a carrot from my garden.

    The unfree men believe I should kill such a man, since he took what obviously is not his, so to be consistent with my "freedom".

    But because they do not understand freedom, they do not understand that I GET TO CHOSE MY OWN RESPONSE to slights on my freedom.

    I look upon such a man, and perhaps he is starving. Thus, perhaps I CHOSE MERCY.

    I look upon such a man, and perhaps he is an equal to Bill Gates. This, perhaps I CHOSE NOT MERCY. ... but maybe I do...

    Perhaps I chose investigation - why does a man steal from me? And from his answers, I FREELY chose my rightful response - which RIGHTFULLY extends from compensation to full forgiveness - because I AM FREE TO CHOSE MY RESPONSE to impositions upon me.

    But what is key:

    Because I have a range of responses within my rights does NOT destroy my freedom of choice.

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  14. Xero,

    I'm don't care so much about the motivations of your PHD example. Her idea is a milder form of your idea. Both, it seems to me, are bad ideas because they undermine the transmission mechanism of the government. You are introducing chaos into the system. The place for personal choice is the private sector, where you & the majority of your income are completely free to spend on whatever you wish. The public sector is different. We have an interstate highway system because the congress appropriated funds and channelled them in a coherent way to build our wonderful and extremely useful highways. Yay!!

    BF,

    Infallible??? I have no idea what you are talking about. I never said a word about infallibility, nor did I imply it.

    Honestly, you seem extremely confused to me. Other than embracing the law of the jungle, I don't know what you stand for. Your use of the word "evil" shows the shallowness of your thinking.

    Whose idea of evil???

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  15. Mattski-

    "The place for personal choice is the private sector, where you & the majority of your income are completely free to spend on whatever you wish."

    What's your idea of "majority"? Government takes around 87% of everything produced in America. Through "taxation", regulation, fees, licenses, increased prices, etc. Every "tax" is eventually paid by you and me, not by "big business" or whoever else. Anything that adds to the cost of doing business MUST be passed along or businesses wouldn't stay in business.

    This isn't about "embracing the law of the jungle", it's about rising above it by respecting liberty; something the law of the jungle- and The State- are unable to do.

    Evil: any action that causes harm to an individual who does not deserve to be harmed at this moment.

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  16. Mattski

    As Kent said -

    Evil is doing violence on the non-violent.

    What "law of the Jungle" do you think exists?

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  17. Mattski

    ". We have an interstate highway system because the congress appropriated funds and channelled them in a coherent way to build our wonderful and extremely useful highways. Yay!!"

    No you do not have an interstate highway system because Congress felt a need to provide it to YOU.

    You are so gullible.

    The interstate highways were built with one idea in mind - the mass movement of government troops from one part of the nation to the other.

    You think the Alaska highway was built for you to see caribou in the north?

    No, it was built to move troops into Alaska for WW2.

    Nothing government does is to benefit you - it acts to benefit itself.

    There maybe a few times that it appears your goals and its goals are aligned - but it is an illusion to think that it was your goal that it had in its mind.

    It's goal is the centralization and expansion of its own power. And it never strays from that goal.

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  18. Matt

    Further, you still have no answer to the contradiction of "representative" government.

    How do you enforce the law on the entity that creates and enforces the law?

    You think a piece of paper is enough to do that?

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  19. Interstate Highway:

    "Initial federal planning for a nationwide highway system began in 1921 when the Bureau of Public Roads asked the Army to provide a list of roads it considered necessary for national defense. This resulted in the Pershing Map.

    Eisenhower gained an appreciation of the German Autobahn network as a necessary component of a national defense system while he was serving as Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe during World War II.

    He recognized that the proposed system would also provide key ground transport routes for military supplies and troop deployments in case of an emergency or foreign invasion."

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  20. Evil: any action that causes harm to an individual who does not deserve to be harmed at this moment.

    Hi Kent,

    First, your 87% claim doesn't match my experience. In fact, it seems wildly unrealistic. Resources diverted through the government are sometimes used to good effect, sometimes not. But they don't simply disappear from the economy. You know the expression: "if you think education is expensive, try ignorance." Paying for public education, for example, is an investment in society and as a rule, if you ask me, it's a damn good use of funds.

    Your definition of evil is totally subjective, do you see that? As such it has almost zero utility.

    When you get right down to it, Libertarian thinkers are often the most Utopian dreamers of all!

    Best regards,
    Mattski

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  21. The interstate highways were built with one idea in mind - the mass movement of government troops from one part of the nation to the other.

    You're calling me gullible??

    If that was the "one idea" behind the highway system, then tsk-tsk. Didn't work out that way, did it?

    It's goal is the centralization and expansion of its own power. And it never strays from that goal.

    This is called "a preconceived idea."

    How do you enforce the law on the entity that creates and enforces the law?

    Do your best to elect honest people. Don't throw up your hands and despair because there are (quite a few) less-than-honest people in government. Patronize journalistic organizations of the best character you can find. Also, study history to gain an appreciation of what life was like before we had responsive government institutions. Most of all, be patient and look at the problem as a long term problem. Don't freak out, because that's how Jared Loughner got where he did.

    I mentioned the law of the jungle because you offer no prescription that would deliver anything more sophisticated.

    You talk as though you have the right to take the law into your own hands. If that is a justified belief, then it applies to everyone. Is that not clear to you? When everyone is free to pronounce justice on everyone else, what you have is the law of the jungle.

    That is all.

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  22. Mattski- It doesn't really matter if "[my] 87% claim doesn't match [your] experience". It is simply true, worked out by people who are better at math and seeing connections and added costs than am I.

    It doesn't matter if sometimes the money government steals is used to my "benefit" any more than if a mugger promises to spend a percentage of the loot he got from me on something he imagines I might want. So much for your "[r]esources diverted [sic] through the government ... used to good effect".

    Education is important. In fact it is much too important to let government have anything to do with it. Why do you imagine that only government can "educate" people? That isn't true and never has been true. Not even marginally.

    How would YOU define "evil" if you think my definition is "subjective"? Every definition I have ever seen (other than purely religious definitions where "evil" is the opposite of what "god" wants, is, or does) are basically the same as my definition. If something that harms the innocent is not "evil" then "evil" is meaningless. Of course, you might like that since it's the only way you could claim The State isn't pure evil.

    It cracks me up every time I see people who believe government can "work" next time, if "we" just elect the "right" people" or pass the "right" laws- in spite of over 5 millennia of empirical evidence to the contrary- call libertarians "Utopian". Yeah. Keep chanting that to yourself and maybe your cat will start believing it too.

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  23. Mattski- "You talk as though you have the right to take the law into your own hands. If that is a justified belief, then it applies to everyone. Is that not clear to you? When everyone is free to pronounce justice on everyone else, what you have is the law of the jungle."

    You have described The State. Statutory "laws" result in this situation, whereas abiding by natural law- what BF and I are advocating- has the opposite, civilizing effect.

    And yes, of course it applies to everyone! Why wouldn't it? There is no genetically-enhanced Ruler race who is in possession of powers of justice not seen in the rest of us. Or, do you believe they do exist?

    Everyone in a free society IS qualified to "pronounce justice on everyone else". If it is right for me to do, then it is also right for you to do. And, if it is wrong for me to do it is still wrong for YOU to do- regardless whether you wear the silly hat of government or operate out of a rusty van in an alley. This is why theft is theft even if you call it "taxation".

    The law of the jungle, as it actually is rather than how you imagine it, is more just than the "law" of The State.

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  24. mattski, right...it's all about choice. When it comes to the public sector...congress and/or taxpayers can choose how to spend public funds.

    Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that highways are a bad choice. What I'm saying is that whether a choice is "good" or "bad" can only be determined by the opportunity costs decisions of millions and millions of taxpayers.

    If you get a chance you should read and comment on this entry of mine...The Opportunity Costs of Public Transportation.

    So far your arguments have not demonstrated an understanding of the opportunity cost concept. That's a problem because opportunity costs are essential to ensure the efficient allocation of scare resources. You'll be in a much better position to attack my argument if you actually understand what my argument truly is.

    I swear I'm not Professor Chaos from South Park. Pragmatarianism may sound like chaos but in practice it would be no more chaotic than the non-profit sector.

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  25. Kent...when you say that the "Government is NOT necessary"...that's like me saying that tampons are not necessary. Surely we can agree that what might not be necessary for one person might be necessary for another person.

    What percentage of people believe that the government is necessary? 99.9%? These people don't care about your moral arguments. That doesn't mean that your moral arguments aren't righteous...it just means that they derive some benefit from government.

    We can see in a lot of cases that people unfairly benefit from other people's taxes. Clearly there's no point in catering your arguments to these people. Your argument needs to be catered to the people who willingly contribute their hard earned money to government...taxpayers.

    Look at mattski...he's not saying government is necessary because it's "moral" for people to pay taxes...he's saying that government is necessary because it provides highways. In his mind his "public goods" argument will always trump your "moral" argument.

    By making this an issue of morality you're not making any progress in helping mattski understand how scarce resources are efficiently allocated. This is what I meant when I said that you're barking up the wrong tree. The biggest obstacle to anarcho-capitalism isn't that people are immoral...it's that they have no idea how the invisible hand works.

    The most convincing moral arguments in the world wouldn't help mattski understand concepts like partial knowledge or opportunity costs. All your moral arguments do is distract from the real issue. Of course, that could just be my own confirmation bias speaking.

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  26. Matt
    "Resources diverted through the government are sometimes used to good effect, sometimes not."

    No resource diverted through government is a good effect.

    It is dishonest to argue that if a man steals a dollar, but returns 50c, that the benefit of theft back to you is 50c, and this a good thing.


    "But they don't simply disappear from the economy."

    Yes it does. It is consumed. If you are required to pay more for a good or service through government then if you paid directly, your wealth HAS disappeared.

    You have less of it than otherwise.


    "Paying for public education, for example, is an investment in society and as a rule, if you ask me, it's a damn good use of funds."

    No, it is not an investment in society whatsoever.

    Education is an individual benefit. You getting an education and using it to earn YOUR money does not earn me money.

    It is bizarre understanding you hold about education.

    "Your definition of evil is totally subjective, do you see that?"

    No, it is not subjective.

    You obviously do not understand what "subjective" means.

    It is a definition and it is OBJECTIVELY applied to human action and can be tested. As such it is useful, regardless of your specious claim to the contrary.

    "When you get right down to it, Libertarian thinkers are often the most Utopian dreamers of all!"


    I laugh at people like you because you do not even understand the comments you make.

    Utopia, written by Sir Thomas More, described a political society where:
    -every one believed the same
    -every one was educated by the State
    -individualism was prohibited
    -collectivism was required......

    ...which is precisely the world YOU want to live in, and diametrically opposite of the world of Kent~!

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  27. "If that was the "one idea" behind the highway system, then tsk-tsk. Didn't work out that way, did it?"

    You are confused.

    IT did work out that way.

    IT was built and designed -not for you- but for Armies.

    You are gullible in the fact you believe that the highway was built for your benefit. It was not. The government seizes funds from you to build and maintain it - but it not yours, and never will be. It is the Armies.

    " This is called "a preconceived idea.""

    No, it is a fact of power and the State.


    "Do your best to elect honest people. Don't throw up your hands and despair because there are (quite a few) less-than-honest people in government."

    In other words, you have absolutely no idea whatsoever.

    But no one else does either because you cannot reason out a contradiction.

    Thus the condition: government ALWAYS eventually falls to tyranny, and all your wanting for a messiah to lead you always ends disastrously.

    "Also, study history to gain an appreciation of what life was like before we had responsive government institutions."

    Perhaps you need better education in history.

    The greatest expansions of human prosperity occurs when government retreats, not when it grows.

    There are fundamental reasons for this: government is a parasite and must take from the production of others to feed itself.

    Moving wealth from those that produce and giving to those that do not produce degrades economic performance.

    "You talk as though you have the right to take the law into your own hands."

    I do.

    "If that is a justified belief, then it applies to everyone."

    It does.

    "When everyone is free to pronounce justice on everyone else, what you have is the law of the jungle."

    No, you do not. You have not provide a rational to make such a claim.

    You argue there is law ... there must be something that I take into my hands, right? You said such.

    If such a law exists, why do you believe suddenly it does not exist when applied broadly by free men?

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  28. "when you say that the "Government is NOT necessary"...that's like me saying that tampons are not necessary."


    No, it is not.

    Tampons are a product, provided by the effort of free men for trade with other free men and the goods earned by their effort.

    Government is not a product. It is violent force.

    It is not a trade, nor does it exist for the benefit of free men.

    Indeed, it is the greatest destroyer of freedom so conceived by man.

    "Surely we can agree that what might not be necessary for one person might be necessary for another person."

    However, what is necessary for you demands my compliance, whether or not I wish it.

    If it was necessary for you, but did not impact me - why would it even involve me? The questions you pose would never need to be asked.

    But what you do not state, but remains steadfast regardless, is you declare government necessary for you - which you demand to coerce me to provide to you my wealth and effort and if necessary my life for your use.

    This is not a question of tampons. This is a question of applying violence on other people for your gain.

    "What percentage of people believe that the government is necessary? 99.9%? "

    If 99% of the people demand evil, does that make evil necessary and a good thing?


    "...it just means that they derive some benefit from government."

    No, they do not - the methodology of government CANNOT provide benefit to all people - it cannot provide it to most people - indeed, it can only provide it upon a handful of people at best.

    For you to benefit from me via government means you have had government steal from me.

    My loss is your gain.

    It is a zero sum game, and I cannot be both a winner in the game and a loser in the game - that is irrational.


    "We can see in a lot of cases that people unfairly benefit from other people's taxes. "

    Fair? What is fair about theft?



    "In his mind his "public goods" argument will always trump your "moral" argument."

    That is correct - he is a believer in this motto:

    "Thou shalt not steal except by popular vote"

    One however cannot cater to those that support theft - the theft is immoral, and it is destructive to social order.

    Trying to modify the terms of evil so that it is palatable to a few does nothing to dispel evil.

    "...it's that they have no idea how the invisible hand works."

    I agree.

    Education is where the battle needs to be fought.

    But the irony and the futility.

    You support government schools. Thus, you've lost the battle already.

    As long as the Yellow Bus runs, the best free men can do is a desperate rear-guard action in defense of freedom.

    Eventually government collapses - then free men had better be ready with a better message than more repetition of another government.

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  29. Xero- "Surely we can agree that what might not be necessary for one person might be necessary for another person. "

    Food, water, fire, shelter- those are the necessary things. For someone who is broken in some way there might be other necessities such as medication. However if you force me to take that medicine it might just kill me. Should I be forced to take the damaged person's medicine just because it is necessary for him to take it? What if he only believes it is necessary, but it really isn't?

    The thing is if something is "necessary" for you (whether in reality or in belief) I won't stop you from having it but you have no right or authority to shove it upon anyone else.

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  30. I'm going to start with what might sound like an arrogant statement. Here it is:

    I pay closer attention to what you say than you do to what I say. Fact.

    It is simply true, worked out by people who are better at math and seeing connections and added costs than am I.

    You are asserting as fact that which you admit you do not understand. That's a faith-based belief.

    Why do you imagine that only government can "educate" people?

    I don't imagine it. I never said it. Pay attention to what I actually say, please. I said that in my opinion putting our tax dollars to work education ourselves & fellow citizens is a good use of funds. Private education also produces good results. Which is more efficient? That is not a settled question, and there are lots of good reasons why we have public education in America.

    How would YOU define "evil" if you think my definition is "subjective"?

    It isn't necessary to define evil for the purposes of organizing society. I'm not going to tell you what you should consider evil and I hope you'll reciprocate. What is necessary, in my opinion, is law. The problem with law is that somebody has to write it. I think you'll agree with me we don't need Kings or Plutocrats or Dictators writing the law. So who? Representative legislative bodies, that's the best mankind has come up with to date. Got a better idea?

    Everyone in a free society IS qualified to "pronounce justice on everyone else".

    OK, so in Black Flag's example, he's entitled to shoot & kill the fellow that took a carrot out of his garden? Heck, why stop there? Why not shoot & kill anyone who accidently rides his bicycle across your property without permission?

    Related question: who you with, the Hatfield's or the McCoy's?

    It cracks me up every time I see people who believe government can "work" next time, if "we" just elect the "right" people" or pass the "right" laws- in spite of over 5 millennia of empirical evidence to the contrary- call

    So, you pronounce human history a failure. That's your right. I don't understand what you are prescribing as an antidote for this failure, or why you think your message has any content to it besides,

    "People should just behave."

    That is what churches, governments and random citizens have been saying for your 5 millenium. You saying it too, well, doesn't add much.

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  31. Xero,

    I understand the idea of "opportunity cost." It isn't all you are cracking it up to be. As far as I can see, you are fixated on it to the detriment of your own general understanding. For example, it cannot be measured in any useful way, and it doesn't change the essential fact that every individual has their own ideas about what we should spend public money on.

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  32. Mattski- Arrogance doesn't worry me. Only arrogance which is in error and has the ability to cause harm to the innocent.

    "You are asserting as fact that which you admit you do not understand. That's a faith-based belief."

    I didn't say I don't understand it. I said they were better at doing the math. I read their detailed break-down and agreed with it. But I am having faith in one thing: my memory. I don't see that as a flaw, since we are all on pretty much equal footing there.

    I have no issue with law, just with counterfeit "law", which is the kind enforced by States. Statutory "law" is usually wrong. It causes confusion, double standards, and makes necessary and good acts and behaviors "illegal". That is why it is not only not necessary, but actively harmful and wrong. The book The Law of the Somalis by Matthew van Notten has a pretty good comparison between Natural law and the poor and counterfeit statutory "law" most people now believe is law.

    "...he's entitled to shoot & kill the fellow that took a carrot out of his garden? Heck, why stop there?

    In a free society, yes, he has the right to shoot a trespassing thief. However, he would probably be wise to be careful to be proportionate in his reaction since everyone else has the same rights he does. You must live in society and being a jerk, even while doing what you have a right to do, can make things uncomfortable for you. It isn't always wise to do everything you have a right to do.

    "So, you pronounce human history a failure."

    No. I just don't mistake the history of States/governments to be human history. That is a tragic and unfortunate part of history, but hardly the whole story. The majority of human history has nothing to do with States, but government "education" tries hard to bury that fact. I hate to say, it seems to be pretty effective. I guess that's why you think government schools are such a great idea.

    "People should just behave."

    Yes, they should. And there are consequences for not behaving- until they call themselves "the government". I'm just advocating removing the double standard. If everyone has the exact same rights as you do (and they DO) then you'd be smart to "behave" since they have the right to defend themselves from you. Churches, governments, and "random citizens" are often the ones behaving the worst, yet pointing the finger at everyone who resists their predations. They want you and me to sit down and shut up and let "the authorities" do what they want to the "mundanes". That isn't going to cut it anymore.

    But, you hitch your horse to whichever wagon you prefer. I'll not try to stop you.

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  33. Matt
    "That's a faith-based belief."

    Utterly trivial point.

    You know it is greater than zero.

    You know it is greater than 35% - average tax rate.

    You know there is state tax, city tax, county tax, highway tax, food tax, telecommunication tax and about a few hundred more hidden taxes.

    Whether it is 87% or 67% matters not one wit to the argument - government taxes is the single largest expenditure of people.

    "I said that in my opinion putting our tax dollars to work education ourselves & fellow citizens is a good use of funds."

    By economic fact, it is not - and fact trumps your opinion.

    "Which is more efficient?"

    Efficient based on what measure?

    Economics measures?
    Then government education is the worse.

    "There are lots of good reasons why we have public education in America."

    Like what?


    "It isn't necessary to define evil for the purposes of organizing society."

    Of course it is!

    Unless you understand good/evil, how do you measure ethics of your action?

    Or you do not care about the ethics of your actions?

    Are you an "End justifies the Means" type of a guy?


    "I'm not going to tell you what you should consider evil and I hope you'll reciprocate. "

    Nope.

    All that means you is that you have no idea about evil.

    "What is necessary, in my opinion, is law."

    What determines "good" law vs "bad" law?
    Or is all law "good" law to you?

    Do you follow all law, regardless of what it may inflict on your fellows?

    Or do you judge what law you chose to follow or not? If you do judge, what is your measure?


    "OK, so in Black Flag's example, he's entitled to shoot & kill the fellow that took a carrot out of his garden?"

    Why would I be "entitled" to do that?
    Do you think that is what my law says?

    That's the problem, Matt. You have no means to measure law - you do not have any concept of evil, nor the roots of societal order.

    You have no idea the difference between good law, evil law, true law, and artificial law.

    You have no measure so it is all the same to you.


    " So, you pronounce human history a failure."

    No, I pronounce human government a failure.

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  34. Matt,

    If we all have ideas on how to spend other people's money - why don't you just spend your money on your ideas and leave my money alone?

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  35. Matt, you say that you understand the idea of "opportunity cost"...yet you see something wrong with every individual having their own ideas about which public goods their taxes should be spent on.

    Let's try another approach. Do you agree with the point of Buddha's story of the blind men and the elephant?

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  36. Xero,

    No.

    ...next...

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  37. Xero,

    I sense what you wish to propose is a "tactic" more than a philosophy.

    You do not believe eliminating taxes is achievable, thus you offer a tactic of redirecting taxes to "causes" directly by the people.


    As much at it is an interesting idea, your tactic is far less likely to happen - indeed, it is far more likely and easier to eliminate taxation completely then attempt your tactic.

    The reason is that you misunderstand -seriously misunderstand - the purpose of modern taxation.

    You still hold to the belief it exists as a method of funding government - and, partly, this is true.

    However, government has far more means of raising its funds than taxation - it manufacturers money.

    Thus, taxation is completely redundant in face of the ability to manufacture money out of thin air.

    Why, then, is there still taxation?

    The answer is the same answer to the question: Why doesn't the "flat/fair/simple" taxation arguments ever come to fruit?

    It is bluntly obvious that a simpler tax scheme would be massively more beneficial to raising funds for government - yet, it will never happen. Indeed, the tax code becomes more complex every year.

    Taxation is not required for funding government.

    It is required from manipulating the citizens.

    Without taxes, there can be no tax credits or "tax breaks".

    Without the stick, there is no carrot.

    The fundamental purpose of modern taxation is to manipulate the people by economy means - tax what the government does not want people to do, and tax credit what the government favors.


    Further, the increase in complexity increases arbitrariness of taxation.

    If I want to give you as my crony a break but not, say, Matt - only the most arcane, spidery, incomprehensible rules will allow this to happen.


    Thus, it is easier to eliminate taxes - then alternate the reason taxes exist.


    Good try, though.

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  38. Further, understanding the purpose of taxation, this question follows:

    If government taxes what it does not favor, and tax credits what it favors.....

    ...what is the purpose of government taxing income?
    ...what is the purpose of government tax crediting housing?

    Give the truth that taxation is merely economic manipulation, understanding the answers to these two questions will give you grand insight to one of the goals of government.

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  39. Black Flag...it seems like you're making a genuine effort to try and understand my position. That's commendable...but your argument shows that you still have quite a ways to go before you truly understand my actual position. Perhaps it might help you to read my entry on whether the tax allocation disparity is divine or delusional.

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