Friday, March 23, 2012

Consequentialist Discussion - Ron Paul Forums

For a while now I've been participating on the Ron Paul Forums.  In order to avoid giving Ron Paul any negative publicity...the forum owners move all anarcho-capitalist discussions to the Political Philosophy subcategory...which is only accessible to members of the forum.  When I joined the forums, that seemed to be the category most relevant to pragmatarianism, so that's been the only place where I've participated.

Unfortunately, nearly all the anarcho-capitalists there are of the "natural rights" type.  Meaning...they make moral arguments against the government...ie "taxes are theft".  Not too long ago however, a few members and myself had a discussion of a decidedly more consequentialist...aka "results"...nature.

The discussion we had seemed extremely productive...but my perception might be skewed given that I've participated in so many less productive discussions with people making moral arguments.  Kinda like how hunger, the best sauce, can make even the most meager dishes taste delicious.  But if you're at all interested in consequentialist discussions then I highly recommend reading the discussion which took place on the 9th page of this thread....Where Do Ron Paul's Ideas Come From?  Well...for me it's on the 9th page because I always change my settings to display the maximum amount of posts per page.

In another entry of mine...Is There a Platypus Controlling You...I mentioned another highly worthwhile post that another member had written.  In my opinion, both these two things...wistfulthinker's comments on coercion... and the consequentialist discussion... make it well worth the minimal effort it requires to sign up to the Ron Paul forums in order to read them.

Part of the challenge when it comes to pragmatarianism is articulating my thoughts.  How can I most effectively communicate the value of applying market principles to the public sector?  It seems like I'm constantly revising and tweaking the delivery in an attempt to get it right.  When I get it wrong...people's responses highlight my failure to explain some key concept.  The tricky part is when somebody stops responding .  It doesn't mean that I got it right...but there's just no evidence for me to figure out exactly where I failed.

Here are a few guesses...
  1. They gave up...they decided it wasn't worth their time to continue the discussion (opportunity cost)
  2. They wanted to respond...they just never got around to it
  3. They couldn't respond...they were unable to counter my arguments 
Of course, in  my mind, what I'm saying is true.  So I get the sense that, if somebody does start to understand my argument, then it will be disconcerting for them to have their fundamental beliefs challenged.  By no means is it a pleasant sensation or experience to begin to understand that your accepted beliefs are actually myths.  

Some myths are harmless.  Personally, I would never try and dissuade somebody of their belief in Santa Claus or God.  On the other hand...some myths are extremely harmful.  Believing in congress is decidedly harmful.  It's really not a good idea to allow 538 people to decide how 150 million people's public funds should be distributed.

What's the best way to dissuade people of their beliefs in congress?  The best way has to be based on consequentialist arguments.  Somehow you have to demonstrate that it's extremely beneficial to allow 150 million people to directly allocate their own taxes among the various government organizations.

Here's my post...which happens to be the last post...from the discussion on consequentialism...

[Update] helmuth_hubener replied to this post.  You can read my response to his response here...The Magna Carta Movement.

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newbitech, helmuth_hubener put it better than I could...especially with his example of the man rushing to get his wife to the hospital. From the anarcho-capitalist perspective...forcing people to pay taxes is like forcing that man to stop and give that other guy directions. That wouldn't be an efficient allocation of his limited resources.

Pragmatarianism, on the other hand, says that people should be forced to pay taxes...but they should be allowed to choose which government organizations receive their taxes. Forcing people to pay taxes recognizes the value of the collective...while allowing people to choose which government organizations receive their taxes recognizes the value of the individual.

Let's consider the following...
If you read enough (if you are young enough), eventually the truth will become evident and you will realize that having one group have a monopoly on ultimate decision-making over an arbitrary geographical area is total craziness! You'll have an aha! moment, and step back and look at that idea and say "how could anyone think that's a good idea? Why would a monopoly over all ultimate decision-making be likely to lead to good results, when a monopoly over anything else, say, paper-making, inevitably leads to bad results?" You'll likely realize things like:
1. Monopoly over ultimate decision-making doesn't work. How could it? It's crazy.
2. Monopoly over ultimate decision-making destroys prosperity.
3. Monopoly over ultimate decision-making is immoral. It is opposed to natural rights / human nature. - helmuth_hubener
The challenge here is to try and figure out how allowing taxpayers to directly allocate their taxes could lead to bad results. How could injecting individualism into the public sector be a bad thing?

Pragmatarianism is pragmatic consequentialism. My hero...Deng Xiaoping...was a pragmatic consequentialist. He went around saying that it shouldn't matter whether a cat was black or white...what matters is whether it catches mice. What I'm going around saying is that it shouldn't matter whether an organization is public or private...what matters is whether it produces good results.

Why would any taxpayers spend their money on an organization that produces bad results? Would you? Nobody would. Yet helmuth_hubener and others don't seem to trust the opportunity cost decisions of millions and millions of taxpayers. This is the part I really struggle to understand. The problem has never ever ever ever been with the taking...it's always been with the spending.

A committee should never impose priorities. They are welcome to respond to priorities...they are welcome to try and tell you what your priorities should be...they are welcome to try and influence your priorities by sharing partial knowledge with you. Congress though, unlike the board of a fortune 500 company, tries to impose its priorities on an entire nation. This is a recipe for substantial failures.

Unlike with socialism though...congress does't control all the resources. So rather than producing epic failures...our system produces recessions/depressions. Mises and many others were certain that a mixed system was unsustainable...and it would inevitably slide towards socialism. I kind of doubt this though because our system does self-correct to some extent...but the core problem is never addressed. Well...aside from those that advocate throwing the baby out with the bath water.

I have no problem with the existence of government...or congress...or taxes....as long as taxpayers are allowed to use their individual taxes to indicate what their priorities are. I can't argue against the priorities of 150 million taxpayers. The priorities of taxpayers should shape the government...the government should not shape the priorities of taxpayers.

In other words...taxpayers should be the sculptor...and the government should be the medium. It's a fatal conceit to believe that it should be the other way around.

Honestly though...for as long as I've been a member of this forum...this is the first time we've ever had an honest to goodness consequentialist discussion. Every other time it's been the deontological argument..."taxes are theft".

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