They cover many of the relevant economic concepts...with graphs even! But what's really funny is that they based most of their critique on a 100% tax rate!! Ouch...my most of me! As I mentioned in my entry on pragma-socialism...try as I might...it's impossible for even me to imagine a pragmatarian system with a 100% tax rate. I just can't wrap my mind around it.
My bottom line rebuttal doesn't directly address their points. It addresses the fact that they used a 100% tax rate as their example. That's what's really fascinating. The Magna Carta Movement gave taxpayers the keys to the car and for some reason they decided to drive us from our current tax rate all the way over to a tax rate of 100%. How do the guys from the LibertarianAnarchy blog explain the taxpayer's behavior?
The most universal economic principle is that everybody wants the most bang for their buck. This is what Adam Smith considered "self-interest". The neoclassical economists refer to this as "maximizing utility" and the Austrian economists refer to this as "people acting purposefully".
If we somehow ended up at a 100% tax rate then....as far as I can tell...there are only two possibilities...
1. All those economists were wrong...people do not want the most bang for their buck
2. A tax rate of 100% would give taxpayers the most bang for their buck
I can argue for days and days against a government committee setting a tax rate of 100%...but I've got absolutely no argument against millions and millions of self-interested...utility maximizing ...individual taxpayers acting purposefully to set a tax rate of 100%.
At this point it might help for me to explain how taxpayers would indirectly determine the tax rate. Basically...the tax rate reflects how much the government does. The more things the government does...the greater the justification for a higher tax rate. The less things the government does...the greater the justification for a lower tax rate. In a tax choice system...people could vote for things that they wanted the government to do...but it would be up to taxpayers to use their own, individual, hard-earned taxes to indicate exactly what the government should do.
For example...if taxpayers chose not to allocate any of their taxes to the drug war...then the scope of government would narrow....and people would pressure congress to decrease the tax rate. If taxpayers chose to allocate their taxes to public healthcare...then the scope of government would expand...and people would pressure congress to increase the tax rate. This is assuming of course that enough taxpayers allocate enough of their taxes to congress to maintain its existence.
Regarding the moral arguments...
He truly doesn't care--at all--about the infringement of Natural Rights and libertarian ethic.
Here's what the anarcho-capitalist David Friedman has to say on the topic of moral/deontological arguments versus consequentialist arguments.
The short version...
I generally prefer consequentialist arguments. I think I understand economics better than I understand moral philosophy, and possibly better than anyone understands moral philosophy. - David FriedmanThe long version...
I guess the first thing is that it offers arguments which don't require that people already share your religion...using the term "religion" broadly. That as far as I can tell, nobody, whether deontological libertarians or communists or anyone else really has a really convincing argument to show that their moral views are right. Many people believe that they do but I don't think that they do. Ayn Rand, at least, presented an argument. Ayn Rand claimed in effect to have defeated David Hume's is ought problem. Hume argued that you couldn't derive on ought from an is. I have a discussion up on my webpage of the holes in Rand's arguments. As far as I can tell she simply didn't do it. I don't think it can be done as far as I know. So in order to persuade people by a natural rights argument there has to be some reason why they believe in natural rights to start with because you don't have any good arguments to show that they ought to believe it. Whereas my argument...it claims to show...it hopefully shows...that my system would be better in terms of the value that almost everybody already has. So I'm really saying if you regard natural rights to be really important...well look...in my system rights will rarely be violated. If you regard people being happy and being healthy and living long lives...look in my society people will be in effect wealthier than in societies with governments, therefore you should like the results of those things...and so forth and so on. So I think that I have an argument which does depend on convincing people that economics is relevant to human behavior but doesn't depend on convincing them of your particular right and wrong beliefs.
Now the further problem with at least the versions of deontological libertarianism that I'm familiar with is that in the form in which people often state them they lead to conclusions that nobody believes. I spend a chapter in Machinery and Freedom going through that and if you really believe that the solution to polution is to say that nobody is allowed to pollute anybody else's property without their permission well you can't really exhale because carbon dioxide is a pollutant and you can be sure that some of the carbon dioxide you exhale will go onto somebody else's property. And similiarly you can't turn on a lightbulb because your photons will trespass. And once you start trying to make a more sophisticated version of the theory which deals with those...pretty quickly you start running into the kind of arguments that you run into in the consequentialist defense of libertarianism. - David Friedman, Legal Systems Without Government
In my post on the opportunity costs of public goods...I shared a few videos of Rachel Maddow arguing for more spending on public goods. In one of her videos she says...
Not every idea that is good for the country, is a profit making idea for some company somewhere. It's never going to be a profitable venture for some company to come up with this idea and build it on spec. That's not going to happen! We need some government leadership, frankly, to get something done in common that's going to benefit the country as a whole. - Rachel Maddow, Lean Forward
Rachel Maddow was making a consequentialist argument. Her goal is for the government to do things that "benefit the country as a whole". The thing is...Rachel Maddow and I are not going to have a very productive discussion if she makes consequentialist arguments and I respond with deontological arguments. It's like if she says something in English and I respond in Chinese. If her target audience understands English...then why would I argue in Chinese? If her target audience cares about benefiting the country as a whole...then why would I argue for property rights?
Sure you could argue that property rights actually do benefit the country as a whole..but that would of course be a consequentialist argument. If property rights do have any sort of measurable value/benefit...then why wouldn't the tax allocation decisions of millions and millions of taxpayers reflect this truth?
Here's what else the guys at the LibertarianAnarchy blog have to say about morality...
By analogy, the founder of pragmatarianism plays the role of a sort of amoral deity: concerning morality, he says that we ought to make no judgement.Pragmatarianism is neutral on morality because everybody already has their own morals. Pragmatarianism isn't a religion. With regards to making judgments though...
Yesterday on Fox....Bill O'Reilly had Lt. Col Ralph Peters on his show. During their discussion on Afghanistan...Peters said, "When we invest our blood and treasure I expect a positive return". This is of course the universal "maximizing utility" concept that I discussed in the beginning. Compare it to this quote that the guys at LibertarianAnarchy blog shared...
There is always open to each actor the prospect of improving his lot, of attaining a value higher than he is giving up, i.e., of making a psychic profit. What he is giving up may be called his costs, i.e., the utilities that he is forgoing in order to attain a better position. Thus, an actor’s costs are his forgone opportunities to enjoy consumers’ goods. - Rothbard
Coincidentally...David Henderson, over at the Econlog Blog, also saw the same show on Fox....Sunk Costs in War. Here's a bit of my comment...
It's been a few years since I was stationed in Afghanistan, but looking through my photos in the folder which I dedicated to "crops"...I see figs, grapes, pomegranates, wheat, eggplant, etc...but by far the most common crop was the opium poppy. If a small village only had one crop then it would invariably be the opium poppy.
Whether it's a retired Colonel expecting a positive return from his taxes...or Rothbard discussing psychic profits...or Afghan farmers selecting the most lucrative crops...it should be self-evident that everybody wants the most bang for their buck. This is the universal economic principle.
If we allow taxpayers to directly allocate their taxes...then we can be all but certain that they would behave according to this universal economic principle. The question then becomes...why do so many supposed proponents of this principle struggle to recognize the value of pragmatarianism? What am I missing? Why wouldn't we want to give the taxpayers the keys to the car? What are we afraid of?
That's the mystery! The proof is in the pudding but neither side is willing to taste the pudding.
OR...maybe I'm the one that is missing something obvious! It kind of makes more sense that I'm the bonehead....versus everybody else being the boneheads. Well...keep the critiques coming! Eventually we'll solve the mystery.