Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Mr's Critique of Pragmatarianism

"Mr." is some guy who derives utility from commenting on my blog.  But he's definitely not a fan of pragmatarianism.  On a recent post, The Ingenious Gentleman George Monbiot, Mr. posted yet another attack on the idea of allowing people to choose where their taxes go.  This time though...his comment consisted of a list of 10 points.  Who can resist such a nicely organized attack?  Not me.  It's certainly worth a blog entry.  Here's his list...

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1. Your tax choice scheme is completely unworkable, and just a vague fantasy with no practical application.

2. Your imaginary scheme is nothing like a market - it is just a Frankenstein's monster of a thing which attempts to vaguely ape market-like behaviour.

3. Individual government departments or agencies do not act like businesses in your imaginary scheme, but they are forced to vaguely ape certain aspects of businesses' behaviour. It is a completely fake construct which is logically incoherent.

4. Your imaginary scheme is based on a fundamental confusion about who legally owns tax revenue.

5. Your imaginary scheme demonstrates a basic ignorance of how government expenditure actually works.

6. Your imaginary scheme demonstrates a basic ignorance of how monetary systems work. The government creates the money you use to pay taxes.

7. Your unworkable non-market system does not "correctly determine the actual demand for public goods". All it does is express your particular political ideology.

8. Your imaginary scheme is fundamentally undemocratic. If it wasn't completely unworkable and just a vague fantasy, it would require a complete transformation of existing political and legal structures.

9. Your imaginary scheme gives far more power and control over public resources to the wealthiest individuals and corporations. This reflects your personal political ideology, but that ideology is not shared by most people.

10. You don't even believe yourself that supposed "tax choice" results in the correct allocation of resources. Your imaginary scheme only allows people to allocate taxes on certain things which are deemed to be 'public goods'. So you contradict yourself.

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Hey Mr, again, you should really start a blog.  Why not?  What's your hesitation?

Ok, on to your points...

1. Your tax choice scheme is completely unworkable, and just a vague fantasy with no practical application. 

The logistics are really straightforward.  Given your complete lack of specifics...it seems like you must have missed them.  Here they are... Tax Choice FAQ.

2. Your imaginary scheme is nothing like a market - it is just a Frankenstein's monster of a thing which attempts to vaguely ape market-like behaviour.

When you spend your time commenting on my blog...is your behavior vaguely market-like?  From my perspective...there's nothing vague about your behavior.  You perceive a threat...and you allocate your limited resources accordingly.  I love your behavior...if I didn't...then why would I want to extend your behavior over to the public sector?  I really don't want your candle to be hidden under a bushel.

3. Individual government departments or agencies do not act like businesses in your imaginary scheme, but they are forced to vaguely ape certain aspects of businesses' behaviour. It is a completely fake construct which is logically incoherent.

You're welcome to compare government organizations (GOs) in a pragmatarian system to non-profit organizations instead.  In the private sector...non-profits lose funding when they make mistakes.  Do GOs ever make mistakes?  That should be up to taxpayers to decide.

4. Your imaginary scheme is based on a fundamental confusion about who legally owns tax revenue. 

Isn't this argument more relevant to anarcho-capitalism?  In a pragmatarian system...if there was a 50% tax rate...then half the dollars in your wallet would be marked "public" and the other half would be marked "private".  And if there was a 100% tax rate...then all the dollars in your wallet would be marked "public".

5. Your imaginary scheme demonstrates a basic ignorance of how government expenditure actually works. 

Government expenditure can not possibly work if consumer valuations are not part of the equation.  And if you truly believe that the expenditure of limited resources can maximize value in the absence of consumer valuations...then please dedicate a blog to your belief.  Because how great can your belief truly be if it's not worthy of a blog?

6. Your imaginary scheme demonstrates a basic ignorance of how monetary systems work. The government creates the money you use to pay taxes. 

No no no, I create the money that I use to pay taxes.  See...I have my own printing press.  And I also have a tree that money grows on.  Sheesh.  Of course the government creates money...but so what?  Money is simply a tool that we use to give people feedback on how well they are using society's limited resources.  Maybe it works better than having to organize a wife-swapping party every time you need to buy a blanket.

7. Your unworkable non-market system does not "correctly determine the actual demand for public goods". All it does is express your particular political ideology.

It would only express my particular political ideology...because...I would be the only taxpayer?  What do you think would happen to political parties in a pragmatarian system?

8. Your imaginary scheme is fundamentally undemocratic. If it wasn't completely unworkable and just a vague fantasy, it would require a complete transformation of existing political and legal structures.

Pragmatarianism is all about ceteris paribus.  The only thing that would change is that taxpayers would have the option of directly allocating their taxes.  If you want to argue that most taxpayers would choose this option...then you're arguing that most taxpayers don't trust their impersonal shoppers.  If you want to argue that few taxpayers would choose this option...then why bother opposing it?  

9. Your imaginary scheme gives far more power and control over public resources to the wealthiest individuals and corporations. This reflects your personal political ideology, but that ideology is not shared by most people.

Most people don't want to be ripped off.  Unfortunately, most people don't appreciate that consumer choice has logical and extremely beneficial consequences.  This is why it's so important to help people understand where better options come from.

10. You don't even believe yourself that supposed "tax choice" results in the correct allocation of resources. Your imaginary scheme only allows people to allocate taxes on certain things which are deemed to be 'public goods'. So you contradict yourself.

If taxation was voluntary...then the allocation of resources would be Pareto optimal.  Except, it wouldn't be socially optimal because it wouldn't take the preference revelation problem into account.  Tax choice does take the preference revelation problem into account...which is why the allocation would be socially optimal.

Did I miss anything?  Oh yeah, it's kinda...weird...for you to critique an "imaginary" scheme.  Would you like to criticize my imaginary friend while you're at it?

Xero: Hey Mr, let me introduce you to my imaginary friend!
Mr: No way, your imaginary friend sucks!
Xero: You're wrong!  My imaginary friend is super cool!
Mr: Here are 10 reasons why your imaginary friend is super lame...
1. He doesn't exist
2. He farts all the time
3. He has the worst fashion sense
4. He has terrible taste in music
5. His laugh is obnoxious
6. His political views are absurd
7. He's always late
8. He chews too loud
9. He's always bumming cigarettes
10. He drives slow in the fast lane
Xero: WTF?!  He drives slow in the fast lane?  That's the worst.  I'm going to kick his imaginary ass to the curb.  

Pragmatarianism doesn't drive slow in the fast lane.  And it's a real ideology.  Here you are criticizing it.

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