Thursday, July 17, 2014

Why does consumer choice ensure a consistent supply of better options?

Why does consumer choice ensure a consistent supply of better options?

  1. Consumers are willing to pay for better options
  2. Producers want money

If we want to ensure a consistent supply of better public goods...then we have to allow consumer choice in the public sector.

Context: Dear Rothbard, The Government Isn't Beyond Repair


Do I look like Alex Ebert from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros? It's his site not mine. I link to it because I support the general idea. Clearly Ebert's specific idea is different from my own.

When I first thought of people choosing where their taxes go...I figured they'd simply fill out a form when they paid their taxes. But when I spent more time thinking about it...I realized that if it makes sense for the public sector...then why doesn't it also make sense for the private sector? Except, it really doesn't make any sense for the private sector...which means that it really doesn't make any sense for the public sector.

If you perceive that there's a problem with the environment...then waiting until the end of the year to support the EPA makes as little sense as waiting until the end of the year to go to the grocery store. Markets work because people can address shortages whenever they valuate it worth it to do so. Would it make any sense for Home Depot to be open only one day of the month? Nope.

So, my specific idea is that people could shop in the public sector whenever they wanted to. You would simply go directly to the government organization's website and make a contribution. They'd give you a receipt and you'd submit all your receipts to the IRS by April 15.

And if you weren't happy with the tax rate...then you wouldn't go directly to congress's website and you wouldn't make a contribution to congress. If enough other people also boycotted congress...then congress would either change the tax rate or go out of business. Same thing if you weren't happy with the IRS. Same thing if you weren't happy with the DoD. Same thing if you weren't happy with the DMV. Same thing if you weren't happy with NASA. Shall I continue or do you get the idea?

Markets mean that producers cater to the preferences of consumers. Why? Because producers want our money. So creating a market in the public sector would mean that congress would want our tax dollars. So would the IRS. So would every other government organization. Therefore, it would behoove them to discern our preferences. If they fail to discern our preferences...then we will let them know by not given them our tax dollars. This would effectively communicate to them that they need to improve how they are using society's limited resources.

Would you be happy with the selection of items on the shelves in the public store? Of course not. It's a given that you would want better options. We always want better options. It's a fact that you would be willing to pay for better options. And it's a fact that producers want more money. What happens when we put these two facts together? We learn why consumer choice ensures a consistent supply of better options.

If you know this...if you understand this...then you should love the idea of creating a market in the public sector as much as I do. You would start a blog to help spread the idea. Doing so would help create a larger net...and with a larger net we would catch more fish. So are you going to start a blog? If not, then you don't love pragmatarianism as much as I do. If this is the case then let me know which part of consumer choice in the public sector you don't know/understand/appreciate.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Razotarianism - Supplementing Public Revenue By Incentivizing Voluntary Contributions

A few years ago Warren Buffet made headlines by arguing that rich people weren't paying enough taxes.  In response, Rep. John Campbell proposed the Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is Act...
This simple bill would add a line near the bottom of Page 2 of all Form 1040 tax returns, allowing any taxpayer to voluntarily and very easily pay more tax than the law requires. What a great idea, huh? - John Campbell, The Liberal Tax
Unfortunately, not enough other congresspeople agreed that Campbell's idea was that great.  But I certainly I sent him an e-mail about another great idea...The Taxpayer is King.

Off the top of your you know if it's even possible to make donations to specific federal agencies?  I sure didn't.  After a bit of searching I found this article by Brian Palmer...Uncle Sam Wants You ... or at Least Your Spare Change.  It turns out that it is least for some agencies...

Department of Treasury
General fund
Debt reduction

Department of Health & Human Services
National Cancer Institute
National Institute of Health
National Institute of Mental Health
National Institute of Environmental Sciences

Department of the Interior
National Park Service

Department of Agriculture
The United States National Arboretum

Department of Defense
Veteran Affairs

Social Security
National Science Foundation
National Endowment For the Arts

What if you want to donate to the EPA or USAID?  I'm not so sure.  This 1963 document is the most official and comprehensive source that I could find on the topic.  Who knows if any of those laws have changed since then.  But why would any government agency be prohibited from accepting donations?  Because...they already have more than enough money?  From my perspective, every government organization should facilitate donations.  Maybe they shouldn't go as far as unleashing hordes of bike riding, suit wearing and door knocking minions...but it should be really easy to find the "Donate" button on their website.

For some reason relatively little has been written on the topic of donating to the government.  Here's what I managed to find...

[Update: Jan 2015 found some more...]
[Update: Aug 2015 found...]

There is, however, one guy out there who really loves the idea of people donating to the government.  His name is Razo.  A few months ago he commented on this blog entry of mine...What About Voluntary Taxation? Also, Knockers vs Builders...Which One Are You?  Shortly afterwards...I tried, and failed, to adequately address his concern about the wealthy having too much influence in a pragmatarian system.. .Visualizing And Evaluating The Public Goodness Threshold.

We've been e-mailing back and forth intermittently since then and I've managed to get a somewhat better handle on his solution to the problems of government.  What really helped me better understand his model was a paper he recently wrote.  But before I share the link with you...let me make sure that the title of his paper doesn't jump you to the wrong conclusion.

With Razo's model...taxation would still be compulsory...but perhaps not indefinitely so.  The more donations the government receives...the less taxes people will be required to pay.  In other words, more voluntary contributions means less coerced contributions.

If you have strong feelings one way or another about compulsory taxation...I really think it will be worth it if you try and keep an open mind.  

Here's his paper... Voluntary Taxation and the Future of Democracy.

Let's get some semantics out of the way.  Razo calls his model "Voluntary Taxation".  This label is... misleading.  I fear, as you might have noticed, that both liberals and anarcho-capitalists will jump to the wrong conclusion right off the bat.  Maybe they will incorrectly assume that Razo has been sponsored by the Tea Party.  But that's really not the case.  In theory, Razo's model should be equally desirable to both sides of the debate.  So I've taken the liberty of calling his model of government "razotarianism".  With this label it will be highly unlikely for anybody to be immediately and incorrectly biased for or against his model.  Plus, right now there isn't a single search result for the word "razotarianism".  This means that it meets the google alert standard.  You don't have to worry about being swamped by irrelevant results should you sign up to receive an e-mail from google whenever there's a new search result for "razotarianism".

Before we dive in, let me confess that I'm really not going to be able to do razotarianism justice. Heck, I can't even do pragmatarianism justice. But I'd be doing Razo's model even less justice if I didn't at least try to give it the recognition that it certainly deserves.

Are you wondering why in the world more people would voluntarily donate more money to the government? The answer is...incentives!  In a razotarian system, people would be incentivized to contribute more than they were required to do so.  What's the incentive?  Votes.  Anybody who paid more than their fair share to the government would receive more votes.  If you're concerned that this would give too much influence to the wealthy...then let me put your concerns to rest by clarifying that the weight of your contribution would depend on your total wealth.  So if both you and Bill Gates donated 1% of your wealth to the government...then even though his contribution was absolutely'd still receive the same amount of votes because his contribution was relatively the same size.

How powerful is this incentive?  Let's try and visualize the possibilities with this illustration...

"A" represents the current system with the current incentive.  The amount of donations that the government receives is a green drop in a red ocean.  It's vanishingly small.  If we switched over to a razotarian system...would people be sufficiently incentivized to voluntarily shoulder half of the tax burden..."B"?  Do you think it's possible that people would be so incentivized that they would be willing to voluntarily shoulder the entire tax burden..."C"?  

How much are people willing to pay for more say?  Beats me...but I'd certainly love to find out.  I really appreciate the idea of incentivizing people to pay more than their fair share of taxes.

Bryan Caplan touched on this...
I do wonder, though: Could the U.S. government attract a lot more donations with better marketing?  What if the President spent less time raising money for his campaign and more time raising money for the Treasury?  What if Congress publicly acknowledge the ten biggest donors in an annual ceremony?  I can easily believe that donations to the U.S. government would rise a hundred-fold.  But even then, Uncle Sam's share of national charity would be a mere .1%. - Bryan Caplan, Why Are Donations to Government So Small?
In my blog entry...Civic Crowdfunding - Encouraging Participation...I linked to these two posts by Miles Kimball...

In my entry I also argued that civic crowdfunding websites shouldn't just list the donors and the size of their donations...they should also include a link of the donor's choosing.  No reason that this couldn't work for making donations to government organizations.  If I make a donation to the EPA...and I opt for my donation to be made public...then my row on the EPA's "Thank you!!!" page would display three name, my donation amount and a link to my blog.  The more I donated...the higher the link to my blog would be on their "Thank you!!!" page...and the more traffic my blog would receive.  Like any good would be mutually beneficial.

That's just one of many different possible ways that people could be incentivized to donate to government organizations (GOs).  It's hard for me to imagine why, as taxpayers, we wouldn't we want GOs to enthusiastically explore additional sources of revenue.

So how do we get from here to there?  Let's break the big challenge down into three smaller challenges...

  • Awareness - people have to know that it's possible to donate to GOs
  • Facilitate - people have to be able to easily find the donate button
  • Incentive - people have to be rewarded for donating to GOs

Challenge #1 - Awareness

If every GO website has a noticeable donate button (challenge #2) then anybody who visits a government website will realize that it is possible to donate to GOs.  Plus, there should be an up-to-date list of GOs that you can donate to.  If you take a look at this donation page on the the'll see that their list of GOs that you can donate to is far shorter than my list.  That's easy enough to remedy.

Ideally, the website should link people to the complete list maintained on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) website.  It's right up the GAO's alley given that their responsibility is to make the government more "efficient, effective, ethical, equitable and responsive".  Clearly the GAO is dropping the ball if they allow GOs to turn their noses up at additional sources of revenue.

Challenge #2 - Facilitate

This should be the easiest challenge.  Thousands of non-profit organizations make it ridiculously easy for people to donate to their organizations.  If a GO can't accomplish this simple task...then they really shouldn't be spending anybody's tax dollars.

Challenge #3 - Incentive

This would seem to be the biggest challenge.  What perks/rewards/benefits can people receive for donating to GOs?  I already mentioned more traffic for your website.  What about a T-shirt?  Would you shell out $35 for a T-shirt?  It would say something like, "I donated to the EPA...because the environment's worth it!"  It's for a good cause...right?  Would you shell out $250 for a limited edition silver coin featuring Dendrophylax lindenii?  Would you shell out $10,000 for additional votes?

If you did spend $10,000 for additional votes...are you being more altruistic than somebody who donated $10,000 to the government for nothing but the warm glow of doing so?  This question is important because, I believe that the logical basis of razotarianism is the idea that, in the political realm, selfless people should have far more influence than selfish people.  Razo's model intends to effectively filter out the greedy bastards from politics.  Except, I'm not too sure if anybody who needs to be bribed with votes in order to donate to the government is necessarily that selfless.

Before we dig deeper into the rationale...let's try and figure out how Razo believes that this filter process would work...
Based on the rate of return on capital, wealthy individuals will have to decide whether they want to retain their capital or increase their political power. They can’t have both because the model mathematically excludes the possibility of increasing wealth and also increasing political power. If the rate of return on capital is 10%, for example, and an individual’s voluntary tax contribution is 20%, it will not take long for that person to lose his or her wealth. It’s also important to understand the competitive nature of the model.  At the upper extreme, people will inevitably compete at annual (wealth and income) tax rates of nearly 100%. One does not have to be a financial expert to understand that 100% tax on wealth and income will necessarily drive economically ambitious people (of all social classes) away from politics and into business, where they belong. Again, one of the most important strengths of the voluntary tax model is its unprecedented ability to remove self-interest from the top tier of politics.
Does this make sense?  The more money you donate to the government...the less money you'll have to invest in profitable ventures.  So do you want more votes...or more money?  Because you can't have both.

Here's another passage...
It is worth clarifying that the voluntary tax principle does not condemn self-interest. It simply excludes it from politics.  This ability to divorce business and self-interest from politics is precisely where the power of the voluntary tax model is found.
And another...
In his zeal for the common good, our imaginary taxpayer has voluntarily given away 100% of his wealth and his entire life’s work and has opted for a life of productive simplicity.
And another...
The segment of the population with the most political power would be comprised of the individuals who have demonstrated the least amount of self-interest. 
This strikes me as fundamentally wrong.  Perhaps the best way to show the wrongness is to whip out Elizabeth Warren...
There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody.  You built a factory out there—good for you! But I want to be clear.  You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for.  You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate.  You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.  You didn’t have to worry that maurauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did. 
If Warren is correct that the successful operation of business depends on government...then wouldn't it be a huge disaster to try and divorce business from politics?

In this sense...razotarianism and pragmatarianism are polar opposites.  As a pragmatarian I want the rich guy, who I dollar voted for, to have far more political influence than Warren, who I didn't even ballot vote for.  As a razotarian, Razo wants the rich guy to have far less political influence than Warren.

So who's right?  Razo or myself?

Let's consider the simple act of buying an apple pie.  Buying an apple pie means dollar voting for whoever produced that pie.  Let's say his name is Bob.  In order to produce the pie and earn our money...Bob had to dollar vote for whoever produced the apples that he put into the pie.  Bob, who really wants our money, has a strong incentive to purchase the optimal quantity and type of apples.  If he purchases the wrong quantity or type of apples... then he will lose dollar votes.  And given that Bob is self-interested...he really doesn't want to maximize loss, he wants to maximize gain.  So he diligently does his homework, and we benefit.

But are apples the only input in apple pies?  No, there are numerous other inputs...which can be divided into two types...private and public.  Private inputs, such as apples, are private because they are supplied by the private sector.  Public inputs, such as roads, are public because they are supplied by the government.

Apples and roads both go into our apple pies.  Of course roads don't literally go into our apple pies.  It would really suck to find chunks of asphalt in an apple pie.  But the apple pies that we buy depend on roads just as much as they depend on apples.  Apple pies can't go from Bob's bakery to your home without them.  This is why I want Bob to be free to shop for himself in the public sector.  Nobody has more incentive or knowledge than he does to dollar vote for the optimal balance of apple pie inputs.  If he needs more apples...then that's what he'll spend his private dollars on.  If he needs better roads...then that's what he'll spend his public dollars on.  If Bob misallocates either his private dollars or his public dollars, then consumers would shift their dollar votes to producers who haven't misallocated their money.

Razo wants to diminish Bob's influence in the public sector.  Why?  Because Bob is self-interested.  I want to increase Bob's influence in the public sector.  Why?  Because Bob is self-interested.

Let me clarify, I don't want to arbitrarily increase Bob's influence in the public sector.  I merely want his influence to accurately reflect the will of all the people who have dollar voted for him.  Because right now it really doesn't.  Bob's influence has been limited as the result of primitive traditions and bad economics.  These shackles have to be removed.  The fact of the matter is...the more people Bob serves...the more influence he should have.  Nonsensically limiting his influence in either sector fundamentally subverts the will of the people that Bob has effectively served.  Prohibiting Bob from shopping in the public sector doesn't help hurts them.  It's as counterproductive as literally shooting Bob, their good and faithful servant, in the foot.

Are you convinced that I'm right?  If not, then read this passage by Adam Smith...
When high roads, bridges, canals, &c. are in this manner made and supported by the commerce which is carried on by means of them, they can be made only where that commerce requires them, and consequently where it is proper to make them. Their expences too, their grandeur and magnificence, must be suited to what that commerce can afford to pay. They must be made consequently as it is proper to make them. A magnificent high road cannot be made through a desert country where there is little or no commerce, or merely because it happens to lead to the country villa of the intendant of the province, or to that of some great lord to whom the intendant finds it convenient to make his court. A great bridge cannot be thrown over a river at a place where nobody passes, or merely to embellish the view from the windows of a neighbouring palace: things which sometimes happen in countries where works of this kind are carried on by any other revenue than that which they themselves are capable of affording. - Adam Smith , Wealth of Nations
If commerce, in our case Bob, isn't free to dollar vote for the optimal allocation of roads, bridges and canals... then how could these public inputs possibly be constructed where they create the most value for consumers?  Does it really serve the common good if the government builds billions of bridges to nowhere?

Here's another wonderful passage by Adam Smith...
It does not seem necessary that the expence of those public works should be defrayed from that public revenue, as it is commonly called, of which the collection and application are in most countries assigned to the executive power. The greater part of such public works may easily be so managed as to afford a particular revenue sufficient for defraying their own expence, without bringing any burden upon the general revenue of the society. - Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations
This argument is perfectly relevant as to whether or not government organizations should have donate buttons on their websites.  Facilitating donations is the bare minimum that government organizations can do to help minimize their "burden upon the general revenue of society".  

What about razotarianism?  How much would it help decrease society's compulsory tax burden?  I don't know.  But it's a really good question.  It's kinda hard to imagine truly selfless donors really shouldering very much of the total tax burden.   Just how much money do truly selfless people have?  If they earned a lot of money...then perhaps they weren't so selfless.  And if they have to be bribed with votes in order to donate a lot of money to the government...then perhaps their Scrooge like transformation didn't really occur.

From my perspective...the compulsory tax burden would be far more likely to significantly decrease if votes weren't sold on a proportional basis.  Plus, arbitrarily limiting Bob's influence in the public sector substantially subverts the will of the people.  So I still prefer pragmatarianism...but razotarianism is definitely on to something with the idea of incentivizing donations to the government.  Hopefully many more people will discuss the merits of this approach.  Especially John Holbo.

[Update 15 Dec 2017]

Donald Trump making a donation to the government...

Monday, July 14, 2014

Why Boycott The Entire Government?

Context: Anarcho-capitialism vs Pragmatarianism


This upvoted comment on this downvoted post indicates that most of you don't know what pragmatarianism is.  Here's the comment...

Doesn't mention the cost of boycotting Congress. You can boycott Starbucks or Walmart and there is little cost to you. But the only way to boycott Congress is to not pay taxes. But ceasing to pay taxes results in a serious cost to you; jail and fines. If Americans could simply stop paying taxes with as little consequence as boycotting a restaurant they don't like we would see the real valuation of the government by the people. - thunderyak

With the current system, the only way to boycott congress is to not pay any taxes.  But with a pragmatarian system, you could boycott congress without having to boycott the entire government.  This is because in a pragmatarian system you could choose where your taxes go.  Pragmatarianism is also known as tax choice and taxpayer sovereignty.  Here's the FAQ.

Imagine if the only way you could boycott Starbucks would be to stop spending any money in the private sector.  Would any of you boycott Starbucks?  Probably not, it would be the epitome of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

The only thing wrong with the government is that we can't boycott congress as easily as we can boycott Starbucks.  Pragmatarianism would fix the only thing wrong with government.  If you weren't happy with the tax rate...then you just wouldn't give any of your tax dollars to congress.  As congress lost money...they would either fix the tax rate or go bankrupt.

Markets work because an organization's revenue directly depends on the amount of value it creates for consumers.  Pragmatarianism would create a market in the public sector.  This means that congress's revenue would directly depend on the amount of value they create for taxpayers.  So congress would have the maximum possible incentive to create the maximum possible value for taxpayers.  If creating the maximum possible value for taxpayers requires that congress drop the tax rate to 0%...then that's exactly what they'd do.

As I explained in my blog entry...Rothbard correctly diagnosed the problem with government (absence of individual valuation) but he recommended the wrong solution (abolishing the government).

Government, in short, acquiring its revenue by coerced confiscation rather than by voluntary investment and consumption, is not and *cannot* be run like a business. Its inherent gross inefficiencies, the impossibility for it to clear the market, will insure its being a mare's nest of trouble on the economic scene. - Murray N. Rothbard, The Fallacy of the 'Public Sector'

Rothbard was right that the government is not run like a business...but he was wrong that the government cannot be run like a business.  The government can easily be run like a business simply by allowing taxpayers to choose where their taxes go.

What are the alternatives?  Seasteading?  That's how you strike at the root of bad government?  You're going to foot vote for the ocean because you don't like the tax rate?  That makes as much sense as boycotting Starbucks by not spending any money in the private sector.

As Rothbard correctly argued...the root of bad government is the absence of individual valuation.  Therefore, you strike at the root by promoting pragmatarianism.

Dear Rothbard, The Government Isn't Beyond Repair

Context: Progress Depends on Freedom


LO! I have definitively proven that Neodoxianism maximizes output and utility. What is this missing? Microfoundations explaining how I get here. The problem with this analysis is that it is missing analysis. What I have learned about the true economist, for if there's one thing that I am, it's a true economist, and of the difference between the faux and the true economist, for if there's one thing that I've seen in failed economic analyses it is this, is that the true economist explains in a step-by-step manner the underlying foundations of his theory. We have a million utopian schemes, and few economic ones, exactly because this is so hard to do. - Neodoxy

The underlying foundation of my theory is that consumers want the most bang for their buck. If, in a pragmatarian system, taxpayers choose X rather than Y, then it's because X > Y. Do you want to argue that they will choose the less valuable option? If so, then you're arguing that markets create less, rather than more, value over time.

Let's consider a specific example...

X = boycotting congress
Y = supporting congress

Is X > Y? Does X provide more value than Y does? If so, then wouldn't taxpayers choose X rather than Y? If they did...then pragmatarianism -> (would lead to) anarcho-capitalism. If they didn't...then here are some possible explanations...

#1. Y > X
#2. taxpayers are not value maximizers
#3. taxpayers are mistaken...and they are too dumb to exchange error for truth
#4. taxpayers are mistaken...but they are smart enough to exchange error for truth

Which explanation do you pick?

If #1, then: pragmatarianism > anarcho-capitalism
If #2, then: socialism (imposed valuation) > pragmatarianism AND anarcho-capitalism
If #3, then: socialism (imposed valuation) > pragmatarianism AND anarcho-capitalism
If #4, then: pragmatarianism -> anarcho-capitalism

Is there another possible explanation for why taxpayers would support, rather than boycott, congress?

And once more, no economist are you! This time your error is merely of exact incarnation, rather than type, however. If you're interested in the exact error that you are making, Dr. Rothbard describes it best here: Toward a Reconstruction of Utility and Welfare Economics.  In short, utility cannot be quantified and the only standard we have for welfare maximization is pareto-optimality, which you violate. - Neodoxy

Really, no economist am I? I already explained that I will always beat you because I always do my homework. I'm not a slouch like yourself. If you had done your homework you would have realized that I cite that exact paper by Rothbard in 5 different blog entries...

Rothbard correctly identified exactly how the government is seriously broken...99.999% of citizens are prohibited from individually valuating goods supplied by the government. Except he mistakenly concluded that the government is beyond repair. Therefore, Rothbard's recommendation, which was to throw the government away, was incorrect. The government can easily be repaired simply by permitting individual valuation. Taxpayers just need to be free to choose where their taxes go. Each and every taxpayer would valuate whether X > Y. This would ensure, assuming as Rothbard (and every other free-market economist) does that consumers are utility maximizers, that whatever the government does, it will increase, rather than decrease, social utility. If allowing congress to determine the tax rate increases social utility...then taxpayers will support it. If it doesn't, then they won't. Presuming what does, or doesn't, increase social utility is the fatal error of socialism. Rothbard ironically, but inadvertently, made this exact same error by being more than willing to push a button that would abolish the government in one fell swoop.

I have to explain this to you because clearly you don't grasp Rothbard's argument. If you did, then you would understand that pragmatarianism (individual valuation in the public sector) completely invalidates Rothbard's recommendation.

Let me break it down for you...

1. Rothbard correctly diagnosed the disease (absence of individual valuation)
2. But he incorrectly assumed that there wasn't a cure (addition of individual valuation)
3. So he incorrectly recommended that the patient be euthanized.

Rothberror = right diagnosis, wrong remedy.

1. The doctor correctly diagnosed that the disease was scurvy (absence of vitamin C)
2. But he incorrectly assumed that there wasn't a cure (addition of vitamin C)
3. So he incorrectly recommended that the patient be euthanized.

The doctor committed a rothberror.

The question is...why are you citing a paper that you either haven't read or don't understand? Oh yeah, it's because you're a slouch. Please do us all a favor and follow the advice that I gave you last time...spend less time writing and more time reading.

The rest of what you wrote is just as ignorant as your understanding of Rothbard.


Here's an update on some Reddit communities...

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Daniel Klein's Semantic Efforts

Daniel Klein is really trying to reclaim the word "liberal"

Back in the day "liberal" used to mean "freedom".  Now it means "government".  So if a random person says that they are a liberal...then chances are pretty good that they support a large amount of government intervention.

On the one hand, I'm glad that Klein is looking at the relationship between words and freedom.  On the other hand, I'm not sure if his course of action is correct.

One of my pet peeves is when somebody says that they are a libertarian when they are actually an anarcho-capitalist.

Xero: What are you?
Bob: I'm a libertarian.
Xero: So you believe that congress is partially omniscient?
Bob: No
Xero: So you're an anarcho-capitalist?
Bob: Yes
Xero: Why didn't you say that to begin with?
Bob: Because I'm an idiot
Xero: That's true

Here's what the discussion would look like if Bob was slightly more intelligent...

Xero: What are you?
Bob: I'm an anarcho-capitalist.
Xero: What's the demand for coercion?
Bob: I don't know
Xero: Shouldn't you figure that out beforehand?
Bob: Well...

Here's what the discussion would look like if Bob was really intelligent...

Xero: What are you?
Bob: I'm a pragmatarian.
Xero: Me too!  Hi-5!

What is a pragmatarian?  It's a person who believes that people should be free to choose where their taxes go.  What if, rather than choosing this new label for this meaning, I had simply lumped it under the label "libertarian"?  This would have muddied the waters even more.  That would have been a mistake...given that the goal is clarity...
One doesn't need to be Thomas Gradgrind to be interested in the rules underlying the English language, or to believe that good communication and understanding depend on clarity.  Grammar is not just about learning sentence construction: it's about speaking clearly and plainly and cutting through obfustication. But even aside from that, and most importantly of all, good grammar will help you get laid. - Hadley Freeman, Humanity's future depends upon good grammar
Would it really increase clarity if anarcho-capitalists were to start referring to themselves as "liberals"?  I don't think so...

Xero: What are you?
Bob: I'm a liberal.
Xero: So you believe that congress is omniscient?
Bob: No
Xero: So you believe that congress is partially omniscient?
Bob: No
Xero: So you're an anarcho-capitalist?
Bob: Yes
Xero: Why didn't you say that to begin with?
Bob: Because I'm an idiot
Xero: That's true

We might as well play charades, draw hieroglyphics and have wife-swapping parties every time we need a new blanket.

Right now I'm really comfortable using the word "liberal" to refer to people who think the solution is more government...

The thing is though...there's always room for improvement.  For example, I created the word "chanidget".  A chanidget is a person who believes that nations prosper because of, rather than despite, governments.  What's the difference between a liberal and a chanidget?  Are there any liberals who believe that nations prosper despite, rather than because of, governments?  I don't think so.  So perhaps the word "liberal" and "chanidget" are mostly synonymous.  In the above picture I could have written, "Would Crucifying Chanidgets Stimulate The Economy?"

So if Klein wants people to stop using "liberal" to mean X...then perhaps he should give them other labels for X.  Maybe he could offer them "chanidget" instead.  Or maybe he could create some better words.  

If you're not happy because consumers are using a certain product...then you can boycott it or even try to have it banned.  But you can also engage in ethical builderism.  A knocker (liberal) will endeavor to remove a crappy option from the table while a builder will endeavor to put a better option on the table.  Builders are the source of progress.

The bottom line is that Daniel Klein should engage in semantic builderism.  He should create better words that will help clarify the value of freedom.  If he would like feedback on his new words...then he can share them on Reddit... Linvoid.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Progress as a Function of Freedom

This blog entry is a brainstorm.  In other's even less polished, organized and coherent than usual!  But I'm throwing it out there for the benefit of Mr. Kite.  I just looked that up.  Turns out that this is for the benefit of a long dead circus performer.  Sure...why not?

The topic of this high flying brainstorm is, as you can tell from the title, progress and freedom.  These two things are very much related.  Here's how I've very terribly illustrated this...

Freedom is the ability to allocate your resources differently.  The majority allocates their resources in one direction...and you can choose to allocate your resources in a different direction.

The perfect example is the story of Noah's ark.  Does it bother you that the story is fictitious?  It really shouldn't.  As the story goes...God informs Noah that he's going to destroy the world with a flood.  This information provides Noah with the incentive to use his resources to build a giant boat.  Even though he shares his partial knowledge with others...he's the only one who acts on it.  Everybody else laughs at him because they really doubt the business model.  The majority believes one thing and an extremely small minority believes another thing.  Both groups can't be right.  And in this case, neither can both groups be wrong.  Either the world will be destroyed by a flood...or it won't be.  Despite the fact that each group is certain that the other is wrong...there's no attempt to restrict each other's freedom.  Each group can allocate their resources differently.  The majority takes one path...and the minority takes another path.  It's a good thing that Noah's freedom was not restricted because it turns out that he chose the right path.

The moral of the story is that heterogeneous activity is essential.  Because the future is uncertain...we should hedge our bets by protecting individual freedom.  Doing so maximizes the variety of economic activity which maximizes discovery which maximizes progress.

Uncertainty, Risk, Fallibilism, Tolerance, Diversify, Hedge, Discovery, Innovation, Progress

This is the companion page for my next blog entry...Progress as a Function of Freedom.  This entry consists of a collection of quotes and passages that are relevant to the topic of progress.


By dividing the whole circulation into a greater number of parts, the failure of any one company, an accident which, in the course of things, must sometimes happen, becomes of less consequence to the public. This free competition, too, obliges all bankers to be more liberal in their dealings with their customers, lest their rivals should carry them away. In general, if any branch of trade, or any division of labour, be advantageous to the public, the freer and more general the competition, it will always be the more so. - Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations

Among men, on the contrary, the most dissimilar geniuses are of use to one another; the different produces of their respective talents, by the general disposition to truck, barter, and exchange, being brought, as it were, into a common stock, where every man may purchase whatever part of the produce of other men's talents he has occasion for. - Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations

Slaves, however, are very seldom inventive; and all the most important improvements, either in machinery, or in the arrangement and distribution of work which facilitate and abridge labour, have been the discoveries of freemen. - Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations

It is of importance that the landlord should be encouraged to cultivate a part of his own land. His capital is generally greater than that of the tenant, and with less skill he can frequently raise a greater produce. The landlord can afford to try experiments, and is generally disposed to do so. His unsuccessful experiments occasion only a moderate loss to himself. His successful ones contribute to the improvement and better cultivation of the whole country. - Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations

When a great company, or even a great merchant, has twenty or thirty ships at sea, they may, as it were, insure one another. The premium saved upon them all, may more than compensate such losses as they are likely to meet with in the common course of chances. - Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations

More heads are occupied in inventing the most proper machinery for executing the work of each, and it is, therefore, more likely to be invented. There are many commodities, therefore, which, in consequence of these improvements, come to be produced by so much less labour than before, that the increase of its price is more than compensated by the diminution of its quantity. - Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations