Sunday, November 30, 2014

President Bartlet's Critique Of Pragmatarianism

For those of you that haven't watched The West Wing, Bartlet is a fictional president of the United States.  He doesn't critique pragmatarianism specifically...but this is relevant enough for me to share (context: The Lame Duck Congress)...

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Bartlet: Can I tell you something, honestly? This is one of those situations where I couldn't give a damn what the people think. The complexities of a global arms treaty, the technological, the military, the diplomatic nuances, it's staggering, Toby. 82% of the people cannot possibly be expected to reach an informed decision.  You want to call a session anyway?

Toby: No. No. If we lose, and we will, we're out of.

Bartlet: Yeah. Anything else?

Toby: No, sir. Thank you, Mr. President.

Bartlet: You know we forget sometimes, in all the talk about democracy we forget it's not a democracy, it's a republic. People don't make the decisions, they choose the people who make the decisions. Could they do a better job choosing? Yeah. But when you consider the alternatives, anyway, Abbey's in New Hampshire, you want to come up for a cigar?

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In a pragmatarian system, people would still choose the people who make the decisions. The only difference is that they would also choose how much of their own tax dollars they gave to them.

Let's consider five different boats that people could be in...

Boat 1 - "You can have my vote and all of my tax dollars"

Boat 2 - "You can have my vote and some of my tax dollars"

Boat 3 - "You can have my vote but none of my tax dollars"

Boat 4 - "You can't have my vote, but you can have my tax dollars"

Boat 5 - "You can't have my vote or my tax dollars"


So which boat would you be in?


Boat 1

- If somebody's in this boat then they truly trust their representatives.

Boat 2

- If somebody's in this boat then they kind of trust their representatives.

Boat 3

- If somebody's in this boat then they don't truly trust their representatives.

Boat 4

- If somebody's in this boat then they are probably crazy.

Boat 5

- If somebody's in this boat then they really don't trust their representatives.


The number one critique of pragmatarianism is that people are uninformed.  But if people are uninformed, and they give all their tax dollars to their impersonal shoppers (congress), then does it matter?  Not as a critique of pragmatarianism.  Being uninformed only matters if people would choose to allocate their taxes themselves.

The weight of the number one critique of pragmatarianism depends on the number of people who would choose to allocate their taxes themselves.  The more people that would choose to allocate their taxes themselves, the more weight that this critique has.  Except, the more people that would choose to allocate their taxes themselves, the less people that truly trust congress.

Basically, when somebody says, "people are too uninformed to allocate their taxes themselves" they are really saying, "people don't truly trust their representatives".

We have a system where we give a huge chunk of our hard earned money to people who we don't truly trust to spend it?  Does that make sense?  Wouldn't it make much more sense to have a system where we give our money to people we truly trust?  Maybe such a system doesn't exist?  Oh wait, it does...it's called a market.

Markets work because people have to earn our trust.  Does congress have to earn our trust?  Nope.  What about the EPA?  Nope.  What about the DoD?  Nope.  What about the IRS?  Nope.  Does any governmental organization have to earn our trust?  Nope.

If we want the government to really work then we have to create a market in the public sector.  It will be a beautiful day when public servants actually have to earn our trust.  

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