Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Non Sequitur Economics

Reply to reply: Imagining Scarcity

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That's exceedingly glib, because "taxpayers should be allowed to choose where their taxes go" doesn't automatically follow from "consumer choice has extremely beneficial consequences". For one thing, consumer choice has costs as well as benefits; for another, just because choice works well for everyday consumer goods doesn't mean it'll work equally well for goods & services provided by taxation. (What happens, for example, if tax choice is instituted and each taxpayer realizes that their marginal tax contribution has only a negligible effect on how well the nation's army defends them personally, and each taxpayer therefore re-directs that share of their taxes to something else?) - satt

It's a non-sequitur? I don't think so. It's a non-sequitur when the supply of goods/services doesn't follow from the preferences of consumers. To take a pacifist's money and supply them with war is just as much a non-sequitur as it is to take a vegetarian's money and supply them with a juicy steak.

If you're so willing to assume that our country's defense efforts do more good than harm... then why stop there? Why not assume that steak does more good than harm as well? Surely we're not all that different?

In other words, if you're so confident of the conclusion that you're willing to leap to regarding people's preferences for public goods... then isn't it strange if that confidence suddenly disappears in terms of private goods?

If somebody is willing to forego a marginally greater supply of defense in order to gain a marginally greater supply of cancer research... then who am I to override their valuation? Am I sleeping next to them at night? Do I know what fear/concern/anxiety is most likely to rob them of sound slumber? In this case, then maybe, just maybe, it might not be exceedingly unreasonable for me to override their valuation. But anything outside of such an extremely personal and intimate knowledge of somebody else's preferences... is fundamental hubris. The kind of hubris that results in the worst kind of misallocations of a nation's most valuable resources.

Please be aware that, if you're arguing that everybody's going to be inclined to divest armies... then you're arguing that pragmatarianism would produce world peace.  If, on the other hand, you're saying that some exceptional individuals would be inclined to invest in armies... are you saying that some country will have a monopoly on exceptional individuals?  Or, are you saying that each country would have roughly the same percentage of exceptional individuals?  Or, are you saying that no two countries would have the same exact percentage of exceptional individuals?   If so, would exceptional individuals foot vote accordingly?  Would they all want to flock together?  And then there'd be a nation of exceptional individuals who would only invest in armies?  If this is true, then just how much taxes would they be able to spend?  A lot?

Imagine a baker who only spends his money on one ingredient.  Do you think his singular strategy would have consumers lining up for miles?

In case you missed it... we're all different. Economic growth and prosperity is a function of this difference. Blocking nearly all this difference from the public sector ensures that we get the balance of public ingredients/inputs really wrong.

If you're interested in critiquing pragmatarianism... it might help to read the FAQ.

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See also:

Succeeding vs Failing At Other Minds
Does Elizabeth Warren Know What Keeps You Running?

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