Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Clarifying The Demand For Green Lights

Reply to AntiBullshitManYou Are What You Tax: Pragmatarianism & 'The Left'


Regarding subsidies... the relevant technical term is "concentrated benefits and dispersed costs". Right now a small percentage of all our tax dollars go into the pockets of the producers of meat and dairy. It really adds up to take a little money from a lot of people... which makes it worthwhile for the producers to lobby for subsidies... but not worthwhile for consumers to lobby against subsidies. Pragmatarianism would eliminate the problem of concentrated benefits and dispersed costs. The only way that any of my tax dollars could end up in the pockets of the producers of farm/dairy products would be if I chose to give them my tax dollars.

You're arguing that you would pull the plug on pragmatarianism if, thanks to the choices of taxpayers, the meat/dairy industry received more funding than it currently does... which would result in more animal cruelty. You would withdraw your support for pragmatarianism if it resulted in more animals being tortured. I'm not exactly sure what would motivate a significant amount of taxpayers to choose to put their tax dollars into the pockets of dairy/meat producers. Is increasing the supply of meat/dairy truly a priority for them? In any case, even though I'm opposed to animals being treated cruelly.... I don't think that I would pull the plug on pragmatarianism if it did actually result in more animal cruelty.

Pragmatarianism isn't about sweeping problems under the rug. It's not about burying our heads in the sand. Pragmatarianism is all about taking an honest, and perhaps quite painful, look at the reality of humanity. This will allow us to see where, exactly, is the most room for improvement. Once we have this knowledge... then we can put our heads together and figure out the best solutions to our most pressing problems.

Hiding the size and symptoms of cancer might make sense... if, and only if, doing so is somehow making the cancer shrink. But if you can't see the true size of the cancer... and you can't feel its effects... then you can't be 100% sure that it isn't growing.

Right now we're in the dark. We can't see the demand for public goods. Pragmatarianism would turn the lights on. Pragmatarianism is enlightenment. We would clearly see the demand for public goods. Are we going to like what we see? I don't know. Maybe not. But I know that turning off the lights wouldn't truly solve anything.

If we turned on the lights and discovered that there was a significant indirect demand for animal cruelty... then I think that animal rights activists would be motivated to allocate a huge amount of their taxes to whichever country is making the greatest strides in the production of cultured meat. The freedom of animal rights activists to shop around for better results... is the only thing that would ensure far better results in far less time.

Why do they even keep these things on at 3am anyway? Every street is deserted!

It doesn't make sense for you to be stuck at a red light when there's no oncoming traffic. It's a waste of your time. But what's the demand for smarter lights? We don't know because we don't know the demand for public goods. If you're stuck behind an unnecessary red light... then you should definitely have the freedom to say, "Hey smart car! Allocate $25 tax dollars to whichever country is making the most progress with smart lights!" Well... yeah... you'd figure that by the time that cars were that smart.... lights would be as well.

Actually... in a pragmatarian system... lights would change according to demand! Clearly... if every street is deserted... then your demand for green lights would be the greatest. You'd be willing to pay one penny for 100 green lights... and nobody would be around to bid against you. So all your lights would be green. Now imagine it's rush hour. As more and more people are stuck behind a red light... the greater the aggregate demand for the light to turn green. The light would turn green once the demand for it doing so was the greatest. And it would stay green until it was outbid.

Although I'm not sure who gets the money? The city? A poor person and a rich person are both approaching the same intersection... assuming equal urgency... the rich person will outbid the poor person for the green light. So should the money that the rich person spent on the green light be given to the poor person who had to wait at the red light? Yeah... right?

But at which point would lights turn yellow? A yellow light would say, "You're about to be outbid! Better dig deep into your pockets if you don't want to be stuck at a red light!"

You haven't read Deng Xiaoping? Well... neither have I. He was China's leader right after Mao was given the boot. In 1978 Deng Xiaoping began to gradually implement free-market reforms. This allowed China to trade with each other and the rest of the world... which resulted in millions of people being lifted out of poverty. It had nothing to do with Keynes or increased regulations. It had everything to do with reducing unnecessary government restrictions on trade. Restrictions/regulations are like red lights. We need red lights... but if you assume that government planners can know which lights should be red and for how long... if you assume that government planners can correctly calculate everybody's costs and benefits... then I'm not sure why you'd want to take any control from government planners and give it to taxpayers.

If you're assuming that government planners have night vision goggles... and you assume that they are going to make correct decisions based on what they see... then there's little point in turning on the lights.

So to clarify; I'm endorsing pragmatarianism (persuasionism) precisely because I have my finger on the taxpayers' pulse & know that they don't want bonkers changes leading to Anarcho-Capitalism or any type of stateless society.

Well... I really can't claim to have my finger on the pulse of taxpayers. I can't know that, in a pragmatarian system, taxpayers would not boycott the IRS out of existence. I do think it's a pretty reasonable assumption though... because... nobody wants to be cheated. But I fully appreciate that many anarcho-capitalists oppose compulsory taxation just like you oppose animal cruelty. Few, if any, anarcho-capitalists are interested in becoming pragmatarians. They have absolutely no interest in turning on the lights and seeing the true demand for coercion (the IRS). For them... ignorance is bliss. You, on the other hand, are willing to turn the lights on a little bit... but you're also willing to turn them completely off if you don't like what you see. I'm not sure that turning off the lights will really erase the disturbing image from your mind. I don't think that you can truly return to blissful ignorance.

I'd like to see pragmatarianism go global too, but I fear the average taxpayer might get overwhelmed at the catalog of options across all countries.

Are consumers overwhelmed at the catalog of private goods across all countries? I'm pretty sure that when I'm on Netflix... I'm not overwhelmed by the catalog of foreign movies. I love foreign movies. No country has a monopoly on awesome movies, music, books or food.... just like no country has a monopoly on awesome public goods.

Never thought of my uploads as public goods, but I gotta say, having your part-time hobby called a 'public good' is quite flattering.

The free-rider problem is certainly applicable to your work here on Youtube. Not knowing the true demand for your work increases the chances that you'll make the wrong decisions regarding your work. Being in the dark increases the chances that you'll trip on something. Youtube could turn on the lights by 1. charging every user $10 dollars a year and 2. allowing users to choose which videos they allocate their money to. This would help clarify the demand for videos. It would facilitate more accurate communication between consumers and producers. I would definitely allocate some portion of my $10 dollars to this video of yours. What's the total amount of money that would be allocated to this video? We don't know. And it's a problem that we don't know. There are millions of people who really should give up their day jobs... but they don't do so because they can't clearly see the demand for whatever it is that they are passionate about.

There are a gazillion "rooms" where the lights need to be turned on. But the largest dark room by far is the public sector. I can't guarantee that you're going to like what you see if we turn the lights on in the public sector. But I can guarantee that it's far more harmful to remain in the dark (ages).

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