Friday, February 12, 2016

Voting vs Spending

Reply to thread: Clarifying The Demand For Green Lights


But how much would you spend for gay marriage to be legal?  You don't know because you'd have to think long and hard about just how important gay marriage is to you.   This is why spending is infinitely more valuable than voting.  It requires infinitely more thought and consideration. - Xero

You know, I don't think that's true at all. Because I was able to vote on gay marriage(marriage equality, actually) for the total cost of a short detour on my walk home from work, I was able to consider the matter purely on its own merits. Do I care more about marriage equality more than I care about the burger and chips I bought after voting? Irrelevant. My decision was better, more valuable, because it didn't cost me anything to make. Voting was infinitely superior to spending. - Ifreann

Batman has one of two options...

1. Rescue a cat from a tree
2. Save Gotham from imminent destruction

Both options are valuable... but they aren't equally valuable.  It should be intuitive that the second option is infinitely more valuable.  Therefore... it should also be intuitive that it truly does matter how much you value something.  If we disregard... or ignore... the "how much"... then society's limited resources will be used for less valuable uses.  Batman rescues the cat rather than Gotham.

The biggest reason that taxes are compulsory rather than voluntary is that people would have an incentive to lie.  Imagine if taxes were entirely voluntary and I asked you [i]how much[/i] you value your public park.  If your stated valuation was $50 dollars... then this is how much you would have to pay.  Clearly your incentive here is to pretend that you value the park [i]less[/i] than you actually do.  But if too many people did this then we can guess that the park would be underfunded.

So we make taxes compulsory.  However, you are not asked how much you value your public park.  Instead... you are simply asked whether you want a public park or not.  Or you are given the option to vote for somebody who promises a bigger better public park.  The smaller your tax obligation is... the larger your incentive is to pretend that you value the park more than you actually do.  But if too many people did this then we can guess that the park would be overfunded.

Basically, if you accept the basic premise of compulsory taxation... then you must acknowledge that people's honest and accurate valuations truly matter.  It actually does matter how much you value gay marriage.  Your honest and accurate valuation of gay marriage truly matters.  If it doesn't matter... then your honest and accurate valuation of public parks do not matter either... and taxation should be entirely voluntary.

Just in case you're under the assumption that my basic premise is free-market propaganda... it really isn't.  It's from the most widely paper on the topic.... which was written by a Nobel Prize liberal economist...

The Pure Theory of Public Expenditure

Libertarians largely want to reduce taxation... so they are loathe to acknowledge that the free-rider problem is actually a real problem.  However... liberals are loathe to acknowledge that, because the tax burden is so unevenly distributed, the free-rider problem is actually a real problem when it comes to democracy.

To put it as accessible as possible... nobody benefits when people are given the chance to cheat.  The fact that you got something you wanted, legalized gay marriage, without having to pay for it... is a perfect example of cheating.  It might sound like a really good deal for you... but that's only because you can't imagine how awesome it would be to live in a society where nobody was allowed to cheat.  If nobody was allowed to cheat... then society's limited resources would be put to their most valuable uses.  There would be no more war... or global warming... or cancer... or poverty.... or traffic congestion.   Instead there would be peace, prosperity and progress.  Everybody would have a ridiculous amount of incredibly valuable opportunities.  Nobody would be underemployed.  Nobody's talent would be kept on the sidelines.

Let's think about this differently.  Have you ever seen a cat smile?  I haven't.  I've smiled at cats before... but they never smile back.  I've smiled at people before... and sometimes they smile back.  I'm pretty sure that our society works better as the result of our ability to use our facial expressions to communicate with each other.  Right?  Can you imagine if our faces were as expressionless as cat faces?  Far less information would be conveyed.   Right now you can't see my expression and I can't see your expression... and, as a result, far less information is conveyed.  It's the same thing with cash.  When spending is removed from the equation... far less information is conveyed.  And society doesn't function as well.  Society functions better with more, rather than less, communication.  Voting is a form of communication... but it doesn't convey nearly as much information as spending does.  Spending, for all intents and purposes, is sacrifice.  And it's extremely important to know what people are willing to sacrifice for the things that they say they want.  I'm an atheist but I really appreciate the bible because sacrifice is a strong and recurring theme.

When I was a little kid I didn't understand why God rejected Cain's sacrifice.  It was only years later when I started appreciating that spending/sacrifice was communication that I understood that Abel's sacrifice spoke a lot louder than Cain's sacrifice.  What Abel was willing to give up, a lamb, was far more valuable than what Cain was willing to give up...fruit.   Abel was willing to pay a lot more than Cain.  Can you imagine if Cain had simply voted for God?  "Here God, I've given it a lot of thought and I've decided that I want you to have my vote!  It costs absolutely nothing but I hope you appreciate it!"  How would  God have responded?  Probably not too well.

Later in the old testament... God tests Abraham by telling him to sacrifice his only son Isaac.  Abraham was willing to do so and at the last minute God intervened and said, "for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me."

In the new testament... God communicated how much he loved the world by his willingness to sacrifice his only son to save it.  Imagine if he had simply voted to save the world.  For God so loved the world... that he voted to save it.  How far and wide do you think Christianity would have spread?  Do you think the official motto of the United States would be "In God We Trust"?  Of course not.  It would probably be "In Gods We Trust".   Christianity was only able to spread so far and fast because it was a powerful and universally meaningful story.

Let's say that I made a video.  "Ok world.  I really love you.  I love you so much that I'm willing to sacrifice myself to save you."  And then I killed myself.  I'm guessing that if somebody uploaded the video then it would probably go viral.  And everybody would be wondering why, exactly, I sacrificed myself. Of course people would quickly figure out that I was a pragmatarian... and then they would learn what pragmatarianism was and debate its merits and the rationality, or lack thereof, of my self-sacrifice.  Is my life worth putting pragmatarianism in the national spotlight?  Clearly there wouldn't be a more powerful way to demonstrate my preference for pragmatarianism.

Imagine the outrage if I sacrificed my cat instead.  "Ok world.  I really love you.  I love you so much that I'm willing to sacrifice my cat to save you."  And then I sacrificed my cat and uploaded the video.  Would it help or hurt if I cooked and ate the cat afterwards?   To be clear... the cat wouldn't technically be my cat.  It would be my gf's cat.  And she probably wouldn't be too happy with me if I sacrificed it.  Still though... I do like the cat... even if it never smiles at me.

In any case, it really does matter how much we are willing to sacrifice for the things that we want.  We really shouldn't give things to people if they aren't willing to pay the price for them.  This is true whether we're talking about green lights... gay marriage...legalized abortion... or even pragmatarianism.

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