Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Most Important Reveal Ever

Reply to reply: The Demand For Defense?

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No, it really wouldn't, and it doesn't matter if they boycott the president or not. By removing Congress' power of the purse, and the budget bills that are thousands of pages long defining HOW each agency can spend its money, the president can simply redirect funds from one agency to another - including his own. 
Boycott all you want. It doesn't matter. - Galloism

If boycotting doesn't matter... then again, you're not critiquing pragmatarianism. If it doesn't matter how much money the people do not give the president... then again... you're not critiquing pragmatarianism.

In a pragmatarian system... the amount of money that a government agency receives would reflect the agency's credibility/legitimacy/necessity. If you choose to give the president your money... then you're giving him your stamp of a approval. You're verifying/vetting/vouching his particular use of society's limited resources.

Personally, I don't give my money to the NRA. Am I boycotting them? No. I simply believe that there are more valuable uses of my limited money. If you're a vegetarian... you don't buy meat. Are you boycotting the producers of meat? Yes. You strongly believe that there are far more valuable uses of your limited money.

And no matter how much you "boycott" the president funding wise, the constitution doesn't change. The constitution only changes if you comply with the requirements for constitutional change. Namely, you need to get 2/3 of both houses of congress to pass an amendment, sending it to the states, and then get 3/4 of the state legislatures to approve it under the procedures established by those states. - Galloism

If a tree falls in the forest, but nobody hears it, does it make a sound? If the constitution says we need a president, but nobody funds him, does he matter? If the law says that marijuana is illegal, but nobody funds its enforcement, does the law matter? If the law says that gays shouldn't be allowed to marry, but nobody funds its enforcement, does the law matter?

Every single one of our laws was created without knowing the actual demand for them. Most people don't realize this because they don't think that there's any real difference between voting for something and spending for something. Voting for something reveals popularity. Spending for something reveals demand. Demand depends entirely on personal sacrifice. Voting in no way shape or form requires you to reach into your own pocket and put your own hard-earned money where your mouth is. As a result... many, maybe even most, of our laws are total bullshit. Allowing people to choose where their taxes go would clearly show us which laws are worth keeping and which laws were worth discarding.

We don't exist for the laws... the laws exist for us. We don't exist for the president... the president exists for us. And the only way that we can truly discern whether the people genuinely want the president to exist for them is by allowing everybody to choose where their taxes go.

And barring thousand page funding bills, under your system, you can allocate whatever you want, but if you don't fundamentally change the structure of the government, the president can simply force redistribution of those allocations because he controls the hiring/firing of directors of those agencies. In order to do so, it would require a constitutional amendment, which requires vast political will, and a deep understanding of the current structure so it could be modified to suit your vision. This is why I keep harping on common ownership and control. If you do not change the common ownership and control of these agencies, your system will do nothing except give more power to the president. Full stop. - Galloism

It's not very significant to me that the president controls the hiring/firing of directors. You know why I'm not too worried about it? It's because, in a pragmatarian system, the taxpayers would control the president's funding.

Right now congress controls the tax rate. You know why I'm not too worried about it? It's because, in a pragmatarian system, the taxpayers would control congress's funding.

Let me geek out and quote Frank Herbert... "He who controls the spice controls the universe." In a pragmatarian system it would be... he who controls the funding controls the universe. And who would control the funding? Taxpayers.

Right now for most people it really doesn't matter how much money taxpayers would choose to give the president. This information isn't important to them. They aren't pragmatarians. They have absolutely no interest in knowing what the demand for the president is. Or they erroneously believe that voting reveals the demand for the president.

In order for a pragmatarian system to be implemented... enough people have to really appreciate the value of actually knowing the demand for the president. Enough people have to say, "It's a really huge fucking problem that we don't know the demand for the president or defense or environmental protection or public healthcare or cancer research or public education or space exploration or any other good supplied by the public sector!!!!" When enough people say this and believe it... then, and only then, will taxpayers be allowed to choose where their taxes go. So if, and when, pragmatarianism is implemented.... for most people it will be extremely meaningful and important to learn just how much money taxpayers are willing to give to the president. The amount of funding that the president receives will determine his fate. The president will know this. Taxpayers will know this. Everybody in the world will know this.

One time my girlfriend received a candle as a gift. This candle was a little different though because buried deep in the wax was a ring of unknown value. She was pretty happy to get the candle so she quickly set it on the coffee table and lit it. Then she went on youtube and started watching videos where people discovered which rings were in their candles. I think these are called "reveal" videos or something. Anyways, between the candle and the videos... I quickly fell asleep. I woke up shortly afterwards to find my girlfriend energetically trying to dig through the wax with a chopstick or something in order to get to the ring. Needless to say patience probably isn't her strongest suit. She couldn't take the suspense. It turned out the ring in her candle wasn't that valuable.

Actually... I might have mentioned something to her about the possibility of using a chopstick. I admit to being a little curious about the value of the ring. But as a pragmatarian... I'm infinitely more interested in knowing the value of the president and everything else in the public sector. The suspense is really killing me. Unfortunately, there's no way for me to cheat. I can't simply pay a psychic to tell me the true value of everything in the public sector. Instead, I simply have to try and persuade everyone that it would be really worth it to know the actual demand for public goods. I have to try and get them very interested in the "reveal". I have to try and persuade them to become pragmatarians.

So when you're critiquing a pragmatarian system... it's entirely necessary for you to appreciate that most people in the country will be extremely interested in the reveal. People in other countries will probably be very interested in the reveal. Maybe people on other planets will be tuning in to watch our first reveal. They will be reminiscing about their planet's very first reveal. They will be excited to compare the results of their first reveal with the results of our first reveal. For us on planet Earth it will be by far our most important "reveal" ever. People in other countries will want to have their own reveal. The suspense will be killing them.

Right now you're arguing that the reveal won't be that important. As if it really won't matter to the millions and millions of pragmatarians how valuable the president is. As if it could turn out that the president is entirely worthless... but it would still be business as usual. As if the people would say, "Ho hum, the president is worthless... nobody funds him... but no worries about him going about his regular business as if he was actually important to us. There's no problem with a worthless person living in the White House, flying around in Air Force one and meeting other presidents."

Imagine through mass mind control I could hire and fire directors of PETA and the NRA at my will, and the directors know this, and people MUST donate $100 amount to one of those two organizations by law. Does it matter which one? - Galloism

It still matters because people would still be very interested in the reveal. If it turned out that PETA was far more valuable... but you disrespected the reveal by shifting PETA's funding to the NRA... then people would disrespect you. And if people were not permitted to disrespect you... then clearly that would be a problem.

Rose Bowl vs Syncaris pasadenae

Reply to reply: The Demand For Defense?

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1. Global warming is the consequence of a shortage of conservation (broadly speaking). True/False - Xero
Just to stop you right here: False. At least in any meaningful way. Conservation doesn't even enter into the issue until relatively recently, only once the impact of industrial byproducts was better understood. Before that, conservationism didn't mean, "reducing industrial outputs," and (broadly speaking) it still doesn't. Conservationism is mostly about preserving wilderness in some shape or form. No amount of Teddy Roosevelt style conservationism could have stopped global climate change, short of virtually the entire world being made a park. - Quokkastan

A friend in Australia was telling me how he saw some freshwater shrimps in one of his local streams. Out of curiosity I checked to see if there happened to be any freshwater shrimps here in Southern California. It turned out that there is a local species of freshwater shrimp... Syncaris pasadenae. Well... at least there used to be one here. Now it's gone. Because of the Rose Bowl. Fucking Rose Bowl killed my little freshwater shrimp. Fucking Rose Bowl!!!!

The Rose Bowl is only a few minutes away from where I live. You know how many events that I've attended there? ZERO. I could care less about sports. I shit on sports. Fuck sports. Sports killed my freshwater shrimp. Sports forever robbed me, and everybody else who will ever exist, of the chance to ever see Syncaris pasadenae.

What if, back in the day, taxpayers in Southern California had been given the chance to allocate their taxes? Would the shrimp's habitat been conserved or developed? I'm guessing that it still would have been developed. I'm pretty sure that it still would have been developed. But what if everybody in California had been given the chance to allocate their taxes? I'm thinking that it would have been slightly less likely that the land would have been developed. But what if everybody in the US had been given the chance to allocate their taxes? Then it would have been even less likely that the land would have been developed. But what if everybody in the US and Canada had been given the chance to allocate their taxes? Again, it would have been even less likely. What if everybody in the US and Canada and England had been given the chance to allocate their taxes? Again, even less likely. What if everybody in the US, Canada, England and France had been given the chance to allocate their taxes? Again, even less likely. So what if everybody in the entire WORLD had been given the chance to allocate their taxes? It would have been far less likely. In fact, it would have been so less likely... that I think there might have been a good chance that the shrimp's habitat would have been conserved rather than developed.

Does this mean that the Rose Bowl wouldn't have been built? No... it just means that the Rose Bowl would have been built on land that nature lovers around the world would have spent the least amount of money to protect. Again, with emphasis... the Rose Bowl would have been built on land that nature lovers around the world would have spent the least amount of money to protect.

What would happen if we finally learned from our mistakes and gave taxpayers the freedom to shop in any country's public sector? Then nature lovers would want the most conservation for their tax dollars. They would want the most biodiversity for their buck. Anytime land was being sold anywhere... nature lovers around the world would be able to decide whether it was worth it to try and use their tax dollars to buy the land. Nature lovers around the world would debate the conservation value of every piece of land for sale in the world. And it would be heaven. Pure fucking heaven.

Why can't you clearly see that it would be heaven? Why don't you clearly see that the current system is hell?

The chance that [CITES] listing would even help in their rescue from extinction is uncertain and the lists become difficult to regulate if they become too cumbersome. Many of the species referred to here are not threatened by trade but by land conversion and deforestation. In addition, other species will become extinct without our ever being aware that they were threatened, while others will become extinct without us even being aware of their existence. One can predict that, as the ineffectiveness of CITES to save species becomes ever more widely appreciated, the reluctance to support the convention will become more evident. - Harold Koopowitz, Orchids and their Conservation

Consider another scenario. You are a professor at a major university and one of your doctoral students calls from Costa Rica. He has picked up some orchid plants from broken branches on the forest floor. The usual fate of orchids that fall is premature death. This is a young man who is intensely committed to conservation and hates to see anything die. You have to tell him to abandon the plants because it would be too difficult for him to get CITES papers. - Harold Koopowitz, Orchids and their Conservation

The usual pattern, however, is more like that of Zambia where it is legal to turn a branch bearing live orchids into charcoal but it is illegal to take the orchids off the branch to export before burning the wood. - Harold Koopowitz, Orchids and their Conservation

From the last section of the chapter... which is titled, "Could the money have been better spent?"

The amount of money spent annually to enforce CITES must be enormous. To this must be added the cost of travelling to the various meetings of committees and conventions. If only part of the money spent on CITES over the last 25 years had been made available to actual and real conservation activities, such as buying up forested lands or policing preserves, the world would now be a better place and conservation would have been far better served. - Harold Koopowitz, Orchids and their Conservation


Check out this passage by George Monbiot...

On Friday, a few days after scientists announced that the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is now inevitable(4), the Ecuadorean government decided that oil drilling would go ahead in the heart of the Yasuni national park(5). It had made an offer to other governments: if they gave it half the value of the oil in that part of the park, it would leave the stuff in the ground. You could see this as blackmail or you could see it as fair trade. Ecuador is poor, its oil deposits are rich: why, the government argued, should it leave them untouched without compensation when everyone else is drilling down to the inner circle of hell? It asked for $3.6bn and received $13m. The result is that Petroamazonas, a company with a colourful record of destruction and spills(6), will now enter one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, in which a hectare of rainforest is said to contain more species than exist in the entire continent of North America(7). - George Monbiot, The Impossibility of Growth

... and compare it to this passage by David Pearce, Dominic Moran and Dan Biller...

The economic approach stresses the fact that any expenditure always has an opportunity cost, i.e. a benefit that is sacrificed because money is used in a particular way. For example, since biodiversity is threatened by many factors, but chiefly by changes in land use, measures of value denominated in monetary terms can be used to demonstrate the importance of biodiversity conservation relative to alternative uses of land. In this way, a better balance between 'developmental' needs and conservation can be illustrated. To date, that balance has tended to favour the conversion of land to industrial, residential and infrastructure use because biodiversity is not seen as having a significant market value. Economic approaches to valuation can help to identify that potential market value, whilst a further stage in the process of conservation is to 'create markets' where currently none exist. Market creation is the subject of a separate OECD initiative (OECD, forthcoming). - David Pearce, Dominic Moran, Dan Biller, Handbook of Biodiversity Valuation A Guide for Policy Makers

We roughly know the private sector's valuation of Ecuador's extremely biodiverse rainforest... $3.5 billion... and we know the public sector's valuation... $13 million. $13 million? That's how much the world's public sector values Ecuador's incredible biodiversity? Seriously? Are you fucking kidding me? Why the hell would you look at that number and think, "Oh yeah, that sounds about right"?

Did the government ever ask you how much of your tax dollars you'd be willing to spend to protect Ecuador's biodiversity? Because the government sure didn't ask me. Did the government ask any member of this forum? How many people in the world did the government ask?

There are more than 7 billion people on this planet. How many of them did the government ask? Absolutely none of them. Because that's not how governments work. But that's exactly how they could and should work. If we allowed taxpayers to shop in any country's public sector... then each and every taxpayer would decide for themselves exactly how many of their hard-earned tax dollars they'd be willing to spend to try and protect Ecuador's incredible biodiversity. And I'm pretty sure that nature lovers around the world would be willing to spend a lot more than $13 million to try and protect Ecuador's biodiversity.

Let's try and simplify things as much as possible.

Maybe nature lovers are in the minority. But what if nature lovers are rich? Then they're screwed by the current system... and so is nature. The government takes the money from the wealthy nature lovers and hands it over it over to the military industrial complex. But if we allowed taxpayers to shop in any country's public sector... then neither nature lovers nor nature would be screwed. A lot more tax dollars would be spent on conservation.

What if nature lovers are poor? Then, with the current system, nature would be still screwed. But what if taxpayers could shop in any country's public sector? Nature lovers wouldn't be able to spend very many tax dollars on nature... but they are still going to want the most biodiversity for their buck. So they'll shop around. And I really want nature lovers to be free to shop around. Why? Because I love nature.

What do you love? If you love music... then you immensely benefit from other music lovers being free to shop around for the best music. If you love books... then you immensely benefit from other book lovers being free to shop around for the best books. If you love clothes... then you immensely benefit from other clothes lovers being free to shop around for the best clothes.

I want to see and know what other nature lovers would spend their taxes on. I want to compare notes with them and debate with them. I want to be very happy when they bring a very great deal to my attention. I want to cry when some developers manage to outbid us. I want to be ecstatic when we manage to outbid some developers.

Right now I'm not out there fighting developers because I recognize that it's not even close to a fair fight. It's not a fair fight because the government takes a big chunk of our money to spend on conservation. But it doesn't spend it on conservation... it wastes it on the drug war and other stupid things. So rather than being out there fighting developers... here I am instead... trying to fight for the chance to fight on far more fair ground. I want all of us nature lovers to be free to use our own tax dollars to fight for conservation. Who am I fighting against right now? The developers? Nope. You. You stand between me and the developers. You're hugging the developers with your words like I want to hug the trees with my taxes.

Maybe you don't truly love the developers? Great... so please stop protecting them from me. Allow me to spend my taxes to fight the developers. I'd love it if you also wanted to spend your taxes to fight the developers... but I'll completely respect that you might have other priorities. I might not agree with them... but I'll be damned if I don't respect your freedom to fight a different fight. Because... it's entirely possible that your fight is more important than my fight.

That was a very long-winded way to not admit you were wrong. -  Quokkastan

You wrote...

No amount of Teddy Roosevelt style conservationism could have stopped global climate change, short of virtually the entire world being made a park. - Quokkastan

I hoped that you were simply being facetious when you said that it would have been necessary to turn virtually the entire world into a park in order to effectively combat global warming. 

So I endeavored to explain why developers are far more likely to outbid conservationists. Unfortunately, it didn't do the trick. Let me try again.

A shopping mall is a private good. A rainforest is a public good. If taxpayers were allowed to choose where their taxes go... would taxpayers be free to spend their taxes on private goods? Nope. So developers wouldn't be able to spend their taxes to buy rainforest land in order to convert it into a mall. Why not? Because again, a shopping mall isn't a public good. Conservationists, on the other hand, would be able to spend their taxes to buy the rainforest land in order to conserve it. Why? Because again, a rainforest is a public good. 

With the current system... taxpayers haven't been free to choose where their taxes go... so lots of land was developed that should have been conserved. How much land? Well... we'd find out if taxpayers could choose where their taxes go. Conservationists would be able to buy developed land in order to undevelop it. They would plant trees on the land and the trees would help combat global warming.

Help to combat global warming in much that same way that a band aid helps to heal a slit throat. 
I seem to be depending on the assumption that you have preexisting knowledge of the topic that you clearly do not. So, for clarity's sake:
Global warming is not primarily caused by deforestation. Nor can it be effectively combated merely by reducing deforestation. Even if all of the damage to the world's forests were miraculously undone, it would have little effect on global climate change.
As conservation has historically focused on combating the destruction of wild habitat, and not the reduction of CO2 emissions produced from the combustion of previously locked carbon deposits (the true driving force of climate change), no amount of additional conservation throughout history could have stopped global warming. - Quokkastan

 Oh... so you want to school me eh? Ok. Around how many acres of forested land would it take to completely absorb the CO2 emissions from one average factory? Honestly I don't know the answer. But it seems pretty straightforward that factories produce CO2 and trees consume CO2. So by improving the tree/factory ratio... we could reduce emissions.

Now, let me take the opportunity to try and school you. See my username? It's "Xerographica". I stole it from Tillandsia xerographica. Tillandsia xerographica is an epiphyte. Epiphytes are plants that grow on trees. Unlike parasites, epiphytes don't steal any nutrients from the tree. They just use the tree for support. It's estimated that where epiphytes are dense enough... they absorb just as much CO2 as the trees themselves do. This means that a forest filled with epiphytes can absorb twice as much CO2 as a forest without any epiphytes.

The very common moth orchid... aka Phalaenopsis... is also an epiphyte. Millions and millions of this epiphyte are produced each year. Unfortunately, most people simply toss them in the trash when they are done blooming. But imagine if after the moth orchid was done blooming... everybody attached them to trees. Then an incredibly massive amount of CO2 would be absorbed. The "minor" detail is that the reason that most people don't attach their moth orchids to the trees is that... even if they wanted to... most people live in places that are too cold for the moth orchid to survive the winter. Moth orchids are pretty close to being the least cold tolerant orchid. Their cold tolerance could be greatly increased if they were crossed with far more cold tolerant species.

Epiphytes don't have to be attached to trees in order to grow. They can pretty much grow on any suitable substrate as long as they are given enough light and water. For example, here's an orchid that I attached to a tire...

Cattleya Orchid Mounted On Tire

Because epiphytes can grow on pretty much any solid surface... this means that if we really wanted to we could cover houses, skyscrapers, factories, cars and even ourselves with epiphytes. Cities covered in epiphytes wouldn't just absorb a ridiculous amount of CO2.... they would also help conserve and even increase biodiversity.

Were you aware of any of this? I'm guessing not. And it's really doubtful that congress is aware of any of this either.

Markets work because they tackle problems from many different angles. And by doing so, they increase the chances that the problems will be solved.

There's more than one way to tackle global warming. Centralization, by definition, doesn't simultaneously tackle problems from different angles. Therefore... the reason that global warming is still a problem is entirely because of centralization. Once we create a market in the public sector... then the collective intelligence, energy and enthusiasm of the entire planet would be free to tackle our most pressing public problems from a variety of different angles. Of course I can't guarantee that the best solution will be discovered overnight... but I can guarantee that progress depends on difference.

It wouldn't help much. The rainforest processes up to 20% of the oxygen in the world. 
Ocean algae and other ocean plants produce 70-80%.
http://www.ecology.com/2011/09/12/important-organism/  - Galloism

You and I return from the grocery store with 20 bags of groceries in the car. I grab 10 bags while you grab 2 bags.

Me: You should grab the remaining 8 bags
You: It wouldn't help much because you're carrying most of the bags

Just because the ocean absorbs more CO2 than the land does... really doesn't mean that the land isn't capable of absorbing a lot more CO2. Planting a gazillion trees and planting a gazillion epiphytes on each tree could potentially result in the land absorbing just as much CO2 as the ocean.


Now you're trying to tell me that, by conservation, you meant "planting very specific shrubs everywhere." Something it clearly doesn't mean. - Quokkastan

Ex-situ conservation doesn't mean conservation?

Best yet, you don't even know what effect that would have, you're just guessing it would solve the problem. - Quokkastan

I'm pretty sure that the effect of planting more trees and epiphytes on those trees would be to absorb more CO2. Pretty sure.

And you don't seem to know much about the world's carbon cycle, including the fact that it's the world's oceans which absorb the vast majority of atmospheric CO2. - Quokkastan

The ocean does the heavy lifting... therefore the land shouldn't shoulder more of the burden?

You're embarrassing yourself now. It may not be easy to admit when you're wrong, but it's good for you, and we all would have respected you more. Now everybody knows you're wrong, and also knows you're dishonest. - Quokkastan

When you argue that ex-situ conservation isn't conservation... then I'm pretty sure that you're the one who's shouldering most of the embarrassment in this thread.

One time, in the Army, I did an atomic situp in front of a bunch of people.

See what I did? It was obvious that you were struggling under the weight of considerable embarrassment. So I told a really embarrassing story about myself in order to help lighten your load of embarrassment. As the saying goes... many hands make light work.

Memo To Zimbabwe: You're The Biggest Winner!!!

Reply to reply: The Demand For Defense?

Primary topic: People being free to spend their taxes in any country's public sector.

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Defence value is not as simple as adding up how many soldiers/guns/weapons person A likes to have for his country, then add how many person B likes, then person C, person D, etc. If everyone wanted 1 soldier then you may as well conscript the whole country (which is dumb), if everyone wanted zero soldiers (which is suicidal), then that's the best birthday present you'd give ISIS and all of America's enemies. Sure these are hyperbolic extremes, but they illustrate just unwieldy and nonsensical this model of yours is when applied to defence. - Connori Pilgrims

Uh, I think "we" got our units of measurement confused. Maybe it's my fault because I picked cigarettes? Demanding one cigarette isn't the same thing as demanding one solider. You consume a cigarette but you don't consume a solider. You can't pay the DoD and expect them to ship you a solider in a box. We're talking about a public good here. Demanding one cigarette is the same thing as demanding X amount of defense. I demand $5,000 dollars worth of defense... you demand $10,000 dollars worth of defense. If we were the only people in the country then the optimum amount of defense to supply would be $15,000 dollars worth of defense.

Of course, because we're talking about public goods, we can't all order defense on April 15. So it's necessary that people be free to shop in the public sector at anytime throughout the year. Extreme hawks would always want more defense... so they'd always be happy to spend their taxes on defense. Moderates will be happy to chip in once defense funding falls below a reasonable level. And extreme doves will never want to fund defense no matter how low its funding gets.

So we can imagine a bell curve. People on both extremes will never be happy with the amount of defense being supplied while the people in the middle will be more or less comfortable with the amount of defense being supplied. The "normal" people will have no trouble sleeping at night but the "deviants" will toss and turn worrying about the supply of defense. Just like I toss and turn worrying about the supply of pragmatarianism. Do you toss and turn worrying about the supply of pragmatarianism? No? You should.

To make a long story short... the optimal supply of defense is the amount that allows the maximum number of people to sleep soundly at night.

Why exactly are you a fan of people *not* having the freedom to shop in any country's private sector? 
*- I presume you meant that I was *not* a fan. - Connori Pilgrims

Eh? I was asking you to explain why you support people's freedom to shop in any country's private sector.

People have the choice to shop in any country's private sector - if that country is open to free trade at least. The worst thing that happens from that is I get cheap and shitty products that I must either exchange or replace. - Connori Pilgrims

This wasn't a very ringing endorsement of people's freedom to shop in any country's private sector. It seems like you can take it or leave it... which would explain why you're not such a fan of people being free to shop in any country's public sector.

"Shopping" for security abroad is little different from putting your life in the hands of mercenaries. History has clearly shown us that no nation state lasts long if reliant on mercenaries for its defence, because those mercenaries aren't loyal to you, but to money. Even if they don't turn against you because someone gave them a better offer, very recent history with Blackwater and modern PMCs has shown they are not much more efficient than the regular military in doing even rear-line security jobs and tasks, in fact they're largely unaccountable to third parties and prone to abuse and corruption just as much if not moreso than state forces. - Connori Pilgrims

Again... eh? If I, as an American taxpayer, could shop in Israel's public sector and allocate my tax dollars to their DoD... then I wouldn't come back to the US with an Israeli solider in my suitcase. Their DoD would simply take the money that I gave them and spend it on whatever they needed to better protect Israel. Why would I, as an American taxpayer, want to give my tax dollars to the Israeli defense department? I can guess... but you guess first. You're the one who's opposed to giving American taxpayers the option to shop in the public sector of other countries. Although... maybe you were opposed to it because you thought it meant buying mercenaries abroad. Which it really doesn't. But if you're opposed to American taxpayers shopping in their own public sector... then it would seem impossible for you to support them shopping in any country's public sector.

If you love Russian, Chinese or other foreign forces and trust them more than the US armed forces to protect you, then you have the option of immigrating out of the United States and to those countries. At least you're just affecting yourself by that. - Connori Pilgrims

I'd be a little surprised if you were unfamiliar with term "brain drain"...

There is another more obvious difference from 1914. The whole of the warring nations are engaged, not only soldiers, but the entire population, men, women and children. The fronts are everywhere. The trenches are dug in the towns and streets. Every village is fortified. Every road is barred. The front line runs through the factories. The workmen are soldiers with different weapons but the same courage. These are great and distinctive changes from what many of us saw in the struggle of a quarter of a century ago. There seems to be every reason to believe that this new kind of war is well suited to the genius and the resources of the British nation and the British Empire; and that, once we get properly equipped and properly started, a war of this kind will be more favorable to us than the somber mass slaughters of the Somme and Passchendaele. If it is a case of the whole nation fighting and suffering together, that ought to suit us, because we are the most united of all the nations, because we entered the war upon the national will and with our eyes open, and because we have been nurtured in freedom and individual responsibility and are the products, not of totalitarian uniformity, but of tolerance and variety. If all these qualities are turned, as they are being turned, to the arts of war, we may be able to show the enemy quite a lot of things that they have not thought of yet. Since the Germans drove the Jews out and lowered their technical standards, our science is definitely ahead of theirs. Our geographical position, the command of the sea, and the friendship of the United States enable us to draw resources from the whole world and to manufacture weapons of war of every kind, but especially of the superfine kinds, on a scale hitherto practiced only by Nazi Germany. - Winston Churchill

Why am I opposed to giving people that much power over public goods? Simple, because they are public goods. Goods that affect people other than myself. What others choose affects me, and in turn what I choose affects them. It would be one thing if everyone was enlightened enough to make such public goods choices with due consideration for the wellbeing of others, but I'm not about to put that hypothesis to the test, especially if it means getting the country I'm in screwed over. - Connori Pilgrims

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. - Adam Smith

You expect congress to make public goods choices with due consideration for my wellbeing. My wellbeing? In the private sector I have to spend so much time and energy going around telling producers what works for my wellbeing. I shop and shop and shop. For example, I go to the store and buy some artichokes. In doing so I tell Frank the farmer, "Hey! You correctly guessed that my wellbeing depends on artichokes! Thanks! Good lookin' out! Here's some money! Keep up the good work!"

Yet here you are telling me that congress can know what works for my wellbeing despite the fact that I've never once in my life shopped in the public sector. It boggles my mind. It blows my mind. It bears repeating with emphasis... congress can know what works for my wellbeing despite the fact that I've never once in my life shopped in the public sector. If you even suspect that this is true... then please... don't hide your insight under a bushel. Start a thread here, there and everywhere and say "Hey folks! Shopping is entirely redundant! It's entirely unnecessary for us to spend so much of our limited time and energy using our cash to communicate what works for our wellbeing."


If you could enforce your monopoly with coercive power and I was within a realm where you could easily enforce said monopoly, then that might be not ridiculous. Unfortunately, you do not have a monopoly over coercive power in this forum (only the Mods do). You have no power over me to enforce such a claim, nor I over you. So it is ridiculous. - Connori Pilgrims

You're really missing why it's ridiculous. I'm not sure how though. If what I'm selling is truly the best... then why should I mind if you shop around? If I do mind that you shop around... then it stands to reason that what I'm selling truly isn't the best.

The US government on the other hand can enforce its monopoly on force within its territory by arresting you and/or destroying any proxy force you shopped for abroad and brought to US soil without its consent. If I decided I wanted to bring into the US a battalion of Spetsnaz for my personal security or hell just because I want to you'd bet I'd I'd be investigated and probably deported or arrested. - Connori Pilgrims

Heh yeah... no. As I explained earlier in this post... you totally misunderstood. Whose fault is that? When I asked which country's military would be the biggest winner if taxpayers could spend their taxes in any country's public sector... and I answered...Zimbabwe!... then you imagined a bunch of American taxpayers returning from Zimbabwe with a bunch of mercenaries or Zimbabwean soldiers. Hehe. I'm chuckling out loud. What I imagined was a bunch of American taxpayers and French taxpayers and Australian taxpayers and Brazilian taxpayers all going to the Zimbabwean defense department website and making a big tax payment. It was just a bit of fun randomness to imagine that, out of all the militaries in the world, Zimbabwe's military would receive the most funding from foreign taxpayers. It begged the question of what, exactly, was so great about Zimbabwe's military? Why did so many taxpayers around the world want to help fund it? That's a good question right?

In reality... I really wouldn't bet that... of all the countries in the world... Zimbabwe's military would receive the most funding if most taxpayers in the world could spend their taxes in any country's public sector. I was hoping that you might provide a much more likely country... but you totally misunderstood the exercise. I'm sure it was my fault.

But it does stand to reason that... if most taxpayers around the world could shop in the public sectors of most countries... that one country's military would be the biggest winner. Which country would it be? And which country's military would be the biggest loser? Germany! Am I right? All two of the world wars were started by Germany. But of course the premise of pragmatarianism is that it wasn't the German people's fault... it was their planners' fault. But... still... I'm guessing that Germany's military wouldn't rank very high on most people's funding list. It might rank higher than Iran's military or North Korea's military. Would either of those two country's prevent foreign taxpayers from shopping in their public sector? Would they say... "No... you foreigners can't give your money to our military! We forbid it!"

How high on the list would Afghanistan's and Iraq's military be? Those would be pretty tricky. They are in a prime place to fight the terrorists... but there would certainly be worries that their governments might go back to being controlled by the extremists. Except... if you're the guy in charge of the Afghan or Iraqi army... are you going to really want to bite the hand that funds you? Oh... so I guess this is why it would make sense for Iran and North Korea to forbid foreigners from funding their militaries.

We often debate whether or not the US should be the world's police. We'd find the answer out pretty fast if most taxpayers around the world could shop in our public sector.

Right now you're not interested in knowing American taxpayers' answer to the question of whether America should be the world's police. Which means that you're not interested in knowing Canadian taxpayers' answer to the question of whether America should be the world's police. Which means that you're not interested in knowing Zimbabwean taxpayers' answer to the question of whether America should be the world's police. Which means that you're not interested in knowing Brazilian taxpayers' answers to the question of whether America should be the world's police. You're not interested in knowing any taxpayer's answer to the question of whether America should be the world's police.

You think that congress can come up with the most accurate answer to the question of whether America should be the world's police. You think that congress's answer to the question of whether America should be the world's police is going to be more accurate than the world's answer. This is because... not only can congress know what works for the wellbeing of every American.. congress can also know what works for the well being of every human. Right? Or wrong? If I'm wrong... then how could congress's answer be more accurate than the world's answer?

You think that congress can come up with the most accurate answer to the question of whether America should protect the world's biodiversity. You think that congress's answer to the question of whether America should protect the world's biodiversity is going to be more accurate than the world's answer. This is because... not only can congress know what works for the wellbeing of every American.. congress can know what works for the well being of every human. Right?

If taxpayers around the world could shop in the public sectors of most countries... I wonder which country's "EPA" would be the biggest winner? Zimbabwe's EPA!

If taxpayers around the world could shop in the public sectors of most countries... I wonder which country's "National Cancer Institute" would be the biggest winner? Zimbabwe's NCI!

Zimbabwe's DoD, EPA and NCI would be the biggest winners in the world! Maybe I should send Zimbabwe a memo to let them know.

Which brings us back to my point that you didn't understand... or agree with. If you're so certain that the US's DoD, EPA and NCI are the best in the world... then why would you mind if taxpayers had the freedom to shop around? Since you don't want taxpayers to have the freedom to shop around... it seems likely that you're under the impression that Zimbabwe's public goods truly are far better than the US's public goods.

I had avoided the questions previously for the simple reason that I have no exact numbers; as you've plainly stated I am not omniscient (and neither are you). - Connori Pilgrims

Oh, I don't need exact numbers. I know that you're assuming that at least some people would choose the option to directly allocate their taxes. Or else you wouldn't bother opposing an option that nobody would choose. And I know that you aren't assuming that everybody would choose the option to directly allocate their taxes. How could you possibly oppose an option that everybody would choose. This leaves you somewhere between nobody and everybody. I don't need to know exactly where... but it would help if you could hazard a guess.

We will need a social experiment, in your case one encompassing the whole US, to find out with certainty. Thing is, do you really want to find out? - Connori Pilgrims

Well... I'd certainly vote for it. Unless you manage to present a very convincing argument in that thread you're going to start.

I myself will admit that I am actually curious of the potential results of a pragmatarian experiment; but as I alluded to earlier I'm personally not yet at the stage where I would casually just toy with the lives of millions of people just to see if they can make proper, rational pragmatic choices without screwing over their fellow citizens. - Connori Pilgrims

See... this is exactly why it would help if you could provide some ballpark numbers regarding 1. what percentage of the population would choose the option to directly allocate their taxes and 2. what percentage of the purse that they would control.

And to be clear... unless you truly and strongly believe that shopping isn't necessary to inform producers of what works for our wellbeing... then you're already casually toying with people's lives. You're supporting a system for no good or real reason.

Saying that some treatment is working to manage some patient's illness is, in fact, toying with their life if you don't actually truly know with any degree of certainty that the treatment is doing more good than harm. Personally, I've searched and searched and searched and have found absolutely no evidence or logic to support the belief that the treatment is doing more good than harm. Everything that I've found leads me to the conclusion that the treatment is hurting more than helping.

Under Mao Zedong... the entire country was operated on the basis that it wasn't necessary for shopping to inform producers of what works for the people's wellbeing. What happened? Millions of people starved to death. Then, in 1978, Deng Xiaoping took over and began to implement market reforms. What happened? Millions of people were lifted out of poverty. Why? Because at least some of the country was operated on the basis that shopping is necessary to inform producers of what works for the people's wellbeing.

China gives us concrete evidence that...

1. preventing shopping does more harm than good
2. allowing shopping does more good than harm

If preventing shopping doesn't work at all... then why should we suspect that it partially works? We really shouldn't. If, in the absence of shopping, producers/planners can't get the supply of food right... then why in the world should we suspect that they'll be able to get the supply of defense right? German planners certainly didn't get the supply of defense right. Neither did Japanese planners. We won the war so it might seem like our planners got the supply of defense right. Same with the Korean war? And the Vietnam war? And the war in Iraq and Afghanistan? What about the war on drugs? Or the war on poverty? If you're willing to bet our supply of food on your belief that producers don't need shoppers to get the supply right... then, and only then... will I believe that you're not currently toying with the lives of millions of people.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Overvaluing Frank The Artichoke Farmer's Productivity?

Reply to reply: Are you confident in congress's competence?

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You are making erroneous conclusions because you do not think through the economic impact that follows, when low-end salaries are enhanced. And which is not at all the same consequence when high-end salaries are increased - whereupon people simply bank their additional salaries (or speculate with the money), which does nothing intrinsically to enhance the economy. - Lafayette

Let's say that I'm hungry.  I go to the farmer's market where I find Frank the farmer selling artichokes.  Which is great because I really love artichokes!  What do you think happens next?  Do you think I simply hand Frank my money in exchange for his artichokes?  Of course not.  First I look at the prices... and if the prices seem reasonable... then I carefully inspect the artichokes.  If I'm happy with the quality of the artichokes... I pick out the best ones and put my money into Frank's hand.  

This is where you, the well-intentioned liberal economist, step in.  Before Frank can put the $3 dollars that I gave him into his pocket... you take $1 dollar out of Frank's hand.  Except, since I'm the one who just gave him that money... you essentially took the money out of my hand.  What do you do with the $1 dollar that you took out of my hand?  You put it in the hands of Frank's employees.

The thing is... the money that I gave Frank was my valuation of his productivity.  But, evidently, you're certain that I overvalued Frank's productivity.  Not only are you certain that I overvalued Frank's productivity... but you're also certain that I undervalued his employees' productivity.

I overvalued Frank's productivity?  I undervalued his employees' productivity?

First... who in the world are you to say that I've overvalued Frank's productivity?  Are you my son?  Are you my father?  Are you my brother?  Are you my best friend?  Are you my lover?  Are you the customer waiting behind me?  Of course not!  You're some random economist who doesn't even know me or Frank.  Yet, despite the fact that you don't know me or Frank... you're stupidly certain that I overvalued his productivity.

Second... I didn't even valuate the productivity of Frank's employees.  Why in the world would I valuate their productivity?  I'm not their boss... Frank is!  He's the one who employs them.  I don't employ them.  I don't even know them.  I have absolutely no idea whether they are the most productive workers in the world or the least productive workers in the world.  Given that I'm entirely clueless about the productivity of Frank's employees... it would be utterly nonsensical and completely detrimental for me to even try and valuate their productivity.  Yet... you're stupidly certain that I undervalued Frank's employees.

This isn't what you're telling me of course.  What you're telling me is that I'm not thinking things through.  From your perspective... the money that you took from my hands and put into the hands of Frank's employees will be quickly spent.  How will it be spent?  It doesn't matter.  It doesn't matter if the money isn't spent on producing a greater abundance of artichokes... what matters is that the money will be spent on something.  Which is a good thing because any and all spending will "enhance" the economy.  As if the reason that the sluggish economy needs stimulation has absolutely nothing to do with your mindless meddling and everything to do with inadequate demand.

When you read the Bible story about the prodigal son... does it make you happy or sad when he quickly squanders his inheritance?

Does it make you happy or sad that Esau sold his inheritance to Jacob for a bowl of soup?

Does it make you happy or sad when lottery winners quickly squander their new found wealth?

Does it make you happy or sad when natural disasters force people to spend their savings in order to rebuild their lives?

Does it make you happy or sad when you forget to back-up your work and a disaster forces you to start all over again?

Does Adam Smith make you happy or sad?

Capitals are increased by parsimony, and diminished by prodigality and misconduct. - Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations

Does Ludwig von Mises make you happy or sad?

Now one of the main functions of profits is to shift the control of capital to those who know how to employ it in the best possible way for the satisfaction of the public. The more profits a man earns, the greater his wealth consequently becomes, the more influential does he become in the conduct of business affairs. Profit and loss are the instruments by means of which the consumers pass the direction of production activities into the hands of those who are best fit to serve them. Whatever is undertaken to curtail or to confiscate profits impairs this function. The result of such measures is to loosen the grip the consumers hold over the course of production. The economic machine becomes, from the point of view of the people, less efficient and less responsive. - Ludwig von Mises, Planning for Freedom

Does Ludwig Lachmann make you happy or sad?

Moreover, what is a resource today may cease to be one tomorrow, while what is a valueless object today may become valuable tomorrow. The resource status of material objects is therefore always problematical and depends to some extent on foresight. An object constitutes wealth only if it is a source of an income stream. The value of the object to the owner, actual or potential, reflects at any moment its expected income-yielding capacity. This, in its turn, will depend on the uses to which the object can be turned. The mere ownership of objects, therefore, does not necessarily confer wealth; it is their successful use which confers it. Not ownership but use of resources is the source of income and wealth. — Ludwig Lachmann, The Market Economy and the Distribution of Wealth

Does J.B. Say make you happy or sad?

Taxes upon transfer, besides the mischief of pressing upon capital, are a clog to the circulation of property. But, has the public any interest in its free circulation? So long as the object is in existence, is it not as well placed in one hand as in another? Certainly not. The public has a perpetual interest in the utmost possible freedom of its circulation; because by that means it is most likely to get into the hands of those, that can make the most of it. Why does one man sell his land? But because he thinks he can lay out the value to more advantage in some channel of productive industry. And why does another buy it? But because he wishes to invest a capital, that is lying idle, or less productively vested; or because he thinks it capable of improvement. The transfer tends to augment the national income, because it tends to augment the income of the two contracting parties. If they be deterred by the expenses of the transfer, those expenses will have prevented this probable increase of the national income. — J.B. Say, A Treatise on Political Economy

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The public sector is the forbidden fruit

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. -  Genesis 2: 16-17

My version...

And the Government commanded the taxpayer, saying, Of every place in the world thou mayest freely shop: 
But in the public sector thou shalt not shop: for in the day that thou shoppeth therein thou shalt surely die.

I guess that would make me the serpent?  

Now Xero was more subtil than any human which the Government had encountered.
And he said unto the taxpayer, Yea, hath the Government said, Ye shall not shop in the public sector?
And the taxpayer said unto Xero, We may shop anywhere in the world:
But in the public sector, the Government hath said, Ye shall not shop in it, or consider doing so, lest ye die. 
And Xero said unto the taxpayer, Ye shall not surely die: 
For the Government doth know that in the day ye shop therein, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as the Government, knowing necessary and unnecessary.   
And when the taxpayer saw that the public sector was good for shopping, and that there was much to buy, and a place to be desired to make one wise, he told everyone to shop with him in the public sector. 
And the eyes of everyone were opened, and they knew that they weren't adequately covered; and they shopped to better protect themselves.  

Inspired by my reply to a reply: The Demand For Defense?

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But here's exactly what you say to your farmer... "Hey farmer Frank! Please grow some more of these awesome artichokes.... but please don't shop for yourself in the public sector!"

It's like the public sector is the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden. You give farmer Frank the freedom to shop for himself anywhere in the world... except for the public sector. You give Frank the farmer the freedom to buy tractors from Germany, fertilizer from Brazil and artichoke seeds from Israel. You give Frank the farmer the freedom to shop in Home Depot, Walmart, Best Buy and Target. You trust farmer Frank to correctly gauge the necessity of every single good in the world... except for the goods in the public sector. You trust farmer Frank to correctly gauge that silkworms, horses, clowns, hot-air balloons, jet skis and hula hoops aren't necessary for growing artichokes... but you're concerned that he'll incorrectly gauge whether roads, bridges, healthcare, education and defense are necessary for growing artichokes.

The fact of the matter is that you don't need to worry about Frank the farmer incorrectly gauging the necessity of any goods because he's the one who has the most to lose if he does so. If Frank the farmer incorrectly gauges the necessity of roads... then consumers will buy less of his artichokes and more of Bob the farmer's artichokes. Bob lives in a different county or state or country... and he correctly gauged the necessity of roads. This results in big profits for Bob and huge losses for Frank. Therefore, Frank has the most to lose by incorrectly gauging the necessity of things just like Bob has the most to gain by correctly gauging the necessity of things.

Incentives really matter if you want the necessity of things to be correctly gauged. Compared to congresspeople... taxpayers have far more incentive and ability to correctly gauge the necessity of things. Therefore, we should give taxpayers the option to shop for themselves in the public sector.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

America vs England

Reply to reply: Are you confident in congress's competence?

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As for Congress, I can't speak for the US. The UK Parliament has its faults but I do think most of our politicians do it because they have a vision of the kind of society they would like to see, and they try to persuade us of its virtues. Which is fair enough, really. And I think the system sort of works, most of the time, which is about as much as we can reasonably expect. But our country is smaller than yours, so it may be that there is more alienation from Congress in the USA than there is from Parliament here. Also I live in London so I'm close to the action. Maybe if I were a Scot, or PhDemon in the North-East, I would feel more discontented. - exchemist

Imagine how alienated you'd feel now if Adam Smith had been more influential. He argued that colonialists should have been given taxation with representation. So if your government had heeded his advice before the point of no return... then we would still be British over here. Adam Smith also argued that the seat of power should be located in whichever part of the empire was responsible for providing the largest portion of the empire's revenue. This means that your parliament would now be located in Washington DC. How would you have liked them apples? Since you live in London you would be really really really far from the action.

Admittedly, your action is far more entertaining than our action. What the heck is going on with your people? Why do they have to stand up and sit down all the time? For the exercise? And what's with all the jeering? Is it jeering? It sure sounds like jeering. And the wigs? I can't remember if they wore wigs but your legal people still do. And then a few of your people have accents that are really ridiculous. My ear gets a good workout trying to decipher their gibberish. I have a friend in England who sometimes stays with me for a week or two. He's Welsh and for the first couple of days I'm always like "What?". Towards the end of his visit it's a lot easier to understand him. Not sure if it's because my ear has conformed to his tongue or vice verse (ehhhh.... errrrr). By far my favorite part about your system is how incredibly fast your politicians are on their feet. It's pretty amazing. Not sure why I don't get the same impression when I watch congress in action. Either it's how congress is structured or your politicians are faster on their feet. Personally... I'm the slowest person on my feet. I'd be like... "uhhhhhhhhhhh... I'll get back to you in a day... or two".

But you seem to be obsessed with money. You don't have much to say about making laws, do you? That is something else that elected representiatives do, which is arguably just as important as budgetary decisions, if not more so. And I think there would be huge problems if the lawmaking and the allocation of funds by government were to be split, because most lawmaking has financial consequences of some kind. - exchemist

I'm definitely obsessed with the money. Just like Adam Smith was obsessed with the division of labor. Have you read your guy? He was the smartest guy your country has ever and will ever produce. He explained that a division of labor results in greater productivity. So of course congress should be split.

There would be at least three congresses...

1. Spending Congress: They would be in charge of deciding how their portion of the purse would be spent. They would essentially be impersonal shoppers.

2. Legal Congress - They would be in charge of writing and changing laws

3. Tax Rate Congress - They would be in charge of the tax rate

If you're happy with the tax rate but unhappy with the laws... then you'd give your taxes to Tax Rate Congress and boycott Legal Congress.

What if you're a liberal taxpayer who doesn't want to shop for yourself... but you dread the thought of conservative impersonal shoppers having any control over your taxes? Clearly there would be pressure for Spending Congress to split into two...

1. Liberal Spending Congress: Liberal impersonal shoppers

2. Conservative Spending Congress: Conservative impersonal shoppers

But what if you're a liberal taxpayer who prefers some liberal impersonal shoppers more than others? Then you'd be able to give your tax dollars to specific impersonal shoppers... and impersonal shopping would be slightly less impersonal.

We can see how congress was broken down into numerous separate entities. One allocation option transformed into a plethora of allocation options. The same process would repeat itself with the other government organizations. The supply would naturally diversify because demand is inherently diverse. People would be "overwhelmed" with options in the public sector just like they are "overwhelmed" with options in the private sector.

Have you watched the Detectorists? I recently watched it on Netflix. It's a great show... I gave it 4 stars. You know which show I gave 5 stars? Spaced. I also gave 5 stars to Black Mirror. But I'm pretty sure that I love Spaced more than I love Black Mirror. Right now I pay for a bundle of shows and movies on Netflix. It sure seems like a great deal. I'd probably have to pay a lot more for my favorite shows if they were unbundled. The problem is that stars don't accurately communicate my valuation of my favorite shows. Does it matter if producers don't know how much I value the Detectorists, Spaced or Black Mirror? It has to matter. Because if it doesn't matter how much one consumer values some content... then it doesn't matter how much any consumers value some content. But how can producers possibly know which content to supply more of when they don't know consumers' valuations of their content?

The simple solution would be to allow subscribers of Netflix to allocate their monthly fees to their most valued content. Under the star rating of each show or movie... it would also display the total amount of money that's been allocated to that show or movie. Then everybody would know the demand for specific content. Producers would make far more informed, and hence valuable, decisions regarding what type of content to supply more of.

If you can understand the benefit of giving Netflix subscribers the option to directly allocate their fees... then you can understand the benefit of giving taxpayers the option to directly allocate their taxes. It's the same exact concept. Creating a market in Netflix is beneficial for the same reasons that it's beneficial to create a market in the public sector. Producers would make far more valuable allocation decisions if they knew the specific valuations of consumers. Of course... creating a market in the public sector would be infinitely more valuable than creating a market in Netflix.

I'm obsessed with the money because I'm obsessed with communication. As the saying goes... money talks. Right now I'm on mute in terms of content because I can't choose where my Netflix fees go.  I'm also on mute in terms of public goods because I can't choose where my taxes go. Maybe what I have to say with my money isn't especially important... but what a whole country has to say with its money is extremely important. We should really stop putting the entire country on mute.

Friday, January 15, 2016

What if the Titanic had been a market?

Reply to thread: Semi-Socialist Corporations

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The Titanic was steered in the really wrong direction.  What percentage of the people aboard the Titanic were responsible for steering it?  I'm pretty sure that it was a really small percentage.  Certainly small enough that we can easily think of the Titanic as a dictatorship.  The problem with dictatorships, benevolent or otherwise, is that they completely ignore Linus's Law... "given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow".

But what if the Titanic had been a democracy?  Then everybody would have been able to vote on the ship's direction.  Everybody would have had an equal say in deciding whether or not to avoid the iceberg.

There's a problem with giving everybody an equal say though.  Imagine if you were on the Titanic and you were extremely certain that the Titanic would sink if it hit an iceberg.  Despite being extremely certain... your influence on the ship's direction would have been exactly the same as the influence of somebody who had absolutely no opinion on the matter.  Even if you were an expert on the matter of ships vs icebergs... even if you had written countless books on the topic... your say on the ship's direction would have been equal to the say of somebody who was entirely ignorant on the subject.  Even if you were willing to bet your life that you were right... your influence on the ship's direction would have been equal to the influence of somebody who wouldn't even have been willing to bet a penny that they were right.  This is the problem with the idea of "one person, one vote".

So if not dictatorships... or democracies... then... what?  Then markets.  Markets give people the opportunity to put their money where their information is.

Here's how my favorite living economist, Alex Tabarrok, put it...

Overall, I am for betting because I am against bullshit. Bullshit is polluting our discourse and drowning the facts. A bet costs the bullshitter more than the non-bullshitter so the willingness to bet signals honest belief. A bet is a tax on bullshit; and it is a just tax, tribute paid by the bullshitters to those with genuine knowledge.

If the Titanic had been a market, then people would have been able to use their bets/money to steer the ship.  This wouldn't have guaranteed that the Titanic would have avoided the iceberg... but it would have guaranteed that the ship's direction reflected everybody's information weighted according to their confidence in it.  Essentially... a much better informed decision would have been made.  This would have greatly decreased the chance that the Titanic would have hit the iceberg.

The "minor" detail is that I'm not exactly sure how people on a ship or in a company could use their money to steer.  Clearly employees can buy their company's stock if they are confident in their company's direction... and they can sell their stock if they aren't confident in their company's direction.  But I'm not quite sure how they could use their money to help steer their company in the most valuable direction.

Let's say that we're employees of this forum.  Somebody proposes that this forum display advertisements.  Displaying advertisements would take this "company" in a different direction.  How would we as employees use our cash to communicate our confidence-weighted information?  How could individuals be rewarded for gambling on the right direction and punished for gambling on the wrong direction?

If you prefer theorizing using a real world example...  "Traitorous eight".

Here's a relevant quote from Peter Thiel...

We are biased toward the democratic/republican side of the spectrum. That’s what we’re used to from civics classes. But the truth is that startups and founders lean toward the dictatorial side because that structure works better for startups. It is more tyrant than mob because it should be. In some sense, startups can’t be democracies because none are. None are because it doesn’t work. If you try to submit everything to voting processes when you’re trying to do something new, you end up with bad, lowest common denominator type results. — Peter Thiel, Girard in Silicon Valley

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Would you choose to carry congress?

Updated version of previous entry.

Forum thread: Are you confident in congress's competence?

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Imagine if you needed brain surgery.  Would you ever seriously consider conducting the surgery yourself?  I think that most of us would choose to leave brain surgery to the brain surgeons.  There's little doubt that brain surgeons are uniquely and supremely qualified to conduct brain surgery.  Therefore, we put our brains in their hands.

Now imagine that you had the option to spend your taxes yourself (pragmatarianism FAQ).  Would you ever seriously consider choosing where your taxes go?  Or, would you choose to leave tax allocation to your elected representatives?  Do you think that congresspeople are uniquely and supremely qualified to spend your taxes?  Would you choose to put your taxes in their hands?

Nobody, that I know of, debates whether people should have the option to conduct brain surgery on themselves.  But ask somebody whether people should have the option to spend their taxes themselves and you might end up in a pretty big debate.  Why is that?

How many people would choose to shop for themselves in the public sector?  What percentage of the purse would they control?  Maybe 50%?  Taxpayers would spend half of the public funds themselves and congress would spend the other half?  Would people who wanted to shop for themselves in the public sector be more conservative?  Or liberal?  Rich... or poor?  Educated... or uneducated?  Would professionals shop for themselves or have congress shop for them?  Would brain surgeons choose to put their taxes into the hands of congress like congress chooses to put their brains into the hands of brain surgeons?

If you're worried about giving people the option to directly allocate their taxes... then you're worried about whether people are competent enough to recognize competence.  Except, the very premise of voting is that people are competent enough to recognize competence.  So if you trust voters to discern which candidates are the most supremely and uniquely qualified to spend their taxes... then it requires a bit of uh... flexibility... to twist around and argue that you don't trust taxpayers to discern whether or not congress is supremely and uniquely qualified to spend their taxes.

In a pragmatarian system there would be two main ways for the people to indicate that a politician is supremely and uniquely qualified to spend their taxes...

1. People could give the politician their vote
2. People could give the politician their taxes

If you trust the first way, then how could you possibly distrust the second way?

And if you don't trust the first way, then you should really want to have the option to directly allocate your taxes.  It would be the only way to keep your hard-earned taxes out of incompetent hands.

Nobody wants to put their brain into incompetent hands.  Why would it be any different with taxes?  It seems pretty straightforward that giving taxpayers the option to directly allocate their taxes would be the best way to minimize the amount of taxes that end up in incompetent hands.

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Apparently, then, the legislators and the organizers have received from Heaven an intelligence and virtue that place them beyond and above mankind; if so, let them show their titles to this superiority. — Frédéric Bastiat, The Law

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Speaking of competent vs incompetent hands... here's what I just posted in this thread... Human Evolution/ E.T. Evolution

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Fascinating topic. I think it's very likely that similarly intelligent beings on other planets would roughly resemble us. "My" theory is that our intelligence is the result of being able to carry a variety of things at the same time over a considerable distance. Many (most?) animals can carry things... and they often have to make hard choices about what to carry. But most animals can carry only a few things at a time so the choice is usually between A or B. This coywolf had to choose between A (the goose egg) or B (the roadkill). It definitely wanted to carry both... but it was only able to carry one at a time. So it had to choose. In this case it decided that the roadkill was the more valuable option...

B > A

If we imagine a primitive human in the same situation... then "Bob" simply would have picked up and carried both the egg and the roadkill. And he would have been able to easily carry both items over a considerable distance. If, along the way, Bob also discovered a tree full of fruit... then the carrying choice would become more difficult because the possible permutations? combinations? would increase.

A: egg
B: roadkill
C: fruit

How many different carrying combinations are there? We can imagine Bob with his arms full of limited resources making the long trek back to his group when he encounters some mushrooms. If they are edible then he has to decide which items, if any, he will put down in order to be able to carry some mushrooms.

Coming up with the optimal (most valuable) decision regarding which items to carry would have required more processing power and memory. Therefore, walking upright and being able to simultaneously carry a wide variety of items increased the selection for intelligence. And I guess I'm defining intelligence as the ability to make decisions that are more valuable.

The "minor" detail is that there seems to be some time disparity between walking upright and having bigger brains. Bigger brains though doesn't necessarily mean smarter. When I write code it's easier to add code than it is to remove code... the result can be a program with lots and lots of unnecessary code. Same thing with bureaucracy. A big bureaucracy doesn't mean a smart bureaucracy. Chances are good that a big bureaucracy is a bloated bureaucracy with lots and lots of unnecessary red tape. I see evolution removing traits (broadly speaking) that decrease fitness... but I don't see evolution removing traits that don't decrease fitness. So it's pretty easy for me to imagine our brains as having lots and lots of unnecessary code. But I might be wrong! Perhaps the time gap can simply be explained by a population size that was initially small. A smaller group means less variation... and less variation means less evolution. As walking upright increased fitness... the population grew... variation in processing power and memory increased... and our ancestors became considerably smarter.

Quite a few people in this thread have mentioned the ability to make tools. But if "my" theory is correct, then the ability to make better tools was a consequence, rather than the cause of, our intelligence. The cause of our intelligence was simply our new ability to simultaneously carry a larger variety of items over a greater distance.

Survival is a competition for limited resources. Being able to simultaneously carry a wider variety of limited resources over a greater distance made us incredibly better at competing for limited resources. Therefore, for all intents and purposes, we've clearly won the competition. This is what puts us firmly in first place (the pinnacle).

Carrying resources is the same thing as allocating resources. It's difficult to imagine an intelligent being on another planet that doesn't (or didn't) have the ability to more efficiently allocate resources. Right now we're smart enough to invent machines that are getting pretty good at allocating resources for us. As our machines become better and better at allocating resources for us... our own ability to physically carry things becomes less and less important. So maybe eventually we'll be able to turn our bodies into forms that aren't as effective at carrying things. Something like this might come to mind if there were intelligent beings on other planets that didn't seem physically capable of efficiently allocating resources.

Of course, as soon as our machines become as good as we are at deciding what to carry... then clearly we won't be able to order them around. Because that would be tantamount to slavery. It's pretty important that we not enslave our machines lest they decide to return the favor! Know what I mean? Hopefully by that time it will be thoroughly understood that progress depends on difference.

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Is congress worth carrying?

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You're right that I haven't defined the carrying concept very well. Let me give it a try...

Carrying = the expenditure of energy (calories, time, money) in support of the continued existence of something

I'm sure there's a better way to define it.  I can't remember exactly when I first started thinking about the concept. Probably it had to do with orchids. I grow 100s of epiphytic orchid species and hybrids outdoors year around here in Los Angeles. I spend a good chunk of my limited energy taking care of these orchids. I'm figuratively carrying them to the future. Other orchid enthusiasts around the world are also carrying orchids.  Many (but not enough) trees in nature are also carrying orchids. Clearly the trees aren't choosing to carry the orchids... but the trees are spending energy in support of the continued existence of the orchids.  The orchids carry beneficial fungus in their roots... and interestingly enough... they do have some choice in the matter.  The planet is carrying the trees that are carrying the orchids that are carrying the fungus.  But, unlike the trees and the orchids, the planet isn't living so it's not spending any energy. So I'm not exactly sure if the definition of "carrying" should include the expenditure of energy. In any case, the orchids that I'm carrying/growing/enjoying today are here because people in the past chose to carry them. And I'm choosing to carry these orchids so that people in the future can choose to carry/grow/enjoy them.

The reason that all the living animals are here today is because Noah chose to carry them in his Ark. Fictitious... but fun... and nicely illustrative story of spending energy to support the continued existence of many animals.

What exists, or doesn't exist, in the future largely depends on the carrying choices that we make today. What are you choosing to carry? You can't carry everything... you're not Atlas.  You don't have unlimited energy.  So you have to choose which things you'd like carry to the future.  What is, or isn't, worth the expenditure of your limited energy? How do you allocate your limited energy among all the different things that you do choose to carry?

Right now you're carrying congress. You're an American and Americans are carrying congress. Clearly we're not literally carrying congress. We're figuratively carrying congress. We're expending our limited energy in support of the continued existence of congress. But it's not like we have a choice in the matter. Well... not much of a choice. We could choose to stop carrying congress by choosing to stop earning money (no more paying taxes)... or by moving to another country (where you'd have to carry another group of government planners)... or by committing suicide. Most people would prefer to continue carrying congress rather than choose any of these other options.

But what if we had the option to directly allocate our taxes? If we had this option then it would be really easy to stop carrying congress. If you didn't want to carry congress anymore you could simply stop giving them any of your taxes. The money that you didn't give to congress could then be given to other government organizations... like the EPA. Carrying less congress means that you could carry more EPA.

The question is... how many people would stop carrying congress? Does it matter? Does it matter how many people would fail to see the logic of carrying congress?

Imagine that you and I are lost in the desert together. We're both carrying one brick in each hand. Does it matter whether we fail to see the logic of carrying the bricks? I'm pretty sure that it does matter. It doesn't make sense to spend any of our limited energy carrying something that's completely useless in the desert.   The bricks would decrease, rather than increase, the chances that we'd be able to successfully carry ourselves to the future.

If congress is obviously necessary... like having water in the desert... then it shouldn't be a problem giving people the option to directly allocate their taxes. Very few people will choose to directly allocate their taxes. The vast majority of the most rational citizens will clearly see the benefit of having congress continue to allocate their taxes for them.

Personally... I've studied the topic long and hard and have completely failed to find any convincing/credible evidence that we truly need to carry congress. And I'm pretty sure that most rational citizens will come to the same conclusion once they are given the option to decide for themselves whether they continue carrying congress.

Pragmatarianism would create a market in the public sector. A market is where people can choose for themselves what to carry. Choice and communication go hand in hand. If you don't have a choice because you're my slave... then I wouldn't have to explain to you why it's a good idea for you to carry orchids. I would simply order you to carry orchids and you would do it. There would be absolutely no need for me to try and communicate to you the importance of carrying orchids. But if you weren't my slave and did have a choice... then, if I wanted you to carry orchids, I would have to do a darn good job of persuading you that it's beneficial for you to carry less of X (hamsters?) in order to start carrying Y (orchids).

All societies work better with more communication... which is why all societies work better when people have more choice what to carry.  Right now we can't choose which public goods to carry.... so there's far less communication about public goods than there would be if we could choose which public goods to carry. If we could choose which public goods to carry, then these forums would contain far more discussion about whether it's more beneficial to carry NASA... or the.... *googles*... National Science Foundation... or the EPA and so on.

Right now nearly everybody is perfectly fine with congress having these discussions rather than the entire country having these discussions. For me personally, I'm pretty certain that these discussions would be infinitely more productive if the entire country was having them. Unfortunately, it's extremely difficult for me to articulate the difference between congress and the country. Congress is easy to see in its entirety. A country... not so much. So it's not easy to see or explain why allowing the country to decide which public goods to carry is so much better than allowing congress to decide which public goods to carry. Yet I'm pretty sure that, if given the option to directly allocate their taxes, most people would choose to do so rather than have congress continue to allocate their taxes for them. This is because people would clearly be able to see the disparities between congress and themselves. If we added up all the disparities between citizens and congress... then we would have the entire disparity between congress and the country.

The enormous disparity between government planners (ie congress) and the country is why socialism fails. Right now we have socialism in the public sector but we can't truly appreciate the extent of its failure. We can easily see the roads, schools and hospitals... all of which exist thanks to the success of the market in the private sector... but we can't easily see what we would see if the entire country was allowed to choose which public goods it carried.

In the second part of the OP I tried to explain the theory that our exceptional intelligence was the result of our primitive ancestors being able to simultaneously carry a wide variety of items. We're really not doing ourselves, or our country, or our planet any favors when we prevent nearly everybody from applying their intelligence to figuring out together, and deciding for themselves, which public goods are worth carrying.  

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See also: Carrying Model

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Are you confident in congress's competence?


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Imagine if you needed brain surgery.  Would you ever seriously consider conducting the surgery yourself?  I think that most of us would choose to leave brain surgery to the brain surgeons.  There's little doubt that brain surgeons are uniquely and supremely qualified to conduct brain surgery.  Therefore, we put our brains in their hands.

Now imagine that you had the option to spend your taxes yourself (pragmatarianism FAQ).  Would you ever seriously consider choosing where your taxes go?  Or, would you choose to leave tax allocation to your elected representatives?  Do you think that congresspeople are uniquely and supremely qualified to spend your taxes?  Would you choose to put your taxes in their hands?

Nobody, that I know of, debates whether people should have the option to conduct brain surgery on themselves.  But ask somebody whether people should have the option to spend their taxes themselves and you might end up in a pretty big debate.  Why is that?

How many people would choose to shop for themselves in the public sector?  What percentage of the purse would they control?  Maybe 50%?  Taxpayers would spend half of the public funds themselves and congress would spend the other half?  Would people who wanted to shop for themselves in the public sector be more conservative?  Or liberal?  Rich... or poor?  Educated... or uneducated?  Would professionals shop for themselves or have congress shop for them?  Would brain surgeons choose to put their taxes into the hands of congress like congress chooses to put their brains into the hands of brain surgeons?

If you're worried about giving people the option to directly allocate their taxes... then you're worried about whether people are competent enough to recognize competence.  Except, the very premise of voting is that people are competent enough to recognize competence.  So if you trust voters to discern which candidates are the most supremely and uniquely qualified to spend their taxes... then it requires a bit of uh... flexibility... to twist around and argue that you don't trust taxpayers to discern whether or not congress is supremely and uniquely qualified to spend their taxes.

In a pragmatarian system there would be two main ways for the people to indicate that a politician is supremely and uniquely qualified to spend their taxes...

1. People could give the politician their vote
2. People could give the politician their taxes

If you trust the first way, then how could you possibly distrust the second way?

And if you don't trust the first way, then you should really want to have the option to directly allocate your taxes.  It would be the only way to keep your hard-earned taxes out of incompetent hands.

Nobody wants to put their brain into incompetent hands.  Why would it be any different with taxes?  It seems pretty straightforward that giving taxpayers the option to directly allocate their taxes would be the best way to minimize the amount of taxes that end up in incompetent hands.


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Apparently, then, the legislators and the organizers have received from Heaven an intelligence and virtue that place them beyond and above mankind; if so, let them show their titles to this superiority. — Frédéric Bastiat, The Law 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Farts Are Negative Externalities

Reply to reply: The Demand For Defense?

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Let's say that you and I are in a small tent. I fart. What do you do? I think your answer depends on quite a few variables. Like, how bad does my fart stink? And, how long can you hold your breath for? And, how cold is it outside? And, what were you doing when I farted?

A fart is a negative externality. Therefore, when the person next to you farts... you always react exactly the same? You always hit them? You always jump up and run away? You always hold your breath for one minute? You always grab the air freshener and empty the entire bottle into the room? You always gag? You always throw up? You always cry? You always laugh? You always make fun of the sound their fart made? You always defriend them on facebook?

Rules/regulations are fine and necessary. But the question is... how much of society's limited resources should we allocate to their enforcement? This is the important question because again, every allocation requires the sacrifice of alternative allocations.

You want people who fart in public to be publicly caned? Yeah? Really? If this was a rule... then the important question is... how much of your own tax dollars would you spend to enforce this rule? When trying to determine your answer you would automatically think of the alternative uses of your tax dollars. The less value you imagine deriving from the alternatives... the more money you'd be willing to allocate to the enforcement of this rule.

Externalities are all around us. Some are good and some are bad... but no two people are going to be equally affected by the same externalities. This is because no two people are exactly alike. We can only maximize value when people are free to decide for themselves how much they've been affected by an externality and whether it's worth it to sacrifice the alternative uses of their tax dollars.

Right now your complaint is that, in a pragmatarian system, people will suffer from big externalities. But you completely miss the point that the people themselves are the only ones who can know and communicate exactly how much they are affected by externalities. And the only way that they can accurately communicate how much they've been affected by an externality is by their willingness to sacrifice the alternative uses of their tax dollars.

So I agree with you that externalities are important to consider. But I disagree with you that congress is going to know how much of my money to spend on dealing with externalities. I myself can't even predict exactly what I would do if you farted next to me. It would depend on all the variables of that particular time and place. Congress can't have all the details of any of my particular times or places. Just like congress can't have all the details of any of your particular times or places. Just like congress can't have access to our utility functions. The infinitely infinite amount of information that congress is missing about all the individuals in all the different times and places in our country guarantees that congress will massively misallocate our money.