Friday, July 28, 2017

The Scope Of My Relevance?

Here's my reply to Adam Gurri's comment on my previous entry.


Patients are sometimes hooked up to machines that monitor their vitals. Evidently this is information that doctors and nurses need in order to make better informed decisions.

We can imagine something similar at plant shows.  People would be given heart rate monitors to wear. Then it would be possible to see and know what effect each entry had on people's heart rates.  Exhibitors could use this information to make better informed decisions. The most boring plants would be replaced with more exciting plants.  Shows would quickly be so exciting that attendees over the age of 60 would have a 90% chance of suffering a heart attack.

At Aristotle's plant show nobody would run the risk of being excited to death.  Instead, everybody would run the risk of being bored to death.

Speaking of which, I'm halfway through "Economics and Hermeneutics". If I had been wearing a heart rate monitor, it would have shown a small hop at Lachmann's chapter. I really like Lachmann, and he seemed to like hermeneutics, but just when I thought something intellectually exciting was going to happen, the chapter ended.

So far the most exciting chapter has been Richard M. Ebeling's. He basically argued that, thanks to positivism, price theory is incredibly incomplete. This would explain why plant shows aren't judged by consumers.  Most economists have focused on models and math rather than endeavoring to thoroughly interpret spending/sacrificing. Ebeling made the point several times that it's about communication. Well yeah. That's the same point that I tried to make in my entry about commerce as communication.  People generally don’t make random sacrifices.  Usually sacrifices have meaning.

You want a small handful of experts at a show to use ribbons to inform everyone which entries are the best.  I want everyone to use dollars to inform everyone which entries are the best.

I'll keep reading the book.  I'm curious if there are any chapters that are more intellectually exciting than Ebeling's.

Your concern about tax choice is that tax dollars would be a mile wide and an inch deep?  I really don't see this in the non-profit sector. The Red Cross receives a LOT more money than the Epiphyte Society. Evidently disaster relief is more important to people than epiphytes growing on all the trees. People haven't gotten the memo that epiphytes can stop global warming.

In neither case is there a revenue threshold for provision.  If the Red Cross only receives $100 dollars a year, it can still supply some disaster relief.  If the Epiphyte Society only receives $10 dollars per year, it can still attach a couple Tillandsias to a tree.  Bridges have more of a threshold.  But even in this case it doesn’t make sense to produce an 8 lane bridge when all that’s truly demanded is a foot bridge.  This isn’t the Field of Dreams.  Just because you build it doesn’t mean that they will come.

I think it’s pretty simple.  Do we need to know what’s important to society?  Well yeah.  It’s the only way that you can see and compare society’s priorities to your own.  Say that you don’t allocate any of your tax dollars to defense.  Evidently it’s not even a small priority for you.  But you can clearly see that for society defense is a massive priority.  Society allocates an incredible amount of tax dollars to defense.  How do you explain the gigantic disparity between society’s priorities and your own?  Does society know something that you don’t?  Or is it the other way around?  If you have solid evidence that society is tilting at windmills, then your freedom to exit your own tax dollars from the defense absurdity is impossibly wonderful.  You share your solid evidence with Samantha, her freedom to exit her own dollars from the defense absurdity is impossibly wonderful. The enlightenment effect is impossibly wonderful.  The layers of this dark age would be quickly peeled away.

If we could directly allocate our taxes, doing so would be optional.  How many taxpayers would choose this option?  How many people would choose to exit their own tax dollars from the absurdity of impersonal shopping?  Only a few?  Many?

I might be wrong about tax choice.  I certainly haven’t had much success persuading people that I’m right.  So I’m going to test the theory out on a plant show.  Will it be beneficial for people to use their dollars to inform each other of the importance of the entries?  Do we need to know what’s important to the Epiphyte Society?  Well yeah.  Unless I’m wrong.

Here’s what I can’t wrap my mind around.  No sane economist will argue against my freedom to donate money to the Epiphyte Society.  Evidently I’m relevant enough to judge the relevance of the society itself.  So how could a sane economist turn around and argue that I’m not relevant enough to judge the relevance of the parts of the society?   Am I more likely to misjudge the parts than the whole?

I should be free to decide that Rothbard’s work, as a whole, is worth my sacrifice.  But I should not be free to decide that only a part of his work is worth my sacrifice?

Feedback shouldn’t be too specific?  I have to value every chapter in "Economics and Hermeneutics" equally?  I have to value every entry in a plant show equally?  Or, my valuations of the entries do not matter, but my valuation of the Epiphyte Society itself does matter?  I should be free to exit from the society but I shouldn’t be free to exit from parts of it?

If it’s truly detrimental for people at a plant show to donate to specific entries, then why is it legal for people to donate to specific government agencies?  There’s no law against donating to NASA or the EPA.  Should there be?  Are people more likely to misjudge the parts than the whole?

Here I am alive.  Before, I didn’t exist, afterwards, I won’t, but for now, I do.  Some things in my life make a lot of sense… like Forever by Weekend Wolves.  I just gave it a thumbs up.  Other things make absolutely no sense… like impersonal shopping.  But there’s no thumbs down button for me to click.  I have so much feedback to give on all sorts of things... but in so many cases there’s no way to give it.  What I really want is a coherent story about where my relevance begins and ends.  Is that too much to ask for?  Is it unreasonable to ask for a relevance rule that makes sense?


  1. Let me try this:

    Consider Dungeons and Dragons. It has a bunch of rules. More than the rules, the gameplay has a kind of feel to it; which varies from group to group and dungeon master to dungeon master. Getting the hang of it takes both a time investment and the difficulty of getting enough people to coordinate their schedules often enough to play and actually start investing that time.

    People who have played enough have a developed sense of judgement for what makes a good game. Is it coming very close to death and then triumphing? Is it good chemistry among the group and between the group and the dungeon master? It's these things and many others; some good games rely more on some of these characteristics than others.

    Now, say we've got something like HarmonQuest, where there's a big audience watching the game. Since this is on YouTube, it's easy to access. We could imagine someone who has never played a game of D&D watching. Could they really say what a good game was, if they don't even understand how the game works? They can surely judge whether or not the people make funny jokes. They may even learn to understand the game by watching enough episodes. But no, the judgment of someone who has never played D&D is not relevant to the question of whether a particular game was a relatively good one.

    Hope that's more illuminating than inscrutable.

    1. Personally, I've never played or watched a D&D game. But I have played WOW before. Which is geekier?

      I agree that my judgement of a D&D game is irrelevant. But you really wouldn't have to prevent me from spending my money to judge the outcome of a D&D game. So there's no point in preventing anybody from spending their money to judge the outcome of a D&D game. The only people who would spend serious money to judge a game would be seriously into it.

      A while back I was invited to join a gun/outdoor forum to pitch my idea of using donations to judge threads. As soon as I signed up I donated $10 dollars to the forum. It wasn't because I valued gun discussion. It was because I valued the opportunity to test my idea.
      I valuated some threads and created this entry to sort them by their value. I was the only one who valuated any threads. Many of the other members were already donors but they didn't see the benefit of valuating threads.

      The threads that I most highly valued were the ones that I created about economics. Economics is far more interesting to me than guns are. A few members were somewhat interested in economics, but they were all far more interested in guns.

      Would you have joined the forum? I'm guessing not. But if you had, and you did donate $10 dollars, then I'm guessing that you would have earmarked more of it to threads about economics than about guns. More threads about economics would theoretically have attracted more people interested in discussing economics. In this way the gun forum could have transformed into an economics forum.

      We can imagine a cactus and succulent show with one or two orchids in it. The show is judged by donations and the orchids receive 25% of them. The next year the show has ten orchids. They receive 40% of the donations. The next year half the entries are orchids and they receive nearly all the donations. The next year nearly all the entries are orchids. The cactus and succulent show transformed into an orchid show.

      Having a cactus and succulent show makes sense when it's demanded. It doesn't make any sense when people actually demand an orchid show.

      Markets are the only way to keep the supply relevant to what people actually and truly want. Your website, LiberalCurrents, is not a market. Therefore, its supply of articles is not going to be relevant to what people actually and truly want. Let's say that you allow people to use donations to judge the articles. Three years later all the articles are about guns? Probably not. Would they be about video games? Probably not. I'm guessing that they'd be about using donations to judge things. But I could be wrong. They might be about D&D.

    2. I think we've gone back and forth on this enough for now :) let's take some time apart and see if we're able to understand one another better by the next go round.

    3. Ok, thanks for taking the time and making the effort to share your thoughts. I appreciate it.