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Ask a Pragmatarian!

Deuce

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I have a question:

How come theories like this never, ever account for human nature?
 

Xerographica

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Deuce, self-interest is taken into account. Some people derive utility from contributing to the common good...other people do not. Even if somebody does derive utility from contributing, it might be in their self-interest to free-ride off the contributions of others. This is known as the free-rider problem and pragmatarianism takes it into account.

So coercion would still be in place. But once people are coerced into paying taxes, the question is...do we let them decide which public goods their taxes help fund or do we let congress decide? Tax payers would have to ask themselves this same question. In my post on power and control I covered a few factors that tax payers might take into consideration.

You seem to be aware of some of these factors because, in my thread on , you said, "Oh, so all that money the government shovels into the hands of private businesses through a corrupt contracting process is money they earned."

Am I missing any relevant aspects of human nature?
 

Deuce

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Deuce, self-interest is taken into account. Some people derive utility from contributing to the common good...other people do not. Even if somebody does derive utility from contributing, it might be in their self-interest to free-ride off the contributions of others. This is known as the free-rider problem and pragmatarianism takes it into account.

So coercion would still be in place. But once people are coerced into paying taxes, the question is...do we let them decide which public goods their taxes help fund or do we let congress decide? Tax payers would have to ask themselves this same question. In my post on power and control I covered a few factors that tax payers might take into consideration.

You seem to be aware of some of these factors because, in my thread on , you said, "Oh, so all that money the government shovels into the hands of private businesses through a corrupt contracting process is money they earned."

Am I missing any relevant aspects of human nature?

You are missing every aspect of human nature. I hate to sound like a smartass, but it's true. The "free market" can and will kill you to make a buck. It is not some benign force. It's a force of nature. Darwinian. Your theory tips the balance of power even more towards the people with money than the system we have now.

The other issue is marketing. A bridge in Grand Forks, North Dakota is not going to be funded in your system, because Grand Forks is not a large enough town to fund a bridge via some "goodness of their heart" effort on part of its citizens, and the rest of the planet doesn't give a crap about Grand Forks, North Dakota. People will "choose" to put tax dollars towards whatever seems sexiest. To them. How many are going to choose vaccine research? Inspection of the water system in Toledo? High-speed fiber optics installation at the DMV to provide faster turnaround on data requests by police forces?

You claim to "account for" human nature, but give absolutely no detail as to how. You have this claim that "tax payers are better informed than the general public," but that's faulty on so many levels I don't know where to begin. You've got the education -> income -> taxpaying correlation totally backwards. More educated people are generally better "informed," and more educated people tend to earn more money, but earning more money is not what makes them better informed. Yet, you've just given more power to them on that basis. A doctor is not inherently more informed on how money in the government should be allocated. I've got a bachelor's degree, but I don't have a clue how much money should be allocated to genetic research.

You're asking uninformed people to make a decision on how well informed they are. I mean, seriously.
 

Xerographica

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Deuce, you said I was missing every aspect of human nature...but, rather than listing all the aspects I was missing, you went straight to talking about the market. However, the market is based on self-interest...which I covered.

You said that marketing would be a problem but then went on to advertise the public goods that you care about. The number of people that allocated their taxes to a bridge in North Dakota, or vaccine research, etc. would depend entirely on you and anybody else that cares about those public goods.

Can you do me a favor and let me know exactly where I said, "tax payers are better informed than the general public,"?
 

Deuce

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Deuce, you said I was missing every aspect of human nature...but, rather than listing all the aspects I was missing, you went straight to talking about the market. However, the market is based on self-interest...which I covered.

You said that marketing would be a problem but then went on to advertise the public goods that you care about. The number of people that allocated their taxes to a bridge in North Dakota, or vaccine research, etc. would depend entirely on you and anybody else that cares about those public goods.

Can you do me a favor and let me know exactly where I said, "tax payers are better informed than the general public,"?

My mistake. You said taxpayers are better educated than the general public, and then immediately talked about taxpayers making decisions on whether congress was better informed. My brain mashed them together.

My point there still stands, though. You're asking uninformed people to make a decision on how uninformed they are.

Also, yes, your self-interest issue is the issue I'm talking about. There's not enough people interested in the bridge to fund it properly, because bridges are expensive, but Grand Forks has a small population. They can't afford it without state or federal assistance. Guess what? You've just eliminated state and federal assistance. Nobody in California gives a crap enough to send funds for a bridge in North Dakota. Hardly anybody cares about scientific research of any sort. I suspect even the military would become grossly underfunded under your plan, as everyone adopts the "eh, someone else will do it" plan.

Another serious problem: Lack of cohesion in assigning funds. You've decided to allocate resources through 100 million individual decisions. While some important things will probably be underfunded, other, sexier things will be grossly overfunded. Some disease breaks out, vaccine research gets billions and billions of dollars because everyone is scared now. Except you don't need billions of dollars, you just need a few million. If 50 million of those 100 million people think "well, the roads suck! I'll send my money towards fixing roads because we need that," you've got half of our budget going to fix roads. Whoops, sorry people who depend on medicare and social security...

A hundred million individuals making decisions about funds they have no real knowledge or expertise in assigning, without any real coordination between them, and heavily influenced by self-interest. How can you not see that this would end horribly?

The free market is great, but it requires that the consumer can make an informed decision. Someone can make a decision about which type of orange juice or which type of car they want, but tell me, how much does a tomahawk cruise missile cost, and how many do we need? You're not at all qualified to make that decision, but it's in your hands under this theory, which I refuse to name because it's an insult to the presumed root word pragmatism.
 
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Xerographica

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Once taxes solve the free-rider problem then the invisible hand can allocate public goods as efficiently as it allocates private goods. You're trying to say that a relatively small group of well-informed politicians can process as much information as the invisible hand. If this were the case then there would be at least one example of a successful command economy.

I'm sure you've seen Wikipedia's fundraising progress bar. If their goal has been reached then what's the likelihood that people will continue donating money? The opportunity cost concept would be as applicable to public goods as it is to private goods.
 

Deuce

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Once taxes solve the free-rider problem then the invisible hand can allocate public goods as efficiently as it allocates private goods. You're trying to say that a relatively small group of well-informed politicians can process as much information as the invisible hand. If this were the case then there would be at least one example of a successful command economy.

I'm sure you've seen Wikipedia's fundraising progress bar. If their goal has been reached then what's the likelihood that people will continue donating money? The opportunity cost concept would be as applicable to public goods as it is to private goods.

You're falling into the same absolutist trap that conservatives fall in, when you mention a "command economy." You're also missing the fact that congress isn't the group that figures out funding needs. True, they sign the piece of paper, but it's not Senator Reid who decides how many sidewinder missiles that the Air Force needs. The Defense Department does that, because it's their field of expertise. NASA tells congress what they can do with budget X, because NASA actually has that information.

You are not more informed on NASA's funding requirements than NASA is. Period.

The wikipedia donation bar is such a grossly simplified situation compared to the US federal budget it's not even worth talking about.
 

Xerographica

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Deuce, pragmatarianism is all about ceteris paribus. The Department of Defense and NASA would still decide their funding requirements. The difference would be, rather than only having to sell their budget to congress...they would also have to sell their budget to tax payers.

Not sure if you realize this but there are only 3 qualifications to be a senator. You have to...
1) be at least 30
2) be a US citizen for at least 9 years.
3) live in the state you're running for

Their job is to represent your interests and values. If you're happy with how they do this then you would just continue giving them your taxes. If you're dissatisfied with their job performance then you would just allocate your taxes yourself.

Given the opportunity, what percentage of tax payers would choose to allocate their taxes themselves?
 

Deuce

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Deuce, pragmatarianism is all about ceteris paribus. The Department of Defense and NASA would still decide their funding requirements. The difference would be, rather than only having to sell their budget to congress...they would also have to sell their budget to tax payers.

Not sure if you realize this but there are only 3 qualifications to be a senator. You have to...
1) be at least 30
2) be a US citizen for at least 9 years.
3) live in the state you're running for

Their job is to represent your interests and values. If you're happy with how they do this then you would just continue giving them your taxes. If you're dissatisfied with their job performance then you would just allocate your taxes yourself.

Given the opportunity, what percentage of tax payers would choose to allocate their taxes themselves?

You have this picture in your mind of a smooth, efficient, gradual application of market forces to the government. It's pure fantasy, because virtually every service we run at a government level is run that way BECAUSE the free market screwed up that industry somehow. Usually because of incorrect or insufficient information held by the consumer.

You're talking about submitting national defense to the whims of the people. An airstrike kills a bunch of missionaries in Blankistan, horrible pictures of dead children on the news, and now there's not enough funding to run any more bomber wings. How popular is the TSA these days? Welp, I guess we wont be doing any more of that screening at the airport. Department of the Interior? What do they even DO, anyway? Department of Education? Eh, MY kids are going to PRIVATE school. Screw poor people! Welfare? Please, as if that would get enough funding. Those who need it are the ones who can't pay for it, you've just turned medicaid, welfare, and food stamps into charities that will never get the funding they need. Desperate people do desperate things, I hope you like high crime rates!

You can't apply free market forces to things that aren't markets. It doesn't work.

Millions of people file taxes on the same day. How well do you think they'll coordinate?
 
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Xerographica

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Deuce, according to your argument...both conservatives and liberals would stop funding the things they value. However, as I said, pragmatarianism is all about ceteris paribus, so the tax rate would not change. If we assume that one group pays a larger total amount of taxes...then either "liberal" or "conservative" public goods would lose funding. But it can't be both.

In terms of logistics...each government organization's website would provide their budget needs for the year and display a fundraising progress bar. From here there are two possibilities...

1. When you paid your taxes you would add each organization's Tax ID (found on their website) and indicate what percentage of your taxes should go to each organization. When you submitted your taxes each organization would automatically receive a notification...their progress bar would be updated and you would be able to confirm that each government organization received your taxes.

2. You would pay each government organization directly. They would send you a receipt and notify the IRS.
 

Deuce

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Deuce, according to your argument...both conservatives and liberals would stop funding the things they value. However, as I said, pragmatarianism is all about ceteris paribus, so the tax rate would not change. If we assume that one group pays a larger total amount of taxes...then either "liberal" or "conservative" public goods would lose funding. But it can't be both.

In terms of logistics...each government organization's website would provide their budget needs for the year and display a fundraising progress bar. From here there are two possibilities...

1. When you paid your taxes you would add each organization's Tax ID (found on their website) and indicate what percentage of your taxes should go to each organization. When you submitted your taxes each organization would automatically receive a notification...their progress bar would be updated and you would be able to confirm that each government organization received your taxes.

2. You would pay each government organization directly. They would send you a receipt and notify the IRS.

Yes, they would stop funding things they value, because there are only so many things people will put down on a form. There are hundreds, probably thousands of services that you and I "value" from the government. Half of them you're probably not even aware of. Plus, people are greedy. You're suggesting that when people aren't made to pay for welfare, welfare would get the same amount of funding. Pure fantasy.

Then there's logistics. Your progress bar idea is downright stupid. Do you know how long it takes to process all those tax returns? It's not like you can display this information live on tax day while millions of people file their returns. By the time any meaningful number of returns have been processed and the bars updated, tax day will have long since passed. People will have almost no idea what has or has not been funded at the time they fill out the return. They'd only have the trickle of early filers to go on.
 

Xerographica

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It all boils down to signals. All public goods have their associated signals. It's absurd to believe that Congress can effectively and efficiently respond to all the signals that the American public could respond to. We're talking 535 people vs 300,000,000 people.

In terms of logistics, most people don't purchase their private goods at one time...they purchase them throughout the year. It would be the same thing with public goods..the difference would be that the IRS would just make sure that tax payers had purchased the appropriate amount of public goods for the year.

I have no idea whether public welfare would receive the same amount of funding. What I do know for certain is that public welfare, like most government organizations, is rife with waste and abuse. A friend of mine works with a state sponsored welfare organization that has several workers that fraudulently add to their billable hours. With the pragmatarian approach, public welfare organizations would be forced to compete with private welfare organizations. Competition is the only way to ensure maximum government efficiency.
 

tacomancer

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Another serious problem: Lack of cohesion in assigning funds. You've decided to allocate resources through 100 million individual decisions. While some important things will probably be underfunded, other, sexier things will be grossly overfunded. Some disease breaks out, vaccine research gets billions and billions of dollars because everyone is scared now. Except you don't need billions of dollars, you just need a few million. If 50 million of those 100 million people think "well, the roads suck! I'll send my money towards fixing roads because we need that," you've got half of our budget going to fix roads. Whoops, sorry people who depend on medicare and social security...

A real world example of this problem is Haiti. After the earthquake, the red cross got tons of money, and then people turned their attention elsewhere and now they are grossly underfunded and are having trouble even getting new tents.
 

rathi

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Half our country doesn't even bother showing up for 20 minutes once every 4 years to vote. Yet you think that those same people will somehow be able to accurately handle our budgetary issues 24/7? You might as well turn to communism if you make such unrealistic assumptions.
 

Xerographica

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megaprogman, I'm not quite sure what your point is or how it relates to pragmatarianism. With pragmatarianism people can't jump off the bandwagon...they can only switch bandwagons. They can't decide to stop paying for public goods altogether...but they can switch which public goods they pay for.

I guess it would be like people funding Haiti and then switching their funds to Ethiopia. Would it be wrong for people to switch their funding from Haiti to Ethiopia? Could we "overfund" Ethiopia?
 

Xerographica

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rathi, errrr...do you donate to any non-profit organizations? If you do, do you sit around 24/7 handling their budgetary issues?
 

rathi

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rathi, errrr...do you donate to any non-profit organizations? If you do, do you sit around 24/7 handling their budgetary issues?

Nope. Then again, I never gave money to a non-profit fighting 3 wars and 15 trillion dollars in debt either. I get the feeling that maybe you can't run a food bank the same way as the government of the most powerful nation in the world.
 

Xerographica

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rathi, yeah, it would be a mess if we operated non-profits like we operate our government. But rather than modeling non-profits after our government...why not model our government after non-profits? We'd still have to pay the same amount of taxes but we would be able to choose which government organizations received our taxes.
 

tacomancer

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megaprogman, I'm not quite sure what your point is or how it relates to pragmatarianism. With pragmatarianism people can't jump off the bandwagon...they can only switch bandwagons. They can't decide to stop paying for public goods altogether...but they can switch which public goods they pay for.

I guess it would be like people funding Haiti and then switching their funds to Ethiopia. Would it be wrong for people to switch their funding from Haiti to Ethiopia? Could we "overfund" Ethiopia?

It goes to Deuce's point that society as a whole displays qualities similar to ADHD and we need experts to put in long term focus about issues.
 

rathi

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rathi, yeah, it would be a mess if we operated non-profits like we operate our government. But rather than modeling non-profits after our government...why not model our government after non-profits? We'd still have to pay the same amount of taxes but we would be able to choose which government organizations received our taxes.

Non-profits don't let their donors choose how to allocate money. That doesn't get into the fact that its delusional to think that government and non-profits can be organized in even a remotely similar fashion.
 

Xerographica

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megaprogman, are you really under the impression that our representatives follow the advice of long term "experts" rather than follow the advice of their political career advisers?
 

tacomancer

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megaprogman, are you really under the impression that our representatives follow the advice of long term "experts" rather than follow the advice of their political career advisers?

They have a far higher probability of doing so.
 

Xerographica

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rathi, plenty of non-profits give donors some choice in the matter...take the Red Cross for example.

But I never said that we would tell government organizations how to spend our taxes. I said that we would be able to choose which government organizations received our taxes just like we can choose which non-profits receive our donations. If you weren't satisfied with how a government organization spent your money then you probably wouldn't give them money again.

Why is it delusional to think that government organizations should be forced to compete for our taxes like non-profits have to?
 

Harry Guerrilla

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Non-profits don't let their donors choose how to allocate money. That doesn't get into the fact that its delusional to think that government and non-profits can be organized in even a remotely similar fashion.

Actually they can sorta.
If you write a check and specify in the notes that it goes towards X, Y or Z, the non profit has to direct the funds towards that.
 
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