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Pragmatarianism

Xerographica

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Hi everybody, welcome to the thread on pragmatarianism! How's it going? Noticed that there are quite a few libertarians on here...even a few from SoCal like myself. Super cool...let's hang out and read Ayn Rand.

Here are my thoughts on public goods from a neutral point of view. Really! Money back guarantee if not. Public goods are basically any goods that a society feels should be "freely" available. Taxes fund the production of public goods. As I'm sure you're aware, liberals and libertarians have somewhat conflicting views on public goods.

Anybody watch the Rachel Maddow show? Yesterday she had some charts demonstrating that a decision to extend unemployment benefits had kept several million people out of poverty. Her conclusion was that the social safety net is necessary and effective...and we all agree that poverty is a bad thing. We can counter her point with the following....

"Put differently, voters in democratic regimes are unwilling to give up the protections offered by the welfare state, even when those protections are produced inefficiently, and at very high cost. Libertarians are not going to succeed politically by telling voters that they should give up welfare-state protections. Rather, libertarians need to show how freemarket programs will produce social security at levels comparable to those provided by welfare-state systems." - Problems of market liberalism: Social philosophy and policy

A counter to the libertarian point would be to simply ask the following question...would levels really be comparable? Assign that question to your subconscious while we define pragmatism, effectiveness and efficiency.

Ever heard of Deng Xiaoping? If so...please raise your hand like this...*raises hand* Deng Xiaoping was the Chinese leader who pretty much single handedly implemented free-market reforms that helped China rapidly develop. His most famous saying was that he didn't care if a cat was black or white...as long as it caught mice. Basically, in a country full of hard-core communists, he said that ideology was less important than results. Ah...pragmatism!

Speaking of catching mice...the other day I was in my yard talking to my plants when I noticed a tiny mouse acting rather nonchalantly for a mouse. Just for the heck of it I grabbed a clear, flimsy, plastic container to see if I could catch it. I stood very still on the grass and waited and waited until the mouse came near. Finally it got close enough and I pounced! Not being quite fast enough, I had managed to pin it unharmed between the rim of the container and the grass. I definitely didn't want to touch it so we just stared at each other for quite some time until I lifted the container and it scampered off. Catching the mouse was a measure of effectiveness and the time it took me to catch the mouse was a measure of efficiency.

Here comes the fun part...concession time! Which side wants to go first...liberals or libertarians? We'll start with libertarians. Their concession should be that free-markets will probably not produce comparable levels of public goods. Meaning, free-markets would not be as effective. This is because the government coerces nearly everybody to fund public goods. Without coercion, free-riders would ensure that funding for public goods would decrease significantly.

Now it's the liberals' turn. Their concession should be that there is no strong motivation for government to efficiently produce public goods. This moral hazard results in unnecessarily high costs for tax payers. In comparison, businesses are strongly motivated to increase efficiency (reduce costs) in order to offer prices lower than their competitors. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) also known as "non-profits" are strongly motivated to reduce costs because people are less likely to donate money to an organization with high overhead costs.

Libertarians primarily care about efficiency while liberals primarily care about effectiveness. "Choice" is the basis of efficiency and "coercion" is the basis of effectiveness. An efficient and effective solution would be to simply add choice and coercion together. Practically speaking...tax payers should be able to choose which public goods their taxes help fund. This would force government organizations to compete for funding.

Pragmatarianism is basically applying free-market principles to public goods. The focus is less on ideology and more on results.

We would have two markets...a free-market and a public-market. For some goods (education, welfare, healthcare, etc.) the two markets would compete directly for funds. For other goods (defense, infrastructure) there would be very little competition as there is barely any incentive, in terms of profit, for the free-market to produce those goods.

In some cases people would only fund public goods that they consumed. For example, if your kid goes to a private school you might not allocate much of your money to public education. However, limousine liberals (used non-pejoratively) are perfect examples of people who would allocate their taxes to public goods that they do not consume. Rachel Maddow obviously does not collect unemployment benefits but I'm sure she would allocate a portion of her taxes to unemployment in order to help keep people out of poverty.

What about the national healthcare debate? We can look at all the other developed countries and acknowledge that they offer better healthcare for less money. America, on the other hand, spends the most money on healthcare but has the least coverage.

What's preventing us from implementing a national healthcare system? Two things. First, as we've established, there are plenty of Americans who are fed up with government inefficiency. Second, we spend a LOT of money on healthcare. That's a LOT of profit. That's a LOT of incentive for private healthcare organizations to influence politicians to block national healthcare from going through. This is known as rent-seeking behavior.

With pragmatarianism, there would not be any obstacles preventing people from supporting the public goods they cared about the most. If public healthcare is the best option then more and more people would allocate their taxes to help fund it.

Criticisms!? One criticism is that we have a division of labor...basically...we make money and congress spends it. This is the... "I'm too lazy to worry about it"...or the "I trust congress completely"...criticism. Folks in this category would have the option to give their taxes to congress.

Another criticism is that certain public goods would be underfunded. The solution would be to simply allocate more of your taxes to the underfunded public good and encourage others to do the same.

The third criticism is that funding would be inconsistent. In my opinion, people's values fluctuate less drastically than the government's values do during transitions in power between Republicans and Democrats.

If there are any libertarians who still don't quite appreciate the value of this approach...let me try and spell it out for you. People will never vote for getting rid of the social safety net. Rachel Maddow and others will make sure of that. However, if it is true that voluntary organizations can produce comparable levels of many public goods, then the pragmatarian approach would facilitate the flow of funds to these organizations. Piece by piece the social safety net would be reassembled over on the free-market side...without ever compromising the coverage of the net.

In conclusion, pragmatarianism does not care whether an organization is governmental or non-governmental...what matters most are results.
 

Wiseone

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People picking and choosing where to spend taxes and to what programs they are spent on? No way.. As much as people may hate it, the system relies on tax payers paying for stuff they may never use. My tax dollars purchased some local park improvements but I will never use them, however there are services which I use that other individuals will never see. This sounds a lot like communism in that its nice on paper but would be impossible and chaotic in reality.

By the way where did you copy this from?
 

MaggieD

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People picking and choosing where to spend taxes and to what programs they are spent on? No way.. As much as people may hate it, the system relies on tax payers paying for stuff they may never use. My tax dollars purchased some local park improvements but I will never use them, however there are services which I use that other individuals will never see. This sounds a lot like communism in that its nice on paper but would be impossible and chaotic in reality.

By the way where did you copy this from?
Are you sure you didn't hurt the mouse?
 

tacomancer

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In conclusion, pragmatarianism does not care whether an organization is governmental or non-governmental...what matters most are results.
I agree with this conclusion, however, its still not easy. For example, there is major disagreement over what the results should be. Personally, I prefer using the market creating a solution for society, as long as the results are good enough (in my opinion, since I am a voter) that it would serve what I believe to be societie's needs.
 

Xerographica

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Wiseone, hmmm...guess you've never heard of the invisible hand. What did I copy what from?

MaggieD, I'm pretty sure I didn't hurt the mouse. I'm certainly sure I didn't hurt it as much as a cat would have. It scampered off though before I could run any very conclusive diagnostics. I'd like to think that I only scared it a lot. It probably thought it was going to get eaten for sure...so maybe getting away was the happiest day of its life. Well...if I escaped from a great white shark...probably I'd vote for not having been in that situation in the first place. Huh, I'm having a little difficulty picking what might have been the happiest day of my life. Don't get me wrong...I've had moments galore. I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched...errr.

megaprogman, it's easier to disagree with congress than it is to disagree with a market. At least I think so.
 

samsmart

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Hi everybody, welcome to the thread on pragmatarianism! How's it going? Noticed that there are quite a few libertarians on here...even a few from SoCal like myself. Super cool...let's hang out and read Ayn Rand.

Here are my thoughts on public goods from a neutral point of view. Really! Money back guarantee if not. Public goods are basically any goods that a society feels should be "freely" available. Taxes fund the production of public goods. As I'm sure you're aware, liberals and libertarians have somewhat conflicting views on public goods.

Anybody watch the Rachel Maddow show? Yesterday she had some charts demonstrating that a decision to extend unemployment benefits had kept several million people out of poverty. Her conclusion was that the social safety net is necessary and effective...and we all agree that poverty is a bad thing. We can counter her point with the following....

"Put differently, voters in democratic regimes are unwilling to give up the protections offered by the welfare state, even when those protections are produced inefficiently, and at very high cost. Libertarians are not going to succeed politically by telling voters that they should give up welfare-state protections. Rather, libertarians need to show how freemarket programs will produce social security at levels comparable to those provided by welfare-state systems." - Problems of market liberalism: Social philosophy and policy

A counter to the libertarian point would be to simply ask the following question...would levels really be comparable? Assign that question to your subconscious while we define pragmatism, effectiveness and efficiency.

Ever heard of Deng Xiaoping? If so...please raise your hand like this...*raises hand* Deng Xiaoping was the Chinese leader who pretty much single handedly implemented free-market reforms that helped China rapidly develop. His most famous saying was that he didn't care if a cat was black or white...as long as it caught mice. Basically, in a country full of hard-core communists, he said that ideology was less important than results. Ah...pragmatism!

Speaking of catching mice...the other day I was in my yard talking to my plants when I noticed a tiny mouse acting rather nonchalantly for a mouse. Just for the heck of it I grabbed a clear, flimsy, plastic container to see if I could catch it. I stood very still on the grass and waited and waited until the mouse came near. Finally it got close enough and I pounced! Not being quite fast enough, I had managed to pin it unharmed between the rim of the container and the grass. I definitely didn't want to touch it so we just stared at each other for quite some time until I lifted the container and it scampered off. Catching the mouse was a measure of effectiveness and the time it took me to catch the mouse was a measure of efficiency.

Here comes the fun part...concession time! Which side wants to go first...liberals or libertarians? We'll start with libertarians. Their concession should be that free-markets will probably not produce comparable levels of public goods. Meaning, free-markets would not be as effective. This is because the government coerces nearly everybody to fund public goods. Without coercion, free-riders would ensure that funding for public goods would decrease significantly.

Now it's the liberals' turn. Their concession should be that there is no strong motivation for government to efficiently produce public goods. This moral hazard results in unnecessarily high costs for tax payers. In comparison, businesses are strongly motivated to increase efficiency (reduce costs) in order to offer prices lower than their competitors. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) also known as "non-profits" are strongly motivated to reduce costs because people are less likely to donate money to an organization with high overhead costs.

Libertarians primarily care about efficiency while liberals primarily care about effectiveness. "Choice" is the basis of efficiency and "coercion" is the basis of effectiveness. An efficient and effective solution would be to simply add choice and coercion together. Practically speaking...tax payers should be able to choose which public goods their taxes help fund. This would force government organizations to compete for funding.

Pragmatarianism is basically applying free-market principles to public goods. The focus is less on ideology and more on results.

We would have two markets...a free-market and a public-market. For some goods (education, welfare, healthcare, etc.) the two markets would compete directly for funds. For other goods (defense, infrastructure) there would be very little competition as there is barely any incentive, in terms of profit, for the free-market to produce those goods.

In some cases people would only fund public goods that they consumed. For example, if your kid goes to a private school you might not allocate much of your money to public education. However, limousine liberals (used non-pejoratively) are perfect examples of people who would allocate their taxes to public goods that they do not consume. Rachel Maddow obviously does not collect unemployment benefits but I'm sure she would allocate a portion of her taxes to unemployment in order to help keep people out of poverty.

What about the national healthcare debate? We can look at all the other developed countries and acknowledge that they offer better healthcare for less money. America, on the other hand, spends the most money on healthcare but has the least coverage.

What's preventing us from implementing a national healthcare system? Two things. First, as we've established, there are plenty of Americans who are fed up with government inefficiency. Second, we spend a LOT of money on healthcare. That's a LOT of profit. That's a LOT of incentive for private healthcare organizations to influence politicians to block national healthcare from going through. This is known as rent-seeking behavior.

With pragmatarianism, there would not be any obstacles preventing people from supporting the public goods they cared about the most. If public healthcare is the best option then more and more people would allocate their taxes to help fund it.

Criticisms!? One criticism is that we have a division of labor...basically...we make money and congress spends it. This is the... "I'm too lazy to worry about it"...or the "I trust congress completely"...criticism. Folks in this category would have the option to give their taxes to congress.

Another criticism is that certain public goods would be underfunded. The solution would be to simply allocate more of your taxes to the underfunded public good and encourage others to do the same.

The third criticism is that funding would be inconsistent. In my opinion, people's values fluctuate less drastically than the government's values do during transitions in power between Republicans and Democrats.

If there are any libertarians who still don't quite appreciate the value of this approach...let me try and spell it out for you. People will never vote for getting rid of the social safety net. Rachel Maddow and others will make sure of that. However, if it is true that voluntary organizations can produce comparable levels of many public goods, then the pragmatarian approach would facilitate the flow of funds to these organizations. Piece by piece the social safety net would be reassembled over on the free-market side...without ever compromising the coverage of the net.

In conclusion, pragmatarianism does not care whether an organization is governmental or non-governmental...what matters most are results.
Instead of all this, I'd rather Social Security programs be paid for by the monies people pay into it, instead of allowing Congress to take that money, spend it on other government programs, and then promise to pay back into the Social Security fund with interest.
 

Xerographica

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Harry Guerrilla, with pragmatarianism there wouldn't be a logical reason to hate any public goods. If you didn't value a public good you just wouldn't fund it.

samsmart, is Social Security a public good? Incidentally, I nominated you for the over-quoter of the year award. I'm pretty sure you'll win.
 

tacomancer

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megaprogman, it's easier to disagree with congress than it is to disagree with a market. At least I think so.
I find myself disagreeing with both with equal ease (depending on the issue)
 

Xerographica

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megaprogman, hmmm...I think what I meant to say was...you're probably less likely to disagree with how you spend your money compared to how I would spend your money. Of course, this is only a theory. If you doubt the theory then by all means you're welcome to paypal me some money. There's definitely the possibility that I will think of your interests rather than my own when I spend your money.
 

tacomancer

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megaprogman, hmmm...I think what I meant to say was...you're probably less likely to disagree with how you spend your money compared to how I would spend your money. Of course, this is only a theory. If you doubt the theory then by all means you're welcome to paypal me some money. There's definitely the possibility that I will think of your interests rather than my own when I spend your money.
I think we are looking at things from different perspectives. The whole how one spends their money is a viewpoint from the individual, while I tend to look at how well society functions as a whole as my primary concern.
 
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