Is Pragmatarianism (Tax Choice) Less Wrong?

by Xerographica2 min read12th Feb 201569 comments

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Personal Blog

I sure think it is!  But I could be wrong...

This is my first article/post? here and to be honest, I have this website open in another tab and I keep refreshing it to see if I still have enough points to post.  I wish I would have taken a screenshot every time my karma changed.  First it was 0, then it was -1, then it was back to 0, then I think it jumped up to 5.  I thought I was safe but then this morning it was down to 0.  So if this post seems "linky" then it might be because I'm trying to share as much information as I can while my window of opportunity is still open.  

Pragmatarianism (tax choice) is the belief that taxpayers should be able to choose where their taxes go.  Tax choice is the broad concept while pragmatarianism is my own personal spin on it... but sometimes I use "tax choice" when I mean pragmatarianism.  Eh, at this point I don't think it's a big deal.  Really the only thing nice about the word "pragmatarianism" is that it functions as a unique ID... which is extremely helpful when it comes to searches.  Don't have to worry about wading through irrelevant results. 

Here are some links from my blog which should help you decide whether pragmatarianism is more or less wrong...

Pragmatarianism FAQ - a good place to start.  It's pretty short.  

Key concepts - a work in progress.  Some of the concepts are linked to entries which have PDF files with a bunch of relevant quotes and passages.  If you like any of them then please share them in this thread... Quotes Repository.  I shared a few but they didn't fare so well... so I'm guessing that most people here aren't fans of economics... or they aren't fans of my economics. 

Progress as a Function of Freedom - hedging bets, the impossibility of hostile aliens, the problem with "rights".  

What Do Coywolves, Mr. Nobody, Plants And Fungi All Have In Common? - the universal drive to choose the most valuable option, the carrying model as an explanation for our intelligence, a bit on rationality.

Builderism - where better options come from, globalization, debunking Piketty, eliminating poverty. 

My Robin Hanson trilogy...

Is Robin Hanson's Path To Efficient Voting Pragmatic Or Brilliant Or Both? - maybe we should have a civic currency?

Rescuing Robin Hanson From Unmet Demand - how many other people are in the same boat?

Futarchy vs Pragmatarianism - is it logically inconsistent to support one but not the other?  

/trilogy.

AI Box Experiment vs Xero's Rule - my first brainstorm attempt to wrap my mind around the idea of an AI box.

Is A Procreation License Consistent With Libertarianism? - would a procreation license be less wrong?

Why I Love Your Freedom - my critique of the best critique of libertarianism.  A bit on rationality.

So what do you think?  Am I in the right place?  

What else?  Of course I'm an atheist!  And I love sci-fi... and for sure I want to live forever.  The major obstacle is that too many people fail to grasp that progress depends on difference.  I do my best to try and eliminate this obstacle.  Unfortunately I suck at writing and my drawings are even worse.  Oh well.

Let me know if you have any questions.

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69 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 2:45 PM
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[-][anonymous]7y 26

Xerographica,

I have seen your comments pushing this idea of yours on a number of economics blogs, and I have wanted to reach out to you for some time. Your idea is not obviously a bad one. It is not obviously a right one either! But it does not take such a great deal of imagining to see how allowing taxpayers to allocate their taxes could be an improvement on the current system.

However, your presentation is...imperfect. You need to realize that your idea is weird and a substantial change from the status quo. "Weird" and "change from the status quo" are difficult handicaps in the political sphere. You need to be able to articulate your most important arguments and ideas in short, powerful statements. How Robin Hanson advocates futarchy might be a model for you. I myself intend to advance some arguments that, while quite uncontroversial as derivations from economic theory, are nevertheless disapproved of within the profession, like how a mathematician starts to fidget when a physicist treats dy and dx like two different variables, only if the physicist were completely right and the mathematician knew it.... It is not easy, and it can be frustrating.

You must be prepared to do the bulk of the work in this conversation, even when you have already done the work. That means a post full of links to your other posts is insufficient even if your other posts are sufficient. And they are not. Your FAQ, for example, is woefully incomplete. It does not even explain what your idea is.

You need to engage substantively with the weakest points of your argument and the public choice literature. There is a great deal of work for you to do to fully understand this position. For example, do taxpayers vote on how the total tax fund is allocated? Or do they each choose where to send the taxes they personally pay? If the former, your core argument, that taxpayer-allocated taxes will yield improvements because the allocations will reflect the opportunity cost of the taxpayer choices, is wrong. (It is wrong or at least very incomplete in the latter case as well, but I "see what you mean" and have no desire to quibble.) If the latter, you need to explain how this choice happens. Does a form come with the income tax form allowing you to circle "military," "environment," "welfare," and so on, indicating where your money should be sent? If you choose "military," does Congress then spend the money as it pleases so long as it claims the spending is military-related, or can one then choose between "tank," "gun," "therapy," and so on? How would this work for a sales tax? What if you want the money to be spent on an option Congress doesn't offer? And so on. These are the sorts of things that should be in your FAQ.

Does this lead to better policy because it makes lobbying pointless? Or do lobbyists turn from Congress to voters, manipulating them with propaganda, advertisements, and misleading rhetoric? Do we have less war, because the voters would never choose to impose such a conflict on themselves, or do we have more war, because ignorant, uneducated voters are more subject to jingoism and outgroup-hatred than the educated members of Congress? And so on.

Will policy be worse because taxpayers are substantially ignorant about what Congress does? (Imagine their surprise when they try to lower foreign aid and end up increasing it tenfold!) Or will policy be better because Congress won't be able to do anything taxpayers aren't aware of? Or will it be the same because taxpayers will basically vote for the status quo? And so on.

If taxpayers don't vote, what does this imply for your scheme?

Is your scheme always a good idea under any conditions? Would a dictatorship benefit from this kind of system? (The taxpayers can't kick the leaders out, but they can "suggest" where money should be spent.) When is your scheme a bad idea? And so on. Try to beat your own argument.

See what people like Robin Hanson and Scott Sumner do to advance their ideas, which are a bit odd and yet substantially grounded in familiar economics, and try to sound more like them. See what they do to make their ideas strong, and try to gain that kind of strength. And so on.

Good luck. You are not obviously wrong, but you are running a marathon uphill while underwater. It is going to take a very special approach and lots of practice. Be patient, improve yourself. Expand on that FAQ so that people have some idea of what you're talking about.

Thanks for your feedback. From the FAQ...

How would it work?

At anytime throughout the year you could go directly to the EPA website and make a tax payment of any amount. The EPA would give you a receipt and you'd submit all your receipts to the IRS by April 15. Anybody who didn't want to shop for themselves would have the option of giving their taxes to their impersonal shoppers (congress).

For sure my presentation is imperfect. And I definitely wish I could perfectly copy Hanson and Sumner. Unfortunately, I don't have their skills. My skill set is in researching and thinking... definitely not writing. Do I wish it was the other way around? No way. I really wouldn't want to be Moldbug!

In large part because I suck at writing... the reception to pragmatarianism has been less than positive. My perception of the immense benefits keeps me going as well as the fact that not a single critic has cited a single source which supports the idea of allowing a small group of people to allocate everybody's taxes. Our system doesn't exist because the evidence supports it... it exists because that's how we've always done it.

Of course it was my hope that the majority of people on this website would seriously consider my evidence and arguments before they voted... but my webstats show that this is clearly not the case. Instead, people here simply showed their considerable bias. It doesn't seem like whatever is going on here is really working. Yes, there are a few exceptions like yourself... but every forum I've participated on has roughly the same amount of thoughtful thinkers.

Anyways, because the evidence is on my side, it's a given that eventually more and more people will realize this. It would happen sooner rather than later if I was a better writer but... I can't cry over spilled milk.

Anyways, because the evidence is on my side, it's a given that eventually more and more people will realize this

This sentence is prima facie evidence that you're flying off to the cloud cuckoo land...

You keep bringing up sucking at writing as a core reason there's a poor reception to your ideas. This doesn't seem correct to me, the mechanics of your writing seem fine. A couple things you could do to improve to improve your posts:

  • Cut the length. I've noticed this especially with your comments. You can't assume a reader is going to take five minutes to really dig into what you're saying. You need to make your basic case in the first twenty seconds or so, and keep it brisk.
  • Inline information. Instead of throwing a bunch of links out there, explain a little of an interesting idea, and then give the reader a link that will help them learn more.
  • Your tone. You can be a little heavy handed, which will discourage readers from clicking into your links. Talk less about the people in the conversation (yourself and the audience), and more about your core idea.

Learning these things was very helpful to me, and I hope I can pass that along to you.

Some issues:

  • Makes planning extremely difficult. It's hard for leaders to make consistent policy when they don't know how much money will go to which project.

  • Subject to wild fluctuations. An event like 9/11 could strongly skew spending and leave other programs underfunded. In practice that means employees get laid off, infrastructure doesn't get maintained, etc. Damage of this sort is more expensive to repair than it was to maintain.

  • Requires a lot out of the voters. I doubt very many people are interested in going over the federal budget and deciding how much money they would want to pay for each item.

  • It's very easy to take a little bit of money out of your national debt payment contribution and apply it to a pet cause. This relies on other people picking up the slack. It wouldn't be long before S&P gave your bonds junk status.

  • Bureaucratic nightmare. How are people to communicate their preferences? Write-in budget outlines? Voting booths? It's a lot of paperwork and someone's going to have to process it. Electronic systems have the usual vulnerabilities.

So we'd have one "voter" funding single-payer healthcare and a bridge 2 miles up the river while another voter funded health-insurance subsidies for low-income and a bridge 1 mile down the river.

You would have "single issue funders," someone who thought we weren't spending enough on the environment would go 100% into environment.

You can't find an aggregate advantage by simply summing up across the votes of people. Coming up with an even vaguely coherent plan or set of plans takes a lot of work. Without a process to do this and people to work on this, you will wind up with something even worse than a horse designed by a committee.

There must be some general term for the kind of fallacy behind pramatarianist thinking. Other examples are: 1) students should design their own curriculum to get a degree, 2) automobiles and smartphones should be designed by a focus group, actually even worse, by a focus group consisting of the entire population, 3) everybody working on a movie should vote on how the budget of that movie should be allocated between different scenes in order to produce a movie that EVERYONE will like.

By the way, there is nothing wrong with choosing your own curriculum, but you should not be able to get a degree labeled "physics BS" or "Math PhD" based on a curriculum you choose yourself.

If you think having everybody vote on what the parts of a car should look like will get you a better car, then it is reasonable to think pragmatarianism will get you a better budget. But, unfortunately, vice versa.

You're critiquing the idea of creating a market in the public sector. What's the difference between a market in the public sector and a market anywhere else? There's a difference... but your comment sure doesn't address it. Instead, you're simply critiquing a market.

Every day you participate in a market. You have your preferences and you spend your hard-earned money accordingly. The supply follows from your demand, and my demand and everybody else's demand.

Anything else is a non-sequitur. The supply either follows from our preferences... or it does not.

Right now the public sector reflects exactly what happens when the supply does not follow from our preferences. It's a given that this is going to change in logically beneficial and highly predictable ways...

Variety? Skyrocket

Quality? Skyrocket

Cost? Plummet

The public sector is going to transform from monolithic to modular. Marginal improvements are going to be quickly made as inferior components are swapped for superior components. This is exactly what happens in markets.

You're critiquing the idea of creating a market in the public sector. What's the difference between a market in the public sector and a market anywhere else?

They did address many of the problems implicitly. One doesn't for example in a real world situation have anyone try and pay exactly what they want for the version of the movie they want. Investors pay for a series of movies, then people either buy tickets or not. This aspect is solveable if one instead has pre-set programs one can allocate tax money to.

Note also that nothing in your system deals with the problem of public goods- people can benefit from something without paying for it and for many goods that's a natural situation.

[-][anonymous]7y 0

You're critiquing the idea of creating a market in the public sector.

What you are describing is not a market.

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply

This seems pretty confused RE the purpose of taxes. There's no possible way for this to be any more than a PR stunt - tax authorities are imposing taxes, and hold dearly the right to allocate the proceeds.

I think anytime you see a movement that puts in their FAQ "taxpayers would boycott congress if they weren't happy with the tax rate", you probably have to just give up on the group and move on to someone with a more detailed model of public choice.

In general, LW sets a really high bar to discussing politics to start with, so this sort of post starts with a heavy negative handicap. In general almost any community (and LW is included) will not react well to new people showing up immediately with a non-standard pet topic. It is the sort of thing where if one spent more time here people would a) be more accepting and b) you'll have more of an idea of how to present your ideas in a way people will listen.

A bit of a nitpick (which could explain some of the reception you're getting here): I don't think the term "Pragmatarianism" is a good description for your proposal, it's just an unrelated name that sounds good. Might as well say 'I'm calling this proposal "Sensible Tax Policy"' or 'My idea, called "Reasonablism", is that...', etc.

A more modest and descriptive name would probably be better received, especially in places who dislike marketing.

You think "pragmatarianism" sounds good? Have you said it out loud? My tongue usually trips over it. I'm not a writer or a wordsmith so anybody is more than welcome to come up with a better name. Preferably one that meets the google alerts standard.

From my perspective, giving your taxes directly to the EPA is as practical as giving a donation directly to the World Wildlife Fund. Having to convince millions and millions of voters in order for more of your own taxes to be spent on the environment is the epitome of impractical. Yet, we do it because that's how we've always done it.

The issue isn't so much that it sounds good except in so far as it has a name connected to a word with positive connotations and the actual degree of connection to that word is slim. I'd suggest "Personal tax allocation" or something similar which is more free of connotations.

Ha, the connection is slim for you! It's fat for me. But you're arguing that it's slim for most people. I can see that.

I do appreciate your suggestion..."Personal tax allocation"... but I'd really prefer one word that meets the google alert standard. By that I mean you should be able to subscribe to a google alert for the word (without quotes) and not have to worry about being inundated with irrelevant result notifications. As faulty as "pragmatarianism" is... it really meets the google alert standard. Every single notification I receive is relevant to the topic.

It may help to keep in mind that the "Google alert standard" while probably personally satisfying, is more likely to signal weirdness.

It's weird to want to keep up-to-date on topics that interest you? Uh, I take it you don't subscribe to any google alerts?

No, but that's not the people who are being aimed at here. Having a new word comes across as weird to people who haven't heard of an idea before. And if you tell them that an idea is no new and is so much just one's person that they are using a name so they can keep track of who else is talking about (which incidentally also can potentially come across as egotistical or overly sensitive).

Personally, I think it's great, and not at all weird, that I can subscribe to a google alert for "futarchy" and not have to worry about being swamped with irrelevant results.

It's pretty important that important concepts have unique "tags". Otherwise you run into problems. For example...

The concept of "exit" is fundamentally important. But good luck trying to search for relevant pages just using that word. You'd have to do a bit of scrolling before you'd find any pages dedicated to the concept as its used here... Exit, Voice, and Loyalty

In my opinion, it would be a really good idea if somebody gave this concept a unique name. This would help people learn about its relevance.

One obvious failure mode is things that the voters don't realize are important not getting enough money. Imagine if when people donated to charity they could choose how much went to overhead. Do you think they'd get enough overhead money to run efficiently?

There would also be problems with inconsistent budgets and all the different branches of government spending large amounts of money on advertising.

Not a magical solution to all the world's problems, but likely a useful idea as a charitable donations tax credit which aggregates to some small percentage of the budget. A donation voucher of fixed amount.

The world's problems can't be solved if intelligence is inefficiently allocated. Pragmatarianism, by facilitating the efficient allocation of intelligence, would be instrumental in solving the world's problems. But I agree that there's nothing magical about value signals.

The world's problems can't be solved if intelligence is inefficiently allocated.

This seems like a highly non-obvious claim. What is your reasoning? How inefficient does it need to be?

Take an outside view. What is the probability that one person comes up with a specific idea that is absolutely critical to the success of the world's problems?

Also as a pure practical issue: if one is trying to get people to listen, the best thing to say when someone says this isn't a magical solution is something closer to "sure, of course not, but it can probably help a fair bit for the reasons I outlined". People are much less likely to listen if one does try to argue that one's idea really is the one critical idea.

Just to be on the safe side, by "efficient allocation of resources" I mean when the supply (of goods and services) matches the preferences of consumers. Maybe it helps to think of an arrow hitting the target. The arrow being the supply and the target being the preferences of consumers. The closer the arrow (the supply) is to the target (our preferences) the more efficient the allocation of resources.

Intelligence is by far our most important resource. And by "intelligence" I mean any sort of insight/idea/thought which helps the arrow move closer to the target.

For sure it took quite a bit of intelligence to put a man on the moon. Most people will consider this accomplishment to be a good example of solving a big problem. But was it really an efficient allocation of intelligence? Did the arrow really hit the target? In order to answer this question we have to know where the target is.

If the government is good at knowing where the target is then why in the world do we bother shopping? Shopping is the process by which we communicate to producers when they've hit the target. Whenever you buy something you say "hey man nice shot!" The reward you offer for good shots provides producers with an incentive to make better shots. If the government can truly know where the target is then markets are a massive waste of time. Well...assuming we ignore the government's lack of incentive to act on its knowledge.

In reality, government producers are no better than private producers at knowing where the target is. Therefore, if we want to ensure that intelligence is efficiently allocated then we have to allow people to shop for themselves in the public sector. If space exploration is truly a pressing problem for society... then taxpayers will allocate their taxes accordingly and the corresponding shift in resources (ie intelligence) will help move the arrow closer to the target.

Regarding your purely practical issue... I see your point... but I was really just looking for an excuse to dangle the "efficient allocation of intelligence" and see if anybody would bite. You bit! I caught you! Are you a big fish? Or shall I throw you back?

Honestly I've only recently thought of the efficient allocation of intelligence. It happened the other day when I found out about a blog that has like 400 comments on some of its entries. The topics are intelligent so the first thing that popped into my mind was that.... if there's clearly so much obvious demand for intelligent discussion then why don't they start their own forum? I referred to the situation as the "awkward allocation of intelligence". This really got me thinking about how intelligence is allocated. It's pretty fascinating so I didn't need much of an excuse to throw it out there and see if anybody wanted to chomp on it with me.

The question is, how much tax choice.

Being able to allocate 1% of your taxes to the charity you choose, makes sense. It is actually in effect in some countries.

Being able to allocate 100% of your taxes as you like would be an unmanageable mess because people on average have no idea what is needed to keep a country or an economy running.

Somewhere in-between? Where? Without exact definitions what you mean by "tax choice" every discussion would be completely pointless.

What is a country or an economy if not all the people in it? In essence you're saying that allowing people to allocate 100% of their taxes would be an unmanageable mess because people on average have no idea what is needed to keep themselves running.

Like I said in the FAQ... congress would still be there. If you have any evidence that leads you to believe that Elizabeth Warren knows better than you do what keeps you running... then you'd certainly have the option to give her some, or all, of your taxes.

If, in a pragmatarian system, most people do give their taxes to their impersonal shoppers... well... then you were right! Congratulations! We'd have solid evidence that most people do not know what keeps them running. Your theory would be proved correct. And no harm or foul by having it proved!

But what if your theory is incorrect? What if most people do not give their taxes to the impersonal shoppers that they voted for? Clearly this would mean that most people did not have enough evidence to believe that their impersonal shoppers know better than they do what keeps them running.

Can you see the problem with our current system if your theory is incorrect? If your theory is incorrect then it means that we're currently giving an absurd amount of money (power, control, influence, responsibility) to a small group of people who really do not know what keeps us (the country/economy) running.

Is it possible that your theory is incorrect? Clearly I'm willing to bet a lot of my time on it. Maybe you should keep the possibility of being wrong in mind the next time you scratch your head or blame the other side when the economy/country ends up in the ditch.

Yet difficult as he [the modern politician] finds it to deal with humanity in detail, he is confident in his ability to deal with embodied humanity. Citizens, not one-thousandth of whom he knows, not one-hundreth of whom he ever saw, and the great mass of whom belong to classes having habits and modes of thought of which he has but dim notions, he feels sure will act in ways he foresees, and fulfill ends he wishes. Is there not a marvelous incongruity between premises and conclusion? - Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State

Also...

What is the species of domestic industry which his capital can employ, and of which the produce is likely to be of the greatest value, every individual, it is evident, can, in his local situation, judge much better than any statesman or lawgiver can do for him. The statesman who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals would not only load himself with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an authority which could safely be trusted, not only to no single person, but to no council or senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it. - Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

Also...

What do we want with a Socialist then, who, under pretence of organizing for us, comes despotically to break up our voluntary arrangements, to check the division of labour, to substitute isolated efforts for combined ones, and to send civilization back? Is association, as I describe it here, in itself less association, because every one enters and leaves it freely, chooses his place in it, judges and bargains for himself on his own responsibility, and brings with him the spring and warrant of personal interest? That it may deserve this name, is it necessary that a pretended reformer should come and impose upon us his plan and his will, and as it were, to concentrate mankind in himself? - Frédéric Bastiat, What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen

And...

It is a paradox of our age that the interventionists think the public is too stupid to consult Angie’s List before hiring a lawyer, and so they need politicians to weed out the really bad ones by requiring law licenses. Yet, who determines whether a person (often a lawyer!) is qualified to become a politician? Why, the same group of citizens who were too stupid to pick their own lawyers. - Bob Murphy, Do We Need the State to License Professionals?

I think you should spend a little more time among the average, common, non-academic people, and learn how they think. Then you will understand why your ideas wouldn't work.

I think you should spend a little more time among the average, common, non-academic people, and learn how they think.

Cf. "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." -- H. L. Mencken

Pragmatarianism is the theory that democracy ignores the fact that talk is cheap.

If there's a problem with how common people think, then where's your critique of allowing them to vote for congresspeople?

The part that you really fail to appreciate is that taxpayers are the people who you voluntarily give your money to. Based on your actions... you clearly want them to have more influence over how society's limited resources are used. Why do you want them to have more influence? It's because they've given you concrete proof/evidence, in the form of a product or service, that they are using their influence for your benefit.

Even though you spend so much time shopping around to get the most bang for your buck, you immediately turn around and use your votes (words) to reduce the influence of taxpayers. Voters, such as yourself, shift massive amounts of influence from taxpayers to congresspeople. If congresspeople truly create more value for voters than taxpayers would... then why are you so certain that voters would allocate their taxes themselves rather than give them to the people that they say should have more influence?

Maybe you should spend a lot more time comparing the choices of humans to the choices of coywolves, plants and fungi...

What Do Coywolves, Mr. Nobody, Plants And Fungi All Have In Common?

Do us all a favor and come up with a decent explanation for why we should trust your words (votes) rather than your actions (spending).

Do us all a favor and come up with a decent explanation for why we should trust your words (votes) rather than your actions (spending).

It's simple. The representatives don't micromanage our daily life, they only work on laws within the confines of a constitution. Have you heard about the separation of powers? They can also make only minor, gradual changes to the existing system without risking a revolution.

On the other hand, a completely free-choice taxation system would bring a lot of instability into the system. How could your economy follow drastic changes in the tax allocation, which will inevitably happen as people's moods are changing. For example, the school system would get one year 150 billion $, the next year 17 billion $, the third year 200 billion $. How could you plan ahead in such a chaos?

Another question is, how would you introduce such a system, assuming it worked? Just come up one year with it, and when people get to fill their tax forms, they will be surprised by a long form where they will need to specify where they are allocating they taxes to? Do you really expect that it will be at least a little similar to how the allocation was last year? Because otherwise the system couldn't handle the large differences. Do you expect that everyone would know by heart how much the upkeep of certain institutions costs? Do you expect every citizen to become a financial expert and know what to allocate where to stop some essential services form completely collapsing because they received only a tiny percentage compared to what they got last year?

You came up with a lot of theory without any proof how it would work in practice, so please, show us a plausible scenario with concrete examples how you thing your ideas would be implemented.

You also didn't answer my original question: to what extent would the choice extend? Completely free? So if no one allocated to the police (because they hate receiving speeding tickets) then would the whole police just disband? The more I think about your proposal, the closer it looks to anarchy.

If not completely free, then what would be the limits?

The entire point of pragmatarianism is that the supply of public goods should be determined by the demand for public goods. If the demand for public education is $150 million then that's how much public education should be supplied. If, the next year, the demand for public education dropped to $17 million then why in the world would you think it's ok to continue supplying $150 million dollars worth of public education?

In a pragmatarian system... that difference of $133 million dollars wouldn't just vanish or go back into the taxpayers pockets. If they didn't spend it on education then it's because they spent that $133 million dollars on other public goods. Why did they spend it on these other public goods? Evidently because they valued greater quantities of these other public goods more than they valued greater quantities of public education.

If you want to argue that taxpayers consistently make terrible value judgements... then why wouldn't you want to consistently apply your argument? Why wouldn't you also argue that farmers are going to make equally bad value judgements in the private sector? Why would you worry about public education being incorrectly supplied but not worry about food being incorrectly supplied?

In the private sector nothing prevents a farmer from gambling all his income away in Vegas. They have this option but most don't choose it. Instead, they spend most of their income on the inputs that they need to keep their farms operating.

In the public sector, however, these farmers wouldn't even have the option to gamble all their taxes away in Vegas. Yet, you're more worried about their value judgements in the public sector than you are about their value judgements in the private sector. Again, why are you inconsistently critiquing the value judgements of taxpayers?

Maybe it's because you're under the impression that farmers don't depend on any public inputs? Perhaps Elizabeth Warren can help clear this up for you...

There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there—good for you! But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that maurauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.

According to Elizabeth Warren, farmers and everybody else got rich because of public goods. And I absolutely agree with her. Here's where I fundamentally disagree with her...

  1. That Warren knows better than farmers do which inputs, public or private, they need more of to keep their business thriving.
  2. That Warren has more incentive than they do to get the most bang for their buck.

Warren lacks the knowledge and incentive of millions and millions of taxpayers yet you want her value judgements to replace the value judgements of taxpayers. If your motivation is the perception that you benefit more as a result of this replacement... then wouldn't you benefit even more if this replacement was extended to the private sector?

If you truly want more benefit... then allow taxpayers to have the influence that they've earned. Extending their knowledge and incentive to the public sector will benefit us all immensely.

This isn't to say that the value judgements of taxpayers are always going to be correct... but how could it not be important to know when they are incorrect? When disparities in valuations are readily apparent, this facilitates the exchange of information. "Hey buddy, why you running?" "There's zombies chasing me". If you notice that the DoD suddenly has a huge influx of funding... then you might want to figure out what other people know.

To learn how it would work check out the FAQ.

Yeah, if nobody allocated their taxes to the police then the police would disband. Again, maybe taxpayers know something that you don't. Is that so hard to imagine? It's really easy for me to imagine which is why I love the idea of incorporating all this info and incentive into the public sector.

I haven't heard a plausible argument for why it should be 1% allocation rather than 100%. Until I do then I'm going to argue for 100%. But this certainly doesn't mean that I won't celebrate a 1% step in the right direction. But if farmers truly needed training wheels then we would have all starved to death by now.

People need time to learn a profession. At least a few years to learn it, and at least a decade to be good in it. You cannot expect tens of thousands of teachers to lose their jobs and retrain to become medics, just for them to have to retrain as policemen next year, because the allocation changed.

If the allocation in a certain sector dropped significantly, you argue that it just shows that demand dropped. But what to do with the thousands or maybe millions of people suddenly without a job?

If the allocation in a certain sector increased significantly, because demand suddenly soared, how would you get so many trained professionals for those jobs? You couldn't train them overnight.

Demand will fluctuate significantly, because people are emotional beings. For example, I've seen in a European country, that a party's votes dropped from over 50% to below 20% in a year because their leader was found out of doing something stupid. A completely new government was elected, but life went on with little changes, because they didn't drastically changed the tax allocation, the new government made just small changes. Had they completely eliminated the funds of a sector, people would have gone on strike or maybe started a revolution.

Now imagine what would happen if an image of a dying child circulated through the media, with a message that there isn't enough money for health-care. Next you know, that sector receives more then double the founding. How quickly you think you could train new staff for it? The same time a scandal breaks out because of a single teacher being found out that the abused a child. Tax allocation for education would drop significantly because of that single event, and now tens of thousands of teachers are without a job, and hundreds of thousands of pupils don't have a classroom to study in. Even if next year the situation is stabilized, hundreds of thousands of students missed a school year, and there would be a job opening for tens thousands of teachers: how could you fill these instantly before the beginning of the school year?

You can not have a voluntarily given constant amount benefit also those that didn't opt to give it. This is highly unstable. You either have to threaten with not being able to benefit if not paying or make the amount paid vary between how many people opted in.

It would also expand the circle that would have to be competent in state money handling to a very large circle. Part of the reason why having representatives is an upside is that most people make very similar decisions but if everybody needs to come up with them independently that is a lot of duplicate work. Rather have a couple persons from each of the qualitatively different traditions (so you don't miss a type of decision) have the same output with less work. With representateievs they can work full time to make quality decisions. Those that don't earn a living with it have their day job to hinder their abilty to contribute to the various negotiations.