Economics

How Markets Can Stimulate Rationality

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Ilya Somin at Volokh Conspiracy has some interesting thoughts on whether "libertarian paternalist" arguments based on lab research hold up, and brings in a brilliant Hayek quote on how markets can help make irrational people tend to behave more rationally:

Advocates of "libertarian paternalism" cite experimental evidence showing that people often make irrational decisions, and argue that we need government regulation to guard against such problems….

One underappreciated fact about the experimental and survey evidence relied on by advocates of the new paternalism is that it models voter decision-making far more closely than market decisions. Unlike market participants, voters have little or no incentive to either acquire information about the issues they decide, or to analyze the information they do have in an unbiased fashion. The same is true, to a lesser extent, of libertarian paternalist policies established by expert regulators insulated from democratic control…. Such regulators may be more knowledgeable than voters. But unlike consumers, they do not have their own money at stake, and therefore don't suffer any penalty if they make mistakes, and don't have much incentive to combat any irrational biases they may have. 

By advocating increased government intervention in order to combat irrationality, the paternalists are arguing for a transfer of power to decision-making processes where irrationality is likely to be greater than it is in markets….

….the relationship between markets and rationality was well-described by F.A. Hayek. In Volume 3 of Law, Legislation, and Liberty, published over 30 years ago, he wrote:

Competition . . . is the method by which we have all been led to acquire much of the knowledge and skills we do possess. This is not understood by those who maintain that the argument for competition rests on the assumption of rational behavior of those who take part in it…. [R]ational behavior is not a premise of economic theory, though it is often presented as such. The basic contention of theory is rather that competition will make it necessary for people to act rationally in order to maintain themselves. It is based not on the assumption that most or all the participants in the market process are rational, but, on the contrary, on the assumption that it will in general be through competition that a few relatively more rational individuals will make it necessary for the rest to emulate them in order to prevail. In a society in which rational behavior confers an advantage on the individual, rational methods will progressively be developed and be spread by imitation. It is no use being more rational than the rest if one is not allowed to derive benefits from being so. 

Reason magazine ran a great feature back in our October 2007 issue on the false and biased economic assumptions that voters nonetheless hew to, at little direct personal cost to themselves.

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  1. Sometimes in order to be free we have to put up with minor inconveniences, like allowing other people to be free.

  2. Which bizarre assclown came up with the term “libertarian paternalism”? The two words are obviously contradictory.

    Shit, those statist fucks already stole “liberal” from us. Isn’t that enough?

    1. Agree.

      The term is definitely an early contender for “Oxymoron of the Year” for 2010.

    2. Terry Michael, the libertarian democrat?

  3. The populace at large can only be successful if they are guided by those of us with terminal degrees in polictical science.

    1. MNG? The rhetoric is spot on, but there’s something different about the name…

    2. Slight correction there MUG: Our overlords (aka Congress) mostly hold Law degrees.

      1. I think the joke is that MNG has a Poli Sci PhD.

        1. Some people’s envy of my educational attainment is just shy of their envy of my penis.

          1. So the first step in getting a Poly Sci degree is to get your snark meter removed?

            1. Na, that’s removed with the frontal lobotomy.

              1. . . . a bottle in front of me.

          2. Nonexistent?

          3. Don’t all Poli Sci majors work in their univerity’s admission’s department?

            1. I thought Poly Sci majors asked customers if they wanted fries with that burger…

              but alas…I guess getting an engineering degree requires one (me in this case) to have no snark detectors….

              snark noted after the fact….

    3. Leave it to the self-stroking doctorate of political science to misspell it polictical science.

      1. Hook, Line, Sinker . . .

      2. Polictical Science is a scientifical subject!

        1. and another oxymoron

  4. Some asshat will come along to point out how “false and biased economic assumptions that voters nonetheless hew to, at little direct personal cost to themselves” describes libertarianism perfectly any minute now.

  5. threadusinteruptus jackus

    Great idea. We don’t need to test cops.

    http://www.suntimes.com/news/c…..eb.article

    1. The Chicago Police Department is seriously considering scrapping the police entrance exam to bolster minority hiring, save millions on test preparation

      Does it really cost millions to see if a high school dropout steroid addict can bellow “OBEY” while raping a mannequin with a nightstick?

      1. Yes. It’s priceless.

    2. There is only one test: will they tow the blue lion?

      1. Why is Tow so sad?

        1. The police impounded his cage as an asset forfeiture.

  6. It is no use being more rational than the rest if one is not allowed to derive benefits from being so.

    It is a definite liability when the rubes decide that is it “unfair” for you to benefit from their stupidity.

  7. The Chicago Police Department is seriously considering scrapping the police entrance exam to bolster minority hiring, save millions on test preparation

    Wait- the Chicago Police Dept has an entrance exam?

  8. It is no use being more rational than the rest if one is not allowed to derive benefits from being so.

    I find smug self-satisfaction to be immensely rewarding.

    1. Until they decide to arrest you for it.

    2. It’s usually canceled out by the screaming fits and high blood pressure for me.

      1. Imaging a beautiful mountain valley with a deep clear river running through it.

        Next, imagine you have a tightly closed sack filled with congresscritters and heavy rocks.

        Now, imagine dropping the sack into the deepest part of the river.

        Feel better now?

        1. ‘Its like I feel the holy spirit washing over me’…

  9. libertarian paternalism is like progressive fiscal conservative.

    Every time I hear this stupid phrase I immediately start thinking there needs to be an economic version of office meeting bingo. This is a perfect example of what you get when you don’t give intellectuals enough work to keep themselves busy.

    The rational/irrational argument has bugged me for a while too. Irrational actions can always be attributed to a lack of information. (this includes information surrounding your bias)

    (stupid people voting for Obama is an anomoly)

    1. Irrational actions can always be attributed to a lack of information. (this includes information surrounding your bias)

      If you have ever seen a fat slob talking about his/her diet while waiting for their “mega-super-size” meal to be brought to them, you know this is not true.

      (In this situation, my rational side is hoping for them to have a mega-super-size” myocardial infarct while eating and save me from having to pay their medical bills.)

      1. Sure it is. That is a question of benefit and utility. The fat ass thinks he gets more pleasure from the triple double cheese burger with fries a shake and no I don’t want a fucking hot apple pie.

        They are acting rationally with the information set they have. If you could some how show them instantly what it would be like to not be a fat ass and be able to walk stairs without dying they might choose differently.

        You are aslo dealing with addiction, which has already been documented to death with respect to rational decision making.

        1. No, they are NOT acting rationally. They are suffering from irrationality due to time preferences.

          Ask the fat-ass if he should eat the donuts offered at tomorrow’s safety meeting, and he would say no, because the joy of eating a donut is not sufficient compensation for a lifetime of being a fat-ass. Then watch him eat the donut tomorrow, when it is placed in front of him.

          The test of rationality comes when both the costs and benefits lie in the future. Yet when one of them is NOW and one of them is later, we routinely make utterly terrible decisions.

          My favorite illustration of this was a study involving children. They were put in a room with a piece of candy, and told if they could wait a few minutes and not eat it before the research came back, they could have a second piece of candy. Despite the insane return on investment of millions of percent, only a tiny fraction of the kids managed not to eat it.

          Want to guess which children turned out to be the most successful as adults?

          1. Which means they valued the candy at that time more than the prospect of two pieces of candy. It does not mean an irrational actions. The action was perfectly rational for the children that chose to eat the candy and for the children that chose to wait.

            You missed half of what was being said.

            The same study was done with a piece of chocolate costing more and a cheap piece of chocolate. The expensive chocolate discounted to 10 cents and the cheap chocolate sold at 5 cents. People took the 5 cent chocolate even though the expensive chocolate was discounted by multiples of 100.

            People chose based on price not content. Rationally they wanted 5 cent chocolate or two 5 cent chocolates instead of one 10 cent chocolate.

            1. You’re trying to come up with situations where the net value of an individual choice made with perfect information is negative.

              1. Your analogy is utterly irrelevant, and hinges on some completely arbitrary “value” of the more expensive chocolate. The fact is, it is a ten cent chocolate, and it may well be perfectly rational to prefer two cheap candies to one expensive one.

                It is not, however, rational to give up a 1000000% RoI, in virtually any circumstance…and certainly not one involving something trivial.

                1. Sure it is. Even if you have to wait for it for one second. It just means that 1 second is worth the 10000000% ROI.

                  Value of the second piece of candy is arbitrary by your standards.

                  1. Sorrry, hmm, but I don’t give you that one. If you can say “it’s rational because he obviously valued the immediate candy more”, then you can define anything as rational.

                    I.e. It’s rational for me to have unprotected sex with a football team, because i just like sex that much! (and football) (no, not really) (I mean about the football)

    2. I see someone railed on the stupidity of the term.

  10. “Those people are irrational.”

    is merely a substitute for

    “Those people aren’t doing what I would do.”

  11. The always depressing Volokh commentariat is at about DoucheCon 3 on that post. (1 is when Oren Kerr bigfoots the thread and destroys it, i.e., every time he’s in a thread.)

    Subjects where having access to a citation database doesn’t “win” the argument frighten and confuse them. They have no thoughts, so when one like Somin’s shows up, they just flounder and bitch.

    That’s the voice of the nudge-ocracy and its fans, folks. Debate club reject.

    1. Dude, it’s a fucking lawyers’ website. They’re not even fucking human. At least ProL can fake humanity to a certain degree, but the creatures over there can’t even pull that off.

      1. I rejected the sell-your-soul option, which is why I’ve been exiled to the kinder, gentler, lower-payinger would of in-house practice.

        1. You are the Daneel Olivaw of lawyers, ProL. You look and act human, you seem pretty nice, but underneath you’re still an android.

            1. I am not Tricia Helfer.

        2. You and me both, Pro L. You and me both.

          1. It only bothers me when I need more money for something. Otherwise, it was the right decision.

  12. Tow, the thin blue lion, is cold and hungry. Won’t you share your triple double bacon cheeseburger with him?

    ps- he wants a chocolate shake, too.

    1. Would you like a hot apple pie with that today?

      1. Only if I can fuck it. Fuck, fuck, fuckity, fuck fuck. Warm and oozy and cinnamon fruity. I want to fuck your pie. Lattice gets me hot, Dutch gives me a boner. Fried or Hostess. I want to fuck your pie. Drive-thru pie. I’ll fuck it, fuck it, fuck it on the road and make it call me Jacky-boy. I want want want to fuck your pie!

  13. Feel better now?

    No. If i have a beautiful valley like that, i don’t want its pristine waters fowled by such a pestilence as Congress. I’d drop them from my helicopter over some kind of barren wasteland while en route to the valley. After first setting the bag on fire, of course.

    1. Xeones, will you take the One Congress to Mordor and drop them in the fires of Mount Doom? Eight others of us will accompany you and be called the Fellowship of the Zing. Not me, of course, I don’t put myself in danger, I merely command like that pussy Elrond. However, the humans ProL and hmm, the dwarf Warty, the elf T, the hobbits P Brooks and Enjoy Every Sandwich, the wizard NutraSweet, and the Canadian Aresen shall join you.

      1. Fuck I wanted to be the elf. I so love prancing and already have the shoes.

      2. That could work. I’m a little tall for a hobbit (already been nipping the entdraught) but my feet are kinda hairy.

      3. Please, SugarFree as Gandalf? He’d knock Bilbo on the head and take the One Congress for his own in The Hobbit. Better swap us.

        I’m wearing one of the three elven rings: Narya, the Ring of Censoring.

  14. Most (all?) of these experiments are very short term in nature; that’s a major reason why they should be viewed as being terribly impressive.

  15. Cleansing, renewing fire.

  16. What a great new handle!

  17. and no I don’t want a fucking hot apple pie.

    Are you sure? Two for a dollar!

  18. and no I don’t want a fucking hot apple pie.

    Are you sure? Two for a dollar!

    1. God damnit man I said no!

  19. Irrationality is just one problem. A far greater problem, in my opinion, is people acting in ways that can be considered perfectly rational having negative unseen, long-term, and/or external consequences.

    1. Incoming commons argument, then global warming, then Ostrom, then back peddling, then… awe fuckit. That is a fucking retarded thing to say.

      1. Nah, Tony was accurate this time. He perfectly described nearly every action of congress (and other government entities).

        Perfectly rational (to get more power and/or reelected) yet having negative, unseen, long-term consequences.

    2. Principled libertarianism doesn’t promise a perfect world with perfect people, Anthony. Just a free one.

      1. But that gets to how you define freedom. I consider freedom from bankruptcy from a health problem to be important, more important than the freedom to keep the tax dollars that pay for it.

        1. That’s interesting. What Tony calls freedom, normal people call stealing. You learn something new everyday.

          POSITIVE RIGHTS ARE NOT FREEDOMS. If in order to get something, you have to steal from someone, then you are comitting a crime. You are NOT entitled to a portion of my income for any reason. Do I make myself clear?

          1. Actually according to our laws and the history of civilization, I am. Either all taxes are theft or they aren’t theft at all. If they’re all theft then you can’t be in favor even of having armed forces.

        2. “Freedom from bankruptcy from a health problem”.

          Get a load of that. It’s not the freedom from health problems you want (cause that’s obviously impossible).
          It’s the not having to PAY for your medical care … that’s the ticket.

          I mean, the dying of disease part … no biggie, but the paying for not dying? That’s a fucking horror!
          Nobody should ever have to, you know, actually PAY MONEY to NOT DIE.

          1. I just don’t think one’s ability to live should depend on the amount of money one has.

  20. Epi, i will go, though i do not know the way.

    1. Yeah, I’ll go too, but I’m not driving this time. Not for some penny-pinching bastards too cheap to pitch in for gas. Next time, I’m demanding ass.

  21. A far greater problem, in my opinion, is people acting in ways that can be considered perfectly rational having negative unseen, long-term, and/or external consequences.

    Exactly… especially when those people have political power that allows them to force others to take said actions. Though i doubt you see that.

    1. People have to be forced to do (or not do) certain things when those things have external or collective consequences. You know that, you just lack the imagination to apply it to things beyond physical assault and theft.

      1. I hope you remember that when I push you out of the lifeboat.

      2. Again a commons argument and the old tried and true model of force to save the commons.

        Do yo ever get tired of using a failed, or at least significantly altered, argument to make a point?

        1. I don’t think externalities are commons arguments hmmm.

          1. COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE
            COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASECOASE COASE COASE COASE COASCOASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASEE COASECOASCOASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASECOASE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASEE COASE COASE COASE COASE COASE

          2. When they are derived from the use of a common they are. Did you miss the collective part? The argument he uses every time is that bad things will happen to us all if we aren’t governed with an iron hand. So either a 300 million little bad things will happen or something will happen to a common pool.

            It’s the same argument with a lemon twist.

        2. Do you not believe in the necessity of armed forces and police to protect you from the harmful actions of others?

          1. Well, I actually believe that the vast majority of people will behave honorably without external coercion.

          2. Define others. I believe my country should defend its sovereignty. I’ll even toss you the bone of having a commonly agreed to person to help keep the peace or solve simple disputes.

            I don’t need protection by the police. Actually I’d say I’ve needed to hire protection against them screwing me more than they have ever protected me.

            1. I trust Tow to protect me.

            2. Once you agree that government is useful and necessary for one thing it’s hard to argue that it’s absolutely unnecessary and useless for others without specifically saying why. Too many times people here make the incoherent argument that no good can come from collective resource pooling (except for programs they are okay with).

              1. Uh, I never said it was unnecessary?

              2. I’ll spell it out real clear for you Tony:

                Libertarians are not against collective resource pooling. They are against being FORCED to participate in collective resource pooling against their free will. Is that simple enough for you?

                1. It’s not against your free will. You are welcome to give up your citizenship if you don’t like the terms.

                  1. That makes complete sense.

                  2. No, Wait, I am not done with you.

                    It IS against your free will. If you are being coerced and you refuse to abide, you will be punished, through prison, fines, property confiscation etc. Don’t bullshit us Tony.

                    1. Who died and made you king of the universe? You have to live according to the terms of the society you choose to live in, because there are other people there and you can’t take two steps out your front door without interfering with their lives in some way. You are welcome to renounce your citizenship and choose among about 200 options in the marketplace of countries to find the one that suits you. That’s more choices than you get for a lot of products on the market, so you can’t bitch that there isn’t one that fits you perfectly.

                    2. Right. Everything I do might affect you in some way, therefore everything I do is up for public voting on whether it should be permitted.

                      What a fucking WONDERFUL society that would make for.

                      When the hell is the weekly shaming around here? I mean the community group meeting, where we all discuss the shit everyone else does that annoys us, and vote on it. I am SO UP FOR THAT.

      3. You really don’t understand that force is always worse than optional conversion, do you? You want people to do something? Make it cheaper and better than what they have. People will stop consuming oil when the alternatives are more effective for their purpose which is getting from point A to point B. Money (and to a large degree, convenience) talks.

        1. I totally agree, which is why I think oil should be priced correctly rather than given massive subsidies in the form of the industry getting to dump its byproducts into my atmosphere for free.

      4. Why Anthony? Why do you believe that force is justified by its purported ends?

  22. “By advocating increased government intervention in order to combat irrationality, the paternalists are arguing for a transfer of power to decision-making processes where irrationality is likely to be greater than it is in markets”

    Well, to be fair I think the preferred view is to have more of these kinds of things regulated by supposedly apolitical agencies. That was the whole “Progressive” ideal, whether attainable or not.

    1. Could ya point me in the direction of an apolitical agency?

      1. This is why I said “whether attainable or not.”

        1. So why advocate for something that is not attainable? You’ve held a few positions that lean this way. If in order to be effective you need something that is unattainable how do you justify the theory being used or even used to defend a real life situation?

          1. Says the libertarian. Rarely have I encountered one of you guys who believes in a modicum of pragmatism. Throw the bums out! 100% free market, or I’m not playing!

            1. The problem with pragmatism is who is going to decide what is pragmatic and what is not? You?

              1. Pragmatism means incremental, evidence-based problem solving (rather than wanting “utopia now!”). Let’s not be complete relativists.

                1. It usually means a practical approach. The question is what is practical and in your example what is working. Who gets to decide what is working?

                  1. In this country, the people, via their elected representatives.

                    1. Really? because I just watched someone sell a vote for the betterment of his state and not the people.

                    2. hmmm, meet federalism; federalism, meet hmmm

                    3. So you’re not for minimal suffering? Because my being forced to pay for medicare in another state is going to cause some level of suffering. Are you going to tell me it’s just a little suffering so I will be okay?

                    4. Or are you for minimal net suffering in which case you feel justified in causing others to suffer at the benefit of others in a society.

                    5. In this country, the people, via their elected representatives.

                      Right, because the democratic process is so flawless. Optimal decision making all the time. What could ever go wrong?

                    6. You got a better system in mind? Benevolent libertarian despotism perhaps?

                      Of course there should be more to it than just democracy… It tends to work better when people are healthy, informed, and have equal opportunities.

                    7. Yes. Limited government and markets. Because distributed decision making tends to be more optimal then everyone voting on which giant centralized plan they prefer.

                      If course, democracy would work fine if people were magic fairies that always know the optimal truth and have no personal interests to protect. Unfortunately, we live in the real world, where even healthy, informed people with equal opportunities tend to seek their personal advantage. Fucking humans …

    2. Even Mother Teresa had a political agenda.

    3. MNG, those supposedly apolitical agencies are precisely where irrationality is likely to be greater than it is in markets.

      1. Directed problem solving by experts is less rational than a hundred million people randomly interacting?

        1. Given the argument presented here that irrationality derives from information asymmetries, there’s really no way they could do better.

        2. Uh, ya. There’s a reason the internet works and oddly manages to solve problems. It’s a “million people randomly interacting?”

          Your directed problem solving has failed on just about every front I can think of when it comes to governing.

          1. What an interesting example given the large role played by government in developing the net…

            1. And the lack of control it now does not enjoy having over it.

              Just because something is derived from government does not make it bad. Now we can employ “The Great Keynesian” argument of things would have been worse if government didn’t design the internet. Or we can say it was already in the process of development when the government co-opted it for military use. Which may have sped up its use, or even possible hindered it.

              1. *And the lack of control it now enjoys over it.

              2. I was just saying…It may suprise you but I agree that a remarkable amount of the time the “wisdom of crowds” tops directed centralized decision-making…

            2. I don’t see any conflict in acknowledging that the state sometimes gets something right.

              OTOH, DARPA never imagined using it as it’s used today, nor did Gore. He saw it as a network to link supercomputers, not drive commerce and be a font of data for the common man.

              A couple of successful state ventures doesn’t even come close to justifying the massive expenditures on all of the projects that failed outright, were just a product of a congresscritters largess or simply never saw the light of day.

              1. DARPA has done a few good things. But the DHARMA group, no way there…

                1. They had those really cool fridge magnets. But, it was a pain in the ass resetting them every 108 minutes.

              2. And I’d never argue that the marketplace can’t do wondrous things. That’s why I believe in a mixed economy rather than either authoritarian communism or anarcho-capitalism.

        3. Of course not Tony. That’s just silly.

          Now, go save my place in the bread line; I’ll join you shortly. I’ll hold the fort here in the shoe line, even though the bastards will only have size 7 narrow again.

        4. This “hundred million people randomly interacting” smells of the same brand of misunderstanding that underlies creationism. One of the main retorts creationists use against evolution is that they refuse to believe that complex species like humans could be the result of “random chance”. I doubt Tony denies evolution, since that’s a characteristic liberals like to attribute to conservatives. Just as “random chance” didn’t give rise to our species, but natural selection did, the “hundred million people” are NOT randomly interacting, but instead their interactions are shaped by the invisible hand of the market.

          1. Of course the marketplace results in emergent forms of organization. But I wouldn’t call it rational necessarily, just like natural selection is in no way rational. Both nature and markets can produce absurdities, and both rely on ruthless culling that causes a lot of individual suffering.

            1. You still misunderstand (or perhaps put the cart before the horse). What is rational is by definition what benefits you the most.

              1. What benefits me most is having social safety nets in place so that I’m not put into poverty by random forces and my neighbors aren’t tempted to raid my house because they’re in poverty. I rationally choose socialism.

                1. Your own definition demonstrates a complete lack of rationality.

                  FAIL.

            2. Both nature and markets can produce absurdities

              Well, they produced you.

          2. Somehow, I doubt you even read Smith. He was at least smart enough to know that his analogy had limits.

        5. Yes, actually.

          Distributed information processing.
          Think particle swarm optimization.

        6. Yes.

          A million individuals computing their local optima based on a few local variables are more likely to find a global optima than a single supercomputer trying to compute an equation over millions of variables. Curse of dimensionality.

          Think particle swarm optimization.
          Also, there’s a reason why our brains are massively parallel, instead of having a CPU.

          1. Of course we’re not brains in vats. There’s also a reason our fingers don’t have little brains of their own.

            1. What makes you so sure of that?

  23. Xeones, will you take the One Congress to Mordor and drop them in the fires of Mount Doom?

    Could we just take them to New York and lose them on the subway instead?

    1. There are already millions of people lost down there.

      1. That would only push off the crisis to later generations.

        1. Think of the subterranean, mutant children!

  24. God damnit man I said no!

    In that case I’ll just give you one for free, ok?

    1. Oh you evil teenage marketing bastard.

  25. “In a society in which rational behavior confers an advantage on the individual, rational methods will progressively be developed and be spread by imitation.”

    This kind of sentiment, which can be loosely translated into “we need a society in which dumbasses suffer properly for their dumbassery” and comes in two flavors (one which indeed hopes this will reduce overall dumbassery and reduce suffering and one which simply wants to see dumbasses suffer more), seems to underlie about 85% of libertarians thinking imo.

    Of course, everyone assumes THEY will not be the dumbass who needs protection from any regulations…

    1. For the record. I have suffered for my dumbassery and I’m all for every dumbass feeling the full brunt of whatever repercussions may come due to their dumbassery.

      I think you’re intentionally removing personal responsibility in order to stress the suffering portion.

      1. I think I’d like to see the very least amount of suffering necessary to provide the right incentives to get people to overall act in ways that keep decreasing suffering. But I believe in letting people suffer more than a lot of folks I know.

        1. I want to see the exact amount needed to provide the incentives. Otherwise you have removed incentives to change and some will not change.

        2. The assumption that it is compassionate to want the least amount and not the amount needed seems is a fallacy.

          1. I want the least amount needed, which still would be “the amount needed”, just with no more suffering than that.

            And I don’t see how it can be a fallacy to say that compassion entails wanting to see the least amount of suffering necessary…

            1. The question becomes necessary. Which immediately becomes a tool. Because suffering is generally not desired by anyone you can now take that tool and spin just about any form of government you want that eliminates even just a little “suffering.”

              Ignoring all the semantics, using phrases like as little as, and just enough, require quantifying by someone in order to say what is the right amount. Where as phrase the amount needed means you will see when the suffering needed has been met as the actions change.

              You’re advocating playing god, or invisible hand, in a very nuanced way.

              1. * what is necessary

              2. Because suffering is generally not desired by anyone you can now take that tool and spin just about any form of government you want that eliminates even just a little “suffering.”

                You start with the false assumption that government has any legitimate role in the alleviation of suffering.

                1. Oh. How is that false?

                  And has government alleviated more suffering or the generation of wealth?

              3. Certianly not all suffering is necessary as incentives to change behavior for the better…

                1. Again we are no quantifying how much suffering is needed for change. Is it one spank or two? A year of eating roman or three? How do you plan on measuring what is enough until a change has occurred? If you have to wait for the change how are then going to decide when to stop this suffering since you want only enough. What is to keep the bar for change from moving as soon as you start setting thresholds after you get what ever change you perceive as enough. Again, you’re playing god.

                  1. I promise to start previewing.

                  2. I agree it can be very tricky, but it’s not impossible imo

                    1. Parents do it every day for example…

                    2. Pelosi is not my mom.

                      If she was, I’d be gay.

                    3. Parents oversee people with severly limited information and experience. Not to mention the issue of children being the property or parents being the guardian of their children.

                  3. A year of eating roman or three?

                    One is fine. They’re not as stringy and tough as the Greeks.

                    1. lol oops.

                      make that ramen.

                      lol

    2. Pain is an essential component of the learning process. It is unfortunate that some people do not survive their most profound learning experiences.

      1. I’m glad I’m not your kid…

        1. You would certainly be a different person if had grown up with my kids.

        2. Saw earlier this week a British study on spanking (or smacking as they call it) which suggested that kids spanked pre-age 6 where better behaved and more likely to go to university than non-spanked. From 6-12, spanking led to increased disciple problems and a slight increase in educational achievement. Post 12 led to fucked up kids.

          1. Generally speaking, if you do it right when they’re under 6, you won’t have to do when they get older.

    3. How does “dumbasses should learn from and imitate non-dumbasses” translate to “we need a society in which dumbasses suffer properly for their dumbassery”?

      Seriously. You can read that line and think it’s saying the EXACT OPPOSITE of what it’s saying.

      What you are saying instead is “Nobody should every have to suffer or learn from they dumbass behavior”. I.e. Let’s all keep being dumbasses instead.

  26. Dumbasses have to insulated from their mistakes. Otherwise they won’t keep voting.

  27. Actually SF they would probably vote for far, far more radical things. This is why many people say FDR “saved capitalism.”

    1. That and public education.

  28. Given my general distaste for democracy, we can both be right.

  29. and no I don’t want a fucking hot apple pie.

    I have the misfortune of encountering a McD’s apple pie the other day. Does anyone else recall when they used to be deep fried?

    ‘Cause the thing they handed by last week was like an inferior Little Debbie. Luke warm, and with an undercooked, floury “crust”. Might as well have been a slice of apple wrapped in a slice of Wonderbread. I had to invoke Fuzzy Pink Niven’s Law on it.

    1. With the exception of McDs fountain coke, cant Fuzzy Pink’s Law be invoked by everything on their menu?

    2. Old school McDonald’s apple pie was the bomb. These new (they’ve probably been this way for 15 years now….) ones, meh, I’ve just stayed away because they have to be disappointing in comparison.

  30. Directed problem solving by experts is less rational than a hundred million people randomly interacting?

    Are you really going to argue that our political class consists of the smartest and most selfless people in the country?

    1. Or that a hundred million people are interacting “randomly”, for that matter? You’d think there would be more incidences of comedic head injury.

      It must be admitted though, I’m just hitting the keyboard with my eyes closed here. I can’t believe it’s coming out semi-coherent and correctly punctuated.

    2. Of course not. Too many dumb people voting. But probably more important than the usefulness of directed expertise is the usefulness of directed resources. Some large problems just need large amounts of money.

      1. I actually agree with this. I think it should be limited to one use per century (for the 20th century, the Manhattan Project. Also ww2, but those may count that as one use).

        It is inefficient, but it allows achieving a specific necessary goal. But, due to its inefficiency, it should only be used in hyper-rare occurrences.

        1. Inefficient is a relative term. How could the Manhattan Project have come about more efficiently? The point is there are specific goals–the only role efficiency plays is in the undertaking, and perhaps whether the goal is worth the cost.

          1. It isnt that the Manhattan Project could have been done more efficiently, its what wasnt done due to focusing on Nukes. We might have had 3D porn 20 years sooner!!!!

            In that case, to stop a great evil, it might have been worth it, or at least isnt horribly unworth it.

            Like Im said, Im okay with it, but I think the point is that the specific goal had effectively universal support. For example, Ive said in other threads that I will support a Manhattan Project to end global warming but not until after the Pearl Harbor of climate change. And that hasnt happened yet.

            1. The problem is they aren’t directly analogous. Waiting for a Pearl Harbor of climate change would be waiting too long to have any chance of solving the problem.

            2. The Manhattan Project is such a canard because it wasn’t necessary to win the war. We didn’t even need to accelerate the surrender of Japan. We could have annihilated Hiroshima and Nagasaki conventionally.

              So, the ONE example that most people rely on in defending centralized focused government research was basically an unnecessary waste of resources.

              Not saying that the research didn’t produce new technology and science down the road but the “urgency” of the Manhattan Project is a canard.

              1. I agree with this. It’s not the best example. But there are plenty of others, including the Internet all we rugged individualists are plastering with our thoughts.

              2. We would have needed to bomb Japan “conventionally” at least through the winter of 1945/6, killing millions directly and many more indirectly through starvation and disease. But yes, we would eventually “won” the affair, because we would have only lost a few tens of thousands.

                Thank God we dropped the bombs. Not only did they save millions of lives, but they gave Japan a chance to be reborn. If we had won “conventionally”, Japan likely would have been either an isolated pariah or split like Germany, and everyone on earth would have suffered for it for generations.

                And before you even bother, the Soviets invaded BECAUSE of the bombs. Churchill informed Stalin a few weeks earlier at Potsdam of the bomb’s extistence. The Soviets were just trying to get as much of the pie as they could, once the writing was on the wall.

                The Manhattan project was money well spent many times over.

                1. Re: Chad,

                  We would have needed to bomb Japan “conventionally” at least through the winter of 1945/6, killing millions directly and many more indirectly through starvation and disease.

                  Aren’t you the little ghoul?

                  Thank God we dropped the bombs. Not only did they save millions of lives, but they gave Japan a chance to be reborn.

                  Yes . . . Like the Phoenix . . . Reborn from the ashes of millions of victims. Praise The Lord.

                  And before you even bother, the Soviets invaded BECAUSE of the bombs. Churchill informed Stalin a few weeks earlier at Potsdam of the bomb’s extistence. The Soviets were just trying to get as much of the pie as they could, once the writing was on the wall.

                  Yes, because Stalin was a nuclear physics genius who could immediately grasp the weapon’s potential without having seen it! Wow, that Stalin . . . You just have to love the guy!

                  The Manhattan project was money well spent many times over.

                  Any project designed to plunder the American people and have as a result the incineration of 130,000 innocents has to be money well spent.

            3. The Manhattan Project is such a canard because it wasn’t necessary to win the war. We didn’t even need to accelerate the surrender of Japan. We could have annihilated Hiroshima and Nagasaki conventionally.

              So, the ONE example that most people rely on in defending centralized focused government research was basically an unnecessary waste of resources.

              Not saying that the research didn’t produce new technology and science down the road but the “urgency” of the Manhattan Project is a canard.

              1. Clearly, you have not read a world of WWII history concerning Japan and its surrender. Read up on Okinawa, imagine that multiplied a hundred fold, and get back to me. The Japanese were not even remotely close to surrendering. Nor were we close to being able to invade. Our semi-formed plans to invade in November were already being pushed back by Nimitz. Note that three months of additional conventional fighting would have resulted directly in as many deaths as the bombs did, as several thousand people were dying per day in the conflict. If we bombed the absolute piss out of them, we might have gotten some sort of very conditional surrender in early 1946, at best.

                1. Re: Chad,

                  Clearly, you have not read a world of WWII history concerning Japan and its surrender. The Japanese were not even remotely close to surrendering.

                  You are right, Chad! They were willing to fight to the last man – I mean, sure, they surrendered in droves against the Soviets, but that doesn’t count because Americans were the good guys! Right? Why, it is not like the Japanese were talking to the Soviets to surrender to them, which precipitated Truman into using the bombs, but that’s just crazy talk!

                  1. The Japanese who were talking to the Soviets were two low-level people who did not represent the groups in power, kinda like if a couple libertarians or greens had a meeting with Saddam. Even then, the concept of “surrender” they were floating was a far cry from what the west would have found acceptable.

                    Learn your history please.

                    1. Re: Chad,

                      The Japanese who were talking to the Soviets were two low-level people who did not represent the groups in power,

                      Well, how low level is “low level”, Chad? Twice removed? Thrice?

                      Learn your history please.

                      I hear you – the history they teach at school, under the auspices of the Great Overlords. Not the revisionist crap wit its inconvenient fact – we can forget that! Right, Chad?

  31. Could we just take them to New York and lose them on the subway instead?

    As long as we can still set them on fire first.

  32. The more power you have, the more sycophants and enablers you draw to protect you from your own idiocy, so the more power you have, the less opportunity you have to learn from your mistakes. Therefore, the more power you have, the stupider you are.

    1. Not only that, but the more power you have, the more people will tell you only what you want to hear, because you have the power to reward those who do so, and punish those who don’t.

      So, yeah, the more power you have, the less you know.

  33. people acting in ways that can be considered perfectly rational having negative unseen, long-term, and/or external consequences.

    You mean “easily foreseeable” long-term negative consequences which can and will be fobbed off onto some innocent third party, I believe.

  34. Re: Tony,

    People have to be forced to do (or not do) certain things when those things have external or collective consequences.

    Like for instance the consequences of forcing people to do (or not do) things they do not want to do (or want to do)?

    You know that, you just lack the imagination to apply it to things beyond physical assault and theft.

    Indeed, because it requires quite a lot of imagination (borderline schizophrenic, almost) to think that theft is NOT theft.

  35. Xeones, will you take the One Congress to Mordor and drop them in the fires of Mount Doom? Eight others of us will accompany you and be called the Fellowship of the Zing. Not me, of course, I don’t put myself in danger, I merely command like that pussy Elrond. However, the humans ProL and hmm, the dwarf Warty, the elf T, the hobbits P Brooks and Enjoy Every Sandwich, the wizard NutraSweet, and the Canadian Aresen shall join you.

    *Does a belated review of the correspondences*

    Wait a minute! That means I get whacked at the end of the first reel then sent over a humongous waterfall in a boat!

    No deal, I’m not going!

  36. Re: Tony,

    Inefficient is a relative term. How could the Manhattan Project have come about more efficiently? The point is there are specific goals–the only role efficiency plays is in the undertaking, and perhaps whether the goal is worth the cost.

    The term “efficiency” is meaningless when it comes to economics.

  37. Re: Tony,

    And I’d never argue that the marketplace can’t do wondrous things. That’s why I believe in a mixed economy rather than either authoritarian communism or anarcho-capitalism.

    The proper mixture ovbiously concocted through a command-and-control, top-down organization . . . right?

    1. Nope, I’m okay with representative democracy.

      1. I prefer a nice mix of representative democracy, technocracy and bureaucracy, and markets.

        Oh wait, that’s what every civilized nation on earth has. We all must be wrong.

        1. Re: Chad,

          Oh wait, that’s what every civilized nation on earth has. We all must be wrong.

          No, of course not, Chad! I mean, people go to elections to get all those experts into office, who then decide the proper mix of everything because, you know, they know everything!

          Not that these so-called “civilized” nations are not right now in the ropes – nah.

      2. Re: Tony,

        Nope, I’m okay with representative democracy.

        Of course! It’s not like markets are democratic in and on themselves – no. People still need to go the extra step of electing a bunch of notables that must know better than the people that voted them in! Of course!

        Makes sense. A lot.

        1. The most basic interactions of human beings–say dinner parties, sports, children on playgrounds–have many rules governing them. Why the hell should something as complicated as the market be different?

          1. Re: Tony,

            The most basic interactions of human beings–say dinner parties, sports, children on playgrounds–have many rules governing them. Why the hell should something as complicated as the market be different?

            The rules in all your examples appear spontaneously, Tony. No need for an omniscient and omnipotent “Miss Manners” for all instances – people are cleverer than you give them credit for.

            1. What’s the difference between the way rules for sports and the rules for countries arise? I wouldn’t use the word “spontaneous” for either, but okay. They come about for practical reasons.

              1. Re: Tony,

                What’s the difference between the way rules for sports and the rules for countries arise? I wouldn’t use the word “spontaneous” for either, but okay. They come about for practical reasons.

                No, totally agree! There MUST be governing bodies that come up with rules and regulations for street soccer! Why, those little bastards, they cannot be trusted to come up with rules like that!

                And the market . . . Don’t get me started! This whole idea of people, freely exchanging private property! Yuck! What is that? No, there must be a body of omniscient overseers that can tell people how to exchange and what – I mean, it is not like people are smart or something! NO! People are stupid! Uh, except when they vote – THEN they are smart. But all other times, they’re morons!

                1. Oh, I forgot the countries! How do countries come up with their rules if not through governing bodies! Why, these countries . . .

                  Hmmm, how DO countries come up with these rules, Tony? Do countries vote in elections?

          2. There ARE rules governing markets.
            Respect private property.
            Enforce contracts.
            No violence.
            Transparency.

            These are broad simple abstract rules that can be applied uniformly.

            What we object to are overly specific rules that create artificial distinctions between the players or the products sold. For instance: favoring domestic auto manufacturers over foreign ones, favoring farmers growing corn over those growing wheat, favoring unionized workers over non-unionized ones. Etc.

            All of that inhibits the market from finding a true optima by artificially biasing conditions in favor of one type of product or one business over another.

            They also violate the basic prohibition on the use of violence, since they involve the intervention of the state on behalf of some market participants, using force.

            1. Also, I should say that is is funadmentally unfair for the government to create rules that bias the market in favor of some participants and against others.

              Imagine you’re selling lemonade, and your competitor across the street is selling cranberry juice. The state comes along and slaps a 20% tarriff on lemons, because they aren’t “locally grown”. How fucking fair is that? If customers want locally grown they can buy it themselves. They don’t get the government stepping in to slap a 20% price increase on one guy just because “locally grown” shit is trendy.

          3. Re: Tony,

            The most basic interactions of human beings–say dinner parties, sports, children on playgrounds–have many rules governing them.

            Inf fact, I have seen kids at the playground checking with their attorneys to know if the course of actions they are going to follow comply with the most recent rules that the Great Governing Body of the Playground have legislated! That makes playing F-U-N!

            Oh, there is no such thing? Why, you just said there were rules governing playgrounds! Who makes rules, if not governing bodies? I mean, it is not like people can be trusted to come up with this rules on their own! Noooo, no, no, no! What are we, anarchists?

            1. The rules on the playgrounds are also simple and uniform.

              The government is more like having a parent enforcing the rules who tells the kids to get off the swingset so that HIS kids and their friends can use it. He just makes up an arbitrary rule like “no children over/under 8 on the swingset”, arbitrarily chosen to get rid of the kids currently there.

              Natrurally, the parent will come up with some “safety” bullshit to justify why the rule forcing kigs older/younger than 8 off the swingset.

              Tony’s just the kind of moron that laps that crap up. “Oh safety, yes, for the children … stop whining kids it’s for your own good”.

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