Free Capitalist Network - Community Archive
Mises Community Archive
An online community for fans of Austrian economics and libertarianism, featuring forums, user blogs, and more.

Pragmatarianism Disproved: An Essay

rated by 0 users
This post has 23 Replies | 1 Follower

Top 200 Contributor
Male
Posts 461
Points 8,685
RothbardsDisciple Posted: Thu, Mar 15 2012 11:55 PM

So I'm sure you have seen the poster Xerographica on forums. If not, here's the dude's blog: http://pragmatarianism.blogspot.com/. Well, in the following essay, me and a friend disprove his position in full, with chiefly economic but also moral argumentation: http://libertariananarchy.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/hello-world/

  • | Post Points: 35
Top 75 Contributor
Posts 1,389
Points 21,840
Moderator

Right off the bat: there are no "oughts"- choice is only affirmed by Human Action - after that we talk about the nature of what it is and the consequences of such a fact.  You simply can not disprove anything that says "ought" other than by action which renders such language smbols as irrelevant / unecessary (it can be called gibberish, but it can't be disproven)

Also:The root word for Pragmatarianism.(pragmatic) doesn't seem to be used in a correct matter. If I am reading his definition correct:  If an individual is there to make an choice he wants (in this case in regards to taxes), that simply isn't an form of pragmatism...it's liberterianism.

If that is not what he is speaking of, an somehow speaking of a socialogical "usefulness" - it's just a form of utilitarianism

"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann

"When A Man Dies A World Goes Out of Existence"  - GLS Shackle

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 200 Contributor
Male
Posts 461
Points 8,685

Yeah, well we're Rothbardians, not Misesians, we believe that the is/ought dichotomy is false.

  • | Post Points: 50
Top 75 Contributor
Posts 1,389
Points 21,840
Moderator

double post - EDIT

"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann

"When A Man Dies A World Goes Out of Existence"  - GLS Shackle

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 75 Contributor
Posts 1,389
Points 21,840
Moderator

In that case disregard my thoughts.

I would still say my point on the root of his word and definition is confusing

"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann

"When A Man Dies A World Goes Out of Existence"  - GLS Shackle

  • | Post Points: 5
Top 200 Contributor
Male
Posts 461
Points 8,685

You're certainly right about that. I agree, we should have covered it. 

We just used his definitions and terms for simplicity, but there could've been a section which covered that.

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 75 Contributor
Posts 1,389
Points 21,840
Moderator

yeah, that's usually the best solution to a debate - use the person's own terms and don't worry too much about the "real" meaning of things....lol, one may even dare to call such an approach pragmatic dialogue

Anyway critiques on the choice of words is best left as esoteric points or "b" level arguments

"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann

"When A Man Dies A World Goes Out of Existence"  - GLS Shackle

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 200 Contributor
Male
Posts 461
Points 8,685

Haha, are the economic arguments solid though?

I mean, I know you're not a moralist (so that's irrelevant to you), but I'd hope you could comment on the econ, since that was the main part of the essay?

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 75 Contributor
Posts 1,389
Points 21,840
Moderator

There are way too man thoughts for me to go around to make an definitive statement, but: to make it easy just based off this:

 

Pragmatarianism is an ideology professed as a solution on which everyone can ostensibly concur: each individual chooses where his or her tax dollars go. So, if Jenna wants to allocate all her money to more EPA regulations, she can decide to do that. If Bill wants all his money to go into the military apparatus, he too can make this choice. According to the founder of pragmatarianism, this would solve a certain “public goods” problem; people could “invest” in whatever “public goods” they please! While this may sound nice, there is a flaw: each individual is forced to pay into this system as the government

I can't distinguish any of this outside of private market allocations.  So once again, what the difference between "pragmentarianis" and the EPA - than an "Ancap" view of it as EPA.inc?  In other words, if this is how to invest money and everything has an actual factual profit loss indicator - I'm at a loss

 

"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann

"When A Man Dies A World Goes Out of Existence"  - GLS Shackle

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 75 Contributor
Posts 1,389
Points 21,840
Moderator

Also:

If this is about a democrtatic allocation of wealth, than we have a whole new set of problems, which I think you start addressing...if not, I'm confused

"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann

"When A Man Dies A World Goes Out of Existence"  - GLS Shackle

  • | Post Points: 5
Top 200 Contributor
Male
Posts 461
Points 8,685

Well, pragmatarianism lets you allocate your taxes to a list of government agencies. (so any of your choice). But you're still forced to pay taxes.

It's actually a somewhat unique ideology, so it was fun to cover.

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 75 Contributor
Posts 1,389
Points 21,840
Moderator

So it's like:

You're paying 15% taxes, but you choose where that 15% goes?

"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann

"When A Man Dies A World Goes Out of Existence"  - GLS Shackle

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 200 Contributor
Male
Posts 461
Points 8,685

The democratic thing I was talking about is basically that he says voters (i.e., a majority) would determine the tax rate and available list of government agencies. 

There's a quote from the guy about democracy somewhere in our essay: "In a pragmatarian system voters would determine the functions of government and taxpayers would determine which functions to fund."

Yeah, so the ideology definitely has an element of democracy, which we cover quite a bit.

  • | Post Points: 5
Top 200 Contributor
Male
Posts 461
Points 8,685

You're paying 15% taxes, but you choose where that 15% goes?

Exactly this.

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 75 Contributor
Posts 1,389
Points 21,840
Moderator

Oh, I get it..your on the right track than, from what I can tell.

I usually harp on calculation, Misean epitimology, time prefrence, uncertainty, and expectations.  I have a bit of a reservation on the Hayekian theory of knowledge, but you essentially covered the probel with what seems to be "pragmatarianism".

 

I didn't even think about the structure of production, which is odd because I like Lachmann, but that is a good touch too.  So yeah, off the initial glance I think you got him pegged

"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann

"When A Man Dies A World Goes Out of Existence"  - GLS Shackle

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 75 Contributor
Posts 1,389
Points 21,840
Moderator

That said: 2 glasses of ouzo, 1 shot of rye, and four beers - my logic may be a bit off for the time being - so take what I say with a grain of salt

"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann

"When A Man Dies A World Goes Out of Existence"  - GLS Shackle

  • | Post Points: 5
Top 200 Contributor
Male
Posts 461
Points 8,685

Do you have any suggestions as to an edit which would allow readers to get the concept (of pragmatarianism) more quickly? That would help a lot. This was just released, so your advice could help.

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 75 Contributor
Posts 1,389
Points 21,840
Moderator

Not really.  I am basing everything off of quick reading, and the contents of this thread - so it was explained quickly enough to me, assuming what you sai was true about it.

If anything you could use something like the "15% tax example" asap in your essay, if you think that would help to get the definition across as quickly as possible - if not, you've done a good enough job as is

"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann

"When A Man Dies A World Goes Out of Existence"  - GLS Shackle

  • | Post Points: 20
Top 200 Contributor
Male
Posts 461
Points 8,685

Thanks, I edited it with your suggestion. That will help the readers a ton. 

I also look forward to your commentary if/when you read it in a less inebriated state. xD

  • | Post Points: 5
Top 50 Contributor
Male
Posts 2,209
Points 35,645
Merlin replied on Fri, Mar 16 2012 3:31 AM

I debated Xerographica at the new forums. My main point of content was that pragmatarianism manages to combine the worst aspects of government and anarchy, with few of the benefits. On one hand, you still coerce taxes. On the other, as people can allocate their taxes, a clear problem of the provision of ‘public goods’ arises: will defense be underfunded? So, it addresses none of the issues that government is allegedly set up to tackle, and it still manages to infringe our rights. I very much doubt it would work practicaly (I do not see who would favor it). yet, with a few modifications I think it could be made into an improvement over what we have now.

The Regression theorem is a memetic equivalent of the Theory of Evolution. To say that the former precludes the free emergence of fiat currencies makes no more sense that to hold that the latter precludes the natural emergence of multicellular organisms.
  • | Post Points: 5
Top 50 Contributor
Male
Posts 2,940
Points 49,115
Conza88 replied on Fri, Mar 16 2012 4:09 AM

"Yeah, well we're Rothbardians, not Misesians, we believe that the is/ought dichotomy is false."

Rothbard [Beyond Is and Ought] accepted Hoppe's breakthrough with great enthusiaism.

...In order to come to a policy conclusion, I have long maintained, economists have to come up with some kind of ethical system. Note that all branches of modern "welfare economics" have attempted to do just that: to continue to be "scientific" and therefore value-free, and yet to make all sorts of cherished policy pronouncements (since most economists would like at some point to get beyond their mathematical models and draw politically relevant conclusions). Most economists would not be caught dead with an ethical system or principle, believing that this would detract from their "scientific" status.

And yet, remarkably and extraordinarily, Hans Hoppe has proven me wrong. He has done it: he has deduced an anarcho-Lockean rights ethic from self-evident axioms. Not only that: he has demonstrated that, just like the action axiom itself, it is impossible to deny or disagree with the anarcho-Lockean rights ethic without falling immediately into self-contradiction and self-refutation...
 

"Here the praxeological proof of libertarianism has the advantage of offering a completely value-free justification of private property. It remains entirely in the realm of is-statements and never tries to derive an “ought” from an “is.” -- HHH, Economics and ethics of private property, p345

So it's wiser to accept the dichotomy.

Anyway, I applaud the effort to write on essay on this... not that it's going to change the guys opinions and activism. He delusionally thinks he is offering the 'new third way'.

Ron Paul is for self-government when compared to the Constitution. He's an anarcho-capitalist. Proof.
  • | Post Points: 20
Top 200 Contributor
Male
Posts 461
Points 8,685

Conza, that's interesting, for sure. Thanks for the quotes and information. I will say, I definitely concur with Hoppe's argumentation ethics, in addition to the Rothbardian vision of Natural Law; I'm unsure whether I agree with the concept of the is/ought dichotomy, as I remember seeing a thread where Rothbard disproved it in one of his books. At any rate, I accept its possibility as feasible (though I'm a sceptic about it), and it is something which I shall certainly have to ponder in the future. Thanks! And thanks for your kind words on the essay too; I appreciate it. Yeah, it's not necessarily going to change his mind, but perhaps at least it will introduce him to some new concepts; and, ideally, it will serve to prevent any others from being fooled by Pragmatarianism. (Not sure if anyone has been). It was a funny coincidence that your example of the Nazi Pragma-Concentration Camps coincided with my example of the Pragma-Gulag...I saw your alternate idea on the RP forums. =) 

Anyone feel absolutely 100% free to quote from our work if you get in discussion with him.

Merlin, I concur with you, that's one of the basic issues at work here: surpluses and shortages in accordance with Mises' economic calculation problem. Pragmatarianism is not even a Libertarian ideology, as the Gulag and 100% tax hypotheticals demonstrate clearly. Read the bit on Pragma-Nihilism (my name for the philosophy) at the bottom if you want to see my opinions on the disastrous moral implications of his beliefs. He truly doesn't care--at all--about the infringement of Natural Rights and libertarian ethic. So I don't see why he expects acceptance from a Libertarian crowd. Even Utilitarians can smell the BS. But, I will say, the BS comes from his application of pragmatarianism as an end, rather than as a potential mean. The thing is, if he wants to take a valourous way out, he can still salvage that aspect of his ideology as a means for Libertarianism, which I give a degree of support to. Not that he would do this: he'll probably continue absurdly advocating his solution as an ultimate end, in CONFLICT with the people who he is trying to get to accept his allegedly "pragmatic" final solution.

So, anyway guys, maybe this is asking too much, but I'd definitely be interested in any criticism, or--what I'd really appreciate--is any promotion of our very new blog and its first essay. (Sorry if that sounds like an ad, ha, but it's not as blatant as certain Xerographicas). Anyway, I'm sure Josh and I made some errors in there you guys can point out (ooh, we accept some "pragmatarian" fallibilism), and I'm sure you guys have youtube channels/blogs/twitter accounts by which you could give this a quick share. Which I'd really appreciate if possible. I'd also appreciate any first subsriptions to our blog. We plan on publishing more high quality essays in the future: that's our primary style, after all. So, anyway, thanks if you help out! 

  • | Post Points: 5
Top 200 Contributor
Male
Posts 461
Points 8,685

Just as an update, if anyone is interested. 

In response to another thread about this essay elsewhere on the internet, Xerographica has to say: "Woah! Great job guys! As I mentioned in my thread on Strategy Suggestions...the more blogs the better. Especially when they discuss Hayek's partial knowledge concept and Bastiat's opportunity cost concept. The essay on pragmatarianism was quite excellent! I'm going to get started on my response."

At any rate, I will say I have grown to appreciate and respect Xerographica's undying positivity and enthusiasm. This is balanced out by his vices, like obstinancy and persistence in the face of overwhelming evidence, of course, but you should see my point. Without him and his positive annoyance, we'd have never started a blog to begin with.

  • | Post Points: 5
Top 200 Contributor
Male
Posts 461
Points 8,685

New update: Evidently there has already been a response released:

Here's my response...pragmatarianism disproved?

On first glance, he didn't address any of our argumentation. All we'll have to do is defend our choice of theoretical tax rate. Easy stuff, or should be.

  • | Post Points: 5
Page 1 of 1 (24 items) | RSS