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A view on wealth redistribution

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ToxicAssets Posted: Thu, Dec 13 2012 12:53 PM

Suppose there's a "Society" and a "State" and suppose that this State does only one thing to that Society: it redistributes people's income.

It takes half of everyone's income and divide it equally between everyone.

So in the end each individual keeps half of what he makes, and also gets back from government half of the average income earned in that Society.

Suppose the bureacratic costs of enforcing this scheme are neggligeable as the number of actual bureacrats.

There are no parties and no political activity.

And suppose all industries are privately owned and operated with no intervention by the government, in a free market.

That is, everything happens just like in the anarcho-capitalism, except for this arbitrary 50% income tax which pools the earnings and then share them.

Let's say that neither the people nor the bureaucrats are too much corrupt, and that there's little fraud.

Maybe because the tax scheme is simple and easy to survey by the press, it doesn't matter.

So, the question is: how big is the "government" with respect to the "national income"?

Is it 50%, like the total sum of taxation?

Or is it negligeable, like the actual costs of bureacrats?

Or is it something else?

Or does the question makes no sense?

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Wheylous replied on Thu, Dec 13 2012 3:44 PM

I'd say it's 50%.

I'd like to be the first to point out that this scheme would immediately cause the end of the world to come. Jussayin.

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Anenome replied on Thu, Dec 13 2012 5:03 PM

Doesn't really matter how big it is. It is unethical to steal 50% of someone's wealth, even if your intent is to later give it back to them. It is also unethical to steal 1%. It is the stealing we object to, not the size of the government! (Well, the size is objectionable too! But my point is, our ideal government size is 0%.)

There have been banks which cheated like so: they would let intra-bank checks clear maybe a day or two later than normal. The result was a multi-million dollar slush fund that always had millions of dollar flowing in and out of it.

They were then earning interest on this money and stealing that value from their customers. They were caught and dealt with.

 

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idol replied on Thu, Dec 13 2012 5:22 PM

I'd say government size is the same as the amount of wealth they expropriate in this situation, regardless of how they actually spend the wealth.

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Wheylous:

I'd say it's 50%.


idol:
I'd say government size is the same as the amount of wealth they expropriate in this situation, regardless of how they actually spend the wealth.


Fair enough guys. Just to make it clear, on the example above, it's only income that is being taxed, not net worth or any of that. Income may be a very small fraction of total wealth.



But now let's think of another country.

Its income tax is very low. Let's say its somewhere around 5%.
And there are no other direct taxes. People in this country generally dislike taxes and they would not allow them to rise.

This income, however, is not redistributed to the population though. Instead it is used to do the things politicians want to be done.

And say there are few practical limitations regarding how this money can be used by political machines once it is their hands.

So political machines have a wide range of strategical options they can choose to promote their interest. They can enforce laws and regulations, they can spend money on works and direct subsidies to political allies, they can launch wars on enemies. Nothing is out of the table.

As a result, politics in this country is a very large industry. Not only for government officials alone.
There are all kinds of lobbies directing a lot of wealth trying to influence political decisions.
There's also the media, with journalists, pundits and mouthpieces with vested interests in promoting political agitation.
There are many corporate lawyers, accountants and many other professionals that help wealth creators navigate and survive the bureaucratic complexities resulting from intense political activity.

 

Let that sink in for a second. Now think of the practical implications of all these things. And compare to our first example.


Would you really consider the government of this country 10 times smaller than the government of the first country, based on the amonts of income it seizes directly?

Or government size has much more to do with rule of law and actual power commanded by political organizations, inside and outside public offices?

 

Another way to think about it is: which environment provides better incentives to the peaceful creation and exchange of wealth, and which provides incentives to parasytic and predatorial strategies.

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this State does only one thing to that Society: it redistributes people's income.

Does it redistribute in kind? I mean, there is no fiat currency, right? How are transactions valuated? How is income estimated?

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anenome:
Doesn't really matter how big it is. It is unethical to steal 50% of someone's wealth, even if your intent is to later give it back to them. It is also unethical to steal 1%. It is the stealing we object to, not the size of the government! (Well, the size is objectionable too! But my point is, our ideal government size is 0%.)


I understand your point of view and I don't oppose it.

However, it's still completely unrelated to what was proposed.
And if it were a test in college you would get an F for not understanding the main theme.

Not every discussion about govenrment nature and effects is a discussion of what are the best ethical ideals about government.

The case I presented suggest a simplified view of a government doing just one precise thing with 50% of everyone's income. (And, again, income is not wealth).

The intention was to make an exaggeration that illustrate a principle that happens in the real world.

Some governments have a very heavy component of welfare state, like in Canada, Switzerland and the Northern European countries.

However this countries have a relatively stable rule of law. Politicians and bureaucrats there have not many options, and it's fair to say that government there is not that big of an issue as it would look if one took only taxes into account.

In the United States, things are different. Taxes are somewhat lower, but politicians control much more effective power, and can use that power to leverage the relatively small taxes they collect.

And things are even worse in third world countries. Some of them don't even have income taxes, or have high levels of tax evasion.
That doesn't really matter because political organizations have other ways of monetizing their operations since there's practically no rule of law.

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z1235 replied on Fri, Dec 14 2012 6:53 AM

more taxation => bigger gov

more regulation => bigger gov

It's not 'either, or'. This is not rocket surgery.

 

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Andris Birkmanis:
Does it redistribute in kind? I mean, there is no fiat currency, right? How are transactions valuated? How is income estimated?


Those are all excellent technical questions.

Since government does not impose any fiat currency as sole legal tender, people would have incentives to avoid getting payments in any kind of money that would be used to calculate their taxable incomes.

And that would happen to a certain extent, but not entirely. It would happen only to the point where the costs of concealing income using alternative forms of payment were smaller than the costs of having your income taxed.

As it happens in real life. For some people it pays big time to have their wealth increases concealed as capital gains, treasure bonds yield and other forms of  income subjected to lower than norm taxes.

Usually, these schemes are available only to the wealthier people who are able to afford the all the fixed costs of setting them up and getting them to work.

But that's a mere technicality, whose practical effects would depend on a host of circumstantial conditions. And considering them serioulsy would complicate things too much and would take us far from our main concerns here, which were to contrast the condition I call "rule of law" and other conceptions of government constraint.

For our example, let's just say that these loopholes are not too much exploitable. People usually make their payments using a given set of currencies, and those are all subjected to our federal income tax law of 50%.

Anyway, I'm glad somebody brought those interesting issues up. The very question of how to estimate income is much more important and nontrivial than its usually assumed.
 

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Andris Birkmanis:


more taxation => bigger gov

more regulation => bigger gov

It's not 'either, or'. This is not rocket surgery.


I understand you are used to see people here preaching on how things should or would be, ideally, in a perfect society where some abstract ethical principle hold strong.

And then you see me proposing these two theoretical social arrangements and you interpret my proposition as if it were a matter of choice between one or another.

That's far from my intention. I could not bear the intellectual responsibilities that such a proposal would invest on me.

My far humbler attempt was just to suggest a way to get insight on some political patterns observed in the real world through a thought experiment device that exaggerates them.
 

One is a society of almost perfect rule of law, yet with a heavy legal device of income redistribution.

The other is a society with almost zero direct taxation and no legal device of "distributive justice", but with highly profitable industry of political violence, subjected to insignificant legal constraint.

 

These considerations may help undo the confused perception that leads so many people to suggest the civil unrest in Somalia as an example of stateless society and to see civilized and law abbiding Denmark as a socialist country.

 

 

When you identify what is generally perceived as State with the general conditions of a given economic environment that allow certain forms of political violence to be mobilized with a profit by real organizations operating on the ground, the question becomes a no-brainer.

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z1235 replied on Fri, Dec 14 2012 8:49 AM

ToxicAssets:
One is a society of almost perfect rule of law, yet with a heavy legal device of income redistribution.

The other is a society with almost zero direct taxation and no legal device of "distributive justice", but with highly profitable industry of political violence, subjected to insignificant legal constraint.

You confuse yourself unnecessarily with language. Initiation of aggression can take many forms, only one of which is taxation (theft). Say, Ruler 1 taxed income at 0% but imposed laws which allowed himself to bed with any female and to order anyone to give him massage whenever he saw fit. Ruler 2 taxed income at 50% and pretty much left everyone well alone beyond that. What's the point of polling which of the two may be "bigger gov"? If you were a guy without hands (unable to give massages), a wife, or a daughter, Ruler 1 may as well be "almost perfect rule of law" to you. If you were a pretty girl, not so much. 

 

 

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Wheylous replied on Fri, Dec 14 2012 11:04 AM

TA - there are two answers to your question.

First off, you can't quantify the size of government. If I tried to before, then I was wrong. There are several dimensions to government, as you have shown. The Heritage index tries doing this, but even then it's not "the" answer.

Rather than just looking at taxes, you have shown that regulation and other interventions are also important.

To get a better understanding of the size of government (and not an actual number, as you have shown), you ought to look at the amount of property that the government has control over. That is why regulations and interventions also increase the size of the government.

Unfortunately, control cannot be quantified, so we can't pin a number on government. Perhaps I will write on the VR about this.

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z1235:
 
What's the point of polling which of the two may be "bigger gov"?
 
All government is wrong, all tax is theft, yada yada yada. I get it.
 
That's not the point.
 
The point is getting a deeper understanding of the economic patterns of political violence that happens in the real world, and not entering in a theological discussion about the indistinct vicious nature of all sins.
 
More precisely, the point is to show how something that on paper would look like as a very heavy tax on income could exist within a very light environment of coersion, and how very little taxation doesn't necessarily means anything.
 
What is called "State" is nothing but the real world market regime of coersion and compulsion. Political violence can take several different patterns, but that doesn't mean they are not comparable or mutually intelligible.
 
It just means we need to work harder in order to understand them.
 
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How does the word "market" even relate to it? What is being exchanged?

Freedom of markets is positively correlated with the degree of evolution in any society...

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That's the point.

A "market" is the pattern of strategic employment of economic resources.

And violence that can be used as coercive power is an economic resource. It is has multiple ends that its finite supply cannot entirely satisfy. So it is a scarce resource, that is sought after and economized. Probably one of the oldest of all resources to be mobilized rationally by an animal species.

The fact that "prices" for the different kinds of coercive violence are not always quoted and known by the public does not make it less of a market.

This is due to the typical strategies for the use of violence, which are usually more effective when the violence itself remains somewhat concealed or implicit, so not to generate blowback effects.

So violent bargains usually take place in the dark pools of black political markets. And this is not a metaphor.

Even the "political arena" in democratic countries is a black market, since political transactions are seldom publicly known.

The free market you guys talk about all the time is just an idealized marketplace where violence is no longer an exchangeble nor useful resource, or one whose costs are too high, hence not an economic scarce resource anymore.

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z1235 replied on Sat, Dec 15 2012 12:30 PM

^ Nonsense. According to your definition a market is indistinguishable from everything which renders the term (market) meaningless and unnecessary.

An acting human has two choices when interacting with other humans toward achieving his/her subjectively valued ends: Voluntary Action (VA) or Initiation of Aggression (IA). A market refers strictly to the VA realm which is how it differs from everything (i.e. all action; VA + IA). 

Your last post has made whatever point you are trying to make even more elusive. 

 

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No, not everything is an economic resource that has to be economized.

One simple example is atmospheric air. In most situations it is not strategically economized because it is plentiful. However it can become an economic resource once local pollution becomes an issue, or a crowd is locked in a non ventilated room. In these situations, a market for air emerges, and violence becomes usually the chief means of exchange used to settle the bargains.

 

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The free market you guys talk about all the time is just an idealized marketplace where violence is no longer an exchangeble nor useful resource, or one whose costs are too high, hence not an economic scarce resource anymore.

Fair enough. So what?

Freedom of markets is positively correlated with the degree of evolution in any society...

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It's not a matter of "wouldn't it be nice".

the point is simple: since violence can be mobilized by organization to accomplish goals of these organizations, it will be done.

What you call State is only the current technological trend of an ancient industry.

And it won't stop because somebody realized that it is "bad for the whole society" to have violent bargains.

 

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z1235 replied on Sat, Dec 15 2012 4:20 PM

The majority of humans already understand and enjoy the superiority of voluntary action (VA) vs. initiation of aggression (IA). If that wasn't so, humanity would have gone extinct a long time ago, much less be able to communicate thoughts like these over a communication network today. The problem through history has always been a small parasitic and aggressive minority which has managed to find ways of convincing the productive majority (through memes such as god-ordained kings, mafia, "democratic" government, etc.) that initiation of aggression is inevitable and essential for humanity's existence. You've swallowed that story hook line and sinker. 

The majority of productive humans is perfectly capable of defending itself from this parasitic minority by organizing itself through voluntary (inter)action. Not only that is IA not necessary for protection from IA, but the very suggestion is so self-contradicting that it hurts the mind. 

EDIT: And violent "bargains"? "Market" in violence? Please.

 

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The distinction being a monopoly to use said force in maintaining a monopoly in certain industries.

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cab21 replied on Sat, Dec 15 2012 4:46 PM

there are different kinds of wealth redistribution

there is va

there is ia

the cost of va wealth redistribution is admin and the benefit is mutual trade.

so a business is set up and people donate 10% of their wealth to that business, the business takes 1% of that for admin, and 9% gets distributed to those on a list of requirements.

if its 50% that gets donated, admin costs can stay at 1% or whatever percent is chosen as the business model, the larger the wealth, the lower the percentage of admin costs need to be.

if someone donates 1000 pounds of food to a foodbank, and admin lived off that food at 20 pounds a week, it would be able to stay at 20 pounds a week if 10000 pounds were donated, so the larger the opperation of distribution, the smaller the costs for admin as a percentage. then it depends on the infrastructure costs for delivering the goods, with more complex systems costing more money in a curve most likely

 

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It's not a matter of "wouldn't it be nice".

the point is simple: since violence can be mobilized by organization to accomplish goals of these organizations, it will be done.

What you call State is only the current technological trend of an ancient industry.

And it won't stop because somebody realized that it is "bad for the whole society" to have violent bargains.

What happens when a good deal of the population realises it is being mobilised against it? Humans are capable of expanding their circles of empathy to animals, even. Hell, even plants. So what is to stop this advance from eventually obliterating the state? The state is not a market entity. It is not self-funding. It is coercively funded by theft. That is what makes it a non-market entity. Call it "market" if you want, sure, but you are playing a terminological game that is irrelevant to its actual nature. There is a "market" in violence insofar as politicians and other state rulers sell their ability to wield force but it does not imply that the state is an integrated part of the free market, or that it enjoys any of the efficiencies of the latter, which it by definition cannot enjoy since it obtains its resources through coercion.

It doesn't even take a majority of the populace for this to happen. Just a minority. The state is very fragile in that it rules based on the illusion of its legitimacy and necessity. Given their indiscretions, a good many states are very close to collapsing. They will not be able to stop an anarchist society from forming, or even competing small enclaves such as city-states or break-away territories. The minute hyperinflation hits, what will the states use to pay off their subjects? Not even the military will remain on its side.

Freedom of markets is positively correlated with the degree of evolution in any society...

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Wheylous:

TA - there are two answers to your question.

First off, you can't quantify the size of government. If I tried to before, then I was wrong. There are several dimensions to government, as you have shown. The Heritage index tries doing this, but even then it's not "the" answer.

Rather than just looking at taxes, you have shown that regulation and other interventions are also important.

To get a better understanding of the size of government (and not an actual number, as you have shown), you ought to look at the amount of property that the government has control over. That is why regulations and interventions also increase the size of the government.

Unfortunately, control cannot be quantified, so we can't pin a number on government. Perhaps I will write on the VR about this.

 

You seem to have understood the point I was trying to make.

There's only one problem though. This whole "non quantifiable" stuff is just plain philosophical obscurantism.

Some phenomena maybe harder or easier to quantity, but the notion that thet are not quantifiable, in the sense that any attempt to quantify them is non-sensical is usually preposterous.

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How do you propose to quantify it, then? You may dislike the notion that some things are simply not  quantifiable, but hey, the world doesn't revolve around the egos of people with scientistic beliefs.

Freedom of markets is positively correlated with the degree of evolution in any society...

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z1235 replied on Sun, Dec 16 2012 8:21 AM

ToxicAssets:

There's only one problem though. This whole "non quantifiable" stuff is just plain philosophical obscurantism.

Some phenomena maybe harder or easier to quantity, but the notion that thet are not quantifiable, in the sense that any attempt to quantify them is non-sensical is usually preposterous.

Values are subjective, ordinal (as opposed to cardinal), and not amenable to aggregation, hence not quantifiable. They are not just hard to quantify -- they are not quantifiable. 

If you disagree, go ahead and start quantifying and comparing the two govs from my previous example:

"Say, Ruler 1 taxed income at 0% but imposed laws which allowed him to bed with any female and to order anyone to give him massage whenever he saw fit. Ruler 2 taxed income at 50% and pretty much left everyone well alone beyond that. What's the point of polling which of the two may be "bigger gov"? If you were a guy without hands (unable to give massages), without a wife, sister, mother or a daughter, Ruler 1 may as well be "almost perfect rule of law" to you. If you were a pretty girl, not so much. "

How much gov is Ruler 1 and how much gov is Ruler 2? I'm all ears.

 

 

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z1235:
The majority of humans already understand and enjoy the superiority of voluntary action (VA) vs. initiation of aggression (IA). If that wasn't so, humanity would have gone extinct a long time ago, much less be able to communicate thoughts like these over a communication network today. The problem through history has always been a small parasitic and aggressive minority which has managed to find ways of convincing the productive majority (through memes such as god-ordained kings, mafia, "democratic" government, etc.) that initiation of aggression is inevitable and essential for humanity's existence. You've swallowed that story hook line and sinker.
 
No people don't see things through these abstract grand schemes of moral philosophy. Only amateur philosophers crave this kind of distinction.
People understand simple rules of thumb and common practices and that's what they use to guide their decisions.
And if hostility is the common practice, that's what they'll do.
 
Look, I'm not saying that the State, the government or any kind of Initiation of Agression is essential for humanity's existence.
Since nobody is trying to solve the problem of humanity's existence or looking to improve human condition as a whole, this kind of reasoning is entirely absurd.
 
What I'm saying is much simpler.
 
I'm saying that sometimes, some people and some organizations perceive they can solve their problems through violence, threat, hostility, coercion, compulsion, IA, it doesn't matter, call it whatever you want. The thing is that that's the way it is. 
 
And their job is not to make the world a better place "as a whole". That's nobody's job.
 
But it's the job of every person and every organization to look after their own interests, because that's how they can survive .
And they will deploy strategical violence whenever it seems fit. Call it parasitic and predatory behavior if you want, that doesn't change how things are.
 
Some means of aggression may get antiquated and old-fashioned given the changes of the environment, but that doesn't mean aggression will be extinct some sunny day. I'm sorry about that.
 
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z1235 replied on Sun, Dec 16 2012 10:08 AM

ToxicAssets:
No people don't see things through these abstract grand schemes of moral philosophy. Only amateur philosophers crave this kind of distinction. People understand simple rules of thumb and common practices and that's what they use to guide their decisions. And if hostility is the common practice, that's what they'll do.

Except hostility is not the common practice at all. If it was, there'd be no society and humans to debate about this stuff today.

Look, I'm not saying that the State, the government or any kind of Initiation of Agression is essential for humanity's existence.
Since nobody is trying to solve the problem of humanity's existence or looking to improve human condition as a whole, this kind of reasoning is entirely absurd.
 
Who said we're solving anything? Humanity's existence and flourish over the long run are facts. Social norms that are conducive to said flourish survive, the ones that are not, don't. On top of this genetic inheritance (of both biological and social sort) humans can also use reason and logic to discern which phenomena and social norms are conducive to humanity's existence and flourish, and which are not. It's a long process, and the night is still young. 
 
What I'm saying is much simpler.
 
I'm saying that sometimes, some people and some organizations perceive they can solve their problems through violence, threat, hostility, coercion, compulsion, IA, it doesn't matter, call it whatever you want. The thing is that that's the way it is.
 
Sure. Some people rape and murder too. That's the way it is, too. What's your point?
 
And their job is not to make the world a better place "as a whole". That's nobody's job.
 
Of course. So what?
 
But it's the job of every person and every organization to look after their own interests, because that's how they can survive .
And they will deploy strategical violence whenever it seems fit. Call it parasitic and predatory behavior if you want, that doesn't change how things are.
 
Of course. I submit that the risk/reward ratio for the IA (initiation of aggression) option for any human is (slowly but surely) becoming prohibitively unattractive, as the superiority of VA propagates through the social norms and gets discerned by human minds. Only humans who deem IA inevitable are the ones who find its costs acceptable. Delivering IA onto a population which rejects its inevitability will be prohibitively expensive to the parasite. 
 
Some means of aggression may get antiquated and old-fashioned given the changes of the environment, but that doesn't mean aggression will be extinct some sunny day. I'm sorry about that.
 
Sure. IA will never be zero but societies with higher VA / IA ratios will keep out-flourishing the ones with lower VA / IA ratios. Though I still fail to see how all this is related to whichever point you were trying to make in the OP. 
 
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z1235:
The majority of productive humans is perfectly capable of defending itself from this parasitic minority by organizing itself through voluntary (inter)action. Not only that is IA not necessary for protection from IA, but the very suggestion is so self-contradicting that it hurts the mind.
 
If they are so able, why don't they?
 
Wait, I know the answer. You gonna say something along the lines of some "meme of statism" or some "creed of social contract" that the parasites use to legitimize their parasitism.
 
Well, I don't disagree entirely with that theory, but the simple fact that this scheme succeeds shows that in reality the disorganized majority of people is not capable of defending itself from the actions of organized minorities dedicated to propagandize their ruling, at least not "perfectly", whatever you mean by perfection here.
 
Propaganda and indoctrination are only two of the many successful patterns of mobilization of political violence.
 
You may believe they'll go extinct some day, but it's not so clear why they should.
 
z1235:
EDIT: And violent "bargains"? "Market" in violence? Please.
 
I know it's weird, and you may feel more comfortable saving the word for context where there are no hostile exchanges.
 
But the material, knowledge and human means and also the general will to violence constitute important economic resources, whose patterns of production and consumption follow rational principles that are to a large extent analogous to what for other scarce resources we call markets.
 
Battles aren't usually fought for no reason, but when the prospects of its results are favorable to those responsible to make them happen.
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cab21:

there are different kinds of wealth redistribution

there is va

there is ia

the cost of va wealth redistribution is admin and the benefit is mutual trade.

so a business is set up and people donate 10% of their wealth to that business, the business takes 1% of that for admin, and 9% gets distributed to those on a list of requirements.

if its 50% that gets donated, admin costs can stay at 1% or whatever percent is chosen as the business model, the larger the wealth, the lower the percentage of admin costs need to be.

if someone donates 1000 pounds of food to a foodbank, and admin lived off that food at 20 pounds a week, it would be able to stay at 20 pounds a week if 10000 pounds were donated, so the larger the opperation of distribution, the smaller the costs for admin as a percentage. then it depends on the infrastructure costs for delivering the goods, with more complex systems costing more money in a curve most likely

Well, I wasn't talking about the inner workings of a full voluntary system of wealth redistribution.

I was talking about one enforced by a small State.

Which in the end is not so different, because such a system would only be viably enforceable by a small state if the populace financing it was in reasonable accordance with it.

And that seems to be the case in advanced economies that run proportianly large wealth redistribution schemes. 

Probably due to their relatively small population of racially and culturally homogenous peoples, these schemes can be maintained with somewhat low operational costs. But that's only my speculation.

 

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Well, I don't disagree entirely with that theory, but the simple fact that this scheme succeeds shows that in reality the disorganized majority of people is not capable of defending itself from the actions of organized minorities dedicated to propagandize their ruling

It may well be that this meme is only capable to preserve the status quo, but not to return to it if perturbed.

In other words, "the disorganized majority of people" may be capable of defending themselves, but not of freeing themselves.

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Jon Irenicus:
What happens when a good deal of the population realises it is being mobilised against it?
 
Hummm… Let me take a wild guess here: nothing happens.
 
And that's because a "good deal of the population" is not an ball player in this game, or any game. A "good deal of the population" can not act nor do anything coherently as "a good deal of the population". So it doesn't matter if they have the same collective mind-blowing realization.
 
I mean, the thing is, they already realize that!
 
Your point is that politicians are parasites who use power to look after their own interests at the expense of everyone else… well that's old news, white boy. You don't need to read some ethics treatise by Rothbard to get it... Every cab driver in this god damn world understands that already…
 
This sort of "mass realization" is completely meaningless unless it provides concrete incentives for some sort of organized, sustained and consequential action out there, in the real world.
 
There's no revolution going on on the minds of people. I used to believe in that too… but this is nothing but woo woo new age hippie shit… 
 
The age of aquarius my black a**…
 
You have to look into the real situation and try to understand what's your position, how deep is your stack, what are your cards, what are the stakes, who is playing in the hand and what they are representing and what they might have. And of course, you need to pay attention to who has dealt the last cards and what your opponents may be hiding inside their sleeves. 
 
Keep close track of all those variables and you might survive for the next round. There's no other way around.
 
And if it's not clear already, let me state it in plain words... Survival of the fittest, that's the name of the game.
 
Somethings will never change.
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Jon Irenicus:
Humans are capable of expanding their circles of empathy to animals, even. Hell, even plants. So what is to stop this advance from eventually obliterating the state?
 
So what?
 
Human beings are also apex predators that reign in terror and feast in blood. 
 
What else could be the case for a race of warrior apes that learned how to coordinate complex attacks on preys and enemies with abstract language and technological skills that enable the manufacture and operation of artificial weapons?
 
Civilization and peaceful markets are just the occasional unintended consequences of this advanced dominance strategy.
 
Don't bother lecturing me on economics, I do understand how free and peaceful markets can generate more global prosperity to its participants, and so create a steady pressure that propagates and solidifies the institutions of peaceful exchange in the long run.
 
But these institutions are thin veneers covering the otherwise hostile, deceitful and ruthless nature of Man.
They are patterns of relative moral passivity that may sometimes emerge and persist for a little while, until the winds of change blow them away.
 
And I know what you're thinking. 
You think that I'm writing evolutionary biology platitudes and their enigmatic, perhaps meaningless, implications on human nature, and painting it all with dark undertones, while driving no point home.
 
Well, think again. But try to think in terms of real scenarios.
 
Think of compulsory school attendance in every country.
 
Think of the rise of totalitarianism in Russia, Germany, Italy and other countries.
 
Think of eugenism and population control tactics.
 
Think of television, mass media and its effects.
 
Think of the patterns of political violence in post-colonial Africa.
 
Think of the industry of hatred going on in the Middle East.
 
Think of the systematic effort sutained by many political fronts to dismantle and abolish the Constitution of the United States of America.
 
Think of the financial takeover of the economy.
 
Think of the active promotion of cosmic public hysteria, like global warming.
 
Think of the current trends of several international organizations testing many control grid strategies for a global police state.
 
 
 
Yeah, of course, we live in the age of the scientifically designed silent genocide, but meanwhile there's a whole lot of empathy all around.
 
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Jon Irenicus:
The state is not a market entity. It is not self-funding. It is coercively funded by theft. That is what makes it a non-market entity. Call it "market" if you want, sure, but you are playing a terminological game that is irrelevant to its actual nature.
 
I don't see why a larger notion of self-funding must necessarily exclude funding by theft or by other forms of coercion.
 
If the organization is in a given position so it can effectively sustain its present operations with the results generated by its previous operations or expected by its future operations, for all that matters this organization is self-funded.
 
Even if the operations use coercive tactics.
 
It can be a couple of small time crooks, or a large gang of drug dealers, or a political party or an international investment behemoth.
 
These organizations make many rational decisions that involve some form of deceit, threat or aggression; and apparently they can get away with it, at least in the net balance. Otherwise they would have been shut down by themselves and cease to exist, as many of them are.
 
You can say that people learn how to defend themselves from these exploitations, so these operations are doomed to disappear or to take some other form.
 
But every single market operation is doomed to disappear. Once its competitive advantage is gone, once the edge that creates its margin disappear, it needs to adapt to a new set of opportunities. Change or die.
 
Well, you can say that a market is any pattern of resource allocation that does not seem to take any form of violent interaction into consideration.
 
But that would be a very restrictive definition of a market, and probably it wouldn't apply to any real case of interest.
 
In the real world, market participants are paranoid creatures that spend most of their time hedging their risks of being attacked and considering their strategical situations as to make hostile moves against other participants.
 
Anyone who thinks differently would benefit visiting a real-life trading floor or a corporate meeting of any kind of business. But I must warn that most academic-type fellows would not feel very comfortable in those environments…
 
There are many other ways to leverage threats and to effectively apply violence, other than resorting directly to its most primitive form of physical attacks.
 
And no set of moral principles with any practical use can exhaust all these possibilities so to create a society deprived of purposeful violence.
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Jon Irenicus:
How do you propose to quantify it, then? You may dislike the notion that some things are simply not  quantifiable, but hey, the world doesn't revolve around the egos of people with scientistic beliefs.
 
z1235:
Values are subjective, ordinal (as opposed to cardinal), and not amenable to aggregation, hence not quantifiable. They are not just hard to quantify -- they are not quantifiable. 
 
If you disagree, go ahead and start quantifying and comparing the two govs from my previous example:
 
"Say, Ruler 1 taxed income at 0% but imposed laws which allowed him to bed with any female and to order anyone to give him massage whenever he saw fit. Ruler 2 taxed income at 50% and pretty much left everyone well alone beyond that. What's the point of polling which of the two may be "bigger gov"? If you were a guy without hands (unable to give massages), without a wife, sister, mother or a daughter, Ruler 1 may as well be "almost perfect rule of law" to you. If you were a pretty girl, not so much. "
 
How much gov is Ruler 1 and how much gov is Ruler 2? I'm all ears.
 
 
I don't need to propose anything new.
 
The Heritage Foundation Index for Economic Freedom, as Whelyous suggested, is a good start.
 
It may have many limitations and shortcomings, but it would be a very hard case to defend that it consists only of nonsense.
 
I'm not saying here that you should not be suspicious of statistical modeling and other techniques of hard data analysis, that are sometimes deployed before people take their time and understand what they're trying do.
 
Some people can indeed get away with a lot of BS if they put it in some graphs and tables and scientific looking equations.
 
And I'm not saying that mainly verbal explanations schemes that are not amenable to very precise and simple verification procedures are worthless.
 
But it's not because a problem depends on subjective evaluations of quality that it is not tractable via quantitative methods.
 
Take the recommendations systems used by websites like Amazon and Netflix as an example.
 
These systems are based on statistical learning algorithms, i.e.., a lot of math. They analyze the patterns of correlated decisions by users and make suggestions based on the analysis.
 
And they produce a service that depends on qualitative tastes that are nonetheless "hard to quantify".
 
They are not definitive solutions of course. They can be continuously perfected, because the problem they solve is to vague and complex.
 
But they are solutions, in the sense that they result in something useful.
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Torsten replied on Mon, Dec 17 2012 1:58 PM

 

I'd say it's 50%.

I'd like to be the first to point out that this scheme would immediately cause the end of the world to come. Jussayin.

I think he's asking whether government has to be measured by it's cost or by it's contribution. And I should add I do not mean real economic contribution, but contribution in terms of power it exercises. 

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z1235:
Except hostility is not the common practice at all. If it was, there'd be no society and humans to debate about this stuff today.
 
For several things people do, many forms of hostile dispositions are useful and also the common practice, either to be used as negative leverage in negotiations, or as a crime-and-punishment incentive mechanism, or as a direct means to inflict an amount damage on a counter-part in order to push them to surrender their claims or, in extreme cases, to get them completely annihilated.
 
Of course not everyone needs to have first-hand experience in international brinksmanship tactics or to attend the signing of a peace treaty or a secret meeting of a military alliance's chiefs-of-staff to understand all of that.
 
Negative leverage, for instance, is used in many everyday transactions, and it's so common place and automatic, that nobody cares whether or not they are able to justify it using some abstract set of ethical ground rules.
 
 
Who said we're solving anything? Humanity's existence and flourish over the long run are facts. Social norms that are conducive to said flourish survive, the ones that are not, don't. On top of this genetic inheritance (of both biological and social sort) humans can also use reason and logic to discern which phenomena and social norms are conducive to humanity's existence and flourish, and which are not. It's a long process, and the night is still young. 
 
I don't think you've understood my remark.
 
I've said that whatever they call State, or any other common pattern of aggression for that matter, is not some institution designed to advance human condition or guarantee humanity's existence.
 
To say that humanity flourishes may be a delightful metaphor given a context, but if you expect that anybody is seriously concerned with this "flourishing of mankind" as a whole, my suggestion to you is to ask them to be psychiatrically examined.
 
These "big social problems" are so big and so vague that they cannot be understood or treated as a problem by anyone.
 
Real people and also organizations that act coherently have attainable goals with respect to their characteristic resourcefulness.
 
Despite of what they might talk. Anyone can say they are trying to save the world when what they are doing is protecting their own asses.
 
There is no State. What we have is a complex ecology of organizations, like the legion of tax-funded bureaucracies created by politicians, themselves creatures of political parties or other kinds of political machines, which are funded in many ways by their constituencies, lobbies and other political allies.
 
Each one of these organizations and individuals may declare their selfless mission statement in terms of their perceived roles in some bigger State scheme, helping society cope with some particular problem.
 
But everyone knows that's just some show. Some sort of cultural ritual.
 
What everyone is really occupied doing is in guaranteeing their own continuity and advancing their positions as players in this game.
 
There is no "big social problem" being solved by anyone. What we have is an arena of players solving the problems they need to solve in order to survive and "flourish".
 
So yes, you are right, humanity doesn't need the State to create a lawful environment where she can survive and flourish. But that's not the reason why we have political activity in the first place. 
 
The reason why politics exists is because politics are useful strategies to solve the real problems they are invoked to solve by the real political organizations, i.e. the problems of tax-funded bureaucracies, politicians and political parties, non-profits, lobbies, and all other self-aware political machines and entities trying to get ahead.
 
Have you ever heard the phrase: "Bureaucracy is increasing to meet the needs of an increasing bureaucracy" ?
 
That's it.
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z1235:
 Of course. I submit that the risk/reward ratio for the IA (initiation of aggression) option for any human is (slowly but surely) becoming prohibitively unattractive, as the superiority of VA propagates through the social norms and gets discerned by human minds. Only humans who deem IA inevitable are the ones who find its costs acceptable. Delivering IA onto a population which rejects its inevitability will be prohibitively expensive to the parasite. 
 
The thing is that whatever you call IA, it is not a fixed set of strategies.
 
The known means of aggression change as technology and other factors change.
 
And usually many new aggressive strategies remain concealed as long as its possible, since they are generally most effective in the shadows.
 
But I agree almost entirely with you that any given strategy of aggression which is effective at the time of its inception tends also to loose its competitive edge with time, once counter-measures become available and widespread.
 
The revolutionary tactics of political violence Lenin and his gangsters used to take over Russia could,  for a while, be reproduced with similar success by a bunch of other similarly inclined totalitarian thugs in Europe and elsewere. At a time the scourge of Lenin-wanabes spread like a disease. However, they would be hardly of any practical interest today given that its primal targets can rapidly identify the strategy and prepare themselves accordingly.
 
If you track record the intensity of use of any given strategy you may see their ascent, and then decline and extinction happening after a while.
 
That, by the way, also happens with non-hostile and "positive leverage" competitive strategies. Once they are known and widespread, they too loose profit margin and disappear.
 
And in high "harmony societies", the prospective profits for aggressors tend to increase since the protective measures are reduced due to the low perceived  risks of aggression given the recently recorded history.
 
So this whole net balance between aggressive and harmonious patterns of interaction is not so easy to predict, and depends on a lot of technological discoveries and other random changes in a number of factors. 
 
If, for instance, the advances in nano-robotics drone espionage, genetic engineering and eugenics, weaponized bio-agents and population control, internet surveillance, data mining and analysis, judicial activism and constitutional dismanteling, classroom and broadcast propaganda, financial disruptive targeting and banking totalitarism and many, many other police control tactics can alter this balance drastically in favor of the organizations trying to enslave you.
 
And they know, as Goethe once said, that the best slave is the one who thinks he's free. Make no mistake here. I beleive these elite organizations don't even use the "slave" word. They see us as something even less dignified. Cattle, perhaps.
 
Evil never dies. He sits there, lurking, awaitng the hour of reprisal.
 

 

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