Farm Subsidies

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Perry E. Metzger

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May 23, 1991, 6:15:55 PM5/23/91
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Year after year, Congress votes to fund our farm subsidy programs.
These programs are designed to intentionally raise the price of food.
We then have other programs, like food stamps, that are designed to
pay for the food that the poor can no longer afford because the price
has been intentionally raised. The result of this is that farmers get
government support for not working, poor people become dependant on
the government, and the taxpayer is leached for the equivalent of
several hundred billion dollars each year, not including the quantity
that ordinary citizens overpay each day for food, which must be
billions more.

Every dollar that goes into the food stamp and farm subsidy programs
is a dollar that has been drained from the economy and destroyed,
never to return.

Don't believe the hype that farmers and poor people will help the
economy somehow by spending their government handouts. You can see
that this assertion is not true with an easy pair of thought
experiments.

1. You own a buisness. Your customers come in and say "I can't afford to
buy your widgets", so you hand them money from your cash register
that they then hand back to you to pay for the widgets. Yes, you've
made a sale, but how will you now pay for the cost of making that
widget? Who paid for the materials and the labor? You did. You go
out of buisness fast if you keep handing people money to buy your
goods. The government does this to all of us on a grand scale, by
forcing us to hand other people money which they then spend. We are
all poorer as a result.

2. You have a house. You burn it down, and build a new house. You are
poorer by the amount that house cost. Even if you had insurance,
the world is poorer when you finished than when you started,
because labor and materials that went in to building that house
(paid for by the insurance company) could have been used for
something else if your original house still stood. Any fool can see
this, but some fools in congress think we become richer by paying
farmers to produce more milk than they can sell and then taking the
milk and effectively dumping it down the drain.

The federal agriculture and food stamp programs are a giant annual
potlatch where we destroy hundreds of billions of dollars of our
wealth to no good end. Luckily, our economy is strong enough that
we can withstand a beating like this year after year without the whole
country starving to death. How long can we afford to keep doing it,
though? Between the farm programs and hundreds of other programs half
of our economic output gets slurped up by the government and
misdirected each and every year.

To what end? The preservation of lots of special interests.

Ask a peanut farmer if he likes the federal quota control system on
peanuts, and he will tell you he loves it. As he should; after all,
the quota system makes him millions a year. Of course, you can't
become a peanut farmer in this country unless you already have a
license, but hey, if you do, its an easy way to make a guaranteed
buck. All similar federal subsidy and quota systems work on the same
principle. A few people are given money at the expense of all the rest
of us.

For more fun with government sponsored "protection", see Bastiat's
famous "Candlemakers Petition", a spoof in which the candlemakers of
France petition the legislature to get protection from the unfair
competition of the sun by having all windows and skylights blocked
off.

Perry

PS The second to last paragraph points out a common problem in our
system, btw. Another example is what happens when you ask an official
of the teachers union how to solve our educational problems. They will
tell you "raise teacher salaries!". This is to be expected. A paid
official of the teachers union has, as his job, the improvement of the
pay and benefits of teachers. When was the last time you saw someone
say that they were overpaid? The problem is that the interests of the
teachers are NOT the same as the interests of the students.
--
"Live Free or Die!"
For information on the Libertarian Party, call 1-800-682-1776

Michael Travers

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May 24, 1991, 1:49:28 AM5/24/91
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In article <1991May23.2...@watson.ibm.com> met...@watson.ibm.com (Perry E. Metzger) writes:

Every dollar that goes into the food stamp and farm subsidy programs
is a dollar that has been drained from the economy and destroyed,
never to return.

Unless food actually gets destroyed, this is false. The dollar is
simply redistributed.

Don't believe the hype that farmers and poor people will help the
economy somehow by spending their government handouts. You can see
that this assertion is not true with an easy pair of thought
experiments.

1. You own a buisness. Your customers come in and say "I can't afford to
buy your widgets", so you hand them money from your cash register

that they then hand back to you to pay for the widgets...

2. You have a house. You burn it down, and build a new house.

Of course, neither of these analogies is valid. The second is
completely off the mark, since real goods are not being destroyed by
government redistribution. (in fact, I would guess that subsidies
conserve natural resources (soil nutrients)).

The first one is not much better. In the real economy, the
redistribution is not from the business to the customer, but from
society as a whole (taxpayers, to be precise) to both producers (ag
subsidies) and to consumers (food stamps). If this was all there was
in the system, it might seem ridiculous, but in fact all of these
transactions have to exist within a global economy. In that case it
could be perfectly plausible to subsidize both producers and
consumers.

To what end? The preservation of lots of special interests.

Perhaps. Your stand may or may not have merit, but your arguments (I
use the term loosely) are idiotic. I have no particular stand on farm
subsidies, but food stamps are an obvious win over people starving in
the streets.

Miron Cuperman

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May 24, 1991, 4:24:03 AM5/24/91
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m...@debussy.media-lab.media.mit.edu (Michael Travers) writes:

>Unless food actually gets destroyed, this is false. The dollar is
>simply redistributed.

This is incorrect. Lets assume I make a Return On Investment of 40% and
another person makes a ROI of 10%. If you tax me for $10000 and give
it to that person, the net loss is $3000. This is even worse for
unemployment insurance or food stamps where the ROI of the recipient
may be negative.

>The first one is not much better. In the real economy, the
>redistribution is not from the business to the customer, but from
>society as a whole (taxpayers, to be precise) to both producers (ag
>subsidies) and to consumers (food stamps).

This is BS. Farmers produce stuff that people don't want because
subsidies distort the market. When you look at income taxes, they are
'progressive'. They explicitly target productive people and benefit
unproductive people. Same for corporate taxes. Allocation of resources
between whole industries is distorted because of regulation. Misallocation
means exactly one thing -- waste.

>Perhaps. Your stand may or may not have merit, but your arguments (I
>use the term loosely) are idiotic.

You are the idiot.

And I won't even bother talking about the morality of redestributing since
the effort will surely be wasted on you.

--
By Miron Cuperman <mi...@cs.sfu.ca>

"I think that one of the most serious failures of humanity, on its way up to
and down from what was civilization, to the state we are in now, is that
somewhere along the way, ignorance and stupidity stopped being Capital
offenses."
- Paul Robinson, April 14, 1991

Cameron Laird

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May 24, 1991, 9:48:39 AM5/24/91
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In article <1991May23.2...@watson.ibm.com> met...@watson.ibm.com (Perry E. Metzger) writes:
>Year after year, Congress votes to fund our farm subsidy programs.
>These programs are designed to intentionally raise the price of food.
>We then have other programs, like food stamps, that are designed to
>pay for the food that the poor can no longer afford because the price
>has been intentionally raised. The result of this is that farmers get
>government support for not working, poor people become dependant on
>the government, and the taxpayer is leached for the equivalent of
>several hundred billion dollars each year, not including the quantity
>that ordinary citizens overpay each day for food, which must be
>billions more.
.
.
.
Those are slightly different figures than the ones I
have. More-or-less direct USDA payments typically run
in the tens of billions of dollars a year; food stamps
are less. Reductions in consumer surplus total less
also, although for some commodities, such as sugar,
this dominates payments to producers.

I didn't understand the aim of your article. As a
polemic against farm programs, I read nothing new in
it; neither was there any action item for NETreaders.

My opposition to farm programs is as strong as most
anyone's.
--

Cameron Laird +1 713-579-4613
c...@lgc.com (cl%lgc...@uunet.uu.net) +1 713-996-8546

martin.brilliant

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May 24, 1991, 9:58:45 AM5/24/91
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From article <1991May23.2...@watson.ibm.com>, by met...@watson.ibm.com (Perry E. Metzger):
> .... Another example is what happens when you ask an official

> of the teachers union how to solve our educational problems. They will
> tell you "raise teacher salaries!". This is to be expected. A paid
> official of the teachers union has, as his job, the improvement of the
> pay and benefits of teachers. When was the last time you saw someone
> say that they were overpaid? The problem is that the interests of the
> teachers are NOT the same as the interests of the students.

That's part of the perception of the problem. Actually, conditions in
the teaching profession are so bad that there are two kinds of
teachers: (a) those who couldn't get work anywhere else, and (b) those
who teach because they like it, and whose interests are in fact the
same as those of the students.

Teachers are not clerks. Teaching requires professional training -
not that all teacher's colleges actually provide that training, but
that's another part of the same problem. What other profession
provides no offices for its members (yes, a teacher who spends all day
in a home room has a desk, but high school teachers generally don't).
What other profession licenses its members the instant they get their
degree, with less than a year of professional experience? What other
profession pays so low? What other profession depends on the bounty
of politicians and taxpayers - with the option of earning even less in
a private enterprise, in exchange for better working conditions?

Marty
ma...@hoqax.att.com hoqax!marty
Martin B. Brilliant (Winnertech Corporation)

Roar Larsen

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May 24, 1991, 8:18:16 AM5/24/91
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In article <MT.91May...@debussy.media-lab.media.mit.edu>
m...@debussy.media-lab.media.mit.edu (Michael Travers) writes:

> In the real economy, the
> redistribution is not from the business to the customer, but from
> society as a whole (taxpayers, to be precise) to both producers (ag
> subsidies) and to consumers (food stamps). If this was all there was

> in the system, it might seem ridiculous, but in fact...

That's just the point - it IS ridiculous!!

Roar Larsen,
Trondheim, Norway

Chris Holt

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May 24, 1991, 2:43:10 PM5/24/91
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met...@watson.ibm.com (Perry E. Metzger) writes:

[as a throwaway comment]

> The problem is that the interests of the
>teachers are NOT the same as the interests of the students.

My gahd! There must be something wrong! I actually agree
with Perry Metzger, for once. But the interesting question
is, how can we try to ensure that their interests do coincide?

The idealistic approach: Pay teachers enough, and leave it
to their altruism. Results: Partially successful. Many
teachers are quite altruistic, but some are lazy enough that
they need to be poked every now and then.

The free market approach: Collect statistics on how well
students do, and (a) pay teachers according to those results,
or (b) allow parents to shop around for teachers with the
best results. Results: Mixed. Teachers end up "teaching
to the test", which seems to result in rote memorization
of a handful of techniques, rather than genuine understanding.
The reason is that we don't know how to measure such things
very well qualitatively, much less quantitatively. [See
thread on comp.soft-eng about software metrics for a similar
problem.] Also, the effort required of parents to "shop"
is generally prohibitive.

The personal approach: Depend on parents to teach their
children. Results: Okay for well-motivated parents, up
to certain levels of individual expertise; hopeless for
universal provision, and technical fields outside the
parents' experiences.

The let-it-be approach: Do nothing. Currently practiced
in the US, overall (from what I gather). Results: Appalling.

The hands-on approach: Pay teachers less and require them
to spend ever-increasing amounts of time on administration.
Currently practiced in the UK. Results: Appalling.

The discipline approach: Give teachers the power to enforce
strict attention in an environment of conformity. Currently
practiced in Japan (from what I gather). Results: Good for
some things, but leads to (a) pressure, as reflected in
suicides; and (b) an unwillingness to stand out and be
different in later life.

There are of course many other approaches; but: how can
we provide universal education, necessitating different
levels and courses for different people, and ensure that
teachers are trying to act in the interests of the students?

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Chris...@newcastle.ac.uk Computing Lab, U of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
"They have been at a great feast of languages, and stolen the scraps." - WS

James P. H. Fuller

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May 24, 1991, 1:32:51 PM5/24/91
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met...@watson.ibm.com (Perry E. Metzger) writes:


> Every dollar that goes into the food stamp and farm subsidy programs
> is a dollar that has been drained from the economy and destroyed,
> never to return.

Very wrong. The moment the farmer or food-stamp recipient *spends*
one of those dollars, it just returned to the economy. For these dollars
to be "drained from the economy and destroyed, never to return" the
ones on the receiving end of the handouts would have to burn them or bury
them in a hole and never spend them. That would in fact be *good*, from
your point of view, because dollars would now be scarcer and the dollars
you hold would consequently be worth more. But don't count on it; those
dollars *will* return to the economy -- in the case if the food-stamp-users,
probably the same day they go out. 'Course, they won't return to *you*,
which I imagine is your real beef.


> Don't believe the hype that farmers and poor people will help the
> economy somehow by spending their government handouts. You can see
> that this assertion is not true with an easy pair of thought
> experiments.
>
> 1. You own a buisness. Your customers come in and say "I can't afford to
> buy your widgets", so you hand them money from your cash register
> that they then hand back to you to pay for the widgets. Yes, you've
> made a sale, but how will you now pay for the cost of making that
> widget? Who paid for the materials and the labor? You did. You go
> out of buisness fast if you keep handing people money to buy your
> goods. The government does this to all of us on a grand scale, by
> forcing us to hand other people money which they then spend. We are
> all poorer as a result.

Nope. *You* are poorer; *they* are richer. All that has happened
is that something has been diverted from you to somebody else by an exer-
cise of government power. The black ink in their ledger balances the red
ink in yours, and we are all -- considered as a whole -- neither poorer
nor richer.
Whether this is a good thing or not is of course debatable (and hotly
debated.) I myself think it is a very poor system. But let's get the de-
tails straight before we argue about consequences.


crom2 Athens GA Public Access Unix | i486 AT, 16mb RAM, 600mb online
Molecular Biology | AT&T Unix System V release 3.2
Population Biology | Tbit PEP 19200bps V.32 V.42/V.42bis
Ecological Modeling | admin: James P. H. Fuller
Bionet/Usenet/cnews/nn | {jim,root}%cr...@nstar.rn.com

Thant Tessman

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May 24, 1991, 4:29:11 PM5/24/91
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A very thorough (and almost overtly non-idealogical) treatment of the
public education system is the book _Privatization and Educational Choice_
by Myron Lieberman. It's main purpose is to discuss the advantages and
disadvantages of a broad spectrum of privatization options in education
including contracting, vouchers, load shedding (complete privatization of
both service and funding), franchising, subsidies to nongovernmental
suppliers, voluntary service, sale of government assets, construction or
purchase of public facilities with leaseback arrangements.

Along the way, the book uncovers some amazing information about
state-mandated inefficiencies in the public education system. For example:

If a district wants to suspend a teacher for as little as one day, the
procedure that must be followed is the same as for firing a tenured
teacher. The district and the employee each appoint someone to a
three-member commission to conduct a hearing on the suspension. (The
third member is a state-appointed hearing examiner.) If the school
district loses, it must pay any compensation lost by the employee and
the employee's hearing expenses as well. Not surprisingly, only about
one teacher in 10,000 is suspended annually in California.


Many people could spent plenty of time pointing out flaws like this one.
They could also spend much more time trying to actually fix (through the
political process) each of these problems individually. However, as
Lieberman writes:

Clearly, our existing system of education is inadequate protection
against deterioration; we already have it. Of course, no system can
guarantee good results in all cases and situation, but what will
prevent slippage if impovements are made?

Conventional approaches have no answer to this question because they
have never raised it. What is needed, however, is an educational
system that will generate continuous improvement, either in educational
outcomes or in our efficincy in achieving them. As education alyst Ted
Kolderie has suggested, the basic issue is not how to improve the
educational system; it is how to develop a system that seeks
improvement.

Thus begins his analysis of various options and degrees of privatization.
It is hard, however, to avoid government intervention as the common theme
in the problems of education. For example, on the hidden costs of public
education:

Some groups of public employees (police, firefighters, teachers) are
very influential politically. Public officials may foster political
support from these groups by approbing excessive pension benefits for
them. As such benefits do not raise taxes immediately, they are often
approved without protest or even the knowledge of most taxpayers. By
the time the excessive nature of the pension benefits becomes widely
known, the public officials who voted for them have left public
service, thereby avoiding complete accountablility for their actions.

And:

Recent developments in New York illustrate how and why the neglect of
depreciation results in significant underestimates of the costs of
public education. During 1986-87, the 'New York Times' published
several articles on the deplorable physical condition of New York City
schools. These articles portrayed an appalling picture of
deterioration and neglect. The articles asserted or quoted school
officials as stating:

1. Many school buildings had not been painted in twenty years.

2. Holes in some classroom floors were large enough for students to
fall through.

3. A school visited by Mayor Ed Koch had broken window shades, peeling
paint and plaster, and no soap or paper for teachers or students.

4. Almost ten years were required to build a school; only one new
school had been built from 1975 to 1987.

5. The schedule for painting schools was once every thirty-three years.

6. Most requests for repairs (for example, for broken windows) went
unheeded for years unless the repairs were deemed an emergency.

7. The only way to have maintenance work done was to have a powerful
political leader visit the school.

How could such a situation arise? One reason is the time perspective
of political leaders. Inevitably, their major concerns are focused on
the next election or on their political careers generally. This
generates enormous pressure to sacrifice long-range interests for
immediate political advantage. In practical terms, it results in a
political tendency to overspend on employee benefits and underspend on
captal equipment and maintenance for public facilites. The benefits
have an active, politically potent constituency; maintenance has only a
diffuse public constituency that is unlikely to be effective in the
budgetary process.

The politics of the New York City situation illustrate this point with
unmistakable clarity. In 1982 Mario Cuomo barely defeated Edward Koch
for the Democratic nomination for governor of New York. By all
accounts, the all-out support of Albert Shanker, president of both the
United Federation of Teachers in New York City and the American
Federation of Teachers, was a critical factor in Cuomo's victory in the
primary and in the general election for governor.

In July 1986 New York enacted special state aid legislation for the New
York City schools. The legislation provided $31 million in state aid.
It specified, however - over the objections of Mayor Koch and the New
York City Board of Education - that the aid could be used *only* for
teacher salaries. In view of the fact that the deterioration of the
city's public school facilities had been widely known for years, it
would be difficult to characterize the restriction as anything but a
political payoff.

To some it may not seem unreasonable that the teachers at least got a
raise. This attitude deserves reconsideration. From _Capitalism and
Freedom_ by Milton Friedman:

It is widely urged that the great need in schooling is more money to
build more facilities and to pay higher salaries to teachers in order
to attract better teachers. This seems a false diagnosis. The amount
of money spent on schooling has been rising at an extraordinarily high
rate, far faster than our total income. Teachers' salaries have been
rising far faster than returns in comparable occupations. The problem
is not primarily that we are spending too little money - though we may
be - but that we are getting so little per dollar spent.

[...]

With respect to teacher's salaries, the major problem is not that they
are too low on the average - they may well be too high on the average -
but that they are too uniform and rigid. Poor teachers are grossly
overpaid and good teachers grossly underpaid. Salary schedules tend to
be uniform and determined far more by seniority, degrees received, and
teaching certificates acquired than by merit. This, too, is largely a
result of the present system of governmental administration of schools
and becomes more serious as the unit over which governmental control
is exercized becomes larger. Indeed, this very fact is a major reason
why professional eduational organizations so strongly favor broadening
the unit - from the local school district to the state, from the state
to the federal government. In any bureaucratic, essentially
civil-service organization, standard salary scales are almost
inevitable; it is next to impossible to simulate competition capable
of providing wide differences in salaries according to merit. The
educators, which means the teachers themselves, come to exercise
primary control. The parent or local community comes to exercise
little control. In any area, whether it be carpentry or plumbing or
teaching, the majority of workers favor standard salary scales and
oppose merit differentials, for the obvious reason that specially
talented are always few. This is a special case of the general
tendency for people to seek to collude to fix prices, whether through
unions or industrial monopolies. But collusive agreements will
generally be destroyed by competition unless the government enforces
them, or at least renders them considerable support.

From Lieberman:

[...] When we sell our own services, we may welcome monopoly status
for ourselves, but not for our vendors. Nevertheless, as buyers the
states have established a monopoly (public schools) and in effect buy
educational services only from the state-created monopoly. To be
sure, its supporters contend that there are valid reasons why public
education is an exception to the general rule. Yet the burden of proof
is on them. On its face, it appears to be an inefficient way to
procure educational services.

Again from Lieberman:

All levels of government come under pressure to spend (obligate) their
funds by a certain date or lose them. That is, funds are appropriated
for expenses, usually on a fiscal year basis. If a government agency
approaches the end of the fiscal year with excess funds, there is
strong and usually irresistible pressure to spend the money so that it
dies not revert to the general fund or to another department that may
not have been so efficient.

Lieberman's book is mostly devoted to discussing arguments for and against
specific forms of privatization. I don't want to go too deeply into them
here, (I've spent far too much time on this already,) but I want to include
a specific defense of an attack on privatization that I have come across
more than once:

The notion that parents will not choose schools wisely is also based on
the anticipated role of advertising under voucher plans. Opponents
assert that vouchers will lead to false and exaggerated advertising
about what schools can do for students. The harmful consequences would
be much greater than result from false advertising for toothpaste or
detergents or gasoline.

In assessing this criticism, it is essential to avoid a double standard
of judgement. We must avoid the assumption that parents are adequately
informed about the educational performance of their children or the
public schools they attend. For instance, public school leaders often
complain about comarisons that overlook the selective nature of private
schools. They are largely silent, however, about the fact that public
schools often manipulate test data in order to present school
performance in a faorable way. For example, school districts have
raised average test scores by deliberately failing to require low
achievers to take the tests. In some cases where state funds are based
on average test scores, the practice has ben used to secure additional
funds. Indeed, it can plausibly be argued that public school officials
have misled the public more on this issue than private schools have
ever done. The latter are more the beneficiaries than the makers of
public attitudes on the issue.

[...]

Furthermore, public school districts and organizations sponsor an
endless stream of news releases and press conferences. These efforts
to influence public opinion, usually in the contex of larger
appropriations for public education, are as biased as advertisements.
Whether or not we label these efforts "public relations,"
"advertising," or "lobbying" is not so important. What is important is
the recognition that statements made to generate political and
financial support for public schools are not necessarily more accurate
than commercial advertising. Indeed, since commercial advertising is
or can be regulated in ways that political statements cannot be, the
commercial approach might result in greater public sophistication about
educational issues. I do not assert this would be the case, but I see
no reason to rule it out either.

We must also consider the probability that educational advisory
services would emerge if choice of school emerges as a widespread
practical issue. Thousands of companies sell advice on investments,
plant location, travel, family relationships, legal problems, and so
on. A large number of publications are also devoted to giving advice,
including advice on choosing a college. Such firms and publications do
not flourish in education below the colledge level because there is a
very limited market for them. With vouchers, a much larger market
would probably emerge. As a matter fo fact, college counseling for
high school students is laready a small but growing private industry.
Some private sector counselors are former high school guidance
counselors seeking to capitalize on parent dissatisfaction wiht public
school counseling services.

It might be noticed that although most of these arguments are against the
government providing education, they are not necessarily (for the most
part) arguments against the government paying for them. (In fact, at the
time he wrote _Capitalism and Freedom_, Milton Friedman wasn't necesarily
against government funding of education. Later, when he wrote _Free to
Choose_ he had rejected compulsory and government financed education.)

I have deliberately avoided talking about that, not because there aren't
any good objections, (there are,) but that even the most devout defender of
government supported education should admit that the view that government
should pay for a service doesn't automatically lead to the conclusion that
government should *provide* that service. (People who recieve food stamps
redeem them at private markets.) Even with that concession, libertarians
acknowledge this as a step forward.

For more info, the books I've mentioned or quoted from are very good.

thant

Michael Travers

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May 24, 1991, 6:44:47 PM5/24/91
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In article <27...@fornax.UUCP> mi...@fornax.UUCP (Miron Cuperman) writes:

m...@debussy.media-lab.media.mit.edu (Michael Travers) writes:

>Unless food actually gets destroyed, this is false. The dollar is
>simply redistributed.

This is incorrect. Lets assume I make a Return On Investment of 40% and
another person makes a ROI of 10%. If you tax me for $10000 and give
it to that person, the net loss is $3000. This is even worse for
unemployment insurance or food stamps where the ROI of the recipient
may be negative.

Metzger claimed that every dollar redistributed was "destroyed", not
that it was put to less productive use.

>The first one is not much better. In the real economy, the
>redistribution is not from the business to the customer, but from
>society as a whole (taxpayers, to be precise) to both producers (ag
>subsidies) and to consumers (food stamps).

This is BS. Farmers produce stuff that people don't want because
subsidies distort the market.

True, perhaps, but irrelevant. We're talking about the invalidity of
Metzger's arguments, not about whether farm subsidies make economic
sense or not.

When you look at income taxes, they are
'progressive'. They explicitly target productive people and benefit
unproductive people.

No, they target people who make more money.

>Perhaps. Your stand may or may not have merit, but your arguments (I
>use the term loosely) are idiotic.

You are the idiot.

I'm floored by your mastery of rhetoric.

And I won't even bother talking about the morality of redestributing since
the effort will surely be wasted on you.

Yes it would.

Joe Huffman

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May 24, 1991, 4:27:46 PM5/24/91
to
met...@watson.ibm.com (Perry E. Metzger) writes:

>Year after year, Congress votes to fund our farm subsidy programs.
>These programs are designed to intentionally raise the price of food.

I can't speak for all the farm programs but I can for the wheat and barley
programs. I have heard second hand through a non-farmer that something
similar to what you discripe was the case with the mint crops but I have
not researched it.

For the wheat and barley the government has a 'target price' that is defined
such that a 'fair profit' would be achieved by an 'average' farmer. If the
average free market price over a certain time period is below the target
price then the government makes up the difference. Provided that the
farmer obeys all the government restrictions on production limits, soil
conservation, etc. It does nothing (that I can see) to raise the price of
food to the customer. The farmer is NOT paid to remain idle. The payment is
only pays the difference between 'fair price' and 'market price' on product
produced. Depending on the market price it may be advantagous for the
farmer to go to maximum production at a lower price than get a higher price
for lower production. But since that decision must be made months before
the sale can be made it is risky to abandon the farm program unless the
market price quite high and is projected to stay that way (price predictions
are far less accurate than weather predictions).

>We then have other programs, like food stamps, that are designed to
>pay for the food that the poor can no longer afford because the price
>has been intentionally raised. The result of this is that farmers get
>government support for not working, poor people become dependant on
>the government, and the taxpayer is leached for the equivalent of
>several hundred billion dollars each year, not including the quantity
>that ordinary citizens overpay each day for food, which must be
>billions more.

[...similar stuff deleted...]

You position is based on faulty information or assumptions (at least for
wheat and barley) and as a result your conclusions also in error.
--
j...@proto.com

Raul Rockwell

unread,
May 24, 1991, 11:37:22 PM5/24/91
to
Perry E. Metzger:

Every dollar that goes into the food stamp and farm subsidy
programs is a dollar that has been drained from the economy and
destroyed, never to return.

Michael Travers:


Unless food actually gets destroyed, this is false. The dollar is
simply redistributed.

Hey, neat! Mind if I redistribute some of your dollars? I'm sure
you'll be happy to know that the dollars will not be destroyed :-)

[further comments along the line of "you're wrong, and you're comments
are idiotic" elided.]

Economics: the study of how to get enough to eat.

Raul Rockwell

Raul Rockwell

unread,
May 24, 1991, 11:45:46 PM5/24/91
to
Perry E. Metzger:

> Every dollar that goes into the food stamp and farm subsidy
> programs is a dollar that has been drained from the economy and
> destroyed, never to return.

James P. H. Fuller:


Very wrong. The moment the farmer or food-stamp recipient
*spends* one of those dollars, it just returned to the economy.

Ooooooo, so that's how it works. Why, I ought to set up a printing
press right now, and print up a whole BUNCH of dollars. Just think of
the BENEFITS to the economy when I spend them.

Why, I'll bet I could solve lots of economic problems that way!

Raul Rockwell

Raul Rockwell

unread,
May 24, 1991, 11:59:44 PM5/24/91
to
Perry E. Metzger:

>Year after year, Congress votes to fund our farm subsidy programs.
>These programs are designed to intentionally raise the price of food.

Joe Huffman:


For the wheat and barley the government has a 'target price' that
is defined such that a 'fair profit' would be achieved by an
'average' farmer. If the average free market price over a certain
time period is below the target price then the government makes up
the difference.

You position is based on faulty information or assumptions (at least for


wheat and barley) and as a result your conclusions also in error.

Well now, this one almost makes sense. I wonder what would happen if
I take it apart...

I dunno, do you think Joe's talking about the selling price, or the
asking price? Clearly, it can't be the selling price, because he's
just stated that the government makes up the difference if the price
gets to low.

So, obviously we're talking about the purchase price! So, I get paid
600 dollars, the government takes 200, and that leaves me with 400
which I can conveniently spend on all this "low cost" food. Why, I
can buy wheat bread for less than a dollar!!

Isn't that special.

Raul Rockwell

mailhost

unread,
May 24, 1991, 8:29:51 PM5/24/91
to
From article <MT.91May...@debussy.media-lab.media.mit.edu>, by m...@debussy.media-lab.media.mit.edu (Michael Travers):

> In article <1991May23.2...@watson.ibm.com> met...@watson.ibm.com (Perry E. Metzger) writes:
>
> Every dollar that goes into the food stamp and farm subsidy programs
> is a dollar that has been drained from the economy and destroyed,
> never to return.
>
> Unless food actually gets destroyed, this is false. The dollar is
> simply redistributed.

But redistribution system itself destroys wealth - a large part of
your tax dollars go to pay people (government employees) who would
otherwise be creating wealth. There is not a fixed amount of
wealth in the world, it must be created.

> I have no particular stand on farm
> subsidies, but food stamps are an obvious win over people starving in
> the streets.

It is poor people who need a productive society the most.

Mark B. Kaminsky mkam...@cvbnet.prime.com
Computervision/Prime Computer, Bedford, Massachusetts, USA

John Otto

unread,
May 25, 1991, 12:44:04 AM5/25/91
to
In article <1991May24....@newcastle.ac.uk>, Chris...@newcastle.ac.uk (Chris Holt) writes...

>met...@watson.ibm.com (Perry E. Metzger) writes:
>
>[as a throwaway comment]
>
>> The problem is that the interests of the
>>teachers are NOT the same as the interests of the students.

>The let-it-be approach: Do nothing. Currently practiced


>in the US, overall (from what I gather). Results: Appalling.

What I've seen in the US over the last 4 decades is the try a little of
everything approach, changing approaches as frequently as a new one can be
found, without checking how the last one has worked.

>The hands-on approach: Pay teachers less and require them
>to spend ever-increasing amounts of time on administration.
>Currently practiced in the UK. Results: Appalling.

I've seen this one here as well. Have you noticed how the rewards
structure is set up with seniority and bean-counting bringing higher
compensation than teaching success?

John Otto

unread,
May 25, 1991, 12:49:03 AM5/25/91
to
In article <1991May24.1...@crom2.uucp>, j...@crom2.uucp (James P. H. Fuller) writes...

>met...@watson.ibm.com (Perry E. Metzger) writes:

>> Every dollar that goes into the food stamp and farm subsidy programs
>> is a dollar that has been drained from the economy and destroyed,
>> never to return.

> Very wrong. The moment the farmer or food-stamp recipient *spends*
>one of those dollars, it just returned to the economy. For these dollars
>to be "drained from the economy and destroyed, never to return" the
>ones on the receiving end of the handouts would have to burn them or bury
>them in a hole and never spend them. That would in fact be *good*, from

You're leaving out the differentials in the quality and quantity
productivity between individuals. You are also leaving out the fact that
every trade is a positive sum transaction. Net value to both parties
increases (barring fraud).

>> Don't believe the hype that farmers and poor people will help the
>> economy somehow by spending their government handouts. You can see
>> that this assertion is not true with an easy pair of thought
>> experiments.

> Nope. *You* are poorer; *they* are richer. All that has happened


>is that something has been diverted from you to somebody else by an exer-
>cise of government power. The black ink in their ledger balances the red
>ink in yours, and we are all -- considered as a whole -- neither poorer
>nor richer.

Nope. We're both poorer because I could have used the resources I lost to
creating something more. That something more will now never exist. The
economy (all its participants) is poorer.

John Otto

unread,
May 25, 1991, 1:01:47 AM5/25/91
to
In article <1991May24.2...@proto.com>, j...@proto.com (Joe Huffman) writes...

>met...@watson.ibm.com (Perry E. Metzger) writes:
>
>>Year after year, Congress votes to fund our farm subsidy programs.
>>These programs are designed to intentionally raise the price of food.

>For the wheat and barley the government has a 'target price' that is defined


>such that a 'fair profit' would be achieved by an 'average' farmer. If the
>average free market price over a certain time period is below the target
>price then the government makes up the difference. Provided that the
>farmer obeys all the government restrictions on production limits, soil
>conservation, etc. It does nothing (that I can see) to raise the price of
>food to the customer. The farmer is NOT paid to remain idle. The payment is
>only pays the difference between 'fair price' and 'market price' on product
>produced. Depending on the market price it may be advantagous for the
>farmer to go to maximum production at a lower price than get a higher price
>for lower production. But since that decision must be made months before
>the sale can be made it is risky to abandon the farm program unless the
>market price quite high and is projected to stay that way (price predictions
>are far less accurate than weather predictions).

The "market price" is THE "fair price". That's what is the matter with the
farm programs. Note your comment that if the farmer goes through the
proper motions, his profit or price will be guaranteed. Just as with the
discussion of teachers, this does nothing (except by accident) to encourage
farmers to do a good job. It does raise the price, because the farmers
will have a tendency to opt out in the very best of years (I agree, it's
very unpredictable). In the worst years, they have their prices boosted.
The farmer is not peid to remain idle; he is paid to be less efficiently
productive than he could be.

Michael Travers

unread,
May 25, 1991, 3:04:56 AM5/25/91
to
In article <ROCKWELL.91...@socrates.umd.edu> rock...@socrates.umd.edu (Raul Rockwell) writes:

Perry E. Metzger:
Every dollar that goes into the food stamp and farm subsidy
programs is a dollar that has been drained from the economy and
destroyed, never to return.

Michael Travers:
Unless food actually gets destroyed, this is false. The dollar is
simply redistributed.

Hey, neat! Mind if I redistribute some of your dollars? I'm sure
you'll be happy to know that the dollars will not be destroyed :-)

Can people really be so incapable of following an argument?

Let's try it again: Redistribution does not remove money from the
economy. Redistribution moves money from one participant to another.
Since both of those participants are part of the economy, the total
amount of money doesn't change. This is a completely different
question from whether redistribution is moral or whether it increases
net utility or whatever. But you have to clear away the basic
falsehoods before you can even begin to think about the real issues.

Help prevent thought -- join the Libertarian party.

Michael Travers

unread,
May 25, 1991, 3:14:18 AM5/25/91
to
In article <15...@cvbnetPrime.COM> mkam...@cvbnet.prime.com (mailhost) writes:

From article <MT.91May...@debussy.media-lab.media.mit.edu>, by m...@debussy.media-lab.media.mit.edu (Michael Travers):
> In article <1991May23.2...@watson.ibm.com> met...@watson.ibm.com (Perry E. Metzger) writes:
>
> Every dollar that goes into the food stamp and farm subsidy programs
> is a dollar that has been drained from the economy and destroyed,
> never to return.
>
> Unless food actually gets destroyed, this is false. The dollar is
> simply redistributed.

But redistribution system itself destroys wealth - a large part of
your tax dollars go to pay people (government employees) who would
otherwise be creating wealth. There is not a fixed amount of
wealth in the world, it must be created.

Funny, you seem to think that the only things that count as wealth are
the barcoded products of corporations. When the government builds a
road, it creates wealth. When it prevents pollution, it preserves
wealth. When it enacts a minimum wage or otherwise interferes with
the market, it tries to preserve the hard-to-measure wealth of humane
community standards that capitalism tends to roll over.

This is not to imply that I am a big fan of the way that governments
do things, but I definitly DO believe there is wealth that cannot be
smoothly integrated into the market economy, and unfortunately
government is the major way of dealing with the issues this raises.

> I have no particular stand on farm
> subsidies, but food stamps are an obvious win over people starving in
> the streets.

It is poor people who need a productive society the most.

Another indication that you are confused by false dichotomies.

Raul Rockwell

unread,
May 25, 1991, 11:11:07 AM5/25/91
to
Me: Mind if I redistribute some of your dollars? I'm sure you'll be

happy to know that the dollars will not be destroyed :-)

Michael Travers:


Can people really be so incapable of following an argument?

Let's try it again: Redistribution does not remove money from the
economy.

Does not remove the physical pieces of paper? Is that what you think
dollars are?

Redistribution moves money from one participant to another.
Since both of those participants are part of the economy, the total
amount of money doesn't change.

That depends incredibly on your basic assumptions and definitions.
You seem to be using the term money as shorthand for "money of
account" -- please do not assume that that is all there is to the
topic. Money is a system used for keeping track of property, it is
quite appropriate to speak of money being "destroyed" when the
property is devalued.

This is a completely different question from whether redistribution
is moral or whether it increases net utility or whatever. But you
have to clear away the basic falsehoods before you can even begin
to think about the real issues.

The basic falsehood might be that U.S. dollars have any existence
outside of entries in a set of books in the Federal Reserve Bank.

But one of the real issues is that if you don't have enough money, you
are a criminal (vagrant, tresspasser, tax evader, etc.). Exchanging
personal property without paying taxes is a crime (in the legal
sense). With real property it's even worse -- you can't even own real
property without paying taxes.

Oh, isn't that what you meant by a real issue? So sorry...

Help prevent thought -- join the Libertarian party.

Uh oh, Mikey says you can not think if you're a libertarian. Guess
you'd better not even think about joining their party... At the very
least you'll need to get a certificate from Mr. Travers saying that
you've cleared away "the basic falsehoods" before you can even begin


to think about the real issues.

Raul Rockwell

Russell Turpin

unread,
May 25, 1991, 11:19:10 AM5/25/91
to
-----
In article <1991May24....@newcastle.ac.uk> Chris...@newcastle.ac.uk (Chris Holt) writes:
> ... Teachers end up "teaching to the test", which seems to

> result in rote memorization of a handful of techniques,
> rather than genuine understanding. The reason is that we
> don't know how to measure such things very well qualitatively,
> much less quantitatively. ...

I disagree. For many of the important things, we do know how to
qualitatively measure performance. There is nothing wrong with
teaching to the test. The problem lies in tests that don't tell
much, but which are broadly used because they are cheap.

Permit me to focus on a single subject. One of the more
important goals of education is to teach writing, in the broad
sense, ie, how to marshal facts, organize them into a logical
fashion, and then present them clearly. For millenia, teachers
have known how to test this: one requires the student to write an
essay. When it was common for primary and secondary teachers
themselves to write well and to recognize good writing, there
were surprising objective standards in judging essays. Given an
essay, teachers would agree on what its faults were, and given
two of different quality, they would agree which was the better.
This made it possible to organize a group of readers, discuss
the scale that was to be applied, and multiply grade a large
number of essays for the purpose of ranking them. While minor
differences in the final results meant little, the overall
separation of the essays into categories (poor, fair, good, and
excellent) was objective and meaningful. (For rewarding
scholarships, the graders would spend more time on rank ordering
those essays in the excellent category.)

There was a time when this was actually done. Teachers would
teach to this kind of test, and would take appropriate pride in
their students who scored well on national exams.

Similarly, one can design meaningful tests for other subjects.
(Mr Rubin, how do math professors view students applying to
graduate school who have scored high in the Putnam exam?) There
is no theoretical problem in creating a testing system so that
teachers who teach to the tests are also educating students. The
problems are practical, primarily, that such a system is
expensive. Ranking thousands of essays requires thousands of
person-hours on the part of discerning readers. In contrast, a
thousand multiple choice tests can be graded by a machine in a
few minutes. But when teachers teach to this latter test, those
of us concerned with education are left with queasy puzzlement
about whether the important matter is being taught.

If George Bush were sincere in his desires to be the education
President, and assuming he had the vaguest idea of what is needed
in our education system, he would institute and fund a series of
national exams that measure well the important things students
need to learn. (ETS would complain that they were being ambushed
by a public organization, but they have for too many years
profited from public schools with poor standards.)

Russell

Mikey

unread,
May 25, 1991, 11:25:33 AM5/25/91
to

>Results: Mixed. Teachers end up "teaching
>to the test", which seems to result in rote memorization
>of a handful of techniques, rather than genuine understanding.
>The reason is that we don't know how to measure such things
>very well qualitatively, much less quantitatively. [See
>thread on comp.soft-eng about software metrics for a similar
>problem.] Also, the effort required of parents to "shop"
>is generally prohibitive.

"Teaching to the test" is probably a fairly good description of what
happens in Japan. Judging by Japan's performance economically, I think
it is fair to say their educational system is wildly successful.

I do not believe that "teaching to the test" is worth avoiding at all
costs. All education seems to involve trying to teach a particular
curriculum ("teaching to the curriculum?"). The tests are designed to
measure whether that curriculum has been taught to successfully. The
tests are almost certainly not perfect. But they might be better than
all real alternatives.

In terms of the current babble about teaching self-esteem: I have found
it quite satisfying to be taught and then to have done well on tests. I
think I got a better education than most Americans now get. This may be
the best solution available, and it might actually be quite good.

Mikey

--
My situation is hopeless, wen...@ee.rochester.edu
but not serious. weng@uordbv (bitnet)
ur-valhalla!wengler

John Otto

unread,
May 25, 1991, 4:27:06 PM5/25/91
to
In article <MT.91May...@cecelia.media-lab.media.mit.edu>, m...@cecelia.media-lab.media.mit.edu (Michael Travers) writes...

>In article <15...@cvbnetPrime.COM> mkam...@cvbnet.prime.com (mailhost) writes:
>
> From article <MT.91May...@debussy.media-lab.media.mit.edu>, by m...@debussy.media-lab.media.mit.edu (Michael Travers):
> > In article <1991May23.2...@watson.ibm.com> met...@watson.ibm.com (Perry E. Metzger) writes:
> >
> > Every dollar that goes into the food stamp and farm subsidy programs
> > is a dollar that has been drained from the economy and destroyed,
> > never to return.

>Funny, you seem to think that the only things that count as wealth are


>the barcoded products of corporations. When the government builds a
>road, it creates wealth. When it prevents pollution, it preserves
>wealth. When it enacts a minimum wage or otherwise interferes with
>the market, it tries to preserve the hard-to-measure wealth of humane
>community standards that capitalism tends to roll over.

When it takes money to pay the road builders, it takes it from what the
people have selected as most valuable and spends it on something less
valuable. That is how the wealth is destroyed. So, when a road is built,
x amount of wealth is destroyed and y amount is created, where y<x. When
an individual or corporation decides between more pollution and more costly
processes needed to decrease pollution, wealth is maximized. When the
government does so, it is not.

When the gov't imposes a minimum wage, it causes a lot of marginally
productive people to become unemployed. That is not my idea of being
humane.

> It is poor people who need a productive society the most.

>Another indication that you are confused by false dichotomies.

The use of the words poor and most indicate the existence of a continuous
scale, not a dichotomy.

John Otto

unread,
May 25, 1991, 4:34:52 PM5/25/91
to
>In article <ROCKWELL.91...@socrates.umd.edu> rock...@socrates.umd.edu (Raul Rockwell) writes:

> Perry E. Metzger:
> Every dollar that goes into the food stamp and farm subsidy
> programs is a dollar that has been drained from the economy and
> destroyed, never to return.

> Michael Travers:
> Unless food actually gets destroyed, this is false. The dollar is
> simply redistributed.

> Hey, neat! Mind if I redistribute some of your dollars? I'm sure
> you'll be happy to know that the dollars will not be destroyed :-)

>Can people really be so incapable of following an argument?

Apparently, you are having that difficulty.

>Let's try it again: Redistribution does not remove money from the
>economy. Redistribution moves money from one participant to another.
>Since both of those participants are part of the economy, the total
>amount of money doesn't change. This is a completely different
>question from whether redistribution is moral or whether it increases
>net utility or whatever. But you have to clear away the basic
>falsehoods before you can even begin to think about the real issues.

Redistribution - robbery and fencing - does remove wealth from the economy.
Since it moves money (and, to a lesser extent, wealth) from the more
productive to the less productive and from more productive uses to less
productive uses, wealth of everyone is decreased. The number of accounting
units does not change, it is what is sometimes referred to redundantly as
*real* money that decreases. You have to clear away the basic falsehoods
before you can even begin to think about the *real* issues. But don't feel
too bad; Keynes made the same mistake.

Thomas Hyer

unread,
May 26, 1991, 12:54:38 AM5/26/91
to
In article <1991May2...@banyan.cs.Virginia.EDU>,
ra...@banyan.cs.Virginia.EDU (Robert DeLine) says:

>parents don't especially care about education (nor your peers, nor
>the people you watch on television), you probably won't either. I
>think a big problem with American education today is that it seems
>that very few people value education. No education system (be it
>
>Rob DeLine

I second.
I recently flamed someone (by EMail) in another group because
an anonymous poster had posted a series of questions that I thought
were clearly a take-home test, and he had answered them all. His
response was far from penitent: he attacked tests as a poor means
of education and me as a wanna-be policeman. Well, maybe both these
things are true...
Anybody, I now wonder whether I truly represent a majority on this
issue. I hope I am, because I think it is absolutely necessary that
testing of some sort continue to exist: an educational system which
cannot get an honest evaluation of its students' quality will not
serve our (`S'ociety's) needs.
The Net is an amazing source of well-organized basic information:
it could be argued that the anonymous student was demonstrating a
research skill as valuable as any other (though I'd hate to think
of anyone above freshman level depending on the net :-). I think
we have a societal duty of some sort to try to prevent its abuse
in this manner.
Substantive comments welcome; flames by EMail only please.

Thomas Hyer _____________________
/Half the time, even \ words
-S---L------A---------C-----< _I_ don't share my / \ support
\ opinions. / like
------------------ bone...

Mikey

unread,
May 25, 1991, 11:29:24 PM5/25/91
to

>When it takes money to pay the road builders, it takes it from what the
>people have selected as most valuable and spends it on something less
>valuable. That is how the wealth is destroyed. So, when a road is built,
>x amount of wealth is destroyed and y amount is created, where y<x. When
>an individual or corporation decides between more pollution and more costly
>processes needed to decrease pollution, wealth is maximized. When the
>government does so, it is not.

And this is why we see companies avoiding places with good
infrastructure (roads and such) and going to places with lousy
infrastructure and lower taxes so they can build their own. This is why
we never see industry asking government to build things like
infrastructure.

I know where you are coming from and I believe government does try to do
things that could better be done by individuals. I am not at all sure
that dealing with things like roads and pollution can be done privately.
Economic production aint that simple (that ONE method, private, gets
everything done best.)

Moises Lejter

unread,
May 26, 1991, 1:48:02 AM5/26/91
to

I recently flamed someone (by EMail) in another group because
an anonymous poster had posted a series of questions that I thought
were clearly a take-home test, and he had answered them all. His
response was far from penitent: he attacked tests as a poor means
of education and me as a wanna-be policeman. Well, maybe both these
things are true...

I would have said that the problem here was with the person that saw
nothing wrong with having someone else answer their homework for
him/her. I think that well-thought out tests are as valuable as class
lectures, if not more so - they ask the student to think about the
issues the class is about, come up with an answer and then support it
with evidence derived from the lectures or attendant research.

Anybody, I now wonder whether I truly represent a majority on this
issue. I hope I am, because I think it is absolutely necessary that
testing of some sort continue to exist: an educational system which
cannot get an honest evaluation of its students' quality will not
serve our (`S'ociety's) needs.

I think it is in the student's best interest to receive fair feedback
on her/his performance - it is the only way s/he can improve
her/himself. Any benefits to society are secondary - I suspect there
are alternatives society could use that would be effective, if far
harsher on the individuals involved.

The Net is an amazing source of well-organized basic information:
it could be argued that the anonymous student was demonstrating a
research skill as valuable as any other (though I'd hate to think
of anyone above freshman level depending on the net :-). I think
we have a societal duty of some sort to try to prevent its abuse
in this manner.

I think the benefits to be derived from the free flow of information
in the Net far outweigh this kind of abuse. One of the major problems
people face nowadays is information overload - there's too much to
absorb. The net can provide a very valuable service here through the
sharing of expertise among all its members - I don't have to become an
expert in every area in which I find I am interested if I can ask an
expert for an opinion on those areas not directly related to my own
expertise. I suspect even the set of questions posted by this person
were of interest to (some of) the readers of that newsgroup, so the
net benefit of having had the questions answered is greater than the
individual gain of the anonymous poster.

Thomas Hyer

Moises
--
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Internet/CSnet: m...@cs.brown.edu BITNET: m...@browncs.BITNET
UUCP: ...!uunet!cs.brown.edu!mlm Phone: (401)863-7664
USmail: Moises Lejter, Box 1910 Brown University, Providence RI 02912

Michael Travers

unread,
May 26, 1991, 2:17:21 AM5/26/91
to

In article <MT.91May...@cecelia.media-lab.media.mit.edu>, m...@cecelia.media-lab.media.mit.edu (Michael Travers) writes...
>In article <15...@cvbnetPrime.COM> mkam...@cvbnet.prime.com (mailhost) writes:
>
> From article <MT.91May...@debussy.media-lab.media.mit.edu>, by m...@debussy.media-lab.media.mit.edu (Michael Travers):
> > In article <1991May23.2...@watson.ibm.com> met...@watson.ibm.com (Perry E. Metzger) writes:
> >
> > Every dollar that goes into the food stamp and farm subsidy programs
> > is a dollar that has been drained from the economy and destroyed,
> > never to return.

>Funny, you seem to think that the only things that count as wealth are
>the barcoded products of corporations. When the government builds a
>road, it creates wealth. When it prevents pollution, it preserves
>wealth. When it enacts a minimum wage or otherwise interferes with
>the market, it tries to preserve the hard-to-measure wealth of humane
>community standards that capitalism tends to roll over.

When it takes money to pay the road builders, it takes it from what the
people have selected as most valuable and spends it on something less
valuable.

Prove it, without assuming what you are trying to prove (namely, that
market decisions are the only or best decisions). Then take a poll
and ask people if they think roads are less valuble than, say, potato
chips, which are sold at market price.

When
an individual or corporation decides between more pollution and more costly
processes needed to decrease pollution, wealth is maximized. When the
government does so, it is not.

What nonsense. A corporation, faced with a choice between paying for
antipollution processes or dumping an external cost on everybody else
will naturally choose the latter -- they have to, in a competitive
market. The government's function is to make sure that this choice is
not available to them.

> It is poor people who need a productive society the most.

>Another indication that you are confused by false dichotomies.

The use of the words poor and most indicate the existence of a continuous
scale, not a dichotomy.

I wasn't talking about that. I was referring to your assumption that
I was somehow anti-production because I don't believe in your silly
market utopia.

Michael Travers

unread,
May 26, 1991, 2:27:02 AM5/26/91
to
In article <ROCKWELL.91...@socrates.umd.edu> rock...@socrates.umd.edu (Raul Rockwell) writes:


Me: Mind if I redistribute some of your dollars? I'm sure you'll be
happy to know that the dollars will not be destroyed :-)

Michael Travers:
Can people really be so incapable of following an argument?

Let's try it again: Redistribution does not remove money from the
economy.

Does not remove the physical pieces of paper? Is that what you think
dollars are?

I think money is money. You are probably confusing money with value,
a rather pervasive mistake among people of your ilk.

Help prevent thought -- join the Libertarian party.

Uh oh, Mikey says you can not think if you're a libertarian. Guess
you'd better not even think about joining their party... At the very
least you'll need to get a certificate from Mr. Travers saying that
you've cleared away "the basic falsehoods" before you can even begin
to think about the real issues.

Take some advice -- if you don't have a sense of humor, don't try to
be funny.

Michael Travers

unread,
May 26, 1991, 2:35:55 AM5/26/91
to

Right. If I take away 1/23 of Lee Iacoccas income ($1million) and
spend it, say, on elementary education, I have decreased wealth and
impoverished society, proof by application of axiom 1. Guess what,
I'll bet not even Iacocca would buy your argument: ask him if he'd
like zero taxes in exchange for the government educating his future
employees, safeguarding his wealth, ensuring the oil supply with
military interventions, etc, I doubt he would take the deal. Which
only goes to show that people who are actually "productive" (ie, make
money) are too smart to be libertarians.

If money was only a token of production, your view might have some
merit. But it isn't.

Michael Travers

unread,
May 26, 1991, 2:41:09 AM5/26/91
to
[This article was written by Russ Nelson, who can't post here at the
moment. I'm forwarding it for him, please edit attributions. --mt]

In article <1991May23.2...@watson.ibm.com> met...@watson.ibm.com (Perry E. Metzger) writes:


Every dollar that goes into the food stamp and farm subsidy programs
is a dollar that has been drained from the economy and destroyed,
never to return.

Don't believe the hype that farmers and poor people will help the


economy somehow by spending their government handouts. You can see
that this assertion is not true with an easy pair of thought
experiments.

1. You own a buisness. Your customers come in and say "I can't afford to


buy your widgets", so you hand them money from your cash register
that they then hand back to you to pay for the widgets. Yes, you've
made a sale, but how will you now pay for the cost of making that
widget? Who paid for the materials and the labor? You did. You go
out of buisness fast if you keep handing people money to buy your
goods. The government does this to all of us on a grand scale, by
forcing us to hand other people money which they then spend. We are
all poorer as a result.

Your experiment is flawed. Your experiment has people taking money
from the cash drawer, calling it theirs, returning it to the cash
drawer, and taking widgets. You neglect (or more likely, refuse to
consider) the possibility that the customer adds value to the money.

It may be your opinion that no redistributee can ever spend money more
effectively than the producer. Or it may be your opinion that on
average, redistributees do not spend money more effectively than the
producer.

You do your argument no good by asserting your opinion as fact, and
then expounding on it. Rather, argue for your opinion.

Any fool can see this, but some fools in congress think we
become richer by paying farmers to produce more milk than they
can sell and then taking the milk and effectively dumping it
down the drain.

Sigh. I hope you're not representative of Libertarian policy makers.
The people in Congress who support agriculture programs are the fools
you seem to believe they are. They can see that our economy is driven
by agriculture. They can see that their home districts would slump
into a 1930's style recession if they cut off the agricultural support
programs.

Libertaria may indeed be a utopia, but it's not sufficient to assert
that it is. You need to show us how to get from here to there without
destroying people's livelihoods in the process. Any political change
that disrupts the economy (however much improvement may result) is
dead in the water.

Pol Pot said "The people will be better off down on the farm."
Libertarians say "The people will be better off with a free market."

In-reply-to: met...@watson.ibm.com's message of 23 May 91 22:15:55 GMT
Newsgroups: alt.individualism,talk.politics.theory,sci.econ
Subject: Re: Farm Subsidies
Reply-to: nel...@gnu.ai.mit.edu
References: <1991May23.2...@watson.ibm.com>
Distribution:
FCC: ~/News/outgoing
--text follows this line--


In article <1991May23.2...@watson.ibm.com> met...@watson.ibm.com (Perry E. Metzger) writes:


Every dollar that goes into the food stamp and farm subsidy programs
is a dollar that has been drained from the economy and destroyed,
never to return.

Don't believe the hype that farmers and poor people will help the


economy somehow by spending their government handouts. You can see
that this assertion is not true with an easy pair of thought
experiments.

1. You own a buisness. Your customers come in and say "I can't afford to


buy your widgets", so you hand them money from your cash register
that they then hand back to you to pay for the widgets. Yes, you've
made a sale, but how will you now pay for the cost of making that
widget? Who paid for the materials and the labor? You did. You go
out of buisness fast if you keep handing people money to buy your
goods. The government does this to all of us on a grand scale, by
forcing us to hand other people money which they then spend. We are
all poorer as a result.

Your experiment is flawed. Your experiment has people taking money
from the cash drawer, calling it theirs, returning it to the cash
drawer, and taking widgets. You neglect (or more likely, refuse to
consider) the possibility that the customer adds value to the money.

It may be your opinion that no redistributee can ever spend money more
effectively than the producer. Or it may be your opinion that on
average, redistributees do not spend money more effectively than the
producer.

You do your argument no good by asserting your opinion as fact, and
then expounding on it. Rather, argue for your opinion.

Any fool can see this, but some fools in congress think we
become richer by paying farmers to produce more milk than they
can sell and then taking the milk and effectively dumping it
down the drain.

Sigh. I hope you're not representative of Libertarian policy makers.
The people in Congress who support agriculture programs are the fools
you seem to believe they are. They can see that our economy is driven
by agriculture. They can see that their home districts would slump
into a 1930's style recession if they cut off the agricultural support
programs.

Libertaria may indeed be a utopia, but it's not sufficient to assert
that it is. You need to show us how to get from here to there without
destroying people's livelihoods in the process. Any political change
that disrupts the economy (however much improvement may result) is
dead in the water.

Pol Pot said "The people will be better off down on the farm."
Libertarians say "The people will be better off with a free market."

Michael Travers

unread,
May 26, 1991, 2:43:47 AM5/26/91
to
[This article was written by Russ Nelson, who is currently unable to
post here. I'm forwarding it for him; please edit attributions. --mt]

When an individual or corporation decides between more pollution
and more costly processes needed to decrease pollution, wealth is
maximized. When the government does so, it is not.

You assume that individuals and corporations never make mistakes, and
further, that the government always does. Is this always true?

Michael Travers

unread,
May 26, 1991, 2:45:27 AM5/26/91
to

[This article was written by Russ Nelson, who is currently unable to
post here. I'm forwarding it for him; please edit attributions. --mt]

Nope. We're both poorer because I could have used the resources I lost to
creating something more. That something more will now never exist. The
economy (all its participants) is poorer.

Um, John, maybe you're a lawyer? Or a drug dealer? Or a thief?

Is *all* taxation bad?

Robert DeLine

unread,
May 25, 1991, 10:12:56 PM5/25/91
to
I think something that's important to note in any discussion of
American education and how best to provide it is that the attitude
of one's "culture" toward education greatly affects the education
process. Before I get chewed alive for invoking a collective term
like "culture" in in newsgroup such as this, let me say I'm not
talking about Society (a collective body treated as an individual)
--- I merely mean that all people (especially children) are
influenced by those around them, especially by their parents and
peers --- and this influence is what I mean by "culture". If your

parents don't especially care about education (nor your peers, nor
the people you watch on television), you probably won't either. I
think a big problem with American education today is that it seems
that very few people value education. No education system (be it
privitized or public) can do a good job, if parents and their
children don't value education. Also, ethusiastic parents and
children can often overcome the short-comings of the local school
system. I don't think merely privatizing the school system (even if
this brought about vast improvements) would produce better educated
children, if those children aren't interested. [You can bring a
horse to water...]

Rob DeLine

Mikey

unread,
May 26, 1991, 8:16:18 AM5/26/91
to

>--- I merely mean that all people (especially children) are
>influenced by those around them, especially by their parents and
>peers --- and this influence is what I mean by "culture". If your
>parents don't especially care about education (nor your peers, nor
>the people you watch on television), you probably won't either. I
>think a big problem with American education today is that it seems
>that very few people value education. No education system (be it
>privitized or public) can do a good job, if parents and their
>children don't value education.

On the other hand, great cultural values towards education will not
produce a great education by themselves, the means of a good education
also have to exist.

Couldn't the current enthusiasm for doing SOMETHING about the
educational system be interpreted as due to some strong positive
attitudes towards education? Couldn't the demands for better
educational opportunities be the thing that those values are causing
people to ask for?

And children are pretty malleable anyway. Wouldn't positive educational
experiences early on in their lives tend to make them personally value
education a lot more than crappy educational experiences early on?

>I don't think merely privatizing the school system (even if
>this brought about vast improvements) would produce better educated
>children, if those children aren't interested. [You can bring a
>horse to water...]

Of course, the current situation is that we are bringing many horses to
tiny puddles, or even sour water. It seems we must actually bring the
horse to some reasonable water before we will know how much it might
drink.

Raul Rockwell

unread,
May 26, 1991, 11:26:34 AM5/26/91
to
Michael Travers:

I think money is money.

A _seriously_ flawed definition, in that it's circular.

Michael Travers:


You are probably confusing money with value, a rather pervasive
mistake among people of your ilk.

me: Money is a system used for keeping track of property, it is


quite appropriate to speak of money being "destroyed" when the
property is devalued.

[note to reference chasers, this was not in the article I am
responding to, but was part of the article preceeding that in the
reference chain.]

Personally, I prefer my definition of money to Michael's :-)

Also, I think it is important to point out that "to reduce to a
useless form" and "to render ineffective" are perfectly valid
definitions of destroy.

Some people may be thinking that, in analogy with the second law of
thermodynamics, money can be neither created nor destroyed. Note that
even if you limit yourself to talking about currency [the supply of
which is far less than the supply of money in the U.S.], you will find
that it is printed (and shredded and burned) at quite frequently.

One of the libertarian arguments is that a monetary system based on
coin would be more constitutional, if not more stable, than a monetary
system based on bank notes. Under a system like this, an statement
that money can not be destroyed *might* be more meaningful than it is
at present.

Raul Rockwell

Bob Forsythe

unread,
May 26, 1991, 9:16:08 AM5/26/91
to
mmv...@mixcom.COM (Daniel Offutt) writes:
>Not only are farm subsidies harmful, they go mainly to large farming
>corporations, not mainly to little family-owned farms.
>
>Dan Offutt


This is fairly accurate. The subsidy program is also, in part, a result
of all the water projects done by the Bureau of Reclamation during the 30's.
Because so much was spent bringing water to areas where dry farming should be
carried on, the only way they could ever show any return is to make sure the
farmers using the water bring crops to market at a reasonable (for the
farmers) price. The way you do that is to pay people not to grow crops where
they should be grown.

-Bob

UUCP: ucsd!serene!pnet12!rcf
INET: r...@pnet12.rfengr.com

Bob Forsythe

unread,
May 26, 1991, 9:36:05 AM5/26/91
to
ra...@banyan.cs.Virginia.EDU (Robert DeLine) writes:
>think a big problem with American education today is that it seems
>that very few people value education. No education system (be it
>privitized or public) can do a good job, if parents and their
>children don't value education. Also, ethusiastic parents and
>children can often overcome the short-comings of the local school
>system. I don't think merely privatizing the school system (even if

>this brought about vast improvements) would produce better educated
>children, if those children aren't interested. [You can bring a
>horse to water...]
>


There's a long tradition in the country of not valuing education (see
"Anti-intellectualism in American Thought" by Hoffstadler). A perfect example
of this is Stevenson having to rely upon the "He's not just an intellectual"
theme when he ran for president. There's a perception that anything really
worth learning is learned on the job or on the streets, and that translates
over to a attitude of not really caring what happens to schools. Education is
seen as a method of getting better pay, and not seen as valuable in and of
itself. Until that changes, I doubt that any school, public or private, will
have a much better success rate that we have now.

Michael Travers

unread,
May 26, 1991, 1:44:10 PM5/26/91
to
In article <ROCKWELL.91...@socrates.umd.edu> rock...@socrates.umd.edu (Raul Rockwell) writes:


Michael Travers:
I think money is money.

A _seriously_ flawed definition, in that it's circular.

It wasn't meant to be a definition. I'm simply informing you that I'm
using the commonly accepted definition, instead of redefining terms to
prop up feeble arguments.

Michael Travers:
You are probably confusing money with value, a rather pervasive


mistake among people of your ilk.

me: Money is a system used for keeping track of property, it is


quite appropriate to speak of money being "destroyed" when the
property is devalued.

If you want to talk about value, use the term value. If you want to
talk about money, use the term money. If you asseme they are
identical, you won't be able to understand anything.

Raul Rockwell

unread,
May 26, 1991, 4:33:23 PM5/26/91
to
Michael Travers:
I think money is money.

me: A _seriously_ flawed definition, in that it's circular.

Michael Travers:


It wasn't meant to be a definition. I'm simply informing you that
I'm using the commonly accepted definition, instead of redefining
terms to prop up feeble arguments.

You are probably confusing money with value, a rather pervasive


mistake among people of your ilk.

If you want to talk about value, use the term value. If you want
to talk about money, use the term money. If you assume they are


identical, you won't be able to understand anything.

oh geez, give me a break.


Let's see, here's what my dictionary says:

money Gold, silver or other metal in pieces of convenient form
stamped by public authority and issued as a medium of exchange and
measure of value; current coin; coin or certificates representing it
and currently accepted as an equivalent; also, any articles or
substance similarly used; also, a particular form or denomination of
currency; a money of account; also, property considered with
reference to its pecuniary value; wealth; pecuniary sums; pecuniary
profit; a source of pecuniary profit...

The definition for "value" is even longer, and not too suprisingly
makes a number of references to monetary issues.

Also, this stuff that "falsehoods must be cleared away before you can
start understanding the truth" is utter and complete bullshit. More
specifically, it is totally backwards in the cause/effect sense.
(Though quite useful as a brainwashing or propaganda tool, I imagine.)

Anyways, none of my postings require that "money" and "value" be
identical.

Raul Rockwell

Mikey

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May 26, 1991, 4:12:38 PM5/26/91
to
I received this by e-mail from someone who can't post.

From j...@rapids.austin.ibm.com Sun May 26 11:20:41 1991
To: wen...@ee.rochester.edu
Subject: Re: Farm Subsidies

In article <1991May26....@ee.rochester.edu> wen...@ee.rochester.edu
writes:

>>When it takes money to pay the road builders, it takes it from what the
>>people have selected as most valuable and spends it on something less

>>valuable. That is how the wealth is destroyed. So, when a road is built,

>>x amount of wealth is destroyed and y amount is created, where y<x. When

>>an individual or corporation decides between more pollution and more costly
>>processes needed to decrease pollution, wealth is maximized. When the
>>government does so, it is not.
>

>And this is why we see companies avoiding places with good
>infrastructure (roads and such) and going to places with lousy
>infrastructure and lower taxes so they can build their own. This is why
>we never see industry asking government to build things like
>infrastructure.
>

Of course industry goes places where the infrastructure already
exists or asks local governments to build it. Of course they
don't build it themselves if they can avoid it. Just because the
government is not making the best possible (most highly valued)
use of the resources it appropriates does not mean that these
uses have no value at all.

Let's look at it this way. You're looking for a place to live.
You've got two places to choose from. One has roads and utility
infrastructure built at someone else's expense (or, at least,
these things are being built with the costs dispersed around the
community). The second place has none of these things, and if
you want them you'll have to build them at your own expense.
Where are you more likely to decide to live?

Now, let's suppose that roads and utilities don't have enough
value to you for you to build them yourself - they're luxuries
that you can do without. If the cost of these things is reduced
for you (by subsidies coming from other people's money), their
value to you may soon exceed their cost to you. This does not,
however, make it likely that the benefits to society will exceed
the total costs of the development.

Jon
j...@rapids.austin.ibm.com

P.S.
I cannot post from this site. You may feel free to quote from
the above in posting, as long as context is preserved.

Mikey

unread,
May 26, 1991, 4:15:41 PM5/26/91
to
j...@rapids.ibm.com writes:
> Of course industry goes places where the infrastructure already
> exists or asks local governments to build it. Of course they
> don't build it themselves if they can avoid it. Just because the
> government is not making the best possible (most highly valued)
> use of the resources it appropriates does not mean that these
> uses have no value at all.

And yet there are plenty of undeveloped places in the country where a
private entrepeneur could go and set up either an industrial park or a
residential community and build it with private roads that might better
suit the valuation of their incoming "customers." And a lot of these
undeveloped places would have no or almost no local taxes. And indeed
you do see this kind of thing happening. But my point is *the
marketplace* doesn't seem to find companies/home-buyers "voting" for
this arrangement in particularly high numbers.

Another bit of reality. I recently visited a friend of mine who is a
development lawyer in Florida. I learned a bit about how actual
developer's set things up. Lots for development are usually sold with a
deed which has riders or covenants or some such term attached to it.
These obligate the land-owners to contribute to the building of roads,
sewers and other infrastructure should the land ever be developed. 1)
we seem to see the beginnings, in a market structure, of "government"
and "taxation." 2) Presumably the developers (who buy the big lot and
then subdivide it) would sell this property WITHOUT the covenants if it
were actually more profitable for them to do so. 3) Generally, the
developer's WISH to have the infrastructure they build turned over to
whatever local government exists for maintenace etc. So again the
market CHOOSES to join the government.

> Let's look at it this way. You're looking for a place to live.
> You've got two places to choose from. One has roads and utility
> infrastructure built at someone else's expense (or, at least,
> these things are being built with the costs dispersed around the
> community). The second place has none of these things, and if
> you want them you'll have to build them at your own expense.
> Where are you more likely to decide to live?
>
> Now, let's suppose that roads and utilities don't have enough
> value to you for you to build them yourself - they're luxuries
> that you can do without.

There are in fact lots of places you can buy and build that have little
or no infrastructure and little or no taxes to support same. And there
is a real market for this stuff. Yet lots of people persist in buying
into developed areas with a government to support infrastructure. It
seems like the *market* is showing a real value for government.

Mikey

Mikey

unread,
May 26, 1991, 4:17:30 PM5/26/91
to
j...@rapids.ibm.com writes:

> If the cost of these things is reduced
> for you (by subsidies coming from other people's money), their
> value to you may soon exceed their cost to you. This does not,
> however, make it likely that the benefits to society will exceed
> the total costs of the development.

And what of an area which was sparsely developed and is now heavily
developed that doesn't have sewers? Under sparse population, this is no
big deal, but under heavier development, entire water tables are
poisoned, or their actual levels change drastically from the shifting of
the motion of water. This is/was the actual case in Nassau County on
Long Island. With a bunch of independant land owners, how do you
something of such value to everybody such as put in sewers? Obviously,
any individual within the system would rather the others put them in and
he will not participate in paying. Yet he will necessarily benefit.
And if there is no mechanism for putting the sewers in, ALL will lose.

Sewers in an already developed area seem a clear case of a community
good which cannot be achieved through individual owners having complete
control over their resources.

Mikey

unread,
May 26, 1991, 4:21:10 PM5/26/91
to
In article <ROCKWELL.91...@socrates.umd.edu> rock...@socrates.umd.edu (Raul Rockwell) writes:

>Some people may be thinking that, in analogy with the second law of
>thermodynamics, money can be neither created nor destroyed.

Actually, the second law is that entropy always increases, so in analogy
with the second law, people might be thinking money always increases :)

Mikey

unread,
May 26, 1991, 4:27:26 PM5/26/91
to
In article <1991May26.1...@rfengr.com> r...@pnet12.rfengr.com (Bob Forsythe) writes:

> There's a long tradition in the country of not valuing education (see
>"Anti-intellectualism in American Thought" by Hoffstadler). A perfect example
>of this is Stevenson having to rely upon the "He's not just an intellectual"
>theme when he ran for president. There's a perception that anything really
>worth learning is learned on the job or on the streets, and that translates
>over to a attitude of not really caring what happens to schools. Education is
>seen as a method of getting better pay, and not seen as valuable in and of
>itself. Until that changes, I doubt that any school, public or private, will
>have a much better success rate that we have now.

The long tradition of anti-intellectualism has kept the educators from
gaining a "monopoly" which they have in a system of credentialism. We
are probably still relatively ahead of much of the world in not being
too heavily into credentialism.

It used to be that a college education was some math, some science, a
lot of "great books" and classical philosophers. If Americans managed
to understand that this wasn't necessarily worth the money they'd need
to pay for it to get them through life, three cheers for them. That
probably helped change education for the better. Sure, some of us LIKE
that kind of education, but should every Tom, Dick, and Mary have to get
it in order to be a starter in the executive track? I think not. The
mail-room probably IS better preparation, and in our system, BOTH
starting points used to work.

And I am a professor, foolishly cutting my own throat if my attitudes
prevailed. I guess I need to learn a little more about marketing,
making people want something more than they would if they were thinking
clearly.

Raul Rockwell

unread,
May 26, 1991, 5:48:01 PM5/26/91
to
me:>Some people may be thinking that, in analogy with the second law of

>thermodynamics, money can be neither created nor destroyed.

Mikey Wengler:


Actually, the second law is that entropy always increases, so in
analogy with the second law, people might be thinking money always
increases :)

Oops. *blush*

I should have said first law...

Raul Rockwell

Mike Peercy

unread,
May 26, 1991, 6:07:48 PM5/26/91
to
m...@cecelia.media-lab.media.mit.edu (Michael Travers) writes:

Of course he wouldn't.
Why do you think he makes $23 million? Iacocca's a bloody politician,
not a manager. He is quite aware that the government (used wisely) can
increase his company's wealth, and his company pays him well for it. Even
now he's leading the charge for national health insurance, hoping to make
Chrysler a little richer at the nation's expense.

| Which
| only goes to show that people who are actually "productive" (ie, make
| money) are too smart to be libertarians.

Straw man.
Libertarians believe that earnings and productivity are well correlated
only in a free market. I.e., people who make a lot of money in this day
and age often make it from government influence and are, therefore, too
reliant on the unearned to honestly be libertarians.

| If money was only a token of production, your view might have some
| merit. But it isn't.

Why don't you ask the cashier at the local A&P whether she enjoys seeing
1/5 of her income educating Chrysler's employees, replacing Iacocca's money
lost in Joe's Savings and Loan, ensuring the oil supply with military
interventions, raising the price of food goods, etc.?

Michael Peercy
pee...@crhc.uiuc.edu

Gordon Mohr

unread,
May 27, 1991, 4:03:16 AM5/27/91
to
In an article shir...@sprite.berkeley.edu (Ken Shirriff) writes:

>(Why don't the libertarians understand they'd get much more support
>(such as from me) if they were rational? I mean, most people must be
>against farm subsidies, but Mr. Metzger posts this hugely exaggerated
>tirade against them. What does he expect to do besides convince people
>the libertarians are way out on the fringe? If he'd say "Every dollar
>spent on farm subsidies could be spent more productively", almost nobody
>would argue. But when he says the dollar is destroyed, most people will
>think libertarians are hopelessly confused.)

PLEASE don't take any one libertarian's rhetorical approach, or even views,
as representative of all libertarians. I agree with you that Mr. Metzger's
"Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" tone probably drives away more
potential libertarian sympathizers than it attracts. But try to understand
that he, like other libertarians, finds these ideas robust and exciting,
wanting to share them with others with an almost missionary fervor.

In another article <1991May26....@agate.berkeley.edu>
shir...@sprite.berkeley.edu (Ken Shirriff) writes:
>
>(Why can't libertarians just say: "Although in some cases taxation may
>benefit all parties involved, we feel the immorality of taxation outweighs
>any possible benefits"?
> [CIA conspiracy theories omitted]

Well, I can't make myself mouth precisely what you suggest that libertarians
say, but I'll try to point out where I feel your statement is flawed and
suggest a compromise statement.

You suggest that "in some cases taxation may benefit all parties involved."
Yet it is not TAXATION which benefits them, but the goods and services
payed for with that taxation. Yet if those goods and services clearly
benefit all, coercive taxation is rarely needed--people will transact
in private markets or voluntary collective organizations for the desired,
beneficial goods/services.

When this is not possible, for example with so-called "public goods,"
enforced payment ("taxation") could THEORETICALLY yield results that each
individual would prefer to the results of a strictly voluntary,
competitive market. Yet such ideal results require a disinterested,
incorruptible, just, all-knowing, and secure government to design
and levy an equitable, unavoidable, economically non-distorting tax.

Everyone would agree that real-world taxation schemes fall far short of this
ideal, and are always manipulated to benefit some at the expense of others.

Most libertarians would go further and say that real-world taxation will
always do more harm than good, at least in the long term. One possible
line of reasoning: Any human institution, especially one which relies
chiefly on coercion to assure success (a government), suffers certain
inherent flaws which preclude just and effective taxation.

So, a "compromise" statement (OK, so it's not much of a "middle ground."):
"Although in some cases (when administered by God or some other infallible
being) taxation may benefit all parties involved, we feel the only humanly
possible implementations of taxation yield immoral and destructive outcomes
which outweigh any possible benefits"

>Ken Shirriff shir...@sprite.Berkeley.EDU

Gordon Mohr
mo...@cory.berkeley.edu

Michael Travers

unread,
May 27, 1991, 2:31:34 AM5/27/91
to
In article <peercy.6...@dopey.crhc.uiuc.edu> pee...@crhc.uiuc.edu (Mike Peercy) writes:


m...@cecelia.media-lab.media.mit.edu (Michael Travers) writes:

| Right. If I take away 1/23 of Lee Iacoccas income ($1million) and
| spend it, say, on elementary education, I have decreased wealth and
| impoverished society, proof by application of axiom 1. Guess what,
| I'll bet not even Iacocca would buy your argument: ask him if he'd
| like zero taxes in exchange for the government educating his future
| employees, safeguarding his wealth, ensuring the oil supply with
| military interventions, etc, I doubt he would take the deal.

Of course he wouldn't.
Why do you think he makes $23 million?

It's a figure I heard, I'm not sure if it's accurate.

Iacocca's a bloody politician,
not a manager. He is quite aware that the government (used wisely) can
increase his company's wealth, and his company pays him well for it. Even
now he's leading the charge for national health insurance, hoping to make
Chrysler a little richer at the nation's expense.

| Which
| only goes to show that people who are actually "productive" (ie, make
| money) are too smart to be libertarians.

Straw man.

No, it's merely a snide remark.

Libertarians believe that earnings and productivity are well correlated
only in a free market. I.e., people who make a lot of money in this day
and age often make it from government influence and are, therefore, too
reliant on the unearned to honestly be libertarians.

Does this mean that libertarians favor redistribution of wealth after
the revolution?

| If money was only a token of production, your view might have some
| merit. But it isn't.

Why don't you ask the cashier at the local A&P whether she enjoys seeing
1/5 of her income educating Chrysler's employees, replacing Iacocca's money
lost in Joe's Savings and Loan, ensuring the oil supply with military
interventions, raising the price of food goods, etc.?

Due to the success of the Reagan propaganda machine and the failure of
any alternatives to make themselves heard, your average cashier has
come to believe as you do. So he votes for republicans who implement
policies that redistribute wealth upwards, making himself poorer in
the process. It's odd, I'll grant you, that people will vote against
their direct self-interest, but I fail to see what it has to do with
the issue at hand, which is the relationship between money, value,
government, and private enterprise.

Mikey

unread,
May 27, 1991, 11:24:52 AM5/27/91
to
In article <13...@pasteur.Berkeley.EDU> mo...@cory.Berkeley.EDU writes:
>In an article shir...@sprite.berkeley.edu (Ken Shirriff) writes:

>You suggest that "in some cases taxation may benefit all parties involved."
>Yet it is not TAXATION which benefits them, but the goods and services
>payed for with that taxation. Yet if those goods and services clearly
>benefit all, coercive taxation is rarely needed--people will transact
>in private markets or voluntary collective organizations for the desired,
>beneficial goods/services.
>
>When this is not possible, for example with so-called "public goods,"
>enforced payment ("taxation") could THEORETICALLY yield results that each
>individual would prefer to the results of a strictly voluntary,
>competitive market. Yet such ideal results require a disinterested,
>incorruptible, just, all-knowing, and secure government to design
>and levy an equitable, unavoidable, economically non-distorting tax.

This doesn't make sense. "If something is worth doing, it is only worth
doing perfectly." is what you are saying. Any good businessman would
disagree with you in about a second.

If you need sewers to prevent poisoning the water table, then there are
a whole variety of non-optimal solutions which are better than nothing.

Mikey

unread,
May 27, 1991, 11:31:27 AM5/27/91
to

>You suggest that "in some cases taxation may benefit all parties involved."
>Yet it is not TAXATION which benefits them, but the goods and services
>payed for with that taxation. Yet if those goods and services clearly
>benefit all, coercive taxation is rarely needed--people will transact
>in private markets or voluntary collective organizations for the desired,
>beneficial goods/services.

Where I grew up, Sewers were put in only after a county-wide bond issue
was supported by a majority of voters. How could you put sewers in
without the cooperation of the interstitial nay-voters? How could you
accept their continuing ruining of the water table? Who has the right
to tell them that what was acceptable up till now is no longer
acceptable? How do you FORCE them to stop screwing YOUR environment?

Coercion in a "productive" arrangement is not limited to the government.
How do you enforce a contract without coercion? And if you say "you
build in clauses about how to arbitrate disputes" my answer is 1) you
can do that already, 2) what do you do if one party refuses to obey the
arbitrator (I think the answer has to be coercion).

Miron Cuperman

unread,
May 26, 1991, 5:36:29 PM5/26/91
to
m...@cecelia.media-lab.media.mit.edu (Michael Travers) writes:

> When it takes money to pay the road builders, it takes it from what the
> people have selected as most valuable and spends it on something less
> valuable.
>Prove it, without assuming what you are trying to prove (namely, that

>market decisions are the only or best decisions). [...]

People are naturaly rational. Therefore they will spend their money
on the things they value the most. Therefore if they are forced to spend
it on something else, they will either get equal or lower value for their
money. QED

Now, your paranthetical comment has nothing to do with what the original
poster said, or with reality.

> When an
> individual or corporation decides between more pollution and more costly
> processes needed to decrease pollution, wealth is maximized. When the
> government does so, it is not.
>What nonsense. A corporation, faced with a choice between paying for
>antipollution processes or dumping an external cost on everybody else
>will naturally choose the latter -- they have to, in a competitive

>market. [...]

Pollution is a crime under natural law. If they pollute then people
will sue them, possibly in a class action. They will pay their
externality and the cost of the trial. Therefore, they will have an
interest in paying.

--
By Miron Cuperman <mi...@cs.sfu.ca>

"Those who make non-violent revolution impossible
make violent revolution inevitable."
-Dr Martin Luther King, Jr

Miron Cuperman

unread,
May 26, 1991, 6:26:28 PM5/26/91
to
m...@cecelia.media-lab.media.mit.edu (Michael Travers) writes:

> When an individual or corporation decides between more pollution
> and more costly processes needed to decrease pollution, wealth is
> maximized. When the government does so, it is not.

>You assume that individuals and corporations never make mistakes, and
>further, that the government always does. Is this always true?

Nobody assumed that. One merely has to assume that the government
has no interest in individual welfare.

And why isn't it interested?

Nobody authorized the government to impose taxes. Nevertheless it imposes
taxes by use of force. Therefore they are robbers.

Nobody gave their liberty to the government. Nevertheless they
consider themselves authorized to make laws as they please, to draft
people into they army, to impose restriction on the natural right to
enter into contracts, to forbid actions which are not unjust (such as
drug use), to grant monopolies, etc. They will use force to impose their
whims and will kill if necessary. Therefore they are murderers. They
even declare that they are not responsible for their actions and and for
the "laws" they make. Since irresponsible dominion is only applicable
to property, they are slavers.

Why would a rational person assume that a band of robbers, murderers
and slavers has any interest in the welfare of their victims? I can
only assume that they wish to satisfy their whims and the whims of
their associates. Observation of their actions leads me to believe
my assumption is correct.

Mike Peercy

unread,
May 27, 1991, 1:31:05 PM5/27/91
to
m...@cecelia.media-lab.media.mit.edu (Michael Travers) writes:

| In article <peercy.6...@dopey.crhc.uiuc.edu>,
| pee...@crhc.uiuc.edu (Mike Peercy) writes:

| m...@cecelia.media-lab.media.mit.edu (Michael Travers) writes:

| | In article <1991May25....@mailer.cc.fsu.edu>,
| | ot...@fsu1.cc.fsu.edu (John Otto) writes:

| | Redistribution - robbery and fencing - does remove wealth from the
| | economy.
| | Since it moves money (and, to a lesser extent, wealth) from the more
| | productive to the less productive and from more productive uses to
| | less
| | productive uses, wealth of everyone is decreased.

| | Right. If I take away 1/23 of Lee Iacoccas income ($1million) and
| | spend it, say, on elementary education, I have decreased wealth and
| | impoverished society, proof by application of axiom 1. Guess what,
| | I'll bet not even Iacocca would buy your argument: ask him if he'd
| | like zero taxes in exchange for the government educating his future
| | employees, safeguarding his wealth, ensuring the oil supply with
| | military interventions, etc, I doubt he would take the deal.

| Of course he wouldn't.
| Why do you think he makes $23 million?

| It's a figure I heard, I'm not sure if it's accurate.

$23 million, $17 million, big diff. The man's probably not worth more
than $2 million.

| Iacocca's a bloody politician,
| not a manager. He is quite aware that the government (used wisely) can
| increase his company's wealth, and his company pays him well for it. Even
| now he's leading the charge for national health insurance, hoping to make
| Chrysler a little richer at the nation's expense.

| | Which
| | only goes to show that people who are actually "productive" (ie, make
| | money) are too smart to be libertarians.

| Straw man.

| No, it's merely a snide remark.

:-)

| Libertarians believe that earnings and productivity are well correlated
| only in a free market. I.e., people who make a lot of money in this day
| and age often make it from government influence and are, therefore, too
| reliant on the unearned to honestly be libertarians.

| Does this mean that libertarians favor redistribution of wealth after
| the revolution?

[ See next posting: Redistribution. ]

| | If money was only a token of production, your view might have some
| | merit. But it isn't.

| Why don't you ask the cashier at the local A&P whether she enjoys seeing
| 1/5 of her income educating Chrysler's employees, replacing Iacocca's money
| lost in Joe's Savings and Loan, ensuring the oil supply with military
| interventions, raising the price of food goods, etc.?

| Due to the success of the Reagan propaganda machine and the failure of


| any alternatives to make themselves heard, your average cashier has
| come to believe as you do. So he votes for republicans who implement
| policies that redistribute wealth upwards, making himself poorer in
| the process.

Yes, she made a mistake in voting for Reaganites. She should vote for
people who don't redistribute wealth at all. (As a side note, it doesn't
matter who she voted for since enough other people voted to take away her
money.)

| It's odd, I'll grant you, that people will vote against
| their direct self-interest, but I fail to see what it has to do with
| the issue at hand, which is the relationship between money, value,
| government, and private enterprise.

Hey, now. You brought up Lee "my take home pay is $13 million" Iacocca
as though to say he misses the stolen part. I pointed out Ms. A&P "my take
home pay is $8000" Cashier to say she _does_ miss her stolen part, and the
government does not replace it with something of equal value to her.
To show more clearly what it has to do with the issue at hand, I give you
this table:

VALUE WAGE TAXES VALUE FROM GOVERNMENT

Iacocca: $2M $23M $10M > $21M [mostly to Chrysler]
Cashier: $10K $9K $1K $500

Ms. Cashier produced all of her wage, yet $500 was taken away from her.
Iacocca produced $2M, yet his company gets (redistributed from Cashier,
et. al.) enough to make his salary $23M. Granted, "redistributions" up are
seldom handouts (except in cases like the Chrysler bailout). They mor