The private sector drops the ball? There you are watching that one commercial with Sarah McLachlan and the abused dogs. And then, of course, you start tearing up and going *snif* *snif*. But do you call the number on the screen in order to make a donation? Nope. You drop the ball.
No worries! That’s what the government is there for! The government reaches into your purse, takes out $100 dollars… and gives it to ASPCA. Voila!
You dropped the ball but the government picked it up. That’s teamwork!
Actually… it’s not quite so simple to figure out who, exactly, dropped the ball. It’s easy to blame the education system for not teaching you about Wicksell…
It is impossible for anyone, even if he be a statesman of genius, to weigh the whole community’s utility and sacrifice against each other. — Knut Wicksell, A New Principle of Just Taxation
But can we really blame the education system? The education system is simply the product of our system of public finance.
Eh, it’s easiest just to blame myself. I dropped the ball. Sorry about that. But here am I endeavoring to pick it up.
So… if we assume that the $100 dollars that the government took out of your purse closely corresponds with how much you genuinely care about helping abused dogs… then yeah… there’s absolutely no problem with the government picking up the ball. However, this assumption would throw markets under the bus. Not just a little under the bus… but entirely under the bus.
There would be absolutely no point in anybody shopping if we want to assume that the government knows how much we truly value things.
And then you ask… but what about voting?! Well… if voting every few years was truly effective at communicating/conveying our valuation of things then again… markets get thrown entirely under the bus.
Therefore we apply the pragmatarian model to Medium. Each month we each pay $1 dollar… but we are given the freedom to choose which stories we spend our pennies on. So if you read a story about helping abused dogs and you start going *snif* *snif*… then you might as well spend some of your pennies on the story. The more pennies that get spent on that story… the more attention that will be given to the plight of abused dogs.
And if you don’t decide to spend your pennies on the story about helping abused dogs… then it’s a given that you’re saving your pennies up for more valuable stories. But you’re definitely not going to be spending your saved pennies at Sephora! You’ll only be able to spend them on stories that you truly value. Then I’ll be able to sort your recommended stories by your valuation of them. How cool would that be? It would only take me a second to learn which story you value most.
If we’re honest with ourselves then sure, the free-rider problem is a real problem. But assuming that government officials, who we’ve never even met, somehow know how much we truly care about things? Oh man, it’s by far the most ridiculous, and harmful, assumption ever made.
To be clear… no, I’m really not a libertarian. I’m a pragmatarian. I believe that taxes are wonderful and necessary… as long as the people who pay them are given the freedom to use them to improve our country. Of course what counts as “improvement” is entirely subjective. If it wasn’t subjective… then again, shopping would be thrown under the bus.