[ExI] The Circle of Coercion

dan_ust at yahoo.com dan_ust at yahoo.com
Fri May 8 21:28:32 UTC 2009

--- On Fri, 5/8/09, Stathis Papaioannou <stathisp at gmail.com> wrote:
> 2009/5/7  <dan_ust at yahoo.com>:
>> I don't think so.  Prisoner's Dilemma's result from
>> the inability of participants to signal each other and to
>> depend on anything more than each participant trying to
>> maximize some specific reward.  In the real world, people
>> can signal each other and they have different notions of
>> what constitutes a reward.  On the latter, for example,
>> some of us want to live in a world with lower coercion and
>> will forego at least some potential near term rewards from
>> coercion for this -- and even suffer some specific
>> punishments for it.
> The Prisoner's Dilemma is relevant to taxation. It is
> possible that
> there is some project, costing money, which would give
> everyone
> utility greater than the amount they paid.

This would, if true, only allow the Prisoner's Dilemma to be applied to that case -- not to the general case of taxation.  And it still doesn't answer the problem of how to determine utility or value in such a way.  The Dilemma merely assumes such comparisons are possible and goes from there.  You snipped out my statements on this:

"It's also the case that one can't do interpersonal comparisons of value, so specific rewards can be measured between people.  This is why some will work harder or longer for what seems to be the same objective reward than others.  This goes for monetary rewards and all other rewards -- even ones some people might think are not rewards at all."

Without such an ability to compare, how can one tell beforehand how agents will act?

Also, with the ability to signal, repeated interactions, and moral and other forces acting on agents, the Dilemma need not apply.  Notably, in real world economic interactions, people do signal each other and adopt other strategies.

> However, each
> person would
> be even better off if they didn't contribute, since the
> project is of
> a type which benefits the cheats as well as well as the
> contributors.
> But if everyone cheated, the project would not go ahead,
> and hence
> everyone would lose. So, when it comes to the vote,
> everyone would
> vote to be forced to contribute - since that would mean
> everyone else
> would also be forced to contribute (a better outcome still
> would be
> that everyone except me is forced to contribute, but that
> vote
> obviously isn't going to pass). This is what a tax is.

The problem is: this is what advocates of taxation believe it is.  In fact, one can't know if something is of benefit to all and the evidence that it's not is in that it must be forced on people.  To wit, if people don't all agree to it, then they must not all believe they want it -- they must not believe that it makes their world better.  (Not the rhetoric I'm using here: economics is not about personal monetary gain, but focuses on why people act.  They act to improve things.  This could be as when a miser acts to grow his pile of coins ever larger or when a saint self-abnegates to purify his soul.  Both fall under the purview of economic analysis, and both are subject to the logic of action.)  Yes, you might honestly believe it makes the world better, but they don't.  (And why are or the group that taxes right while all others are wrong?)




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