[ExI] Private and government R&D

Stathis Papaioannou stathisp at gmail.com
Wed Jul 1 11:55:41 UTC 2009

2009/7/1 Dan <dan_ust at yahoo.com>:

>> I would vote for my taxes to be higher so that I and
>> everyone else
>> could contribute to useful government projects, such as
>> science,
>> health and education, but if my taxes were lower I
>> wouldn't
>> voluntarily contribute to these projects myself.
> In other words, you would prefer to force everyone else to do what you would not voluntarily do yourself?

No, I would voluntarily agree for myself and everyone else to be
forced. To give an example, if a very expensive project were required
to divert an asteroid that was going to destroy the Earth, I would
vote to be forced to contribute to this project, rather than vote to
be allowed to contribute voluntarily. For if I and everyone else were
allowed to contribute voluntarily, not only would the cooperators be
carrying an extra burden compared to the defectors, but there might
not be enough cooperators to make a difference, so I may as well spend
my money in an enjoyable way in the time I have left.

> As a side note, this seems to mesh with some ideas I have on the fear of freedom.  I'm not saying I'm original here, but I think people fear freedom in two ways:
> 1.  What others might do with freedom.
> 2.  What they themselves might do with freedom.
> The first way is the kind I see often with conservatives who fear that once people are free to, say, be gay, watch porn, smoke pot, or grow their hair long, society will collapse.  No amount of teeth-pulling seems to change their minds.

These conservatives can go to hell.

> The second way is the kind I find among so called progressives who fear that if they are free to choose, then they are free to lose -- i.e., if they can choose, they might make mistakes.  E.g., if the government doesn't provide me with a pension, I might spend my whole life blowing my money on partying (probably being gay, watching porn, smoking pot, and washing my long hair with expensive rinses) and then end up old and decrepid without any safety net.  And, again, no amount of teeth-pulling seems to change their minds.

Actually, few people fear that they will lose due to future bad
choices. If they thought this way they would avoid the bad choices in
the first place or, if they knew they couldn't help themselves, take
measures like voluntarily apply for an independent financial
administrator. Instead, people make the bad choices *then* ask to be
bailed out.

>> We potentially have this situation: 100% of the population
>> is be
>> willing to be taxed for a particular project on the
>> understanding that
>> everyone else will also be taxed, but 0% of the population
>> is willing
>> to contribute to the project voluntarily if they know that
>> no-one else
>> need contribute. Therefore, a project that everyone
>> supports and is
>> happy to pay for is never undertaken.
> Potentially where?  Right now, that doesn't seem to be the situation at all.  The situation is some people would prefer to live in a free society.  Others would not.  Most, however, seem not to care enough either way.  My guess is if more people were allowed to choose, they would NOT all choose not to fund R&D.
> And, yes, perhaps funding levels would be lower in purely nomimal terms.  I can't say for sure, though lower nominal funding may not mean less important R&D gets done, but that it gets done more efficiently and effectively.  Recall the differences in the levels of funding between the Wrights and Langley?  The latter had roughly 350 times the funding, yet the Wrights not only succeeded, they used a wind tunnel to deal with this, paving the way for the near ubiquitous use of this device in air flow design today.

That is a spurious argument. What about all the millions spent
unsuccessfully on heavier than air flight by all the other private
researchers throughout the ages?

Stathis Papaioannou

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