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Hartmann-Sauer ITT

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Back in June, progressive radio personality Thom Hartmann and Market Institute president Charles Sauer tried a version of my Ideological Turing Test on the air.  Sauer channels FDR; Hartmann channels Reagan.  Or at least they try.  Here's the result!






COMMENTS (8 to date)
robc writes:

I made it as far as "Democracy in Chains".

Denver writes:

I'm biased, but I think Thom didn't do well at all.

Not only was it difficult to suspend my disbelief, due to his constant reminders that he didn't believe what he was actually arguing, but he also went right towards the weakest arguments from the fiscally conservative right (e.g. empty appeals to the constitution).

Thomas Boyle writes:

Not only did Thom make the weakest appeal, i.e., to the constitution, but Charles (as himself) also gave weak arguments. He could surely have pointed out that Thom took the risks he took, restarting his career and going into debt, in expectation of making money and improving his family's welfare. The higher taxes are, the stronger the safety net is, the less likely it is that Thom and others will do that. Even if you believe in a safety net, you have to recognize its costs, both to the entrepreneur and, over time, to society as a whole. Eventually, yes, the safety net strangles the entrepreneurs. Also, almost all of Thom's safety net was consistent with libertarianism - it was friends and family, not social services. His claim was that social services allow entrepreneurship by those who don't have friends and family; that's a very weak claim for many reasons.

But in many ways I think the most interesting part - which got only a line or two - is the government's role in promoting monopoly, in picking winners and stopping innovation and wealth creation. Regulations are making it increasingly difficult for small businesses to compete. And I'd argue that, rather than the US having too little protection for intellectual property (as Charles would have it), it has too much - large corporations have treasure chests of patents on all sorts of pretty obvious ideas, which they can use to clobber any new enterprise looking to enter their industry (especially true in tech). The huge returns to IP are a large part of what is driving both monopolization and the winner-take-all society. Meanwhile, we're stuck in century-old arguments about the appropriate level of income taxation, and whether libertarians are social darwinists (not) or socialists genuinely don't recognize the danger that their policies can lead to mass starvation (western socialists usually don't want to go that far).

Thomas Boyle writes:

Also, it was interesting that both men agreed that there is a moral obligation to help someone in need, but neither one addressed the question of whether there is a moral right to force someone else to do it, and what the appropriate limits to that might be.

I could argue either side of that. On the one hand, if I see a beggar, is it okay to produce a pistol and compel a passer-by to put $10 in the beggar's hat? What if it's a very well-dressed passer-by? What if I also put $10 in the hat? What if I only put in $1, because I'm not as well-dressed as the passer-by? What if I collect $1 out of the $10, because I'm not as well-dressed as the passer-by? What if I'm the beggar, with a pistol?

But, on the other hand, imagine a situation where someone is in a position to save a life at a cost to themselves of $0.01. No-one else can do it, and this person refuses to. Could I now, morally, produce my pistol, and insist? If we establish that much, then as the saying goes, it's only a matter of determining the price.

My own bias is, no, we can morally appeal, but we cannot morally produce the pistol. Clearly Thom - like most of my sophisticated friends - feels otherwise.

Thomas Boyle writes:

Finally, Thom asked a question: how do we resolve these points of view?

I think the two men have taken an admirable first step: try to spend some time in the mindset of the other camp.

The second is to try to break with either paradigm, and come at it from an entirely new direction - many are available, we just get lazy.

A very simple one is for Thom to ask, if you assume that no further tax revenue can be raised, how do you prioritize your "social safety net" items? Is a free Harvard education for those who can get admitted worth more, or less, than shorter waits for healthcare? Can you develop a philosophical structure for that? Can you apply it to a situation where you realize that tax rates are already too high? Can you apply it to a situation where healthcare rights aren't worth much because so many people are choosing to become artists instead of surgeons, forcing you to gross up surgeons' incomes for tax, creating even greater income inequality? "Tax the rich" is a lazy answer; don't be lazy.

And, for Charles, how much wealth disparity do you believe can stably (or morally) exist in a society, and can you think of ways to reduce the disparity without engaging in growth-damaging leftist ideas like direct wealth transfers? "Growth lifts all boats" is a lazy - and dangerous - answer, like "let them eat cake"; it can lead to revolution, which could even be worse than many implementations of socialism (although, you're likely to get revolution followed by socialism). Don't be lazy.

And the third, of course, is to try to popularize some of the resulting insights. Alas, that's going to be a long, slow process.

Seth Green writes:

First thought when seeing the headline: "what did Hartman-Sauer intend to treat and what was the effect size?"

Tom West writes:

Thomas Boyle:
But, on the other hand, imagine a situation where someone is in a position to save a life at a cost to themselves of $0.01. No-one else can do it, and this person refuses to. Could I now, morally, produce my pistol, and insist? If we establish that much, then as the saying goes, it's only a matter of determining the price.

Oddly enough, that's the argument I use when arguing *for* redistribution. In maybe 40 years of discussions, I've met maybe a handful of people in real life who argued against against insistence.

Libertarians are pretty scarce on the ground in these parts (Canada).

IronSig writes:

I've started reading this blog for about a year. The ITT is one of the most interesting ideas I've read here, but I do wonder about the application of lying advocated behind it.

Has anyone thought about the parallels between the ITT and the construction of the Phil Hendrie show?

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