Monday, May 29, 2006

I'm a ....

Rational*, Liberal**, Middle of the Road/It Depends-type Managerio-Democrat***, Individualist***, Hayekian****, mildly Progressive***, Federalist***, Egoistical****** Cosmo-Nationalist***

What are you?

* God help us if we can't resolve political disputes by reason. If we assume - as Subjectivists must - that everything is a battle of wills, we are only a short step away from the use of force to resolve disputes. Not nice.

** See above. Freedom of Speech and Association render redundant the need for violent revolution to achieve your aims. Assuming of course, that you are Rational. I think this is key: if Radicals really did have a good case they should be able to convince sufficient people to their cause to vote them into office and achieve their aims. Resorting to violent revolution in a free democracy is an admission of lack of popular support. If true freedom of speech and association do not pertain, then violent revolution might well be needed to throw out the totalitarian government, but in that case, liberals would/could not achieve anything anyway, in which case the question is irrelevant.

*** errr.... I think. Both systems have their downsides. The answer is to ensure that government power is as limited as possible. But then I would say because I'm a ....

**** ....Hayekian

Basically, if you really are a Hayekian, then your choice of many of the other axes is pre-determined:
Individualist vs Communitarian: It is basically impossible to hold communitarianism without totalitarian state control. Not very Hayekian.
Managerialist vs Democrat: Limit government power and this becomes less important.
Progressive vs Burkean: The less government can stifle individual initiative, the more individuals can control their own lives and make their own decisions. The more individual action there is, the more you will have experimentation. It's just that the experimentation won't be so overtly political. In short, I struggle to see how a Hayekian could be Burkean.
Universalist vs Federalist: Devolve power to the lowest level possible. Let people make their own decisions as to how they want to run their lives and Coase will sort out the rest.
Cosmopolitan vs Nationalist: Until we are all Hayekian, Cosmopolitanism is not really going to work. As long as the state is redistributing other people's money, you can't remove borders: the "social contract" implicit in the welfare state - or any form of redistribution generally - is that we all do our bit to pay into the system when we can. You can't then syphon off money from that system to give to others who are completely outside its remit for collection without straining that social contract, all of which brings to the final point ....

***** that the definition of Altruism is pretty wide of the mark. If it is an obligation, externally imposed, then it is not altruism. Altruism refers to an individual's social conscience. If it is not externally imposed, then it is not politically enforceable. Equally, Altruism is not "Justice". The egoist would ask: "Has this person done everything he can to help himself? Has he squandered the opportunities (or money) he has been given?" If the egoist decides that an individual has been dealt a bad lot, then he may feel compassion to help him, but this has nothing to do with justice. On the contrary, it is manifestly unjust to take from one who has worked hard and struggled and suffered to do the best he can and to give to another who has not.

In effect, Egoists understand the golden rule of economics: incentives matter. So question 8 becomes "Sense of Naivety" , divided between "rationalists/Incentivists" and "Naifs" and question 9 becomes "Scope of Naivety", split between "Hopeless and completely deluded" and "Mildly deluded". If one is Hayekian/Egoist, this distinction is meaningless as the answer is "neither". If the state is not redistributing dosh in the first place, then it doesn't matter how widely it is or isn't.


Anonymous said...

I am ..errrrrrrrr .. a drunk. Yep, that works

Richard said...

The egoist/altruist dimension is meant to be entirely independent of empirical questions or economics. Consider the question as a hypothetical: i.e. whether you think it would be a good thing if coercive redistribution could help the poor. One might agree with that even if they think that traditional welfare schemes do more harm than good due to their perverse incentives. (Indeed, that's pretty close to my own view!) Alternatively, if you think that redistributive taxation is intrinsically "unjust", then* you're opposed to it no matter the consequences. You're then a true "egoist"**. But your position has nothing to do with "incentives", nor the rejection of "naivety".

* = another consequence of holding that view is that you should read this post ;-)

** = note that I'm not trying to capture the literal meaning of these terms (e.g. "altruism"). They're just convenient labels for the described positions. So long as they have some intuitive resonance, that's close enough for me!

The Pedant-General in Ordinary said...


A very warm welcome to Infinitives Unsplit. For the record I should make clear that I thought your post to be excellent. I quite see your point about the use of convenient, rather than strictly accurate terms.

You may well level the charge that I am, errr..., a bit of a pedant...

I shall read your posts - I'm just making my way through the "hostile version", before I go to the "friendly version". No point in pulling one's punches.