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February 08, 2009

Comments

Spending cuts are actually tax increases? Dude that's SO cash.

"A state has a given set of needs – health care, education, roads, law enforcement, etc. These needs don’t really change if the tax structure changes. If there are 1 million uninsured residents on Monday, this number doesn’t get smaller if states lower taxes and enact balanced budget requirements on Tuesday."

Look, this isn't the problem with the states. State spending went up dramatically in the good economic times. They were riding the tax-gravy train and it was never going to end. California for example had a given set of needs in the 70s and 80s and 90s that didn't suddenly almost double in the 2000s. Now it has other problems (it is difficult to raise taxes here) but you can't pretend that spending was under control.

If you want to say that spending was completely out of control *and* taxes weren't raised soon enough, you're at least having a legitimate discussion. But this post sounds more like ideological amening.

This is seriously fucking stupid. You have a group of people (conservatives) who are interested in the size of government: they think that having too large a government is bad, dangerous, or whatever. But instead of just saying that's bullshit, you try to define their concern out of existence.

Under your bullshit set of definitions it's simply impossible to talk about overall levels of taxation. Any tax cuts that lead to reduced spending get labeled as tax increases. By the same token, any tax increase that leads to more spending would be a tax cut for those who receive the spending. Thus, the level of taxation is always the same. We can't even talk about the size of government. Aren't you fucking clever?

Listen you fucking moron, here's the "analytical" difference between a tax increase and a spending cut: one makes government bigger and one makes government smaller. If you don't care about that shit fine, just say so. But to pretend like your powers of analysis can't comprehend that either means you're a fucking retard or lying fucking hack. Fail.

The California budget effectively doubled from 1980 to 1990 and then doubled yet again from 1990 to 2000. cite.

Between 1990 and 2000 the population of California only grew 13.8%. cite

(It grew 25.7% in the 1980 to 1990 period). Unless California really sucked in 1990 and even more in 1980, it is hard to assert that it is all just the state's "given set of needs" that "don't really change if the tax structure changes".

Are those numbers real or nominal, Sebastian? If they're not real, find real ones.

Paulie - I'll respond once, then I'm done with you.

First, I admire your command of adjectives -- you're a very good writer.

Second, the whole point of the post is that the "size" of government isn't really relevant to the people's concrete realities. You may love small government, but the very same reasons you do (less costly, etc.) don't make as much sense when you realize you're just allocating those costs in a different way.

The one key assumption I'm making is that there's a set amount of stuff to be paid for (roads, schools, etc.), and then I talk about how governments allocate those costs. So in that sense, there's not one level of "taxation", there's one level of COST. And I care about how that cost gets allocated. When you give the wealthy tax cuts, and cut spending, you're essentially taxing the poor. And yes, when you raise taxes on the rich and increase spending, you're effectively cutting taxes for poor people.

I don't want to talk about the size of government b/c it obscures the point -- indeed, focusing obsessively on that is the whole problem.

Paulie Carbone: The meaningful way to measure the size of government is not how much money it has, but how much power it has. Money provides power and power provides money, but the relationship is complicated. In the grand scheme of things, a dictatorship can get by on a pretty low budget, just pay for the jackbooted thugs and you're in business. And as publius says, at the more democratic side of things, much of government spending is on things which would have to be paid for anyway, so the question is not how much is being spent but whether government is more or less efficient and more or less just than the alternative. Money is the wrong metric to use.

UserG makes a key point that I should have added. I'm not saying 100% of the "cost" should be taxed. We have to, as he/she says, look at what allocation is more efficient, fair, etc.

But the kind of things states will inevitably cut -- road projects, health care, education -- are not vacuums where the market will rush in to provide services. Thus, it's effectively a tax hike on those who rely on government services the market won't provide

I'm with you al the way on this Publius. And tell your detractors their tax bills won't be going down. But they will now have to pay for garbage pickup and other services local governments provided. In essence, a tax increase as you say. Great observation.

"The one key assumption I'm making is that there's a set amount of stuff to be paid for (roads, schools, etc.), and then I talk about how governments allocate those costs."

I have to say, Publius, that's a pretty poor assumption. State governments do increase their costs, you know, and not always in proportion to the needs of the actual population.

Publius: fucking great post!

If the Republican Party had really been interested in States' rights all of these fucking centuries, they wouldn't have imposed Balanced Budget amendments at the State level and Tax-limiting statutes at the State level.

They would have let the States expand their budgets and experiment, and then maybe we would have allowed them to pass a Balanced Budget amendment at the Federal level, another stupid idea of theirs, the stupid fucking morons (excepting the usual suspects), but apparently we are required by bipartisanship and by the responsibility of keeping their self-esteem intact to adopt one or two of their stupid fucking excuses for ideas.

The dumbest idea of all was arming the dumbest of their party and then laying them off and canceling their health insurance.

Dumb shoots dumber.

That's where it is going.

You (you know who you are) don't really think that unarmed effete liberals are going to wreak vengeance becasue of theis mess.

No, it's the scum who armed the dumb masses who had better find a place to hide.

I'm a fucking great writer.

"Are those numbers real or nominal, Sebastian? If they're not real, find real ones."

100 inflation adjusted dollars over the 1990-2000 period would be about $131. Not $200.

Two problems with government spending, having to do with how people-intensive it is:

- health care costs
- keeping up with the private sector as prosperity (generally) increases

I hate people-intensive endeavors.

If only we could have total productivity involving no people whatsoever.

Think of the savings.

The State of Nevada will cut its budget by 38%

A cool development if you are into how the Republican vomitas keeps recycling through our system undiluted:

Bob Smith, former libertarian Republican Rep and I believe Republican Senator from New Hampshire, who retired a few years ago from elected office and went to Florida to make his fortune in real estate wants to run for Senate again from the state of Florida this time around.... go read in this week's New Yorker what Ayn Rand scum like him did to the State of Florida during the recent real estate debacle ---- Florida's entire tax base is embedded in real estate.

It never stops.

Haha, awesome. Cutting benefits is the same thing as increasing taxes! That's rich poor!

  • When we increase pay to IRS auditors, we're giving them a tax break.
  • When the DMV cuts back on paper clips, we're shafting ClipCo with a tax hike.
  • If we cut foreign aid to Israel, we're taxing the Israelis.

You know, I think it's time I asked my boss for some tax relief...

Last I checked, the bulk of the increase in California's budget (as is the bulk of the budget itself) is due to three things only:

a. school budgets fixed by initiative
b. rapidly increasing health care costs
c. prisons.

Hack away, Sebastian. Either let the lines in emergency rooms grow ever longer, or let prisoners go.

(OK, rant over. Many state and local employees are very well paid. The argument for the last 10+ years was that California was a very high-cost state, especially wrt housing, so that high salaries were needed to attract qualified employees. As someone who works with govt employees on an almost daily basis, I can personally attest to the importance of having in place people who are qualified to implement the programs they are charged with running. Now that revenues are plummeting along with housing costs, it'll be interesting to see whether California can freeze wages for a while. A budget analyst I know says that freezing wages for 5 years would permanently close the budget gap.)

Posting rules? We don't need no stinking posting rules!

Seriously, publius, I appreciate what you're trying to get at, but as sympathetic as I am, it feels like you're stretching. A lot. I think if you rewrote the post in terms of COSTS rather than in terms of taxes, it would work a lot better. You're not really increasing the taxes of the lower income classes; instead, you're substantially raising their cost of living, by giving tax cuts to wealthy people and cutting services that the lower incomes need, hence requiring those groups to pay for those services on their own (or, more likely, to go without them).

100 inflation adjusted dollars over the 1990-2000 period would be about $131. Not $200.

You're evading the question. Are the numbers you gave real or nominal? Or do you not even know?

Cutting benefits is the same thing as increasing taxes!

Hah hah hah! Good one.

If there's no garbage collection you have to haul your own trash to the dump. Maybe you have to pay by the pound to throw it away.

Need to go somewhere on a snowy day? Make another cup of coffee and find something good to read. The plow will get there when it gets there.

If there's no state money for education, you will pay a lot more to go to a state college. Or you don't go at all. Maybe there won't be a state college.

Some services -- water, sewer, highways -- are too essential to let them totally slide. So you'll pay more for them, and/or they'll just be relatively more half-assed than they are now. Put some money aside for front end work on your car after you hit that next pothole.

Look for reduced hours or outright closures of public libraries parks and other institutions, your local firehouse closing, no more free or subsidized lunches for schoolkids, reduced or eliminated job training and other support for folks who lose their jobs, etc.

Need a building permit pulled, or a sign-off on some construction work so you can actually use your new kitchen or bathroom? Take a number. You're gonna wait, dude. And the fee is going up.

Maybe you'll get to meet some of your insane neighbors when their case workers get fired and they go off their meds and wander aimlessly through the neighborhood talking to themselves. If they freak you out, don't call the cops. They won't have time for petty shit like that.

Cutting public money for services means you either pay out of pocket, or you don't get the service.

If you don't like calling that a "tax increase" fine with me. Whatever floats your boat. It's just a turn of phrase, to make a point.

But what the hell. Government sucks, and the public sector is just a total drain on all of us productive people. Screw them.

100 inflation adjusted dollars over the 1990-2000 period would be about $131. Not $200.

The cost of things that state governments pay for have gone up faster than inflation, notably health care and education. You also need to adjust for population growth.

The population of California in 1980 was about 23.7 million. In 1990, it was about 29.8 million. In 2000, it was about 33.9 million.

The CPI-U index for 1990 was 1.64 times what it was in 1980, and for 2000 was 1.32 times what it was in 1990.

Multiply these together, without accounting for inflation of the actual things states buy, and a nominal doubling of California's budget from 1980 to 1990 constitutes a 6% drop in real per capita terms. It went up about 50% between 1990 and 2000, for a real per capita increase of 41% over the combined period. Up, but a whole hell of a lot less than you are making out.

"100 inflation adjusted dollars over the 1990-2000 period would be about $131. Not $200.

You're evading the question. Are the numbers you gave real or nominal? Or do you not even know?"

It kind of seems like you are being a jerk. They were nominal, I gave you the inflation conversion. Right?

yeah - i was going to mention posting rules but i didn't want anyone think i was evading the criticism.

but tgirsch -- you're probably right about talking more about costs (a point i tried to make later in comments that should have been above the fold). but i don't think it's a stretch in that (1) they're functionally equivalent; and (2) people (including me) don't usually think of them that way.

i mean, if Nelson/Collins got up and said, "we have agreed to jack up the life costs of 600K working people", it probably would be praised by the Post. Instead, they phrased it as cutting spending, and it was so praised. but they're the exact same thing, functionally

oops - "probably would NOT have" i meant to say

"It went up about 50% between 1990 and 2000, for a real per capita increase of 41% over the combined period. Up, but a whole hell of a lot less than you are making out."

I don't know in what context you think that a real per capita increase of 41% isn't a lot, but in my world that is a lot.

And if we're talking about something other than the 'abstract ideology' of tax cuts and government services which publius decries, I think the fact of a 41% per capita increase is rather important. Especially when we are going to be demonizing people who don't agree.

It kind of seems like you are being a jerk

Yeah, I get that a lot. It doesn't bother me. It usually reflects more on the caller than the callee, but in any event, sure, I'm a total jerk.

They were nominal, I gave you the inflation conversion. Right?

You gave a rate that would convert nominal amounts into real ones, you didn't say whether the original numbers that you quoted were real or nominal. So they were nominal. Yeah, that's what I expected. You might want to do that up front next time for the benefit of people whose bullsh*t detectors aren't as well tuned as mine.

I think you should have done private costs plus taxes. If the government is forced to cut health care, then more uninsured put a burden on hostipals and medical costs per treatment go up. So I either pay through higher taxes -or higher health care premiums. Same with education. I need low taxes so I can save enough to put three kids through college. Gee, if I'd been smart I would have emmigrated to a high tax Nordic country. With government supported health care, and education, I wouldn't need to save so darned much. And we see other charges in prop 13 constrained California, very expensive, water, trash sewer, auto licences. Be a day late renewing a dog license, and they use that as an excuse to force you to pay up. Then the shool system is always trying to get you to donate money, and supplies. So Publius was right -but he wasn't specific about the fact that a lot of it is cost shifting. In which case we need to find the most efficient way to handle the need. But doing that requires an ideologically blind analysis.

I don't know in what context you think that a real per capita increase of 41% isn't a lot, but in my world that is a lot.

If it's enough to make your rhetorical points, then why aren't you using a useful figure rather than one that is meaningless?

"You might want to do that up front next time for the benefit of people whose bullsh*t detectors aren't as well tuned as mine."

Ummm, okey dokey. Again, 41% PER CAPITA increase is enormous in any normal world.


--thanks

And if we're talking about something other than the 'abstract ideology' of tax cuts and government services which publius decries, I think the fact of a 41% per capita increase is rather important. Especially when we are going to be demonizing people who don't agree.

You are also making an implicit assumption that the value in 1980 is the proper one, and the 2000 one that is inflated. Your approach avoids having to make the argument on the merits.

Seb,

California's GDP more than doubled 1980-1990, and nearly doubled again the following decade. That government spending would trend similarly is hardly suprising.

Given the craptackular state of California's infrastructure and educational facilities, one can wonder where it has all been spent (oh, those shiny prisons on a hill), but even if shitty, these things cost money....

Conservatives throw numbers like this out all the time, and I imagine for every state, local, and municipal government that exists. They always get shot down. They never learn. It's like discussing evolution with somebody pushing "intelligent design".

I wonder why that is.

Ummm, okey dokey. Again, 41% PER CAPITA increase is enormous in any normal world.

Depends on what, too...Throw a lot more people in jail, your under 18 population explodes, not sure a 41 percent per capita increase is that unreasonable.

"Your approach avoids having to make the argument on the merits."

Publius argues that the states are in trouble because "A state has a given set of needs – health care, education, roads, law enforcement, etc." He argues that "I’m writing a longer post on this topic, but our country is being affirmatively harmed by “small government” ideology. The problem, though, is that this ideology sounds great in the abstract – low taxes; light regulation; letting people keep their money; hostility to big bloated government; etc., etc. In a vacuum, that sounds like a great world to me.

This abstract ideology, however, is often totally divorced from economic and social realities."

The economic and social reality was being served quite well in 1980 in California at around 70% of what California is now spending. And to the extent that it was not being well served (say education) it is not being dramatically better served now.

I don't think that 'small government ideology' can be wholly blamed for that kind of fact.

The economic and social reality was being served quite well in 1980 in California at around 70% of what California is now spending.

That's assuming the economic and social reality (which includes demographics and required spending) is the same in 1980 and whatever year you choose.

I do not think that is a safe assumption to make.

The economic and social reality was being served quite well in 1980 in California

Yeah. Whatever.

"And tell your detractors their tax bills won't be going down. But they will now have to pay for garbage pickup and other services local governments provided. In essence, a tax increase as you say. Great observation."

Except, you know, people in rural areas, (Like myself until a few months ago, and again once I've saved a downpayment.)routinely experience that lack of government garbage pickup, and in the real world having several big firms and a pack of mom and pop operations competing for your business actually gets you pretty good, cheap garbage collection.

But go on with your dream that monopolists are better service providers.

Anyway, Publius, aren't you the tiniest bit embarrassed by this 'reasoning'? The idea that governments have fixed "needs", irrespective of the resources you give them, is starkly bonkers. Governments are perfectly capable of redefining their 'needs' given increased resources, they can darned well do it when resources decline, too. To say otherwise is to institute a "ratchet" where government expenditures always go up, never down, and will eventually converge on 100% of the economy.

But maybe you like that aspect of your argument.

Making your position tautologically 'true' has the advantage of assuring you that you're right, but the disadvantage of stripping your arguments of all persuasive power against anyone who didn't already agree with you. Carbone was seriously impolite, but he wasn't saying anything a lot of people wouldn't think after being subjected to that kind of nonsense.

Anyway, the larger point here is that, despite the superficial appeal of the “small government” ideology, it is often in practice a reallocation of income from the bottom to the top.

I don’t think you made your point here. Raising state taxes has a real impact on the poorest residents in many states.

Poor families in many states faced substantial state income tax liability for the 2007 tax year. In 18 of the 42 states that levy income taxes, two-parent families of four with incomes below the federal poverty line were liable for income tax. In 15 states, poor single-parent families of three paid income tax in 2007. And 26 states collected taxes from families of four with incomes just above the poverty line. In 2007, the federal poverty line for a family of four was $21,203, and the line for a family of three was $16,530.

Some states levy income tax on working families in severe poverty. Nine states — Alabama, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, Ohio and West Virginia — tax the income of two-parent families of four earning less than three-quarters of the poverty line ($15,902). And six states — Alabama, Hawaii, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, and West Virginia —tax the income of one-parent families of three earning less than three-quarters of the poverty line ($12,398).

I think you’d have a better case arguing to make state taxes more progressive. Just raising them isn’t automatically a good thing.

But go on with your dream that monopolists are better service providers.

Trash collection is an example of a service that can often be provided effectively by private contractors. Towns should run the numbers and make their own decision.

Snow plowing is another good example. Most local (i.e., not major highway) plowing in my area is done by private contractors, usually guys who already have a truck or other heavy equipment and just spend a few extra bucks to fit it with a plow. It's a good way for building contractors to pay the bills in the off season.

I'm not sure the same is true for police and fire, public health, highways, water, sewer, etc.

And then there are some things, like public assistance programs, that are inherently uneconomic. Nobody is bidding for the job of giving stuff away for free.

In any case, your example doesn't counter publius' point. Removing public money from the equation doesn't eliminate the need for these things, it just transfers the cost to private individuals. The equation of "transfer of cost equals tax increase" might be inartful, but no matter what you call it it's still money.

It also puts things on a fee for service basis, which I think has an intuitive appeal to you. Unfortunately, the fee for service basis is also inherently regressive. If you're making $30K, $30/month for trash pickup is a number you'll notice. If you're making $300K, $30 is the tip for a nice meal.

And unless you're living way, way out in the sticks where you can burn your trash, it's not optional -- you're normally required by law to either sign up for some service, or you haul it yourself, quite often paying a fee per trip or per pound of trash.

But hey, at least it's out of the dreaded public sector. Our very liberty is at stake, right?

You go on with your dream and I'll go on with mine.

can someone give me the over/under on what percentage of "rural areas" are likely to be serviced or characterized by "several big firms and a pack of mom and pop operations" dying to provide services for them?

I can give you an anecdote about a rural area...

My town ("town" is a bit of a misnomer, there is hardly any population density) does not provide trash collection services. It runs a transfer station (formerly a dump), to which each resident brings their garbage and recyclables. Residents on the lake side, distant from the dump, had the option for many years of hiring a local man who ran a business of picking up and hauling trash for them. He retired recently, and no one immediately stepped forward to take his place.

Here's where it gets interesting. The lake people, who wax libertarian when it comes to things like hiring another police officer or paying for road maintenance, are really socialists at heart. They wanted the town to provide the service they had been enjoying. G-d forbid they have to drive across town with their own garbage. (They also reversed direction on road funding when emergency vehicles can't get down *their* road due to washouts or mud -- so much for hardy individualism.)

you have some understaning of how money is moved around so it totaly screws the middle and lower class - but you need to talk about getting of the grid taking care of our self - in Indiana - Kokomo is using some churches to form think tanks on any subject that would keep people from being dependent on all goverments - we have to many goverments - it is just people getting together for one cause - we do not need to pay idiots to take care of us!


That's assuming the economic and social reality (which includes demographics and required spending) is the same in 1980 and whatever year you choose.

I do not think that is a safe assumption to make.

An important point to keep in mind when comparing 1980 to 1990 state spending in CA is that this is the post Prop 13 timeframe during which the burden of primary school educational funding shifted from local districts to Sacramento. Much of that burden shifting did not occur immediately in the wake of Prop 13 but instead was deferred until the mid 1980s when property values began to soar again after a series of recessions in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This is one of the reasons the Calif State budget ballooned during the 1980s. If you add together local as well as state spending in CA, then the climb from 1980 to 1990 was not as steep as it appears from that 41 percent figure.

"can someone give me the over/under on what percentage of "rural areas" are likely to be serviced or characterized by "several big firms and a pack of mom and pop operations" dying to provide services for them?"

I presume you specifically don't want to count WalMart, since every other time we talk about them moving into under-served rural area it is counted as a horror?

TLTinABQ, "Much of that burden shifting did not occur immediately in the wake of Prop 13 but instead was deferred until the mid 1980s when property values began to soar again after a series of recessions in the late 1970s and early 1980s."

This seems plausible, but the integration of the school budget had pretty well come along by the middle of the decade (7 years after Prop 13) but the largest portions of the budget increase weren't until the very end of the decade (88 and 89). In fact the school budget integration didn't make a huge impact in the years it was occurring, which is actually really weird.

A more plausible case could be made for the state just dramatically ramping up spending as reciepts became available. I would argue for more of a combo plate--lots of wasteful pork combined with legitimate spending increases, combined with a lack of tax increases, setting the stage for a mess. That mess did in fact occur in the early 1990s, which makes California's reprise of the mess that much more depressing.

Now_what:

"The economic and social reality was being served quite well in 1980 in California

Yeah. Whatever."

Sneering over half a thought isn't that helpful if the other half is important.

"The economic and social reality was being served quite well in 1980 in California at around 70% of what California is now spending. And to the extent that it was not being well served (say education) it is not being dramatically better served now."

You see if the government were actually effective at everything it spent money on, I wouldn't be as concerned.

Again, I'm open to the idea that more taxes are necessary. But we have to acknowledge the reality that government spending has been on a pretty much unmitigated upward trend. I'm not convinced that government services at the state level in California are 40% better than they were in 1980. In fact they are worse in many ways and certainly no better than even in most. And the areas where they are better (say the DMW or unemployment claims processing) are almost wholly attributable to modern computers, not general state efficiency.

Publius wants to put the blame for this entirely on our country is being affirmatively harmed by “small government” ideology which is frankly ridiculous.

I presume you specifically don't want to count WalMart, since every other time we talk about them moving into under-served rural area it is counted as a horror?

Which functions that we generally think of as being provided by government in urban areas does Wal-Mart replace?

I mean, is Wal-Mart about to get into the garbage collection or road construction or sewage or education businesses? Because I don't think it is.

Also, by what retarded set of criteria does a single large retailer comprise "several big firms and a pack of mom and pop operations?" Isn't it actually the opposite of that?

Can you maybe actually RTFQ rather than concentrate on some pointless "What about Wal-Mart TAKE THAT LIEBERALS?!" zing?

ya know, Sebastian, you can wax rhetorical about abstract increases in govt spending all you want, but if you want to be serious about cutting spending, you need to get down to brass tacks and talk about:

prisons &

health care.

Phil, I used to think you didn't read what I wrote, but now I see you dont' even read what you wrote, so I don't feel so bad.

Sorry, Sebastian, but no. Brett's comment and the responses it engendered -- including mine -- came up SPECIFICALLY IN THE CONTEXT of cutting government services like garbage collection, etc. That's what I and everyone else meant by "services." In fact, here it is again:

Except, you know, people in rural areas . . . routinely experience that lack of government garbage pickup, and in the real world having several big firms and a pack of mom and pop operations competing for your business actually gets you pretty good, cheap garbage collection.
I asked how many big firms and mom and pop operations are actually out there competing to provide those services in our rural areas.

The fact that I quoted Brett directly was an ENORMOUS clue that I was talking about the same kinds of "services" he was talking about.

You came up with motherfncking Wal-Mart.

Explain to me how Wal-Mart is AT ALL relevant to this discussion.

Then explain to me how I don't read what I write.

Come on, Sebastian. Dazzle me.

But yes, by all means, let's then specifically discuss Wal-Mart and how it will be providing these much-needed services in the face of budget cuts. I can't WAIT to hear about it. I bet it's going to be AMAZING.

WalMart is an example of one of the types of firms you specifically called out as impossible or improbable. (The fact that you don't seem to recognize which type is what suggested to me that you don't seem to pay attention to what you wrote). A very large part of WalMarts corporate growth was specifically finding rural areas that were underserved by both the private and public arenas.

I'll leave it to others to decide if I'm correct. You have never seemed interested in discussion on obsidianwings anyway.

This is evidenced again, by the fact that Brett has already provided you with an example of that for which you claim to seek--garbage collection. Similarly there are septic tank pumping private firms for those areas that don't have government-provided sewage. Denying that such things exist seems just weird. Loudly denying that they exist doesn't make it less weird. I don't actually believe you care about the counterexamples, because at least one of them was provided before you asked. If you had wanted to respond to it, you could have. You didn't. I suspect you won't substantively respond to the additional example of septic pump companies either, but perhaps you will surprise me.

:)

Here's a crazy suggestion, Phil: Go to Yahoo maps, punch in a random zip code, and type "trash collection" into the search bar. Unless you've picked someplace so far out in the boonies there's essentially nobody there, you're going to find multiple services. Certainly there were at least 3 agencies collecting garbage on my street alone, back in rural Michigan.

WalMart is an example of one of the types of firms you specifically called out as impossible or improbable.

No, it is not. Wal-Mart is never going to build roads, pick up your trash, pump sewage away from your house, or send a fire truck over if your house is on fire. Ever.

Nor -- since we're all up on reading skills in the hizzy now -- did I call out anything at all as "impossible or improbable," and I defy you to quote where I did. If you can do so, I will immediately make a $50 donation to the charity of your choice. I asked just exactly how many "big firms" and "mom and pop operations" were competing in most rural areas to provide services that stand to be affected by state budget cuts. A question you STILL have not answered.

(The fact that you don't seem to recognize which type is what suggested to me that you don't seem to pay attention to what you wrote).

OK, this is a serious question: What the hell is wrong with you? Are you so seriously bad at this that you don't understand the context in which my question was posed?

I'll leave it to others to decide if I'm correct. You have never seemed interested in discussion on obsidianwings anyway.

OK, Sebastian. If I were more inclined to waste time, I'd dig up every instance in which you got something completely backwards or responded to the wrong person or what have you, but that would probably not have the intended effect, which is to note that you're often like an easily-distracted kitten who can't keep track of what toy he's playing with.

This is evidenced again, by the fact that Brett has already provided you with an example of that for which you claim to seek--garbage collection.

Actually, he didn't "provide an example" of anything at all. (Honestly -- is someone reading these out loud to you? Are you illiterate?) He made a baseless and unsupported claim that, in the absence of government garbage collection, lots of potential players would be clamoring all over each other to pick up your garbage, with the implication that they'd do it more cheaply and more efficiently.

On the other hand, farmgirl actually did provide an example of something, which is to say, when garbage collection goes away, not so much the pack of firms waiting to compete, in her particular rural locale.

I mean, you do know what "provide an example" means, yes?

Similarly there are septic tank pumping private firms for those areas that don't have government-provided sewage. Denying that such things exist seems just weird. Loudly denying that they exist doesn't make it less weird.

Please quote me back the EXACT words with which I "loudly deny they exist." I want exact language here. If you can't do so, YOU will make a $50 donation to the charity of my choice.

I didn't "deny they exist" at all. I questioned whether, in your average rural locale, there are really a large number of firms competing to provide these services.

Are there? Not in my experience. Maybe one or two, but that doesn't constitute "several big firms and a pack of mom and pop operations," which is the claim that I questioned, not whether any companies exist at all.

I don't actually believe you care about the counterexamples, because at least one of them was provided before you asked.

No, they were not. A baseless claim was made, and remains unsupported, by Brett or by you.

You have had ample opportunity now to provide actual, real world examples: "Actually, taking the 100 US towns with the lowest population density, there are on average X number of firms competing to provide Y services."

Instead, you've chosen to stick with "WALMART DUR HURR HURR" which really doesn't support the claim that Brett was making.

If you had wanted to respond to it, you could have. You didn't.

Respond to what? Brett's unsupported hypothetical of what he thinks might happen if the government doesn't provide trash pickup?

I suspect you won't substantively respond to the additional example of septic pump companies either, but perhaps you will surprise me.

I'm going to try this again, Sebastian, because you have really mastered the 100m high hurdles of stupid here.

I do not deny that "septic pumping companies" exist. (For, ironically, the very specific reason that I KNOW SOMEONE WHO OWNS ONE.)

I am asking, in the absence of government-provided sewage services, and specifically in rural locales, are there really, on average, "several big firms and a pack of mom and pop operations" competing to provide sewage pumping services?

Or fire protection?

Or road construction?

Or [insert service here]?

That is the claim that was made, that is the claim I am questioning, and that is the claim that remains unanswered by Brett, by you or by anyone else.

We have one real-world example, from farmgirl, regarding rural garbage collection for which the answer is "No." Nobody has provided a positive counterexample.

Now, why you seem unable to suss this out, given that I've explained it three times now, is beyond me. You claim to have some connection to the law, but seem to be unable to understand clearly written English, so I don't know what the other explanations can be. It's far too early in the morning on the west coast to be drunk at work, so I'll just leave it a mystery.

From my question -- "Are there really as many firms as Brett seems to imply competing to provide these services in rural locales?" -- you jumped to "Phil doesn't believe any of these companies exist at all." Which is not only an argument that someone connected with the law -- and should therefore have had some formal logic training -- should make, it is the argument of either a deeply biased or a deeply stupid person.

So, again, dazzle me, Sebastian. Because this didn't do it.

Here's another crazy suggestion, Brett: You made the claim, you support it, and don't make others do your homework.

Also, I'm gonna need a definition of "rural Michigan" here.

Unless you've picked someplace so far out in the boonies there's essentially nobody there, you're going to find multiple services.

Nice hedge, there, on just how rural is rural, but 3 trash pickup vendors is still not "several big firms and a pack of mom and pop operations." For someone who got his undies all in a bunch over what "left-wing fringe" does and doesn't mean, if you're going to use words like "several" and "pack," you'd better have some numbers at hand.

Thanks for your time Phil.

I'm sure you think you made your point forcefully.

I accept your concession that you a) absolutely misrepresented the question I was asking, b) said that I made a claim that I unequivocally did not, and c) have absolutely no light to shed regarding the question I did ask.

I hope our next exchange is half as illuminating. In the meantime, do you need the name of a charity to send $50 to, or are you just going to pick one at random?

Sebastian:
I'll leave it to others to decide if I'm correct.

Well, count me as a "no" vote, because my reaction was much the same as Phil's, i.e. WTF does Wal-Mart have to do with trash collection?

Phil:

I can relate to your frustration, but you really need to tone it down a few notches. You have the better part of the argument on the merits, but all the name-calling and insulting is detracting mightily from that fact. Just my 2¢. However:

you have really mastered the 100m high hurdles of stupid here.

I must admit to having laughed out loud at that, and reserve the right to plagiarize that. :)

all comments (c) 2009, all rights reserved.

Seriously, though, I appreciate what you're saying, tgirsch, but here's the thing:

I'm not the smartest guy in the world. And I'm certainly not the smartest guy on this blog.

But I know the difference between a question I'm asking and a question I'm not asking. And when someone decides to harangue me over a claim I'm not even making, it pisses me off. Particularly when that claim is utterly divorced from the question I am asking, which question in fact relies on the opposite claim being true.

In this particular case, the claim Sebastian says I am making is "Private firms which can provide some of the same functions as government do not exist." But the question I actually asked was, "On average, how many of these firms are truly available in rural locales?"

Instead of answering that question, Sebastian decided to keep pretending as if I was questioning the very existence of these firms. Which is not itself a big deal, but then he had the temerity to imply that I was the one not paying attention.

Well, sorry, but I've seen that shtick from Sebastian one too many times. "You don't even understand your own question." "Your example doesn't prove what you think it does." "You're not even looking at the right data."

Sorry, but I'm not going to be called dumb by someone who can't even bother to suss out what question is being asked, and chooses instead to repeatedly believe he's laid down definitive counterexamples to a claim that was never made.

And, Sebastian being Sebastian, he would have persisted in the same strategy regardless of how I had responded.

So, that's that.

To me, the scarier thought is that Wal-Mart will provide the trash collection, road building, etc., services...WITHOUT GOVERNMENT.

Look, the world where a single big franchise, privately owned, provides most utility services to each locality is not new. It was called "feudalism."

In this system, semi-autonomous local barons create a land monopoly, then subcontract production to individuals, maintain toll roads, provide a police and court system, license merchants, save emergency food and seed supplies for droughts, etc.

Sure, it's not the same. Wal-Mart doesn't have cops...just security officers who do the same thing. It doesn't really own the land...until it is economically convenient to reinvent the company town. It can't get official utility monopoly status...until it lobbies for it. It can't exercise monopoly power without that status...because it's really easy for a local provider to compete with Wal-Mart's economies of scale and its financial depth.

My point here is not that Wal-Mart is an Eeevul Conspiracy. It's not, especially. My point is that turning state-type services over to the unregulated market will do infinitely more damage to individual liberty than leaving them in government hands, if those are the alternatives.

I would be a lot more interested in libertarian philosophy if I saw any actual libertarians organizing and lobbying to keep big business small. Why do I never see libertarians over on the conservative blogs hollering about the runaway monopolism of the Republican Party agenda? Where is the libertarian list of monopolist conservative politicians who must be challenged in the primary? Why, in a world full of giant entities, do they side with all but one, the only one that has an avenue for popular participation?

Create that vibrant, competitive free market, and provide strong laws to maintain that competitiveness, and then talk about outsourcing state functions. Until then, I'll stick with government: I have some chance of influencing an assemblyman, I have no chance of influencing Wal-Mart.

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