A Political Argument for Productivism

In this post, I’m going to try to make a decent argument for the concept of tying political authority (votes) directly to taxation, and that it is politically feasible.  On the outset, taking away universal suffrage is probably the most unpopular idea you can come up with (practically by definition).  Well, I’m going to try to make the case as best I can.  I am pragmatic after all.  If I believe I’ve found something to be true, it’s still my responsibility to make the case for it and convince others.  Good luck me.

I’ve always disliked politicians and political debates because much of politics is not about finding the truth, but instead around making yourself popular or your opponent unpopular regardless of the truth.  Being a curious and analytical person all my life, I thought it immoral to be popular premised on false beliefs.  I believe that you should be popular because you speak the truth.  I still believe these things.

The realization I made recently, though, was that I shouldn’t be looking at the politician as the moral philosopher or scientist, determining and espousing the truth; but instead, the politician is simply the soldier on the front lines fighting for power.  If being deceptive and stretching the truth in public debates is how you gain power within the system, how can I morally blame the politician for playing the game of politics, just as a soldier uses deception to defeat their enemy?  It is not that the politician is immoral, it is that the system is immoral.  Why should we have a system where deception leads to power?  Shouldn’t we instead engineer a system where understanding and espousing truth, and not deception, leads to power?

What is the truth and what is deception?  Who or what can determine the difference?  How much intelligence does it take?  How much experience does it take?  Can a child tell the difference?  Can an animal tell the difference?  Can an adult tell the difference?  Can a computer program?  What entity can best determine what is right and wrong?

Imagine a political system where instead of every adult human being having one vote, we also gave all animals one vote.  After all, animals are part of society, should they not have a say?  Besides, human beings are animals too, we’ve evolved from animals.  We’re mammals with many of the proclivities and properties of animals such as desire for food, water, shelter, sex, and we have eyes, ears, mouth, limbs, similar organs, etc.  You realize that if all animals had the right to vote, the politicians in such a political system wouldn’t bother with petty debates trying to argue with their opponents over what is the best policy or better moral person to trust.  Animals can’t even comprehend language, let alone political topics.  Instead, the politicians would be trying to convince farmers and biologists into raising and training animals to vote for them in however the rules of the political system would specify (e.g. peck at the red box to vote for republican).  There would be many citizens, trying to take the moral high ground, who would scoff at these politicians for manipulating these animals into voting for them through biological engineering, rather than by presenting a moral and rational argument.  However, it should be quite apparent, that the politicians who try to convince these animals through moral and rational arguments, rather than biological engineering, will surely fail in such a system.  Unfortunately, you’re simply a fool if you think you can be a successful politician by doing what you believe to be morally right, regardless of how the system is setup.

My belief, that in assigning votes to those who pay taxes (taxes which rest ultimately on productive entities), is that these individuals are the best appraisers of ideas and BS.  Wealthy individuals who are productive, who invest their wealth wisely, must effectively appraise the people and firms they are investing in, otherwise, their wealth would be squandered, and they would not be productive.  Just as the entrepreneurs who come before venture capitalists and possible investors must make their case in as sound and rational a manner in order to get funding, the politicians of such a system would be subject to these very individuals who would be appraising the validity of their arguments and their propositions.  Those who are not wealthy, but yet productive, are the entrepreneurs of society (which includes laborers), who must make their case to the investors/employers to be entrusted with resources/investment.  These individuals too, would be better appraisers of ideas and BS espoused by politicians in such a system, otherwise, they would not be successful in getting the trust of their employers and investors.

My hope is that we can one day have a system where public political debates were closer to arguing the truth, rather than arguing deception.  Currently, it’s so painful to hear politicians speak in the way they do, it’s like observing the horrors of war; however, we shouldn’t be denigrating the soldier/politician, we should be denigrating the war/system.

I think these arguments are quite palatable to elites on the right, but what about the elites on the left?  I think many elites on the left reject egalitarianism in private, but espouse it publicly in order to maintain power.  Many academics on the left espouse egalitarianism because it is the basis of much of their grants and funding.  Many politicians on the left espouse egalitarianism because it is the basis of getting votes in our current political system, where they argue everyone should be entitled to equal wealth regardless of their productivity.

However, in such a system I propose, there still is room for such elites.  Productivism is not incompatible with charity or academic research just because such things don’t produce a traditional measure of profit.  To the extent that charity and research makes society as a whole more wealthy, such activities are compatible with productivism.  No doubt raising children is a critical component of the wealth of society, even though the parents don’t expect to own their children.  Research that can find ways to prolong your productive life will no doubt increase your personal productivity and productivity of society.  If you can efficiently transform a person who is on welfare into a productive member of society, rather than letting them die on the streets, then obviously society has become more productive and wealthy.

The argument I am making is not to get rid of such things, but instead reassign the appraisers of such things from the people receiving the benefits to the ones who are paying for the benefits.  Such a reassignment of political authority will no doubt make such activities more effective and successful for society as a whole.

Think of it like raising a child.  The cost for raising a child may be on the order of $250,000 from conception to the age of 18.  Is the right thing to do is put $250,000 in a bank account and then give the bank account to the child/baby/embryo for it to do with as it pleases?  Obviously not.  The parent is the better appraiser of what is best for the child and not the child itself, because the parent is paying the bills.  Once the child can pay for its own bills (is a productive member of society), then the child can become a sovereign being that can own itself and appraise its own investments.

Besides, many elites on the left make a lot of money anyway, so they will have more political authority in such a system as well.

So if we can convince the elites, both right and left, what of the common individual?  This individual will no doubt lose more political authority in such a system I propose.  Well, if the elites on both sides can be convinced of productivism, then they will be able to use their influence to convince the general populace into believing in such a system, just as the elites do today anyway.  So the challenge isn’t really in convincing the populace, but in convincing the elites who can convince the populace.  There will be some individuals in the general populace who will be worse off in losing their political authority, unfortunately those who are are not productive and are unwilling or unable to change their lifestyle.  However, the great many in the general populace will be better off as the individuals who pay their salaries (business owners) will be able to use their wealth more efficiently (for business expense rather than government expense), passing a portion of that efficiency gained to their employees.

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