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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/4576/the-habitual-deceptions-of-the-political-class/

The Habitual Deceptions of the Political Class

January 17, 2006 by

We want honest government, writes Vedran Vuk, but a politician cannot help one person without first stealing from someone else. This theft by the government is necessary to achieve the most power and influence. Effective theft involves deception. Hence, being a “good” politician must also always be dishonest and be engaged in a form of theft. Let us count the ways. FULL ARTICLE

{ 23 comments }

happyjuggler0 January 18, 2006 at 1:29 am

The incentive of coercion is the only extant incentive in politics. With coercion, the act of theft and misinformation about the future is proliferated to the masses.

Interesting that you bring up Ron Paul and then say what I just quoted. By implication Ron Paul is engagedin coercive behaviour because he votes no on virtually (precisely?) 100% of government spending bills and taxing bills. Give me a break.

Ron Paul gets his power by promising, and delivering on this promise, to vote down big government. Me thinks you owe Ron Paul an apology, and any other politicians who are essentially libertarians. Trying to reduce government is not coercion, it is the opposite.

Nathan Shepperd January 18, 2006 at 3:43 am

The fact that the incentive is there doesn’t mean that every elected official must by necessity act on it. Ron Paul as a person isn’t really at issue, and he’s an exception – most politicians get into office by promising to use coercion. As much as one can respect his integrity, his votes don’t actually do much to help, he’s more important as someone who promotes the limited government view.

anon January 18, 2006 at 7:06 am

While I agree with the general thrust of the essay–politicians are liars, thieves, and murderers–I’d say that this thesis was not clearly argued, and that the essay was filled with logical fallacies and erroneous thinking.

For example, I’m highly skeptical of psychics, but this is false reasoning:
“If psychics are not present in an area of the market where their “talents” would produce the biggest payoffs, then they do not exist.”

Perhaps it is necessary to be so intensely spiritual to become a psychic that material goods lose all meaning, and therefore these people live in isolation as hermits and devote all of their time to spiritual pursuits.

Larry N. Martin January 18, 2006 at 8:47 am

Perhaps it is as you say, anon, but this, too, is a fallacy. Unless there’s some reason or evidence for believing this, then we have to say that your idea, while possible, is highly improbable, and the free market hypothesis more probable. Another possibility is that it’s impossible to become a psychic, but rather it’s simply an innate ability one has or doesn’t have.

anon January 18, 2006 at 9:19 am

No, it was not fallacious, as it was clearly speculation, not a logical proof. Furthermore, there is historical evidence to support this speculation, e.g., many Buddhists and Taoists believe they have certain supernatural powers (including psychic powers and the ability to manipulate psychic energy to heal), and choose to live in isolation (e.g., in monasteries) or travel the world teaching and healing rather than pursue material ends. Again, this was simply a potential counter example, not a logical proof, so there is nothing.

Regardless, to the best of my knowledge, there is nothing in Austrian economics or the a priori method that would allow the author to make the kind of statements he makes in his essay (e.g., because you dont find psychics in highly-paid posts at corporations and governments, they don’t exist).

This article is a better fit at LRC than Mises.org

Ron Brown January 18, 2006 at 12:11 pm

anon,
Please explain exactly what you mean by a logical proof and why Vedran’s statement about psychics violates your definition.

Vince Daliessio January 18, 2006 at 12:54 pm

anon,

Mises explained that the basis of economic behavior is that “humans act”. Notwithstanding your counterexample, empirically most humans act to maximize their own well-being as they see it, financially, spiritually, etc. Since well-being implies some level of past or present consumption (i.e., food, water, clothing, shelter, education), it also implies some level of effort to fund that consumption.

Individuals, even a lot of them, may indulge in non-financially productive or even harmful behaviors, but in aggregate most humans act in ways that can be seen from their frames of reference (and others) to positively impact their financial well-being. This gives validity to economic analysis. There is nothing fallacious about the argument that if psychic ability existed the market would bid the price of it up, influencing the behavior of holders of that good. Since there has been NO documented evidence of this happening, not even a little bit, the author’s assumption, far from being fallacious, is a safe bet backed up by the lack of empirical evidence to the contrary.

anon January 18, 2006 at 1:57 pm

Vince, I’m well aware of Mises’ views on the basis of economic behavior, having read Human Action, Theory & History, and many more besides.

You’re missing the point however, as the author’s statement is a logical fallacy (at the very least, “denying the antecedent”, and probably several others that I’ve forgotten ) that can not be sustained by anything Mises has written. You might as well argue that if Jesus were the son of god, then his talents would have been bid up on the free market and he would have been incredibly wealthy, however instead he was a poor carpenter who was killed by the Romans and therefore it is impossible that he was the son of god. Regardless of whether Jesus was the son of god or not, this statement is riddled with logical fallacies and should therefore be disregarded.

I could use a conceptually similar proof to show that God exists: “If God exists, then there is good in the world. There is good in the world. Therefore God exists”.

The point is, there is simply no way you can show a priori that because there is not a booming market for psychics, psychics do not exist. It’s an absurd statement.

I would also quote the following from Human Action, and note that while Mises didn’t do a great job of summarizing this philosophy a) Mises clearly states that praxeology does not apply to such people and b) of the group of psychics least likely to be fraudulent, many of them likely fall in this category (e.g., Taoists and Buddhists and other highly spiritual groups of people), and therefore the bidding up of market prices for devout Buddhists and Taoists is irrelevant since their ends are purely spiritual and not material:

“Some philosophies advise men to seek as the ultimate end of conduct the complete renunciation of any action. They look upon life as an absolute evil full of pain, suffering, and anguish, and apodictically deny that any purposeful human effort can render it tolerable. Happiness can be attained only by complete extinction of consciousness, volition, and life. The only way toward bliss and salvation is to become perfectly passive, indifferent, and inert like the plants. The sovereign good is the abandonment of thinking and acting.

Such is the essence of the teachings of various Indian philosophies, especially of Buddhism, and of Schopenhauer. Praxeology does not comment upon them. It is neutral with regard to all judgments of value and the choice of ultimate ends. Its task is not to approve or to disapprove, but to describe what is.

The subject matter of praxeology is human action. It deals with acting man, not with man transformed into a plant and reduced to a merely vegetative existence. [p. 30]”

“Notwithstanding your counterexample, empirically most humans act to maximize their own well-being as they see it, financially, spiritually, etc. Since well-being implies some level of past or present consumption (i.e., food, water, clothing, shelter, education), it also implies some level of effort to fund that consumption.”

You can’t say notwithstanding my counterexample, since my counterexample shows that the underlying premise of the author’s statement is not true in the logical sense and therefore his conclusion is not true. Further, there is no guarantee that psychics need anything beyond the simple basics. This is certainly the case for monks, and if there are psychics within a monastary, then financial incentives will mean little to them.

Vince Daliessio January 18, 2006 at 3:01 pm

I don’t think Vedran Vuk was referring to monks and ascetics anyway, but to those who sell their alleged “psychic” abilities on the market already.And this in no way impugns or denies the religious or spiritual devotion of monks or other ascetics, or even the value of their services on the market – clearly there is a market for them, they satisfy the demand, they do not become wealthy because the value of their contribution manifests in the intangible.

If their spiritual gifts were of a tangible nature, i.e, the ability to heal, tell fortunes, or predict the future accurately, somewhere, somehow that ability would be observed by the market, either within or outside the monastaries. The information would stimulate demand for the services. Increased demand would increase the price. Monastaries would become rich, just as Christian monastaries in Europe did in the early Middle Ages when they held the secret of making beer and wine. What’s so hard to believe here?

Vince Daliessio January 18, 2006 at 3:09 pm

Anon,

Just to clarify – we are talking about testable instances of psychic ability. Vuk is basically saying that the market is a big scientific laboratory that invariably points out things of tangible value, things that can be employed as higher-order goods in production, or else first-order goods for consumption. You can argue that the consumption of first-order spiritual goods is difficult to observe, but if that spiritual good has a possible temporal utility the market will relentlessly seek it out.

The bottom line is that from the market frame of reference, for any temporally significant application, Vuk’s argument holds.

J. C. January 18, 2006 at 3:39 pm

“Any person who actually possessed psychic abilities could live the life of a gambler and read people’s minds at the card table.”

Except that not all of those who might claim to possess *any* psychic abilities are actually claiming to be *mind readers*.

Frank Z January 19, 2006 at 12:41 am

Actually, I would rather take my chances with a faith healer in some instances than with modern medicine.

His arguments are fallacious merely because government has already determined faith healers, psychics and fortune tellers are fraudulent so they have not been given any credibility or choice to exist other than as entertainment.

Mr Verduk of course agrees that they are nothing more than entertainmentand argues as though they are self-evident truths.

Unfotunately, our relationship with the physical universe has not yet been determined entirely. Theories exist and one in particular is promoted as the only plausibly acceptable theory.

Politicians, not wishing competition, attempt to monopolize the areas of healing, predictions of the future and mind-reading.

We need to learn alot more about these areas.
Evidence of odd phenomena exist.

Frank Z January 19, 2006 at 12:47 am

Correction:

The sentence in my previous post that reads,”Mr Verduk of course agrees that they are nothing more than entertainmentand argues as though they are self-evident truths.” Should read, “Mr. Verduk, of course, agrees that they are nothing more than entertainment and argues as though that is a self-evident truth.”

Ron Brown January 19, 2006 at 7:56 am

“His arguments are fallacious merely because government has already determined faith healers, psychics, and fortune tellers are fraudulent…”.

Not so, there is a regular TV show called “Psychic Detectives” (on A&E I believe) that shows psychics working with government police departments.

“Unfortunately, our relationship with the physical universe has not yet been determined entirely.”

What is a sweeping statement like this supposed to mean, that everything we’ve learned about human capabilities must be ignored because we can’t yet claim omniscience?

What is really unfortunate is the extent to which otherwise intelligent people will attempt to twist theories, evidence, or logic when it clearly overwhelms one of their pet beliefs.

D. Saul Weiner January 19, 2006 at 11:00 am

While Vuk’s critiques of government are sound, his alleged debunking of the work of all psychics and faith healers contains some serious logical flaws.

Vuk takes the lack of prevalence of psychics in the financial markets and casinos as proof that nobody has any useful abilities in this area. He does not consider the possibility that, as a spiritual gift/ability available to some, that it may not be equally accessible for all purposes. Perhaps this divine gift could be called upon to help someone in danger or to provide comfort someone in grief, but not to take one person’s money and give it to another. This is not to say that everyone who claims to have this ability does in fact. But the assumption that one with this ability could use it in any way and any context is certainly not a foregone conclusion.

Vuk also concludes that since, for the most part modern medicine has not “chosen” faith healing, then this is proof that it doesn’t work. There are 2 major flaws in this line of reasoning. The bigger one is the assumption that we do in fact have a free market in health care. For those who believe this to be the case, read this article and be prepared to reconsider:

http://www.fff.org/freedom/fd0409g.asp

If we did in fact have a free market in health care, then that would offer supporting evidence but not proof. Even if we did have a free market in health care and faith healers were not a major part of it, that would still not be proof that they (or at least some of them) have nothing to offer in this realm. It is also conceivable that there is currently a lack of appreciation for their skills which could be overcome over time with sufficient education.

For those who think that the current practice of medicine in all ways represents the best that healers have to offer, read this article as well:

http://www.westonaprice.org/healthissues/whatweknew.html

Ryan Fuller January 19, 2006 at 12:24 pm

A “psychic” who is only able to tell things that cannot be proven is probably better described as a “con artist”. Government writing them off as kooks would only mean they’d develop a huge black market, so blaming the government for their widespread rejection by reasonable people is a mistake.

The assertion that the groups mentioned (hereafter referred to as “weirdos”) must be wrong because they are not dominant in various markets is incorrect. People pay for what they think is effective, whether it actually works or not. Most likely if the weirdos were right they would be a lot more successful using their talents in the marketplace, but that is not necessarily proof that they are indeed charlatans. After all, public opinion is not infallible.

A&E running a show about police working with psychics is not evidence of their effectiveness, it’s just a demonstration of tax dollars at waste… er, work. They show that sort of thing because there’s an audience for it: suckers. That they would air something like that is hardly evidence of the validity of the weirdos’ claims.

D. Saul Weiner January 19, 2006 at 12:49 pm

Ryan,

This may come as a surprise to you, but there are in fact lots of people who use psychics. I personally am not one of them, but do believe that some of them have certain unusual abilities.

Your rejection of all evidence that there may be some people who have useful abilities here is not evidence of their lack of existence, but does demonstrate an attitude of arrogance. Why not let people decide for themselves what is useful and beneficial? Don’t we invite the regulatory and welfare state when we conclude that some enlightened few of us know better than the unscrubbed masses? Because the next thing you know it we need to run their lives, for their own sake.

Vince Daliessio January 19, 2006 at 1:57 pm

There is absolutely NO reputable evidence that psychics can (pick one) speak to the dead, predict the future, pick Derby winners, solve crimes, etc. There are lots of debunkers (e.g. James Randi) who have demonstrated repeatedly the tricks most “psychics” use to bilk their clients. AND, as Vedran Vuk points out, the market has never identified a psychic.

Does that mean there is no such thing as a person who has “psychic” powers? No, the same way that no one knows with certainty that the “Big Bang” happened, or that E=mc2, or that giraffes evolved from shorter-necked mammals – we cannot know it with experimental certainty, but dammit, we’re pretty close.

Yancey Ward January 19, 2006 at 2:10 pm

Vince,

I knew you were going to say that.

D. Saul Weiner January 19, 2006 at 3:46 pm

Vince,

One could say that there is no irrefutable proof that priests are able to do some of the things that church members look to them to do, yet somehow or another we don’t have a cottage industry of debunkers out there looking to paint them as a bunch of frauds. Why not? Because people going to them are satisfied with what they are doing. If a member comes to the conclusion that the priest (and so forth) does not perform a valuable service, then he stops going to church. But when someone attempts to provide some of these services who doesn’t have a fancy church behind him or a set of holy books, then well it’s time to resurrect the Inquisition and see if there are any witches to burn. Whatever happened to “To each his own?”

Vince Daliessio January 25, 2006 at 10:24 am

Saul,

I agree with you that services rendered in the religious or spiritual realm tend to be measured much more subjectively than services rendered in the temporal, observable realm. What a priest or other such practitioner does to help his clients “heal” is much more akin to psychotherapy than physiatry, and should be judged on those merits appropriately. And, despite claims to the contrary, psychology and psychiatry (exclusive of the controversial psychopharmacologic component)are more praxeological than empirical (a weirder convergence I could not imagine).

But in the market for objective, reliable, testable information, pshychic ability has been a dismal failure, not just among self-proclaimed “psychic detectives” and the John Edwardses of popular approbation, but, as Vedran Vuk points out, the aggregate of the entire psychic “community”, which has not produced a result recognizable by any market.

Really, the analysis is as much one of the predictive power of markets as one of pshychic power and its interaction with it.

Vince Daliessio January 25, 2006 at 10:25 am

And really, could I spell psychic any worse than I did in the last post? Sorry.

Vince Daliessio February 7, 2006 at 1:25 pm

I had to post this speech by Richard Feynman which addresses in part Vuk’s argument;

http://www.physics.brocku.ca/etc/cargo_cult_science.html

“Another example is the ESP experiments of Mr. Rhine, and other people. As various people have made criticisms–and they themselves have made criticisms of their own experiements–they improve the techniques so that the effects are smaller, and smaller, and smaller until they gradually disappear. All the para-psychologists are looking for some experiment that can be repeated–that you can do again and get the same effect–statistically, even. They run a million rats–no, it’s people this time–they do a lot of things are get a certain statistical effect. Next time they try it they don’t get it any more. And now you find a man saying that is is an irrelevant demand to expect a repeatable experiment. This is science?”

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