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Sender: millershed@EARTHLINK.NET
Subject: Re: An Ideological Turing Test featuring arguments against Raddatz's "Cap and Priori
Date: Thu, May 22, 2014
Msg: 101002

I would hardly call (our) capitalistic system mature, in the sense of wise, when the chief source of wealth creation is investment rather than productivity. Certainly productivity requires investment, so investment is necessary. But the type of investment that predominates today--with an emphasis on short-term profiteering down to the nanosecond--causes income inequality and chaotic market trends. It provides a positive feedback loop that reinforces the status of our economic system as an oligopoly masquerading as a free market. So I don't find the prospect of government imitating capitalism all that comforting. It wasn't that many centuries ago that the East India Company--not the English government--conquered Moghul India. We could easily be heading that way again. In the interim, government has at least afforded some check on capitalism (e.g. the New Deal and Europe's social democracies).

But I'm not trashing free market capitalism. In fact, I think that is the ideal, self-organizing system--if incentives are built in to consider long-term, social, and environmental costs. We ain't there yet.

John Miller
(952) 797-2302
Green Tea Party Movement

-----Original Message-----
From: Rickrad
Sent: May 19, 2014 8:39 PM
Subject: Re: [TRANSPARTISAN] An Ideological Turing Test featuring arguments against Raddatz's "Cap and Prioritize" proposal

To clarify my comment, I meant using income inequality as the ONLY test of equality is bad.  The whole point of the prioritize part of 'cap-and-prioritize' is to have the dialog -- to debate who needs help most and how to help them best.

Importantly, this is a dynamic process... as the situation changes, so would the priorities.  

Cap-and-prioritize is, therefore, a rather flexible system that can adapt as needed... first providing a smooth transition to wean those off (people and corporations) who are dependent on subsidies but should not be and then focusing more and more on those who truly need help.

It's also important to point out that In a world with just capitalism, democracy and diplomacy/defense, income inequality stands out as unfair because rich people and rich corporations can buy political favors.  In a world where cap-and-prioritize is properly implemented, however, that ability goes away as prioritized budgets prevents such abuse -- at least in spending.  Regulation is another matter and one that I believe can only be properly addressed after spending is under control.

   - Rick Raddatz,

p.s.  Bill Gates drinks the same Coca Cola I do... his billions in the bank are funding other business ventures and personal ventures...  the question isn't how much money he has.  The questions are "how did he acquire it?" and "what can he do with it?"   Apple Computer Corp has 130 billion dollars in cash right now (or so).  Yet the incentives in capitalism are so good (even if they are imperfect) that Apple Computer Corp is deciding to re-invest and make things better/cheaper/faster/stronger instead of buying weapons and invading Poland.  Imagine if government had incentives as mature as capitalism (even if imperfect) -- that's the promise of Cap-and-Prioritize.

On May 19, 2014, at 08:17 PM, Steven H Johnson <> wrote:

So, uh, Rick, Lawry, vast amounts of income inequality are okay?  Because a proper concern for economic justice would cause us to disrespect the ineffable?   

From 1945 to the early 80s, about two-thirds of the nation's pretax payroll went to Americans in the Bottom 90% and one-third went to Americans in the Top 10%.  It wasn't "equal" but it was equitable.

Then marginal tax rates were lowered on top earners, from 70% to 50% to 28%.  At 70%, the strong weren't very well rewarded for enriching themselves at the expense of the weak, so they didn't try.  We had thirty-five years of distributional stability.    

Then the tables were turned.  With marginal tax rates slashed to 28%, the strong were quite well rewarded for enriching themselves at the expense of the weak.  So they enriched themselves a little, and a little more, and still more, and they're still at it.  If you want more of something, reward it.  By cutting tax rates on top earners, Congress declared that it wanted to reward upward redistribution.  You want a social policy that succeeded?  Here's one.  Reward the top earners for accumulating as much as they can and what will they do?  They'll accumulate as much as they can.    

Today those in the Bottom 90% have seen their share of pretax payroll shrink from 67% to about 51%.  Those in the Top 10% have seen their share rise from 33% to 49%, and this shift is still moving in their favor.    

Measured against the 1945-1980 baseline, total redistribution from the Bottom 90% to the Top 10% now amounts to about $1.4 Trillion EACH YEAR.  

But Rick and Lawry seem to imply that one ought not complain about this, because to do so would disrespect the ineffable.  

I'm sorry.  I can't quite go along with this line of thinking.  Lawry's right that welfare payments can be corrupting and that liberals can be obtuse about this particular issue.  By rewarding joblessness with welfare, one gets moral decay.  

Yes, but isn't it strange how purely economic rewards to those at the top of the system also create their own form of moral decay?  And isn't it just a little distressing that the immorality of the excessively acquisitive isn't nearly as potent a concern for conservatives as the immorality of the poor, whose numbers by the way have been boosted by the immoral choices of the super-wealthy?  

So what's the deeper point?  Transpartisanship ought not be a vehicle for rationalizing damaging public trends.  It ought not rationalize welfare.  It ought not rationalize low taxes on the wealthy.  If Transpartisanship doesn't involve us in a quest for mutual integrity, its promise will be blown away on the next breeze.

Steve Johnson

On May 18, 2014, at 6:13 PM, Rick Raddatz wrote:

Hi Lawry,

I agree with your analysis 100%.  The pursuit of social justice must take the ineffable / spiritual into account.  Heuristics like income equality do not pass this test.

Someone from AEI who reviewed my early work stressed how important it was that the prioritizing be a political process and not a cost-benefit formula-driven process.   The reason, he said, was to capture the spirit of the people.  He thought it was the only way it would be meaningful.  This suggestion is consistent with PB as well.

   - Rick Raddatz

On May 18, 2014, at 10:52 AM, Lawrence Chickering <lchick0203@GMAIL.COM> wrote:

Michael (S), 

I regard myself as a 'bleeding heart libertarian', and I have thoughts about 
supporting Raddatz's proposal.  Here goes: 

The vision of helping the disadvantaged that is currently dominant in our debate 
sees the problem as entirely an objective problem, which is 'solved' by resource 
transfers.  This vision (unfortunately) sees the disadvantaged only as objects, 
which is a pitifully limited view of human beings.  Worrying only about resource 
transfers to objects reduces human relationships to the level of the care 
and feeding of farm animals.  

Objective inequality exists in many dimensions, most of them unsolvable 
by resource transfers (it exists in all dimensions in terms of which people 
differentiate themselves -- besides wealth, intelligence, beauty, appreciation 
of art, etc, etc).  

Fifteen seconds' reflection will make it clear that 'progressives' preoccupation 
with objective equality is impossible as a policy objective.  The real challenge 
is the impulse to differentiate because the more equal one term of differentiation 
becomes, the more important others become (assuming constant need to 

The really unfortunate thing about our current philosophical idiom is that 
objective equality is the gold standard principle of moral discourse.  I believe 
this is utterly bankrupt as a defining principle of our moral life.  The idea, 
ultimately, that everyone can be above average in everything is not only 
laughably (because logically) impossible; it is also brutally cruel because it 
steers masses of people to believe their lives are failures.  

I am here, of course, critiquing the order-left.  But many on the right are 
also guilty of a brutal (though different) focus on equality.  Many on the 
right argue that equal opportunity is the touchstone of justice: equal 
opportunity to 'get ahead' and achieve 'The American Dream'.  Why is this 
also brutal?  Because if you can only achieve The American Dream by 
being a 'winner', it follows that masses of people are cut out of The 
Dream; they are 'losers'.  

I believe both visions are unacceptable -- much worse than that, both 
visions are vile.  

People as Subjects

Let me try starting in a different place (in terms of what is important).  
Assume for the moment that people are more than farm animals.  Assume 
that we need to worry about more than people as objects; we also have to 
worry about them as subjects.  

A very wise man once told me that the key to joy is creation.  I would argue 
that the key to opportunities for creation is empowerment, and this -- I 
would argue -- should be the great principle underlying our political morality.  
Empowerment, I believe, is what connects your references to Mohammed 
Yunus, Hernando de Soto, etc., as well as my own program, Educate Girls 
Globally.  I believe that empowerment is the central value underlying 
everything that is working.  

Empowerment is a complicated concept, which includes both individualistic 
and collective elements (empowerment needs to liberate people to 'be 
themselves', but it also needs to do it understanding that connection -- 
to self, others, nature and cosmos -- are also important).

The central deficiency in our current idiom is its mechanistic, objectified 
core.  Empowerment depends on understanding that we live in a Connected 
World of subjects.  Unfortunately, we have no language that bridges the gap 
between the formal practices of traditional religion and informal spiritual 
practices.  The absence of such a language makes it impossible to have a 
coherent conversation about this subject.  [I would suggest that the search 
for such a language might begin by examining carefully the concepts of God 
that range from preconscious subjective (in The Garden) to increasingly 
conscious and objective (especially in institutionalized Christianity) to 
increasingly conscious and secular (Enlightenment and beyond) to 
increasingly conscious and (now) increasingly subjective and 'spiritual'.]

Please forgive this diversion from the subject at hand, which I could not 
avoid because I think engaging these issues is essential to get us away from 
the desiccated notion of people as objects that now strangles our debate.  
I believe that a major priority for the transpartisan movement should be 
to bridge this gap between 'religious' and 'spiritual', opening up a much 
wider subjective vision of human possibility that animates people and 
programs everywhere.   

People from other cultures often critique American culture with thoughts 
like: 'Is there anything Americans think they can't buy?'  The critique has 
important elements of truth in it, and one of them is in the vision of social 
justice that is preoccupied with resource transfers.  As long as our debate is 
dominated by this as a moral principle, we will never address the real 
challenge of justice, which has to do with people as subjects.  An important 
way to redirect our discourse is to cap the money we can spend.  For this 
reason I support Raddatz's proposal.  

Lawry Chickering
Educate Girls Globally

On May 17, 2014, at 15:11, Michael Strong <michael@FLOWIDEALISM.ORG> wrote:


First of all, I want to thank you for your sustained, respectful, and enthusiastic embrace of the transpartisan cause.

Second, my perception is that your amendments to my attempts to pass the Ideological Turing Test were of the nature of adding nuance and refinements to the positions I outlined rather than fundamental disagreements.  That is, based on your amendments, I'd be inclined to give myself a "passing grade," so to speak, on the "test," while respecting that you added considerable philosophical and practical detail to the relatively blunt and simplistic "progressive" statements that I had provided.

Third, I would be interested in seeing you or other progressives on this list attempt to "pass" an Ideological Turing Test, especially for a "bleeding heart libertarian" perspective,

Why might a "bleeding heart libertarian" support Raddatz's "cap-and-prioritize" proposal?

Michael Strong
CEO and Chief Visionary Officer
FLOW, Inc.

On Fri, May 16, 2014 at 5:17 PM, Michael Briand <> wrote:
Thank you, Michael S., for this careful construction of a rationale.  I can imagine someone subscribing to it, but (for myself, at least) I would amend it somewhat.
1.  First, I don't believe "it is (a) self-evident to a moral human being that (b) once one's basic needs have been met, (c) most of the rest of one's wealth and income should be devoted to (d) helping those in need."
    (a)  No propositions of any sort are "self-evident," though we often (because of Godel's proof) have to treat them as such in order to get an argument off the ground.  That's why ethical argument is so difficult to initiate and sustain--we can't agree on a starting point.
     (b)  People have many basic needs, so the question of the proper threshold beyond which anyone ought to consider the consequences of his or her self-regarding actions is a matter that must be settled through dialogue and deliberation.  For example, whether or not Rawls was right about the principles of justice he argued that persons in the Original Position would select, the derivation of those principles was hypothetical, not actual. (See, e.g., Janna Thompson, Discourse and Knowledge.)  If you feel you need the gratification that owning a 200-foot yacht provides,  I have a duty to engage you in discussion about that need and how you can best go about having it satisfied (and how I might help you do so).
     (c)  "Most" is arbitrary and (probably) excessive.  The question of what one owes her society and compatriots should be taken up in the context of a joint consideration of (i) the benefits each of us receives from our way of life, its practices and institutions (including markets), etc.;  (ii) the consequences for everyone of allowing them to fall into disrepair;  and (iii) the responsibility each of us bears for contributing to their upkeep.
     (d)  Devoting "most" to "those in need" suggests simple redistribution of wealth to reduce inequality of wealth.  I don't think it's that simple.  Who needs assistance, of what type, for what purpose, when, and in what form are highly relevant considerations that have implications for the nature and extent of anyone's responsibility for contributing to the upkeep of institutions, practices, infrastructure, and the like that benefit everyone, even if only very indirectly.
2.  Second, it can certainly be the case that "government is too large" or that "government spends too much."  But in relation to what?  The problem with the "cap" portion of "cap and prioritize" is not its artificiality but its suggestion either that there is some "absolute" limit that must be respected (in order to avoid what?) or that, contingently, we have reached the point at which it is no longer practical (in virtue of what?) to continue at the current level.  Are we talking about spending in relation to GDP?  If so, GDP measured how?  (It matters.)  In relation to total debt?  To the annual deficit?   In relation to comparable nations (Germany, Japan, France, Britain, Canada, Sweden)?  In relation to our own future?  What evidence should we consider as we try to establish a causal link between level of spending or "size" of government and consequences anyone reasonably might agree are undesirable?
3.  Is "Cap and Prioritize" about "set[ting] ... limits on what Americans can or should do for their fellow citizens, for their country, and for the world"?  As I've agreed before, "ought implies can."  But what Americans "can" do is pretty far down the line toward literal impossibility.  Fighting the Second World War was something we could do and did do.  When William James said the modern world needs the "moral equivalent of war," he was talking about a cause that would inspire us to make the kind of sacrifices people made willingly when the world (not just the U.S.) was threatened in the late 30s and 40s, or earlier, in the 1770s.  So the basic question is really the normative one of what we should do.  It seems to me a non-starter to agree to "cap" what government does or what it spends before we address the question of what we should do (and hence, perhaps, what government should do) if we are able.  The question is not whether we are able, but able at what sacrifice by whom?  There is an implicit assumption in "capping" that calls for discussion of both what we should do and then, in light of that, what we "can" do.
     As for prioritizing, done well this would be enormously helpful, at least periodically.  Whether we could go to zero-based budgeting every year or every two years is another question.  For me, prioritizing is imperative, even if we had (per impossibile) the fiscal means to do everything.  There are always hard choices to be made, and the public currently is not bearing the responsibility for facing up to and making these.  But asking the public how many billions it wants to pay for defense versus social assistance won't work.  People must be able to relate their contribution to collective expenses to the scale of budgeting with which they're familiar in daily life.  (How many Starbuck's  grande lattes for my share of an adequate supply of drones?)   
     Do we want to open this particular can of worms?  I'm inclined to say yes.  But others might have reservations.


4.  I understand the desire to try asking a simple, straightforward question and receiving a simple, clear, straightforward answer.  The only way to do that, though, is to unpack every element in a question or statement to the point where your interlocutor feels he or she can give such an answer.  Although your hypothetical rationale is a good and welcome step in that direction, for me it doesn't unpack things nearly enough, as I hope my reply indicates.


Thanks again, Michael.


Michael Briand   



Sent: Friday, May 16, 2014 1:27 PM
Subject: [TRANSPARTISAN] An Ideological Turing Test featuring arguments against Raddatz's "Cap and Prioriitize" proposal
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