When I was a kid in the late 80s I had a rattail, possibly the coolest haircut feature ever designed by man. But at some point I thought to myself, what do I imagine myself looking like as an older person or an adult. Do I ever imagine having a rattail? The answer was no, so I cut it off. If you know where you want to get to, then you can identify the simplest ways to get closer to there. If you never define that ideal then you may miss easy actions that would have a big impact.
A lot of political discussion/argument (especially when it is done on unfriendly terms) is about speculating about people’s true motivations. What ideal are they actually aiming at? The truth is that most people probably don’t even have an ideal in mind. They don’t know what the government should look like in their perfect world. They only know what immediate positions seem right or have the right people endorsing them. Except on the fringes, no one asks about ideal systems so most people simply never give it much thought.
So I thought I would list out a few questions that I think help define an overall view of how an ideal government would look along with my answers, and then anyone else who wants to could leave their answers or thoughts for additional questions in the comments. The goal is to make a comprehensive but short list of questions that everyone could answer as a starting point for any debate about particular issues. Not only would answering the questions clarify an individual’s own beliefs but they would allow people to know very quickly where the other side in a debate is coming from without having to make uncharitable guesses.
In contrast with the usual political quiz like this that is based on giving gut instinct answers to vague questions and getting a position on a political map, these questions are intended to provoke deeper thought and create a clearer vision of what different people really want from the government.
Q1: In an ideal system what percentage of GDP would the government consume/control?
A: Asymptotically approaching 0 as GDP goes to infinity
Q2: What assistance would the government provide to the poor or disabled?
Q3: How much free education would the government provide?
Q4: What would military spending look like?
A: The minimum necessary to make aggression prohibitively expensive for our enemies.
Q5: What kind of healthcare would the government pay for?
A: Only for on-the-job injuries for government employees.
Q6: What socially valuable activities would the government subsidize?
A: Only those with clear market-failure/free rider problems. Like say deflecting giant meteors. Not simply things that take a long time to pay off or require a large investment since ideally the private market would have much more financial resources than the government.
Q7: Should the government be allowed to levy taxes?
A: Yes. free ridership is a genuine problem.
Q8: Should taxation fall more heavily on production or consumption?
A: Consumption, since generally production generates positive externalities and consumption generates no or negative externalities.
Q9: In an ideal system how often would people feel the need to engage in physical self-defense?
Q10: Would any “victimless crimes” be prohibited?
Q11: How would criminal punishments be determined?
A: To maximize deterrence while minimizing societal cost.
Q12: In an ideal system what groups would be protected from private discrimination?
Q13: In an ideal system, what restrictions would their be on political speech or donations?
Q14: In an ideal system, how common would abortions be?
Q15: In general how should regulation work?
A: Activities which do not pose a clear systemic risk should be generally unregulated. If an activity ends up causing harm that can be redressed in the court system. There should not be any precautionary regulation except in the case of systemic risk, in which case a high risk/benefit hurdle should have to be overcome.
Q16: How should the government treat citizens and domestic entities vs. noncitizens and foreign entitites?
A: The government should be a zealous advocate for citizens at all times and grant courtesies to noncitizens only is so far as it is in the best interest of citizens. The government should seek every advantage for its citizens in any dealings with other nations, and have no other agenda.
Q17: Should the government issue fiat currency and if so how should it manage supply?
A: Yes and it should manage supply to maximize the net present value of seigniorage.