Thursday, August 15, 2013

Naturalistic materialism

There is a question about what reason is there to have a naturalistic materialist world view. What can be better explained by such a world view than by other world views.

Before I get into that, let me explain that I do not believe that the material world is all that there is. However, we do not have evidence that there is anything not explainable within the natural world. Souls are not required to explain our self awareness. Love has been shown to exist as a chemical reaction in the brain. If there is anything beyond the natural world, we do not know what it is.

So why naturalistic materialism? Most world views accept that science and reason are the best tools we have for understanding the natural world. This means that everything accountable under  naturalistic materialism can also be accounted for under these other world views. However, these other world views claim to have special knowledge that goes beyond the naturalistic world view.

None of these other world views can claim there is something they explain better than other world view without the other world views making exactly the same claim. None of them can prove that their better explanation is true.

With naturalistic materialism, if we are not sure, we can admit we do not know. Claims of miracles and other magical tails that other world views rely on but can never demonstrate don't bother the naturalistic materialist. Since miracles cannot be historically demonstrated as the most probable event because by definition they are the least probable event, we can never know if a miracle took place on history.

Without good reason to accept other world views, we are left with the world view that reflects the best we can based on the evidence, that is naturalistic materialism.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Government vs the market: win/lose or win/win?

One of the great benefits of the market is that it creates win/win opportunities. When 2 people make a voluntary exchange, both expect to be better off afterwards.

Governments, on the other hand, create win/lose opportunities. Through coercion, they force involuntary exchange. At best, if they exchange would have happened regardless of government action, government has wasted resources trying to force a transaction that would have taken place. The loser in this best case scenario is the taxpayer. The worst case scenario is one in which no party is better off from the transaction.

The most common situation, however, are the win/lose scenarios. These are the ones we hear about the government triumph. The government succeeds in helping one person and the injured party is ignored.

Obamacare is an example of this. Some people are made better off and the government proudly point to this accomplishment. For example, adult children under 26 can remain on their parents' insurance policy. But this is not free. Someone else has to make up the extra cost. So everyone else must pay more and society as a whole must suffer. This cost is not trumpeted. The inefficient redirection of resources is ignored.

Welfare is another example. Recipients of welfare can be pointed to. They are the winners of this policy. Taxpayers as a whole are made worse off. Since welfare programs reduce the cost of failing to keep a steady job, recipients are free to continually fall back into this so-called safety net while the rest of society subsidizes them.

Bail-outs of large firms are a more clear example. Since so many are opposed to bailouts, people clearly see that these companies and their employees are the winners while the rest if society loses. Even worse, since these inefficient firms continue to consume resources, these resources are not reallocated to higher valued used, making society even worse off. 

What about the provision of services? Aren't police and fire services examples of win/win? Since the government is incapable of knowing the correct amount of resources to allocate to these services, resource allocation will be determined either arbitrarily or based in political will. Such services are monopolized by the government and do not face the competition the market would provide that would improve service and reduce costs. These are the loses society faces do to government control of these services.

In ever way, government cannot create win/win scenarios. At best they can only force transactions that would have happened and at worse create lose/lose.