Kent Pitman

Kent Pitman
New England, USA
Philosopher, Technologist, Writer
I've been using the net in various roles—technical, social, and political—for the last 30 years. I'm disappointed that most forums don't pay for good writing and I'm ever in search of forums that do. (I've not seen any Tippem money, that's for sure.) And I worry some that our posting here for free could one day put paid writers in Closed Salon out of work. See my personal home page for more about me.


Editor’s Pick
MARCH 10, 2009 9:23PM

My Slice of the Pie

Rate: 11 Flag

Ever pooled money with a group of people for pizza? Five bucks a head and someone calls out a big order. It can be a little tricky since not everyone likes the same toppings, but with a little effort, it can be made to work. A veggie pizza here, a pepperoni there, maybe the chicken pizza has olives only on one half of it. Pretty soon everyone who's pitched in their five dollars is satisfied.

Of course, the guy who wants the veggie might be irritated that someone in the group was eating meat. But what's he going to do? Force his ethics on others? No matter how morally sure he is of his beliefs, it wouldn't fly for him to try to control what others are doing. His $5 hardly buys him the right to tell everyone else what they can or can't eat. Chipping in buys him the right to ask that a little bit of the pizza is something he'd enjoy, but it doesn't give him the right to veto what others might like.

So now let's talk about another kind of pie: The national budget.

Why do people say silly things like “I don't want my tax dollars going toward stem cell research”? Why aren't they laughed out of town for such a ridiculous statement? It's fine for them to say something like “I want a few of my tax dollars to go to funding something I do like,” but unless they're paying a lot more than I'm sure they are in taxes, they just haven't bought the right to control what others are chipping in for.

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I wanna know why the people down south get more pie for their money than I do in New England.

I'm willing to let a few anchovies touch my slices, but grabbing a slice of my pie, then complaining about what is on the fewer slices I have left is a bit much for me.
As the person who always seems to get stuck with the broccoli and anchovie slice, I concur with your analysis. Well said.
as always your political commentary hits home with me. Stem cell research is important. Those who are against just need some biological catastrophe to implement a change of heart. (rated)
Here, here! I get so tired of people not understanding that they don't get personal line-item vetoes over the national budget.
I don't want my tax dollars going to invade Iraq, but I have no illusions about my right to stop such a thing. A nation acts collectively or it isn't a nation.
I was going to use the same example as jimmymac; it goes both/many ways. I feel bad about some of the immoral things our government has done in the recent past, but thinking of it in terms of tax dollars isn't really the right take...
Most certainly we should all discuss what our budget priorities are. It's not like we shouldn't have a theory of why we spend money. It's just that, as Susan says, the vocabulary of the “personal line-item veto” is not the preferred way to argue for what is right for all of us collectively.
I'm sending my check this year with a signing statement.
My usual response to the folks who don't want their tax dollars going to "kill babies" is "I'm with you 100% -- so let's bring home our troops from Iraq."

And just to test the wonderful advice you passed on to me, Kent, here's my post on stem-cell research Stem Cells and Sophie's Choice
Looks like you've got that linking stuff down, Tom. :)
Thanks again, Kent.
rated. couldn't agree more. the war is just one of many places my $5 bucks goes that, given a choice, I'd redistribute. Stem cell research is one place I'm glad to chip in.
Kent, once again, you started a discuss about an important issue using a rational simple example that we all can relate to.

Paying taxes and not always agreeing with how they are spend, is something that is out of our control. But like pizza, we do usually get a slice of government spending that is pleasing to our palate... the other slices - well, we usual say to the group, "I don't like anchovies."

It's not paying taxes that gives us the right to speak against them, it is the services those taxes support that gives us the freedoms to speak out against them.

I think that's a bit harsh. If we knew they were always going to abuse what we gave them, we wouldn't have taxes. The problem is that it's just a risk that they'll abuse our taxes, but sometimes they need our taxes for things we know are essential. And it's hard to give them money that can only be used for the essentials. That's one of the challenges of a democracy—how does the citizenry oversee what government does—but it's not made any better by other forms of government.
Mr (not really so mean) Mustard,
About those who you said need a change of heart.
Where we have hearts, those types have a "control others" gene.

I call them,
"ANTI-EVERYONE ELSE'S POSSESSIONS/RIGHTS" however, when it comnes to theirs, "Oh, whiiiiiiiiinnnnnne, poor me!!"
This pizza analogy applies only to those countries that have proportional representation (PR), also called full representation, where small groups win only their proportional share of representation.

Unfortunately US selects House representatives with plurality voting system and single member districts. It is possibly the worst voting system that can still be called democratic, unfortunate heritage from UK. This system has numerous disadvantages: diminished representation, wasted votes, sweepouts, safe seats, disproportionate influence of smaller parties. It also makes choices one dimensional and leads to two party system following Duverger's Law. Within these two parties, small groups can again have disproportionate influence. It is also shown that countries with plurality voting have bigger income inequality, witch seems logical result to me.

It seems to me that many problems in US politics can be direly linked into choice of voting system.
valmis, obviously the voting system we have is the one we have. I wasn't speaking to procedure, I was speaking to moral authority.
Excellent analogy! Hadn't thought of it in that way before. I'm going to use that, the next time someone says "I don't want my tax dollars going for [...]"

(And, I suppose, I ought to censor my own thoughts, in case I've tried this same line as justification for some of my own outrage...)