Saturday, January 28, 2006

Human Budgeting Skills in Question

The most important action of governments (with making new laws coming in a distant second) is deciding how to spend the money which they have plundered in a manner that is most likely to get them reelected. With the need to balance strategic spending (pork) with basic services which they have established monopolies on, it can be tricky. It means that there is a strong emphasis on saving as much money on these services so that sufficient will be available for their own purposes. Ironically, this leads to lots of self defeating behavior like refusing to budget for productivity research and development which would end up saving lots of money in the mid to long term (as I mentioned in my last post, I feel that we are quite weak in our ability to view the world outside of the "present" context).

An effective and tragic example is when a government institutes a user fee for something like an AIDS test. These tests, by and large, help prevent spreading of the infection; most people are who test positive are not psychopaths and do not wish to spend their final years in prison. In an effort to save a few dollars on a test, they are dissuading people from getting tested and adding new patients to the more expensive social programs. There are two tasks for which machines need to be invented because humans are completely incompetent at: Driving and setting priorities.

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