Education vs Stimulus

What is the most important of the following four efforts?

  • Punish the bad guys
  • Reward the good guys
  • Share what you know about liberty
  • Learn more about liberty

There are six “Which is more important” questions that will each divide people into two groups:

1. Punishing bad guys vs Rewarding good guys
2. Punishing bad guys vs Sharing what you know
3. Punishing bad guys vs Learning more
4. Rewarding good guys vs Sharing what you know
5. Rewarding good guys vs Learning more
6. Sharing what you know vs Learning more

I wanted to characterize the kind of people on each side of these questions, and see if that generates some feedback.

1. Punishing bad guys vs Rewarding good guys

Those who feel that punishment is more important than reward are, perhaps living among people who already feel pretty free, and they see more negative behaviors than positive ones.  They would like to stop others from “being bad” and they sense a failure on the part of the status quo to help limit those behaviors.  I submit that they haven’t realized that carrots work better than sticks.

I’m in the other camp, and I feel that the status quo tends to reward people for being good consumers, ignoring the moral duty to restrain tyranny, and letting the system do what it wants.  Their punishment occurs naturally as their critical thinking and creativity atrophy.  I feel that punishing others tends to be a waste of my time.  Even if the punishment succeeds in changing their behavior, it’s a Pyhrric victory because the punished do not gain understanding; they gain fear.

2. Punishing bad guys vs Sharing what you know

Those who feel punishment is more important than sharing what they know probably need to learn more.  They may be right simply because they don’t know much that is worth sharing.  I hope that those who feel this way also feel that learning is more important than punishing bad guys.  If you’re in this camp and you don’t feel that way, please think about it.

Those who feel, as I do, that sharing what we know is more important than punishing the bad guys recognize that a great amount of the evil in the world is due to a lack of understanding, rather than evil in the hearts of men.  Thomas Hobbes would most likely disagree with us.  He was close to the state, for example being a mathematical instructor to the young Charles, Prince of Wales in 1647, and a friend to the Royalists during and after the English Civil War.  I don’t think he had any kids.  Having kids helps people understand that sharing knowledge is way more important than punishing bad guys.

3. Punishing bad guys vs Learning more

Those who find punishment more important than their own learning are, to be blunt, sophomoric.  The Subjective Theory of Value points out the same thing as that song by R.E.M.  Life is bigger than you and you are not me.  In other words no one can fully understand the values of another person, so judging them as worthy of punishment would be presumptuous.  Judge them as worthless to yourself, and perhaps to be avoided, but, as I mentioned before, punishing them may very well be a waste of your time and energy.  Often, as the CIA can attest, and ricidivism rates suggest, punishment causes more problems than it solves.

4. Rewarding good guys vs Sharing what you know

The group that places more importance on rewarding good guys than on sharing what they know, I think, are probably just young.  I think this is how we start out and it provides a good clue about why babies are so much fun.  It is natural for us to reward others when they do what we like.  If we keep ourselves well informed, then we will like the good guys and therefore reward them.  Knowing enough to recognize the good guys is much easier than knowing enough to share your knowledge with others.

I feel qualified enough to place more importance on sharing my knowledge than on rewarding the good guys.  Both are important, but the reward affects only one person – that is, only one person until it becomes shared knowledge that “people like when we do this kind of thing!”  Sharing knowledge has an affect proportional to the audience.  Well, I suppose rewarding the good guys does too, but it costs more as the audience grows.  When sharing knowledge, you get more bang for your buck.  Also, knowledge is like a good kind of cancer.  It keeps growing.  Rewards end as soon as you run out of them.

5. Rewarding good guys vs Learning more

Some people will feel that learning more is more important than rewarding the good guys.  I’m one of them.  This might be because I’m stingy or lazy, or perhaps because I haven’t figured out how to effectively reward the kinds of things I think need to be rewarded more.  Irwin Schiff should be free, still own his bookstore in Las Vegas, and have dinner with his sons every now and then.  Andrew Maguire should be getting free air time on CNN for a while.  The decent cop who tells the thugs in his unit to back off an abused citizen should be commended.  Joe Banister should have gotten a raise.

We often engage in business transactions with people who are doing things we like (like buying their books), and that is a reward because it profits them.  Perhaps we feel learning is more important because in order to learn, we have to reward those who help us anyway.

On the flip side, if you feel that rewarding the good guys is more important than learning, I hope you’re rich!  Let me know, and I might send you some money to spread around.  Then again, you might be suffering from that age-old malady of the sophomore.  Do you think you already know it all?  If you’re in this camp, please consider carefully before you give up opportunities to learn more.  But if you’re going to buy a book to reward someone (like Phil Hart, for example), go for it!

6. Sharing what you know vs Learning more

This last question is a tough one for me.  if you haven’t figured it out yet, these are the two most important things to me.  My free time is split about half and half between them.  I spend money in order to buy books that help me learn, but I don’t spend much in order to share my knowledge, so maybe I feel that learning is more important.  But no, I don’t.  The reason I don’t spend money to share my knowledge is that I don’t like advertising, and that’s what I’d be doing.  So I write blogs for free instead.

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