Ballot Initiatives Are Stupid; The Government Can’t Fix Problems

…because they allow ignorant people to directly voice their opinion, no matter how ignorant they are, and have exactly the same impact on the situation as people who aren’t ignorant. Now, based on what I’ve said so many times about the failures of direct democracy, I need to point this out: an informed and educated person would not vote on a ballot initiative about which they were ignorant. Look, if you put on the ballot an initiative that we would expand fracking, I would gladly abstain from voting, because I know nothing about the issue.

A lot of people wouldn’t abstain. A lot of people would vote “Yes” because “fracking means oil, and oil is good.” A lot of people would vote “no” because “fracking is bad for the environment, and that’s bad.” Well, I’m sorry, but if that’s the extent of my knowledge on the subject then I simply don’t feel qualified in voicing an opinion.

Many people would be surprised by this newfound humility, but it’s not newfound at all. Sure, it often seems like I think I know everything. This is because i tend to discuss subjects that I know about, and I tend to avoid subjects about which I know very little or nothing. I would say that I have studied a wide enough range of subjects to be able to say whether or not I’m ignorant of the subject, and that’s where the Dunning-Kruger Effect kicks in. See, most people have no idea how ignorant they are.

Earlier today, I saw Will Coley, former Libertarian Party Vice Presidential candidate, say that he doesn’t “believe” in the Big Bang Theory, and he went on to say that the idea was invented by the Catholic Church as a method of explaining Genesis.

Well, no… That’s not true. Science isn’t something to believe in or not believe in; it’s something to accept or to deny. It’s not a matter of belief but a matter of bowing to the facts. It’s far beyond me to get into all the nuances of the Big Bang Theory and the overwhelming amount of evidence that supports it, but a simple Google search will yield a person all the information they need to make an informed opinion. And I will be adamant about this: there is an enormous difference between an informed opinion and an ignorant one. For example, Coley’s remark about the Big Bang being invented by the Catholic Church is wholly incorrect. The person who first proposed the theory was a Jesuit priest, but he was also a physicist, and was most certainly not doing the work of the church. His work, like Galileo’s, was very much at odds with the church.

At any rate, it’s absurd to accept some parts of science while rejecting the rest, at least on issues that haven’t been politicized into oblivion such as global warming. There are politics involved in the Big Bang Theory, or in the Theory of Evolution, and both theories are as airtight as General Relativity. They are widely accepted for a reason, and the DNA evidence alone would be enough, even if there were no fossils whatsoever, to confirm the theory of natural selection and changes over time.

This won’t stop the influx of people who say that evolution suggests “a tornado would tear through a junkyard and create a Boeing 747,” though. It won’t change the mass of people who say that “Yeah, God said ‘Bang!’ and then it happened.” It won’t change the minds of the people who believe the universe is 6,000 to 10,000 years old. C’est la vie. I’m not trying to change minds. If they want to reject the theory of evolution in favor of their religious beliefs, that’s fine, but I would demand that they stop taking antibiotics, vaccines, and other treatments that are products of biology, since modern biology is inseparable from evolutionary theory. I would demand that they stop using their cell phones, the Internet, and their televisions, since all of these things work only because of satellites that orbit the Earth thanks to our understanding of Einstien’s Special and General theories of Relativity, both of which are tied very much to the Big Bang. If you want to argue that the scaffolding doesn’t work, that’s fine–but to be consistent, you must say that the building built from the scaffolding doesn’t work, either.

But most of these people–Coley among them, I would bet–have no idea what evidence supports the Big Bang Theory, but that won’t stop most people from having an opinion on it one way or another. I was stunned a few years ago, when I remarked to my sister that I found the evolution of snakes to be fascinating, and she replied, “You know I don’t believe in evolution, right?”

I was stunned. What do you mean, you don’t believe in evolution? Evolution doesn’t need you to believe in it. Evolution is a reality of life in our universe; accept it or not, but belief has nothing to do with it at this point. The knowledge is there; the information is there. And I will adamantly insist that her rejection of evolution is not in any sense on the same solid ground as my acceptance of evolution. Mine is built from facts, from having read The Selfish Gene and The Extended Phenotype by Richard Dawkins, and biology is still my weakest area. If there was a ballot initiative asking if we should do “some imaginary thing” to purposely “affect evolution in some specific way,” I would readily abstain from such a measure, because I know nothing about it.

I’m Going Somewhere With This

If there was a ballot initiative stating that we would install 8 GB of DDR5 memory into every computer owned by the government, I would gladly vote against the initiative. I can imagine the arguments of everyone in favor of the initiative. “DDR5 is so much faster!” the headlines would go from the pro-upgrade crowd. “It’s common sense, and 8 GB will be a huge upgrade. There’s no reason not to! We’ve run the cost, and we can make it happen for $85,000!”

“Yeah,” I would say, “but probably 97% of the motherboards in use by the state won’t support DDR5. You won’t be able to just pop it in there. If you do somehow make it fit, you’ll fry the RAM, and probably the motherboard. To make this work, you’d have to upgrade all the motherboards, too, which means upgrading CPUs, as well. Since Windows still uses the Hardware Abstraction Layer, you won’t be able to just throw a hard drive into a new motherboard, new CPU, and new RAM–even if the old hard drives are SATA, which I doubt they would be, since they’re probably old and use IDE, which the newer motherboards won’t support–it won’t boot, and you’ll have to do a full backup of all files, reformat onto a new compatible drive, then move the files back over. It’s nowhere near as simple as just slapping two sticks of RAM into a desktop and watching it take off in speed.”

This is because I know technology. I make a living working on technology and making it do the things that I want it to do. In the end, from this ballot initiative–which would almost certainly pass–we’d end up with a ton of RAM sitting wasted in a storage room somewhere while we waited for Motherboard+CPU Initiative to pass. Suddenly an $85,000 price tag became a $1,850,000 price tag.

Dunning-Kruger Effect

We all begin ignorant about a subject–completely ignorant. Through the course of life in western society, we pick up bits of knowledge from all over the place, and we establish a kind of limited knowledge in all sorts of subjects, but that knowledge isn’t always reliable. Like my sister above, who would characterize evolution as “a monkey giving birth to a human.” Anyone who gets their knowledge from her gets bad information, and they may view her as a trusted figure, in which case they wouldn’t question her. Then, years later, when someone came along and contradicted that information, they would already be invested in her and what she told them, and so they’d be much more likely to stick to her explanation of things.

My church told me routinely that this is what evolution was. One year, around the third grade, they actually did one of those stupid skits, where there is a gorilla at the family dinner. “Grandpa,” they called him. It was a full attack on evolution, telling all of our young minds that evolution said that somewhere along the way some gorilla gave birth to a human. These trusted authorities–these people who we had been told to trust and who we did trust–lied right to our faces, perhaps knowingly; at the very least, they perpetuated bullshit that they had been told by an authority figure and never looked into themselves.

As another example, my nephew firmly believes that Jesus lives in the clouds, because that is what they told him at church. We know this one was a lie, because no adult in their right mind believes that Jesus lives in the clouds. For fuck’s sake, we’ve been beyond the clouds. People go beyond the clouds on a daily basis. We know beyond the shadow of any doubt that there is no one living in the clouds or on the clouds. Yet my nephew has been consistently told this by authority figures at his church. When I told him it wasn’t true, showed him pictures of the clouds and the Earth from space, and showed him that no one was living up there, it changed nothing. They’d already won. They planted the idea, and his trust in them kept his mind shackled to that lie. They knowingly lied to my nephew. It was this that caused me to challenge them–a challenge they ignored, by the way.

I told them that I would debate them. The topic? The existence of a god. I told them they could pick any twelve members of their congregation to act as the judges, and that they could enlist up to five people–church members or not–to argue on their side, and that I would debate alone. If I won, then they would refrain from teaching anything spiritual until the children reached 8 years old. If they won, I would attend their church every Sunday for a year. You lie to my nephew and we’re going to have problems. I don’t care if they want him to believe in a god. But I will not let them lie to him to accomplish that.

They ignored my challenge, and I understand why. The similarities to Elijah and the priests of Baal were too much for them to ignore, except… in this scenario, I was Elijah. I didn’t choose 12 as the number by accident, after all. It’s a debate that I couldn’t have won. Convince 12 devout church-goers that their pastor hadn’t made his case that there is a god? I could never have won. However, if they accepted such weighted terms, then they lost from the start, even if I didn’t convince the judges. To show their faith, they would have no choice but to turn the tables and let me pick the 12 judges.

Sorry to digress onto that.


Another area that I know pretty damned well is economics. I might not be able to calculate the market interest rate based on data you feed to me, but since I have no interest or desire to do such a thing it’s never a skill I’ve bothered to learn. I think the bank providing the loan should do that calculation, not the government.

Recently, Washington voted to increase its minimum wage from $9.47 to $13.50 an hour, the bloody fools.

These people, almost none of whom know anything about economics, voted on a measure to substantially interfere in their state’s economy. This is the reason that democracy is stupid. It gives control of the ship to people who have never navigated a ship, people who don’t know how to read a map, people who don’t know how to hoist a sail, people who have never used a sextant, and people who have no freaking idea what a rudder is or why the sail is triangular. If you came to me on a 17th century ship and asked me if we should turn the sail east or west, I wouldn’t have any freaking idea what to tell you other than “Dude, ask someone who actually knows about it.”

Somewhere along the way, we forgot how freaking ignorant we are. This is where the Dunning-Kruger Effect kicks in, because a person can’t be ignorant while understanding that they’re ignorant. With weak general knowledge on a subject, a person usually thinks they have a pretty good handle on it–enough to vote “Yes” on a measure to raise the minimum wage, a decision that will have enormous ramifications for the state’s economy. Hubris is what it is.

See, in order to know how little you know about a subject, you must know a little bit about that subject. That’s the conundrum. To understand how little you know about physics, you have to understand how deep and complex the subject is.

As exposure to a subject increases, confidence decreases, until one is exposed enough to begin grasping the subject.

As exposure to a subject increases, confidence decreases, until one is exposed enough to begin grasping the subject.

This is why you should always be weary of people who are confident about what they’re saying, especially if they can’t back it up. I’ve backed up my economics statements. Check them out here and here. There’s a huge disparity, though, between the confidence of an expert and the confidence of a layperson. I will never say that I’m absolutely right–about anything. I constantly allow for the possibility that I’m wrong. In the past year, I’ve been wrong several times. My confidence got put to the test recently on Quora, and I was put in a very difficult position of arguing myself against two actual economists, and I’m proud to say that I held my ground–primarily because they weren’t reading the question correctly.

However, anyone who is absolutely convinced that we should raise the Minimum Wage… Ask them why. Their answer will always be the same. “Because… blah blah… cost of living… yada yada… living wage… blah blah…” Basically, it is an emotional appeal. The danger of emotional appeals, though, is that the emotion is used to propose and support one single solution and precludes the possibility that the emotion can be expressed with any other solution. Take for example government welfare.

I think it should all be ended. All of it. “Social safety net?” It’s called family. And, yes, this is from someone who has no family to fall back on. What do I have? Friends. Where my family has horrifically failed me, friends have always come through, particularly my colleague. When my sister kicked me out for being transgender, I had very few places to turn with such short notice. It was my colleague–who I would certainly call “pretty much family”–who found me a place to stay. That opened up an entirely different set of problems, of course, but things happen.

The common reply, of course, is, “So you want people to go homeless and starve to death.”

Um… No? I don’t think I said that. I think that people who care about you should bear the burden of helping you, not random strangers who don’t get a say-so about it. Your mom can kick your ass and make sure you’re getting a job, not sitting around on the couch and watching Ricki Lake. I can’t. The government can’t. Your mom isn’t going to let you sit there for 18 months while you do nothing and bring in no income. The government will let you, because the government can’t really stop you. Is that so bad? That instead of putting a gun to my head and forcing me to “help” you–while you do God only knows what with the “help”–you would have to turn to family and friends? I don’t want you to die, but… I don’t know you. I’ve got my own problems to deal with without adding yours to them.

But their emotion–that sympathy that people shouldn’t go homeless and starve–is tied to their favorite solution: government welfare. Because the emotion is tied to the solution, their minds become warped until they can no longer fathom any other solution appeasing that emotion.

And just like that, their emotion becomes public policy, especially when ballot initiatives are put forward. “People should have a living wage” becomes tied to “the minimum wage should be increased.” To them, that’s the only possible solution without denying people a living wage. So if you’re against an increase in the minimum wage, they have no choice but to conclude that you don’t think people should have a living wage. To them, it’s one and the same: increasing the minimum wage scratches their emotional itch, and they know of no other way to scratch it; they don’t think anything else can scratch it.

To make matters worse, we are dealing with matters where emotion has no role to play. I’m sorry; it simply doesn’t. Just like emotion has no role to play in calculating how much hydrogen we need to launch a rocket into space, so does emotion have nothing to do with economics. You can’t feel your way to the truth; emotions blind and lead astray. This is very much a Nietzschean thing to say, but I have no issue with emotions, and I think they have tremendous value. However, it is imperative that we define a scope for our emotions. We cannot allow our emotions to run unchecked, determining social policy, determining economic policy, and determining governmental policy. They will lead us into disaster, every single time.

Emotion is not a valid pathway to scientific truth.

And it is a scientific truth that you cannot just raise the Minimum Wage and have everything hunky-dory. It will be a disaster. First, only locally owned businesses will put in the effort to increase prices. The locally owned daycares, gas stations, etc. They will raise prices to mitigate the losses.

Disconnect: Greedy Fatcats Making Millions!

The people who advocate raising the Minimum Wage think that there are business owners all throughout the country who are just raking in obscene amounts of money while paying their employees peanuts. While it’s not really your or my business what private contract the employee and employer into it, there’s something to be said about refusing to shop at a place that doesn’t pay its employees fairly. However, it’s simply not the case that business owners are making tons of money and hoarding it while their employees feed on scraps. In most cases with local businesses, owners are still full-time employees working 70+ hours a week and doing everything from management to recruiting to human resources to supervising. Anything that needs to be done that an employee is not explicitly hired to do, the owner has to do. The buck stops with them, after all. It’s a tremendous responsibility and burden, and they deserve ever penny they get for it. If you don’t like it, then open up your own. It’s honestly not that hard or expensive.

So what I would say “most” of these people pictured is that the business owners would simply make less money. Instead of making a salary of $600/week for the 70+ hours of difficult, stressful, exhausting work they do, these people figured they would instead make $400/week and would pay the increased wage out of their own money. But “their own money” doesn’t usually exist, and if you increase their payroll by 33% across the board, you’re going to have a disaster on your hands. I know budgeting–personally and commercially–and an increase of 33% to an expense as major as employee wages will bankrupt you faster than anything else.

So those increased wages aren’t coming out of the profits that are already there, because, in most cases, the profits aren’t big enough to cover a hit like that. Ten employees working 40 hours a week at $9.46 is $3,784.00 in wages. Every week. At $13.50 an hour, it is $5,400 in wages every single week. If the owner is on a $600/week salary, then even if the owner worked for free they wouldn’t be able to make up that difference; they’d still be nearly a thousand dollars short.

So they have a number of choices.

A. Cut Hours

Suddenly they have 280 hours to apportion to their employees each week, instead of the 400 they had. If they can afford $3,784 each week in wages, then this covers 280 hours. The owner has decided here not to fire anyone, so instead everyone has their hours cut from 40 hours a week to 28. This makes them part-time employees and causes them to lose a fair number of benefits in a lot of cases. It certainly lowers the standards at the business, which is very bad if it’s a daycare. There are, on average, 2 employees fewer at work at any given time, so there are fewer employees overseeing the same number of kids.

Probably should have thought this MW increase through before voting on it, huh?

B. Layoffs

This is the other route, and the one people are most likely to take, especially since customers aren’t going to happily eat a 33% increase in their own prices to cover the increased Minimum Wage. We’ll come back to that, though. So with 280 hours allotted, it’s an easy call: three employees have to go. Bye, Felicia. Three people fired from their jobs because of the increase to the Minimum Wage. This will happen quite a lot, since it’s the easiest and quickest solution without pissing off clients and without dealing with complaints of other employees about hours being cut.

Probably should have given it just a little bit of thought before voting to increase the MW, eh?

C. Increase Prices

This is the final route, and the one that is second-most-likely to happen. Indeed, it’s already happening. Just think about it. If the daycare charged $100 per kid before, they have to charge $133 per kid now to cover the additional wages. In fact, they have to charge even more than that, because all of the suppliers that the daycare gets its necessary materials from will likely raise their prices. The bottom line on the business just got a lot higher, and there’s nowhere else for the business owner to get the money.

The Government Should Help With Childcare Costs!

Said one parent:

“I feel the state needs to be helping a little more,” said Larson. “It would be nice if parents didn’t have to spend a majority of their paychecks for childcare.”

You fucking moron.

I can’t be nice about this.

The government should rob everyone else to give me money to pay for the daycare costs that I increased by making the stupid decision to vote yes on increasing the Minimum Wage which caused daycare costs to increase to the point that I couldn’t afford them.

You made this bed. Now lie in it.

Hey, lady! If you don’t want to spend a majority of your paychecks on childcare, how about don’t vote for an increase to the Minimum Wage that will increase your childcare costs? Hm? How about that? Government is not the answer. How many messes do we have to make before we figure that out?

“Oh, we made a mess by using the government to interfere with the economy. Maybe the government can fix the mess by stealing from everyone and giving me their money. And then maybe the government can do something to fix the mess that is caused by stealing from everyone and giving me their money. And then maybe the government can fix the mess that it caused when it tried to fix the mess caused by stealing everyone and giving their money, which was supposed to fix the mess the government caused by interfering with the economy. And then maybe the government can fix the mess that it caused when it tried to fix the mess that it caused when it tried to fix the mess that it caused by stealing from everyone and giving their money, which was supposed to fix the mess the government caused by interfering with the economy. And then maybe…”

I mean, really? How about you just stop?

How about you just stop trying to fix messes with the government and instead take the time to research the messes and think about a solution rationally? You want to know the way out of this mess you’ve made in Washington? It’s not stealing from people without kids to pay for parents who didn’t think shit through. You have no right to steal from other people, and the fact that you’d even suggest that as a possibility is appalling. How dare you claim to be on the side of empathy and morality when you want to rob people as a way of cleaning up a mess that is entirely of your own design?

Abolish the minimum wage.

There’s no other way.

The more you increase it, the more “solutions” from the government you will need to fix the last mess you made, and the more government “solutions” you’ll need to fix the mess the government made when it tried to fix the last mess you made. It’s a neverending cycle of government intervention and screw-ups, with the government getting more power and more control every step of the way without ever making anything better. It only makes things worse. It has never made one solitary thing better.

Except our ability to kill people. I’ve got to give them credit on that. The government has absolutely improved our ability to kill people.

You’re like a madman who had the government burn your house down for you because, for some reason, you thought that having them fill it with gasoline and throw a match in it wouldn’t burn the house down–who the hell knows why, Dunning-Kruger presumably–and now you’re asking the government to come in and use its napalm to put out the fire. That’s the government in a nutshell: using napalm to put out fires.


Yes, I do think the average person is too stupid to determine what wage all employers should pay their employees. In fact, I’d go further and say that everyone is too stupid to determine what wage all employers should pay their employees. That is a matter that only the employer and the employee can answer, when the employer makes an offer and the employee makes a counter-offer. They’re the only people who know their situations well enough to be able to answer those questions. I certainly think the average person is far too stupid to know whether a minimum wage should be $3 an hour or $13 an hour.

This is why I’m an anarchist: I have a very low opinion of the average person. Not to brag or anything, but I am a card-carrying MENSA member. I’m a pretty smart chick, with an IQ estimated to be between 150 and 172. I think the average person is too dumb to make their own decisions, let alone make the decisions for everyone, and that’s what this entire system of the state allows. It allows some moron in California who doesn’t even know why he dislikes Donald Trump to attempt to impose a Hillary Clinton presidency onto me, out of sheer ignorance and stupidity. You’re goddamned right I have a problem with that.

The solution, though, is what Plato got wrong. Plato envisioned a world governed by the wise, by philosophers. Liberals, it seem, envision the same sort of world, given how they want to curtail democratic processes and impose their ways on everyone, believing themselves to be intellectually superior to everyone who disagrees. They’re all wrong, though. Yes, Plato, too. The solution isn’t a refined government led by people who are wise, because the unwise person has no idea that he is unwise, and will not have a terribly difficult time convincing the unwise that he is wise–see President Elect Donald Trump.

I’m sure we could come up with some sort of new system of government and new electoral process that, for a while, ensures that only the wise are elected. It would ultimately fail, though, and I don’t like the inherent arrogance of it. Moreover, for anyone who is truly wise, the idea of taking power and ruling over others is anathema.

The solution is to keep these people from making decisions that affect freaking everyone. Duh. If you want to open a company and promise your employees a minimum wage of $15/hour, guaranteed 40 hours a week, with a 401K company match and health insurance, then you go right ahead. You and the people who work for you will go out of business very, very quickly, and it will only affect you and the idiots who sign up with you without giving it enough thought. You have every right to do it, though. But if you want to take that horrendously stupid idea and force everyone to do it… Yeah, then there’s a problem.

Don’t force your economically ignorant decisions onto everyone. The ramifications will be enormous.

Abolish the Minimum Wage. Let employers and employees determine how much their labor is worth. It has nothing to do with you. And if you don’t think an employer is reimbursing an employee fairly, then you can do a few things. You can boycott that company, or you can chip in and donate to the employee. Those are your options. Anything beyond that is using the state to order people around like they’re your slave or something and have to do what you say.

So you have a stupid idea one day. It happens. Give the stupid idea a shot. Maybe it will work out. But don’t you dare force everyone to adopt your stupid, unconsidered, asinine idea that is demonstrably going to create more problems and never solve any.

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