Democracy, Taxes and Bullshit

I am a fan of Princeton philosopher Prof Harry Frankfurt’s book On Bullshit in which he proposes “to begin the development of a theoretical understanding of bullshit, mainly by providing some tentative and exploratory philosophical analysis. … My aim is simply to give a rough account of what bullshit is and how it differs from what it is not”.

In an interview, to the question whether highly educated people produce more than average bullshit, he replied:

It’s not only that highly educated people have the linguistic and intellectual gifts that enable them to create bullshit but also I think that a lot of people who are highly educated acquire kind of arrogance that leads them to be negligent about truth and falsity. They have a lot of confidence in their own opinions and this may also encourage them to to produce bullshit.
OK, now on to democracy. Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” Worth pondering.
And finally taxes. Vincent and Elinor Ostrom explain the difference between the way the private sector (ordinary people and firms exchanging stuff) works and how the governmental system (tax and spend) works:
Whereas the income received for providing a private good conveys information about the demand for that good, taxes collected under the threat of coercion say little about the demand for a public good or service. Payment of taxation indicates only that taxpayers prefer paying taxes to going to jail. Little or no information is revealed about user preferences for goods procured with tax-supported expenditures.
I have neglected writing here for a while. I am uncommonly busy with a writing project that is taking  up all my time.

Author: Atanu Dey


2 thoughts on “Democracy, Taxes and Bullshit”

  1. “highly educated people ‘ I hold copyright to this phrase. I use this phrase as one of the many alternative cuss words I shower on this arrogant bunch of guys in India. esp. urban India. As in instead of staying you SOB, I say hey you highly educated Indian 🙂


  2. Atanu, in spite of your arguments, I still remain critical of right-to-bear-arms. We have discussed this earlier in your blog titled “atal-bihari-vajpayee-and-the-right-to-bear-arms”.
    On a slightly related note, may I recommend the readers to watch episode-5 (Bhaukal) of Mirzapur (web series on primevideo)? It is about freeing gun control (by a gangster though).


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