Joe Biden, Straw Man

Is paying taxes patriotic?

Both sides are making a big deal this election season about how they're never going to question anyone's patriotism. But clearly the moratorium only applies to guys and gals running for executive office.

Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), for instance, seems concerned about adequate patriotism on the part of people in households making over $250,000. They need to pay more taxes, he said this week: "It's time to be patriotic...time to jump in, time to be part of the deal, time to help get America out of the rut."

Could it be that Biden is a real, live, walking, talking straw man? Advocates of personal responsibility and private charity love to hold up this particular character for inspection: the guy who believes that state welfare programs exempt him from the obligation to personal charity. The guy who believes that paying mandatory taxes and making private donations are one and the same. I've always been skeptical that such a character exists. But here we have him, in the gleaming golden flesh.

Lest there be room for doubt, Biden stuck by his remarks and tacked on, "Catholic social doctrine as I was taught it is, you take care of people who need the help the most."

When Biden released his tax returns last week, many jumped on his none-too-impressive record of charitable giving. Despite income somewhere in the $210,432 to $321,379 category during the last 10 years (rich!), the Bidens have given between $120 to $995 to charity annually, between 0.06 percent and 0.31 percent of their income. The average taxpayer bringing in more than $200,000 makes over $20,000 of charitable contributions, according to the IRS.

Biden's miserly charitable giving jibes fairly exactly with the findings in Arthur Brooks' Who Really Cares? which reports that "those who say they strongly oppose redistribution by government to remedy income inequality give over 10 times more to charity than those who strongly support government intervention, with a difference of $1,627 annually versus $140 to all causes," a gap not explained away by discrepancies in religious giving. Last year, the tax returns of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) show charitable giving of 27.3 percent to 28.6 percent of his income.

The thing about charity, of course, is that it isn't and shouldn't be mandatory. Biden may have excellent reasons for not giving—perhaps he keeps his charity within his large family. Perhaps he is a secret devotee of Ayn Rand. But his remarks this week are unambiguous: For people in his income bracket, giving money to government is a good and patriotic thing to do.

Here's an option for getting extra-bonus patriotism points: The federal government has been accepting gifts since 1843—they even set up a special account for gifts "such as bequests, from individuals wishing to express their patriotism to the United States." Surprisingly, the U.S. Treasury's Bureau of Public Debt picked up $2.6 million last year from individual donations. In 2006, a 98-year-old Ohio woman even donated her entire $1.1 million estate.

Biden's Senate colleagues have taken advantage of this provision. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.) handed over a $600 tax rebate check in a fit of pique over tax cuts in 2001. "They were very generous in handing this money out to me, and I'm going to be very generous in sending it back,'' said the then-83-year-old chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes showed manifestations of Biden's pocketbook patriotism as well. In Felix Frankfurter's book on Holmes we learn that "he did not have a curmudgeon's feelings about his own taxes." A secretary who exclaimed: "Don't you hate to pay taxes!" was rebuked with the hot response, "No, young feller. I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization." Holmes repeated this sentiment, minus the jazzy slang, in an opinion in 1927, the same year as Buck v. Bell, the case that permitted the sterilization of a disabled woman on the ground that "Three generations of imbeciles are enough." In his opinion, Holmes justified the decision on the grounds of a kind of patriotism: "We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices."

Assigning moral credit or blame for a mandatory act—whether paying taxes, getting drafted, or forcible sterilization—gets into murky territory pretty quickly. Obviously there are a wide variety of shades of gray here, and most people who think of filling out their 1040 as a virtuous act are rightly appalled by Buck v. Bell. Plenty of other perfectly reasonable people have echoed Holmes' view through the years.

Biden also suffers from bad timing. He is speaking stirringly about the importance of patriotic citizens paying taxes while government agencies are turning around and handing enormous checks to fancy-pants Wall Street firms that failed to correctly balance their checkbooks. For those who pay them, quarterly taxes were due on Monday. At times like these, it's hard to summon a real stars-and-stripes, eagles-and-apple-pie feeling about writing that check to the IRS.

Katherine Mangu-Ward is associate editor at reason.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    What about the libertarian case for joahahahahahahahahaha!

    Man, I was almost able to type that out.

  • Warty||

    Oh cruel fate, to be thusly boned. Ask not for whom the bone bones; it bones for us.

  • Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK)||

    Coal is fungible.

  • ||

    Don't be so hard on the Senator. Last year,
    he requested $120,000,000 be given to his constituents in Delaware. Oh wait, that wasn't his money was it? I'm sure the good Senator has a shelf load of plaques, etc. attesting to his humanitarian activities awarded by any number of Delaware charities and civic-minded organizations.

  • guy in the back row||

    ...why do Biden's own tax returns reveal such a stingy record of charitable giving?

    Cause he's a cheap fuck.

    Next!

  • ||

    Forget the "taxes are patriotic" shit, his Mr. Drug Warrior hard-on is the real bit of evil in this shithead. I'd like to see an article listing what he's responsible for.

  • Dagny T.||

    Forget the "taxes are patriotic" shit

    I'd really, really like to.

    Fun fact: I'm working on a California state return as we speak, and there is really a section for "voluntary contributions"! I don't see a lot of state returns here in Washington, so not sure if that's normal. I can't imagine a "Sea Otter Fund" would be normal anywhere but CA, though.

    I'd like to see an article listing what he's responsible for.

    Masochist.

  • St. V||

    "Cause he's a cheap fuck. Next!"

    BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    The man isn't cheap. His opinion of charitable giving is different from yours, that's all. Why throw ten bucks into a Katrina victims bucket when you could just steal money from 100 million taxpayers! It's easier this way!

  • St. V||

    Ehem. Insert question mark where appropriate.

    -Thank you.

  • ||

    As a former Marine, I will listen respectfully to Holmes re: patriot's duty to pay taxes. After graduating Harvard, Holmes enlisted to fight in the Civil War, saw action at Antietam and Fredericksburg, and was wounded more than once. But I will NOT let a guy who got FIVE student draft deferments during Vietnam lecture ME on patriotism. (That's the same number as Cheney, BTW.)

    I worked hard to get to where I am, and I'm not going to listen to someone who had "other priorities" tell me that I'm unpatriotic because I want to keep what I earned.

  • ||

    I'm working on a California state return as we speak, and there is really a section for "voluntary contributions"!

    Not surprising. What is also not surprising is how little actually gets voluntarily given to the government.

    Masochist.

    Just a little. But seeing Biden's WOD track record would bring out the sadist in me too.

  • St. V||

    Somebody get the lube and a fluffy towel!

  • classwarrior||

    There are differnet kinds of charity, Katherine, and not all goes to help the poor. Think of donations to a favourite museum or to the alma mater so the scholastically challenged offspring can get in. BTW, of course Wall St. is being bailed out now with tax dollars precisely due to the efforts of people who think all regulation is bad and the market knows best.

  • jasno||

    I'm sure as hell not going to defend Biden, but I will defend the idea that, because one pays taxes, one is exempt from some obligation(if there ever was one) to donate to a private charity.

    If the private charities need money, they should ask the government, because, unfortunately, they've already taken it from me.

  • Dirty Little Bastard||

    I'm not sure what anal rape feels like, but it probably feels a lot like paying taxes.

  • Dagny T.||

    What is also not surprising is how little actually gets voluntarily given to the government.

    Not even to the cuddly, cuddly sea otters? Or to the TWO DIFFERENT funds for senior citizens?

    I know it's acceptable to call those we find unpatriotic 'commies,' but what if they're just not commie enough? This is getting confusing.

    But seeing Biden's WOD track record would bring out the sadist in me too.

    This brought very, very unfortunate images to mind. I'll be scheduling my lobotomy now. Thanks.

  • economist||

    THE LIBERTARIAN CASE FOR JOSEPH BIDEN:
    He'll piss off so manhy people with his damnfool statements to turn them off to statists for years.

    And, while I'm dreaming, I'd really like to score with a supermodel.

  • No Name Guy||

    Re Bidens do as I say, not as I do....

    In typical leftist fashion:

    What's yours is ours and what's mine is mine.

    Also typical of the left in this country with respect to taxes and charity: They need to sooth their own guilt by levying taxes to fund their pet projects (welfare, "social justice" what ever that is, etc.) instead of supporting said causes via voluntary charity. I guess they think the causes are SO important, it's A-OK to use Govt. coercion to forcibly extract the money for them.

  • economist||

    On another note, I would really love to see Joseph Biden disappear up his own asshole.

  • economist||

    cue joe coming in to explain why higher taxes are a good thing and we should all vote for Barack Obama.

  • ||

    This brought very, very unfortunate images to mind. I'll be scheduling my lobotomy now. Thanks.

    "Not everything is strippers and booze and buckets of blood. Why do you guys have buckets of blood?"

    Ulitmate Frisbee time. Have a nice weekend.

  • ||

    Chesty-

    If you want to keep what you earn you would not vote for a republican. Ever-unless its RP.

    Holmes was not a patriot. He chose to fight in the war to prevent southern independence. His homeland was not invaded by Johnny rebs. He did not have to witness his family's home go up in flames started by some blue bellied uniformed heros. He was a loser for fighting in the civil war. He chose to initiate force. He could have stood up to the yellow bellied war mongers. He could have pointed to the examples of the English, French, Spanish, Dutch and yes, even the Russians, who all ended slavery without butchering three quarters of a million people. If he was so special, how come he did not have the stones to stand up to the great dictator, Lincoln the lenninist?

    From a libety perspective, he was one of the worst justices in american history. He was a proponent of legal positivism. He thought that the constitution does not protect any particular economic school of thought; hence he was quite comfortable sustaining progressive era socialist legislation.

    Not a guy to admire.

  • economist||

    classwarrior,
    When you're done jerking off, you might be consider actually addressing a point made here.

  • Neil Kinnock||

    Biden continues to speak as if no one in the world will ever try to look behind what he says.

  • economist||

    libertymike,
    Please don't go off on this "War of Northern Aggression" tangent. While I'm firmly opposed to most of the wartime measures imposed at the time (drafts, income taxes, estate taxes, censorship, and habeas suspension) the Southern States fought mostly to protect slavery, which I consider to be even worse than anything done by the Union government during the Civil War.

  • ||

    Didn't we fight a war over taxation, or am I forgetting something about the Boston Tea Party?

  • economist||

    And please, "lincoln the leninist"?

  • economist||

    However, I agree with libertymike completely that Holmes was a fucking douche who would've been better shot during the war.

  • ||

    I worked hard to get to where I am, and I'm not going to listen to someone who had "other priorities" anyone, anyone at all tell me that I'm unpatriotic because I want to keep what I earned.

  • tarran||

    the Southern States fought mostly to protect slavery, which I consider to be even worse than anything done by the Union government during the Civil War



    If that was the case, when Lincoln announced his support for a Constitutional Amendment making slavery permanent in the U.S., why didn't the secessionists give up their crusade?

    Yes, many Confederate citizens were motivated by a desire to preserve an economic system based on slavery, and feared that continuing a union with the non-slavery-tolerating states would result in the collapse of their system.

    However, what really drove the secession was the massive tax and spend policies promoted by the Republicans. The Clay plan which Lincoln made the centerpiece of his administration's plans would have imposed ruinous tariffs that would primarily be borne by southerners and would subsidize infrastructure used by northerners.

    And the union was most afraid of the Southerners making bilateral free trade agreements with England and France, agreements which would have resulted in the loss of the protected markets northern manufacturers counted on. Many northern manufacturers were terrified of having to compete for customers on a level playing field with Englishmen and Frenchmen. The chief aim of the Union war effort was to retain its ability to collect tariffs from the southern states. Lincoln offered permanent Federal support for slavery numerous times during the first years of the war in exchange for the Southerners laying down arms. I think it might even have been offered at the peace conference several months before the collapse of the Confederacy when the only sticking point was a demand by the Confederate representatives that the tariff on imports be reduced to pre-war levels.

    Also, I should point out that according to your rationale, the U.S. revolution was also immoral. After all, many southerners were motivated to support the secession of the United States from the British Empire as a reaction to the rise of the abolitionist movement in England. In short, if it was wrong for the slave owning states to secede from the United States, it was also wrong for the 10 or so slave holding states to secede from the British Empire. I guess that is a defensible position.

  • Federal Dog||

    Katharine directly asked Joe Biden the question in her post, resulting in the tic seen in the photo.

  • ||

    There are different kinds of charity[...], and not all goes to help the poor.

    Indeed, most charitable contributions go to help needy politicians... they are called taxes.

    BTW, of course Wall St. is being bailed out now with tax dollars precisely due to the efforts of people who think all regulation is bad and the market knows best.

    Liar.

  • ||

    the Southern States fought mostly to protect slavery, which I consider to be even worse than anything done by the Union government during the Civil War.

    Yes, I am sure those thousands of Southern volunteers wanted to fight the Federal Government just so rich landowners could keep their slaves.

  • MattXIV||

    There is a libertarian case for Biden for VP - he'll only be allowed to vote in the Senate when it's a tie.

  • tarran||

    And please, "lincoln the leninist"?



    I believe that's a reference to L.Neil Smith's hyperbolic essay: American Lenin

    L. Neil Smith is in his usual raging form in the essay, but it's worth reading.

    I should point out that in the early 20th century Lincoln was approvingly examined by Hitler, Mussolini and (I am less certain of this) Stalin.

    Hitler devotes several passages on Mein Kampf on an analysis of how Lincoln crushed dissent and centralized power in the state. For some reason many dictators like to think of themselves as modern day Lincolns...

  • ||

    Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) recently told those making over $250,000 per year that, "It's time to be patriotic...time to help get America out of the rut."

    Somehow it does not resonate in me that I pay taxes out of a sense of patriotism. Maybe to avoid jail and having my possessions confiscated by government thugs, I think, but patriotism?

    It does require a lot of nerve (or a large set of brass balls), for someone of the stature of Mr. Biden, to say to rational people that paying more taxes is a patriotic effort, instead of being simply what it is: more thievery from the part of the government.

  • economist||

    "According to your rationale, the American revolution was immoral".
    No, because most of the impetus behind it was not driven by concerns over the abolition of slavery. Look at the debates in colonial legislatures, the Continental Congress, and various newspaper exchanges and compare with the debates in southern state legislatures over secession. While it's true that high tariffs and spending were marginal concerns, the chief worry was that the Republican-dominated government would at least restrict the expansion of slavery into western territories and at most try ultimately to abolish the institution of slavery.

  • ||

    Economist-

    1. Am I defending southern slave owners? You are a regular to these here blogs. I think you have read some of my posts condemning the existence of slavery period, the gun control measures adopted by many localities and states in the South in an effort to keep guns out of the hands of blacks, the free speech restrictions imposed by southern localities and states prohibiting abolitionist pamphlets, periodicals, etc as well as assemblies of abolitionists, etc.

    2. My p.o.v. embraces liberty; Lincoln's, tyranny.

    3. It is stunning how people just gloss over the historical reality concerning the diferences with which the great powers handled the slavery issue. Amercia stands out as the barbarian, the backwater, the troglodyte.

    4. Lincoln the Lenninist? Yes. Have you read Red Republicans: Marxism in the Civil War and Lincoln's Marxists? The authors are Walter D. Kennedy and Al Benson, Jr.

  • JB||

    Joe Biden hates America. If he was patriotic, he would send a gift check to the US Treasury. Since he has not, he is a hypocrite.

  • Rhywun||

    I can't imagine a "Sea Otter Fund" would be normal anywhere but CA, though.



    New York has "Return a gift to wildlife".

  • tarran||

    Yet Lincoln in his inaugural speech was promising them that they could keep slaves in perpetuity... so long as they paid the tariff.

    In the peace conference near the end of the war, the talks broke down on one issue and one issue alone. The Southern demands that tariffs be reduced to pre-war levels. that was the one area where the Lincoln Administration would make any concession.

    The U.S. invasion of the Confederacy was about as justified as the Austro-Hungarian invasion of Serbia to kick off World War I.

  • zoltan||

    But I will NOT let a guy who got FIVE student draft deferments during Vietnam lecture ME on patriotism. (That's the same number as Cheney, BTW.)

    Is this a fucking joke? Biden is statist scum but the draft is fucking worse. Go draft dodgers!

  • ||

    The presence of neoConfederates in the "libertarian" movement is just about the best example I can think of to explain why the movement is rightly considered a joke.

    The completely ahistorical attempt to tag historical figures ("Lincoln was a Lenininst!")is particularly stupid. I guess Genghis Khan was a Nazi?

  • Paul||

    "No, young feller. I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization."

    Isn't that precisely what we're afraid politicians will do with our tax money?

  • Paul||

    Coal is fungible.

    Hmm, amazing. I found some fungible bread in my refrigerator, the other day. But it was way in the back and I had forgotten about it.

  • Paul||

    New York has "Return a gift to wildlife".

    Wildlife keeps returning gifts to me on my front lawn.

    Somebody stop me.

  • ||

    There is a libertarian case for Biden for VP - he'll only be allowed to vote in the Senate when it's a tie.

    Some people can find the silver lining in the storm cloud that just tore the roof off the house.

  • Lee Cruz||

    "It is the Duty of every Patriot to protect his Country from it's Government." - Thomase Paine

    My Government is not my Country and paying taxes to a government that has usurped the Constitution is an Authority without a right.

  • ||

    He chose to fight in the war to prevent southern independence.

    Jezzus Horatio McChrist, libertymike. Get the fuck over it. The crushing of the slaveholder rebellion was over 143 years ago. Got it? It's fucking over. The south got it's ass kicked. One and a half goddamed cernturies ago, the immoral cause of the southern states was defeated.

    Any questions 'tard?

  • ||

    The presence of neoConfederates in the "libertarian" movement is just about the best example I can think of to explain why the movement is rightly considered a joke.

    I am not an American, let alone a "neoconfederate" (whatever that is supposed to mean), and even I can see that Lincoln was a tyrant: He suspended Habeas Corpus unconstitutionally, sent his critics and dissidents to jail, persecuted and scared journalists who dared question the war or him, even threatened a Supreme Court judge with incarceration for not agreeing with him . . . seems pretty fascistic to me.

  • ||

    the immoral [sic] cause of the Southern States was defeated.

    Exactly what was immoral about seceding from an encroaching central government is beyond me. Perhaps you could explain it to me. If secession is immoral in itself, then there should be a case against the secession of Texas from Mexico.

  • perilisk||

    "One and a half goddamed cernturies ago, the immoral cause of the southern states was defeated."

    Yes, the Union's conscript army managed once and for all to ensure people would never be forced to work again against their will. And then black people were treated justly and equally in the South forever after.

  • Kolohe||

    And then black people were treated justly and equally in the South forever after.

    Only after the federal government came back and bitchslapped y'all *again*.

    The South (TM), continuously and totally poisoning state sovereignty for two centuries.

    South 1820-1859: "Federal government, please kick out the mexicans and indians. And build us some ports and some forts. And give us back our slaves even if slavery is against the law in your state."

    Feds 1820-1859: "alrite"

    Feds 1860: "Ok. New plan. We ain't goin' to spread slavery no more."

    South 1860: "Wah, we quit. And going to take our economically retarded backward non-food producing agrarian economy with us. But it's the tarriff's fault that we suck"

    1861-1865: *POW!* *BAM!* *BIFF!*

    Feds 1866: "Ok, south, we'd tried to be nice, bbut since you still don't want to behave like grown-ups, we're going to be all up in your grill to make sure your treating people equally. Yeah, we'll probably give the negro a leg up for a while, but y'all treated him like crap for so long, he probably needs it."

    South 1866: *grumble grumble*

    Fed 1876: "Man, I am sick and tired of trying to get the south to treat all people equally. And I don't particularly even like negros."

    South 1876: "Ok, we'll accept your boy Hayes if y'all go home"

    Fed: "alrite"
    South: "alrite"

    South 1930s "Hey federal government, build us infrastructure for electricity and roads and give us money and jobs programs to help our poverty."

    Fed 1930s "alrite"

    Feds 1950s "Ok south, stop treating your black people like 2nd class citizens"

    South 1950s "Wah, your not the boss of me."

  • economist||

    Kolohe,
    Thank you for making the argument that I was too drunk to make.

    Of course, Lincoln was still a tyrant.

    But compared to the assholes in Europe around the same time or shortly thereafter (Bismarck, Cavour, and, though not as bad, Disraeli) he wasn't really so bad. And in passing he managed to end a barbarous practice that should never have existed in this country in the first place. So he gets about the same indulgence from me as Pinochet.

  • economist||

    Note: I understand completely that Pinochet and Lincoln are sort of opposites. But I'm a libertarian, so the opposite of a bad thing (politically) does not equal good thing.

  • Kolohe||

    could have pointed to the examples of the English, French, Spanish, Dutch and yes, even the Russians

    Um, when your a czar with absolute power, it's suprising what you can get done.

    And in all these cases, it was the center of economic and poltical power (and population) telling the provinces and/or colonies 'quit it or else.'

    Nobody was telling the south in 1860 to quit slavery; they left because they didn't like the results of a legitimate election.

  • Robert Enders||

    I would have supported Southern independence back then on the following condition: A plebiscite is held, and all adults, regardless of race or gender, are allowed to vote on the matter. Since I don't think they would have accepted this offer, I think they deserved to be crushed. IMHO, individual rights trump states' rights every time.

    So the LP has members who say they would have fought for the South. BFD. The war ended 145 years ago. The issue of slavery has been resolved, the issue of secession has not.

  • tarran||

    I would have supported Southern independence back then on the following condition: A plebiscite is held, and all adults, regardless of race or gender, are allowed to vote on the matter. Since I don't think they would have accepted this offer, I think they deserved to be crushed. IMHO, individual rights trump states' rights every time.



    So are you troubled that no such plebiscite was held in 1775?

  • ||

    I suppose the reason that people like Talky Joe don't believe that private charity can accomplish anything is that he's a skinflint bastard himself, and presumes that nobody else cares about helping those in need.

    -jcr

  • ||

    But compared to the assholes in Europe around the same time or shortly thereafter (Bismarck, Cavour, and, though not as bad, Disraeli) he wasn't really so bad

    He had a much higher body count than anyone before him. Nobody topped his record until Hitler.

    -jcr

  • ||

    Kolohe,

    You're really glossing over the tariff issue. That's what Lincoln threatened to invade the south over, not slavery.

    -jcr

  • ||

    "lincoln the leninist"?

    Timing doesn't work out for that. I was rather surprised to learn recently that Hitler was rather lavish with his praise for Lincoln in Mein Kampf. Seems he loved the idea of ending all local power and concentrating it in a dictatorship.

    -jcr

  • ||

    Dagny :" I'm working on a California state return as we speak, and there is really a section for "voluntary contributions"! "

    Are you 18 and filling out your first tax form? I can't see how you'd have never noticed them before.

    Nor is it a California thing.

    I've seen those voluntary contribution sections on forms from IL, CT, MA, NY, NJ, and PA. And probably on OH's also.

    "I can't imagine a "Sea Otter Fund" would be normal anywhere but CA, though."

    Well, you pretty much won't see that unless sea otters are a native species in the state, so the selection is pretty small.

  • Chad||

    You need to pay more taxes. I need to pay more taxes. Pretty much everyone does. Particularly the top 1%, whose gains in wealth and income are spiraling into the stratosphere as they leave catastrophe in their wake.

    I make an ok income. Plenty enough to put an adequate roof over my head and car in my parking space, clothes on my back, and a healthy diet...with lots to spare. I sure don't want or need more cheap Chinese crap, over-sized SUVs and McMansions, and similar garbage that most Americans are wasting their money on. I would much prefer a safe community, a clean environment, a safe and effective transportation system which doesn't force me to use my car just to cross the street, fully-staffed state and federal agencies that have the manpower and resources to do their jobs, good teachers attracted via good pay, etc.

    The Republican/Libertarian "starve the beast" tax cut mentality has turned out to be a failure. It has not caused incredible economic growth, but it has gutted our infrastructure and pushed us towards the brink of environmental disaster. Great job folks!

  • ||

    You need to pay more taxes. I need to pay more taxes.

    No, we need a cheaper government. When you have a 500 pound tick attached to your carotid artery, would you say you need to give it more blood?

    -jcr

  • Paul||

    south got it's ass kicked. One and a half goddamed cernturies ago, the immoral cause of the southern states was defeated.

    But the south will rise again.

  • ||

    the immoral cause of the southern states was defeated.

    It wasn't just the southern states that were defeated. As I write this, there are people in jail for providing marijuana to people who need it to treat debilitating illness, which we went to the polls and legalized here in California, and we have no power to resist when the federal thugs come in and flex their muscles.

    -jcr

  • ||

    Without discussing Sen. Biden specifically, since I do not actually know him. I think it is important to mention that some people who AGREE with paying taxes may not actually include their charitable donations on their tax return as it LOWERS the amount of taxes they have to pay. My own tax return has NEVER shown any charitable donations but that does not mean I have never made any. The fact is I am able to afford to pay my taxes AND give to charity I do not have to use the one to recieve a DEDUCTION from the other.

  • ||

    I find it slightly hilarious that you speak of Biden as a "living straw-man" and then go on to use the straw man argument (circa Holmes) against him.

    Ya gotta wonder, wrere you even awake while you were writing this?

  • ||

    I've always agreed with Biden, actually. Well, at least with the spirit of what I think he's trying to say.

    I see the taxes I pay as membership fees. It's like my neighborhood association. I pay my membership fees, and thus the medians are always landscaped and fines are imposed when grass isn't mowed. I see the country as a big neighborhood, and while different areas have different ideas about what is and isn't acceptable in their neighborhood, we're all paying our membership dues, because it's awesome to live here.

    When we lived in a neighborhood with no such association, we had to do a bit more to keep our parts of the street up. When the foreclosures started (early - we're in Florida), we joined in with groups of neighbors to take turns keeping the empty homes cleaned up, because we all suffer if the place starts looking abandoned.

    I'm not saying we have no right to question how our dues are used, or how much is collected, etc., but I agree that there is something about complaining about the very idea of paying dues at all that strikes me as unappreciative, impractical, and entitled. Land actually doesn't belong to anyone. We have a social agreement that we will behave as if land is actually ownable, but it really isn't. We also have a social agreement to behave as if there is such a thing as a "country," when there really isn't. I see being willing to contribute to the upkeep of the clubhouse as integral to keeping up the pretense that there is such a thing as a country. It has a cohesive effect. We bought in, so we agree we get to have certain expectations, as well as certain responsibilities. We pay for our privileges with our responsibilities. That's what makes us citizens.

  • rick||

    the US treasure does indeed accept extra payments. But when someone wealthy (like Bill Clinton, or Warren Buffet) supports tax increases by saying "I don't think my taxes are high enough", that's not what they mean. What they really mean is "I don't think YOUR taxes are high enough".

    But, of course, that doesn't make as good a soundbite.

  • ||

    Fungible- "of nature; that which can be replaced or substituted."
    So, her opinion is coal can be replaced. Do you have a problem with that, #4, or do you have a problem with big words?

  • Chad||

    Anthony | September 20, 2008, 9:21am | #

    Without discussing Sen. Biden specifically, since I do not actually know him. I think it is important to mention that some people who AGREE with paying taxes may not actually include their charitable donations on their tax return as it LOWERS the amount of taxes they have to pay. My own tax return has NEVER shown any charitable donations but that does not mean I have never made any. The fact is I am able to afford to pay my taxes AND give to charity I do not have to use the one to recieve a DEDUCTION from the other.


    A lot of studies have shown that conservatives are, in general, a lot more generous that liberals. Some of them use tax receipts as one of the methods to measure generosity. I wonder how often they get distorted by the small minority like you and me who don't claim the charitable deduction, even though we could. Also, unless you have a house and kids, it is pretty hard to beat the standard deduction unless you are donating 7%+ of your income.

    John C. Randolph

    No, we need a cheaper government. When you have a 500 pound tick attached to your carotid artery, would you say you need to give it more blood?


    The 500 pound tick attached to the throat of our economy consists almost entirely of the leaches in the top 1% of the population who are sucking up more and more of our wealth and getting paid hundreds of millions to bankrupt companies. Most state and federal agencies have been trimmed to the bone.

    To prevent another Wall Street blowup like we have had this last week, some heads need to roll. The CEO's of the failed companies should be stripped of everything except the clothes on their back and a minimum Social Security check. Maybe we could be nice and buy them a nice double-wide in a trashy trailer park of their choice, but that would be more than they deserve. All the execs and board members of these companies need to have their ill-gotten gains taken from them as well.

    Rather than letting these thieves laugh their way to the bank, we need to make them actually pay for their failure. "Heads I get filthy stinking rich, tails I still get paid millions" is not justice.

  • ||

    Exactly how in hell do I get to call myself a charitable person, when my charity involves reaching into your pocket and putting whatever money I take from you into the collection plate? Someone, anyone?
    Quite simply Biden is a fool and a fraud.
    He is also pompous and arrogant. He has never worked a real job, he has been on the public dole for most of his life.
    And just to round out the picture of this man...he is an obvious hypocrite.
    It is good for thee, but not me.
    He needs to be retired from office.
    He is amazingly out of touch.
    And he has bad hair plugs.
    Other than that, he is a fine man.

  • ||

    J sub D-

    You don't have to call me 'tard. It is beneath you. Besides, you don't want to be a practitioner of any precepts taught at the Charlie Rangel school of communication.

  • John_R||

    Someone may have already pointed this out, but if Palin had invoked her religion to back up a policy position, how many in the MSM and here at Reason would have lost their minds?

  • ||

    J sub D-

    Too bad I do not hail from the south, it would be easier to peg me as a Johnny reb racist who yearned for a return to ante-bellum ways.

  • ||

    Economist-

    You can't really mean that compared to Bismark, Cavour and Disraeli, Lincoln wasn't so bad. You do know that. Did any one the leaders you cite start and maintain a blood bath that killed three quarters of a million people? Did any of those men personally direct the military operations and give the green light to systematic war crimes resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians? Case closed. Checkmate.

  • MJ||

    The implication from Biden's statement was not so much that it was patriotic to pay your taxes, as it is patriotic to acquiesce to having your taxes raised. In other words, patriotism is defined as going along with the Democrat Presidential Candidate's stated policy goals, as a corrollary, it would presumably be unpatriotic to oppose the Democrat's policies.

  • ||

    So Joe; will you be giving your annual $37 to charity again this year?

  • ||

    "The average taxpayer bringing in more than $200,000 makes over $20,000 of charitable contributions, according to the IRS."

    This is a misleading statistic, by the way. It makes it look like the average taxpayer over $200,000 spends 10% of their income on charity.

    "Most state and federal agencies have been trimmed to the bone."

    *speechless*

  • ||

    Joe Biden has been informed by the Bishops across the United States to STOP telling people what the Catholic Church teaches because he and Pelosi are preaching heresy, as they DO NOT FULLY understand what their own Catholic faith is about. If Biden doens' even understand what his own Church teaches, how can we expect him to understand what this country stands for?? Paying higher taxes IS NOT PATRIOTIC, but it is communism by taking from the 'rich' and giving to the poor, who have created an entitlement society and fully expect to get, get, get from the government and who cares who has to sacrifice to appease their greed. Barack Hussein Obama will bring America to it's knees and I don't plan to waste my vote on his Marxist form of government.

  • ||

    Everyone pays taxes- that is part of deal when we want new roads, national security, etc, for those who supported the war in Iraq, didn't you think it was going to cost money?

    Obama/Biden don't want to increase taxes for people making 250,000 or less, but to end tax cuts for people making more than that- for those who complain, Biden meant that it could be seen as a patriotic duty to help America out of this rut. This is not redistribution of wealth- Bush is leaving us with an enormous deficit- it has to be paid off and if the middle class (the largest portion of the population) who are struggling do not have a little bit of disposable income they will not be very good consumers to help the economy along. The middle and lower classes are the ones who sent off their sons to fight in Iraq, many of whom will never return, I think the upper classes paying a little extra does not compare to this sacrifice.

  • Domer2x||

    Joe must be giving plenty of money to church and charity. He just doesn't list these contributions on his tax returns. To do so would border on pride, which would go against Joe's oft-cited Catholic teachings. No good Catholic would think of giving less than one-tenth of one percent to the church -- or brag about how much he did give. Listing his true contributions in his tax returns would make them deductible, which would lower Joe's taxes, thereby diminishing his patriotism. Preferring to balance patriotism and piety, St. Joseph suffers the barbs who those who call him cheap and hyprocritical. Remember, martyrdom plays a big part in Catholic history.

  • tarran||

    Rebecca,

    You know, I don't like "deals" where someone tells me that if I don't want tear gas grenades fired into my house, I need to buy new marble steps for the town hall.

    Joe Biden and his politiclaly connected friends can go fuck themselves. If they want to live their lives of luxury, they can go and earn their money. If they want to advance soem cause they can ask people to fund it voluntarily instead of gunpoint. All these bozos are going to do is make everyone except themselves poorer. The more powerful the government, the more impoverished the common man - and the more wealthy and comfortable the nomenklatura.

    God, you guys sound like that editorialist in my college newspaper who defended date rape on utilitarian grounds. After all, the physical act was the same, the fact that one of the participants is participating against their was merely a trifle, far less important than the harm caused by sexually frustrated men since men need (according to him) far more sexual release than women would provide willingly.

    The middle and lower classes are the ones who sent off their sons to fight in Iraq, many of whom will never return, I think the upper classes paying a little extra does not compare to this sacrifice.



    Wow! My mommy taught me that two wrongs don't make a right. What did your mommy teach you?

  • ||

    The contributions are those that are claimed by the Bidens for deduction purposes. As so many today you are too quick to assume. Whatever happened to journalism? The money listed on their return is probably not all they have contributed. Many in the public eye don't list all they can claim. You have no idea what they contributed in cash.
    Lastly by not taking every deduction and a willingness to pay higher taxes many of us feel that supporting our government is generosity

  • ||

    Hows this for patriotism. All unspent campagain contributions be returned to the US treasury. Now that would be patriotic.

  • ||

    Charity is a really neat way to tax only the good people.

  • ||

    Most state and federal agencies have been trimmed to the bone.

    Really, including Defense and HLS?

  • Buster ||

    Joe Biden has a huge ol' ass - wider than a four laner and looking really soft and gooey. Maybe Josephine has been giving up his ass in charity in the Senate lav to his pals in the House - ol Barney Frank, John Mutha and cornholer Harry Reid.

  • ||

    The key to successful pandering is to propose stealing from one group and giving to another, i.e. one's supporters, while making the recipients feel good about supporting a thief. It's patriotic to steal from them and give to me. Yea, that's the ticket. Stealing is patriotic. How dare they resist giving me my due. Those morally inferior rich people I'm stealing from are unpatriotic. I'm a good guy supporting Obama.

  • ||

    Jane | September 20, 2008, 1:50pm | #
    Charity is a really neat way to tax only the good people.


    And the income tax is a really neat way to tax the non politically connected.

  • Andrew Garland||

    It isn't common knowledge just how much wealthy people already pay, and how much tax is wasted by increasing spending on everything. Ironically, raising taxes on anyone will lower the production of the US, and so will lower the number of jobs.

    See my post: Public Tax Meeting

    -----
    Public Tax Meeting

    John JJ Richman was making breakfast when he heard the crowd outside. They seemed just shy of hostile. He opened his door to see about 65 townspeople, out of a town of 100. Two spokesmen were standing on the porch.

    John: Good morning. Why are you all here?
    Rob: There are things that need changing, and you are the one to help us.

    John: (Distracted by the milling crowd)
    Rob: The town could use improvement. Renovating the school, hiring more police, fixing up the football field, and a summer splash fountain for the children. For the little children! (Rob was shaking a bit.)

    (continued)

  • ||

    Since in his speech, Biden is exhorting this group of people to "step up" now and in the future, I would think it makes more sense to examine his tax return next year to see if he takes his own advice.

    He was not admonishing anyone for not "stepping up" in the past (although you seem to assume it's implied).

    Conceptually, he's correct. Even Suze Orman says a 10% charitable donation rate is optimum, Biblical references aside.

    With or without private charitable giving, a government which is mandated by its Constitution to "provide for the general welfare" should have the resources to do so.

    Your article is a stretch; surprised you didn't pull something writing this.

  • Federal Dog||

    Chad, and anyone who actually believes the drivel Chad posted:

    Get a job working daily with government bureaucracies, and work that job for five years. Then post.

    If you think that you can trust government to do any damned thing right, you're an idiot or delusional. That you propose throwing more and more money at irreponsible, incompetent, and unaccountable government bureaucrats, hoping that they will fix the world's problems, is a sure sign of implacable ignorance and/or cognitive impairment.

  • ||

    T2:
    Hmmm. A government mandated by its Constitution to "provide for the general welfare"... I missed that quoted part the last time I read through the US Constitution. I remember a part about "promote the general welfare" - but "promote" does not mean "provide for", i.e., pay for. And, how could the Federal Government ever "provide for", that is, pay for the general welfare of ALL the people of ALL the states anyway? That doesn't make any sense to me, especially after having read through the Federalist Papers.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    In high school, I remember the super-liberal kids being the biggest trend whores and the most embezzling of their parents' wallets. Liberalism was just a trendy thing filled with silly platitudes that eventually paid off well in the sexual department, because wanting to save the environment and wanting to fight for the poor is sexy. What more efficient way to do that than to advocate laws for having the rich pay? Think about it: it doesn't require any personal sacrifice from an over-privileged lifestyle and it also makes you look so cool to hate people who are marginally richer than your upper-middle class white ass.

  • Daniel Reeves||

    You need to pay more taxes. I need to pay more taxes. Pretty much everyone does.


    It's my money, dammit, and I'm not going to let irresponsible bureaucrats tell me what wasteful government programs it should go to or what malicious, leeching third-parties it should be sent to. I can't believe liberals actually think giving more money to government is a good thing when our president is a prime example of how bad it is to have an idiot steal your money. He'll just waste it on useless crap, like a war in the Middle East, or give it to third-parties and special interest groups.

  • Alan||

    RE: The presence of neoConfederates in the "libertarian" movement is just about the best example I can think of to explain why the movement is rightly considered a joke.

    The "I ain't payin' none of them there taxes" also helps. Fits right in. Seems like more than a few cuckoos have been laying eggs in the libertarian nest.

  • ||

    Amazing. The work patriot came into vogue in early America to describe someone so strongly opposed to high taxes they were willing to fight against their government, the King.

  • Alan||

    persiflage, "provide for" or "promote the" it ain't going to happen without taxes. So what is your point?

  • Alan||

    RE: Early America...

    Yep. They didn't have a standing army back then either. No telegraph. No steam engine. Etc. Etc.

    I guess times have changed. Or haven't you noticed?

  • tarran||

    Yep. They didn't have a standing army back then either. No telegraph. No steam engine. Etc. Etc.



    Well, two of those things don't require a government.

    Additionally places like Pennsylvania, which had for decades a powerless government that really existed in name only, thrived.

    Odd that...

  • starman||

    This has to be the dumbest article I have ever read. Joe Bidden has been a valued public servant for nearly thirty years and for the right wing to try to throw stones at someone suggesting that people making over $250,000 per year hold some sort of responsibility to the greater good? What is wrong with higher income people paying more taxes. Their basic needs are already covered and the 80% to 90% of the population that is not in the over $250,000 bracket are generally helping to make it possible for the fortunate to be so fortunate.

  • ||

    "cue joe coming in to explain why higher taxes are a good thing and we should all vote for Barack Obama."
    ---------------------
    No one wants to pay higher taxes, but the services that the Government provides aren't free either....and fighting Bush's War in Iraq has drained the Treasury. But the fact is that you are more than likely to actually do better financially under a President Obama rather than a President McCain.

    In the case of the top 2% ofncome earners tax rate reverting to Clinton era levels, it is simply prudent to do so when the National debt is so untenable and we are still fighting a War on 2 fronts not to mention the obscene amount of money we have borrowed to prosecute the War in Iraq..

    One thing is certain: those in the higher Income Brackets have done very well during the Bush years, in 2007 alone affluent tax payers saw their incomes grow by 9% while middle-incomes stagnanted. Additionally, in the last 2 years at least there has been little of no "trickle down" from the top income earners to those in the middle income brackets or lower; in fact millions of Manufacturing jobs (which used to pay good wages) have been outsourced...not to mention that overall job growth has been very modest especially in comparison to the robust job growth of the 1990's; while those who own Businesses that benefit from outsourcing did well, the outlook is not so good for the current middle-class who is the first generation since WW2 whose financial future is not nearly as bright as their parent's generation in terms of pensions and salaries.

    Although Biden put it clumsily by implying that paying higher taxes is "patriotic," now is the time for the top tax brackets to pay more of the tax burden; here is a Comparison of the McCain and Obama Tax plans:

    ……………… MCCAIN …………. OBAMA
    Income ……. Avg tax bill ……. Avg. tax bill
    Over $2.9M …. -$269,364 (-4.4%)… +$701,885 (+11.5%)
    $603K and up…. -$45,361 (-3.4%)… +$115,974 (+8.7%)
    $227K-$603K…… -$7,871 (-3.1%)…….. +$12 (+0.0%)
    $161K-$227K…… -$4,380 (-3.0%)….. -$2,789 (-1.9%)
    $112K-$161K…… -$2,614 (-2.5%)….. -$2,204 (-2.1%)
    $66K-$112K …… -$1,009 (-1.4%)….. -$1,290 (-1.8%)
    $38K-$66K …….. -$319 (-0.7%)….. -$1,042 (-2.4%)
    $19K-$38K …….. -$113 (-0.5%)……. -$892 (-3.6%)
    Under $19K ……… -$19 (-0.2%)……. -$567 (-5.5%)

    Consider too that giving over 70% of the population significant tax reductions will put more money in their pockets to spend in the marketplace which should benefit all tax brackets...Obama means to boost the economy from the "bottom up" rather than the "top down" as per the Bush years, and considering that "trickle down" has underperformed in the last couple of years, now is the time to try something else, IMO.

    BTW, Obama also wants to exclude Seniors making $50,000 and under from paying income taxes (something to think about if you or your parents are retired.) As for Capital Gains and Dividends, I personally don't think that Obama will increase the tax rate since statistics show that investment drops (and tax revenues fall) when Cap Gains are raised too high (however, if he does decide to raise the rate, I just heard one of his advisors mention that he would hike it from 15% to 20%...well under the top tax rate of 28% during the go-go Clinton Years.)

  • Cup of Cha||

    The "average" income for someone making over 200k would probably be at least 5 million, since it would include the uber-rich. Isn't that a BS comparison?

  • ||

    Has anyone enquired what Senator and Mrs Bidens contribution to their church was in that time period? I m not a catholic but married a catholic and was dismayed to find that contributions to th church did not count as tax deductible and therefore would not appear on my tax return.

    Jim

  • Alan||

    RE: Well, two of those things don't require a government.

    I guess the transcontinental railroad appeared magically all by itself. And the $30K that Congress provided for the first experimental telegraph line must have come from their contributions to charity.

    But the actual point is that you are thinking in the past tense and times have changed. Or haven't you noticed?

  • ||

    Why does giving to charity make you a good person? Let's face it, the rich give to charities to make themselves look nice and so that they can chair the meetings and attend expensive parties.

    Taxes shouldn't be payed out of patriotism to fund massive war efforts. But social programs dillute the income to a certain extent. Gross income disparity does not create opportunities for the development of the individual and general happiness, it creates an environment of oppression and bullshit from the overly wealthy.

  • tarran||

    Alan, sweetie,

    All but one of the transcontinental lines were built with government subsidy. One was built with private funds.

    All but one of the lines went bankrupt and required constant bailouts from the federal government. One operated profitably and never required a federal bailout.

    Now, guess which of the first two groups the profitable railroad bleonged to, and which of the two groups the unprofitable ones belonged to. Here's some reading that might help your guess be an educated one.

    You are wrong. Times have not changed.

    some people are productive and create wealth. Others aren't but like to get rich by taking money by force.

    The latter class either go into government or into business and lobby for government to kneecap competition and give them subsidies.

    This has been true throughout written history. But hey, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe this time, for the first time in recorded history, giving these guys will try the same policies that have failed every time they have been tried in the past, and they will magically work.

    And maybe the tooth fairy will come and give my daughter a pony.

  • tarran||

    Marina,

    You know what maintains gross disparities in wealth in society?

    It ain't laisez faire policies. Paris Hilton, if left to her own devices would piss away all the wealth her father amassed. Nope, it's when the wealthy are allowed to keep their wealth, and the poor are not permitted to amass wealth. To do this, you need large scale forcible transfers of wealth from the poor to the rich, and to prevent the poor from engaging in entrepneurial activity.

    Now, in the U.S. this has been historically accomplished by government regulation. Do you know why big business loved Hoover and FDR's industrial planning boards? Because you had the govenremnt assuring them of massive profits and preventing upstart competitors from doing business.

    The more laissez faire an economy, the larger the middle class. The more the government throws its weight around, the more the society splits into haves and have nots.

    This bailout and increased regulation won't hurt the rich. I'll transfer wealth from your pockets to theirs - either through taxation or debasement of the currency.

  • Miller||

    Some people are better artists, athletes and businessmen than others. The very best are usually a LOT better than the second and third best, and the list drops off exponentially as it goes down. Like anything else worth doing, building a business and making money is a skill, and some people are a LOT better at it. Of COURSE those people will have a LOT more money.

    Your "self-esteem" teacher lied to you, folks. There are winners and losers. For the losers, life is not always pretty. But as long as the government stays out and lets the markets work their magic, life IS fair. I believe in charity, as outlined in the Bible, but "charity" has NOTHING to do with government extortion.

    Biden is socialist scum. I can't believe any libertarian would support extorting "charity" from the nation's highest achievers to benefit deadbeats and leeches. Reagan would be ashamed. If these fools believe we owe them taxes, why not tax everyone more? Because they're socialist hypocrites, and they don't really care about the poor after election day, as long as they can soak the rich and create more boondoggle programs.

    The market allows everyone to prosper, as long as they're willing to work. Sadly, some never will be. They're called liberals.

  • Alan||

    tarran, Making ideological hostility to any and all taxation and nostalgia for pre-industrial America (let alone the confederacy) is not going to help the cause of liberty and freedom in America. Nor will advocating the "right" of racists to discriminate against minorities when they offer public accommodations, as has been done in another thread.

    As was stated above, the "libertarian" movement is rightly considered a joke. Liberty, however, needs an effective and credible defender. I'm not laughing. I'm crying.

  • zoltan||

    Did anyone see tarran "make ideological hostility to any ad all taxation"? I'm confused.

  • Alan||

    Terran, I took a look at the article.

    As the article states: "Most business historians have assumed that the transcontinental railroads would never have been built without government subsidies."

    And then there is that one "business historian", at an ideological "think tank" located in Auburn, Alabama, who assumes otherwise. Well, I guess that proves it!

    I wonder if he still believes the Confederacy won the war?

  • Alan||

    Does Tarran ideologically oppose any and all taxation? I guess I don't know. But he states:

    "some people are productive and create wealth. [The good guys! Hooray!] Others aren't but like to get rich by taking money by force. [The bad guys, boo!]"

    I think that "taking money by force" refers to taxation, and I would say that, as well as other such drivel that has been posted here, indicates "ideological hostility to any and all taxation.

  • Miller||

    @Jim Clark:
    Next time, try Earth First or the ACLU.

  • ||

    > Perhaps he is a secret devotee of Ayn Rand.

    That sentence was too much for me; even in sarcasm, that was just uncalled for.

    What makes it even worse is that I'm now having daydreams (nightmares?) about some reporter asking Slow Joe if he's an Ayn Rand fan (!) and Joe responds with some trademark malarky about how his great gran' pappy gave him a signed copy of The Fountainhead, and he keeps it in his bedside table...

  • ||

    Remember, individuals making under 100,000 pay 12.4% surge-charge for that privilege -- adding to the social security surplus that peaked in the GB years and which he has squandered. Also, we may a HUGE percentage of our labor costs into the healthcare system while those making 250,000+ pay hardly any. But "fairness" is beside the point. The Bush tax cuts reward UNPRODUCTIVE labor. You rich folks are NOT investing your money to create new wealth so you are not justifying your tax cuts! Meanwhile families are working harder than ever (much more than 8 hour days for BOTH mom and dad so kids don't see their parents) just to get buy and half of our paycheck is gone in healthcare and tax and we still owe sales tax, property tax, gas tax, etc..... If you had DONE SOMETHING with your wealth, maybe tax cuts for the rich would be justified.... But seems to me, small business would be able to hire the labor they need if rich people stopped dumping the overhead of their extravagent government on the backs of labor.

  • tarran||

    Zoltan,

    In almost all of my posts, I have equated taxation with theft. In fact, to me the verb "to tax" describes a specific form of the action of stealing via extortion. Just as as "murder" and "slaughter" describe different variants of the act of killing.

    Zoltan, if you were a regular reader, you would know that I am an anarchist and thus am opposed to all forms of taxation. To me any act of extortion is immoral and a detriment to society, whether or not the guy doing it calls himself a capo or a Secretary fo the Treasury.

    Now back to alan.

    Alan, my friend, it is clear that you have had very little exposure to actual hard-core libertarianism, and being one of the most hard-core extremists, I would be happy to play Virgil to your Dante.

    OK.
    1) Pining for freedom is not pining for some pretechnological utopia. If you were a regular reader you would no doubt be familiar with a few of my diatribes where I attack the state for retarding the development of science and technology. I am fortunate in that a crazy uncle of mine decided to document his family tree. The sheer percentage of female ancestors of mine who died in child-birth well into the 19th century is sickening. That alone is sufficient reason not to desire to go back to such a wonderful era. I will point out, that you are making a tyro's assumption - that technological advancement requires a nation state. This is an understandable mistake given that nation states put out a great deal of propaganda to the effect that without them there would be no infrastructure required for technological advancement. Certainly the growth of the nation state and the advancement of technology seem closely correlated. An agrarian society such as early 18th century U.S. could not support a government that consumed one third of all production as the U.S. governments (fed, state and local) do today.

    In fact, the correlations is inverted: the modern nation state is dependent on high technology to function. Hitler could not anhiliate European Jewry without the aid of Hollerith tabulators. The IRS could not monitor millions of bank accounts without Alpha servers networked with the servers of all the major banks. Without mechanized transport, troops cannot move quickly across a country to quell rebellions. The telegraph, the telephone, and now the cell phone network system is required to quickly coordinate the actions of beaureuacrats in satellite offices with their superiors in the main offices. Machine guns, rifles and bayonets all require heavy industry geared towards mass production. Whenever a new technology is invented that makes people more productive, the state incorporates it into its processes, allowing the few to control the masses more effectively.

    In the end, though, the dependence is one way. Without the state, the sciences and the engineering arts would continue to advance. Granted the advances would push in different directions, less research on atomic bomb desing and automated cars, for example, and more research on improving crop yields perhaps.

    2) The right of freedom of association is a basic libertarian axiom. forcing people to do business with people they do not want to do business with requires aggression. You may not like that fact, but there it is. Now, a person may decide to not serve blacks, or people with Aryan Nation tattoos, or lesbians, or members of the KKK, or policemen, or college republicans. The why is irrelevant. A has no right to force B to do business with C. A can try to persuade B. He can threaten to boycott B if he should refuse to do business with C. But the moment the guns come out. The moment the threats of kidnapping (oh sorry imprisonment) are made, A is committing an act of aggression against B.

    Believing this and arguing against having the nation state force B to do business with C does not make a libertarian racist, any more than his defense of a woman's right to abort a fetus makes him a baby-killer.

    Similarly, arguing that the United States had no business invading the Confederacy does not make one an apologist for slavery, any more than a person who argues that the U.S. had no business bombing Cambodia is an apologist for communism, or a person who opposes the thuggery of the death squads quartered in the Rampart Section of the LAPD that terrorized suspected gang members makes one a supporter of the Bloods or the Crips.

    This attitude is actually well summed up from a tale out of Christian mythology: Jesus was clearly opposed to adultery (read the sermon on the mount if you doubt this). Yet, he prevented a crowd from executing a woman who had been convicted of the crime of adultery.

    As was stated above, the "libertarian" movement is rightly considered a joke. Liberty, however, needs an effective and credible defender. I'm not laughing. I'm crying.



    Except you are not defending liberty. You want to defend liberty, learn economics and history. Go beyond the drivel selected by politicians for public schools and go to primary sources. Think about the consequences of freedom.

    You strike me as someone who wants a royal road. You want to make it easy. You don't want to have to defend the right of people to enter polygamous families. You don't want to have to face the question "hey didn't one of you guys write an essay defending people's right to have sex with horses?"

    Well guess what? It's not going to be easy. Freedom has downsides. In a free society, you might be turned down for a job because of the color of your skin. You might have trouble finding a pharmacist willing to dispense an abortificant. You might find it impossible to prevent your daughter from buying birth control pills at the age of 12. Or your son taking up a crack cocaine habit at the age of 13. Wishing that people would shut up about inconvenient bits of the theory merely to make it easy for you to hold your head up in the in-crowd is a sign that you are not serious.

    In the college where I teach part time, I am one of two adjunct faculty members who are not Massachusetts Liberals. The other guy is an out and out Marxist. We all share an office and we often discuss politics. You know what? My willingness to calmly explain the good, the bad, and the ugly has garnered far more respect than their experience with the John Stossell types who limit themselves to socially acceptable positions. Since I unflinchingly and honestly discuss the consequences of my views, I have earned their respect. I have sat in an office of well-educated and knowledgeable people and debated FDR's legacy. In the end, I converted no one. I did, however, leave them doubting the cherished myths of FDR saving capitalism from itself. When I first started working there they too viewed libertarianism as a joke. They now view it as a legitimate political philosophy. Hell, I get more respect than the Commie - even from the teachers who live in the People's Republic of Cambridge.

  • tarran||

    And then there is that one "business historian", at an ideological "think tank" located in Auburn, Alabama, who assumes otherwise. Well, I guess that proves it!



    Yeah, I guess the evidence he cites to back up his claims are all negated by the fact that he teaches at Loyolla University.

    Clearly, if a writer publishes an article in an Alabamian newsparer says the sky is blue, he is wrong, because people in Alabama are always wrong about everything...

    Alan, rarely do I see such a clear example of prejudice as you just trotted out with that statement.

    But hey, whenever you decide to give up your faith based existence, and join us in the reality based world, you'll be quite welcome. Cheers.

  • Alan||

    Sorry tarran, you exceeded the scroll limit. If I have to spin the wheel more than twice to get to the bottom of an ideological diatribe, I just skip it.

    I asked, a bit flippantly, whether the "business historian" you cited still believes the Confederacy won the war. I looked a bit further on that web site and, surprise, he does indeed seem to be the source of the neoConfederate drivel we have also been exposed.

    What an embarrassment.

    As JohnL stated: "The presence of neoConfederates in the "libertarian" movement is just about the best example I can think of to explain why the movement is rightly considered a joke."

    As J sub D stated: "Get the fuck over it. The crushing of the slaveholder rebellion was over 143 years ago. Got it? It's fucking over. The south got it's ass kicked. One and a half god damned centuries ago, the immoral cause of the southern states was defeated."

    As I stated: Ideological hostility to any and all taxation and nostalgia for pre-industrial America (let alone the confederacy) is not going to help the cause of liberty and freedom in America.

  • Alan||

    RE: Yeah, I guess the evidence he cites to back up his claims are all negated by the fact that he teaches at Loyolla University.

    I didn't see much evidence. Apparently it hasn't impressed the "many business historians" who he dismisses as having "assumed" otherwise without considering or refuting their evidence.

    When he publishes in a peer reviewed journal and convinces your commie friends, I'll consider it. Until then, he's just another nut.

  • MJ||

    "Gross income disparity does not create opportunities for the development of the individual and general happiness, it creates an environment of oppression and bullshit from the overly wealthy."-Marina

    So Marina, you think that because some people resent others who make more money than they do, those people's resentments should be pandered to by taking the higher income people's money from them?

    How does that improve the lot of the people with less wealth? How does that improve the economy? How is that just?

  • libertarian democrat||

    Miller -

    LOL Liberals aren't willing to work. And are never successful in business (without using govt to hold down the true believers!).

    Brilliant political commentary, that.

  • tarran||

    Sorry tarran, you exceeded the scroll limit. If I have to spin the wheel more than twice to get to the bottom of an ideological diatribe, I just skip it.



    Ha Ha! I know, Alan, reading sure is hard isn't it?

    I asked, a bit flippantly, whether the "business historian" you cited still believes the Confederacy won the war. I looked a bit further on that web site and, surprise, he does indeed seem to be the source of the neoConfederate drivel we have also been exposed.



    By that same "logic", I can pretty much argue that you are a Stalin supporter too. Unless, of course, you support Hitler's invasion of Russia, in which case you would be a Nazi.

    I didn't see much evidence. Apparently it hasn't impressed the "many business historians" who he dismisses as having "assumed" otherwise without considering or refuting their evidence.



    Except for the fact that he submits evidence as to why they are wrong, with citations for his sources... You could even go to a library and look them up, if you wanted to. Of course, you ready pointed out that you don't like to read things that are too long so I guess it's not an option. ;)

    When he publishes in a peer reviewed journal and convinces your commie friends, I'll consider it. Until then, he's just another nut.



    Dude, you're claiming that you are going to wait until Marxists are convinced before considering an argument? Marxists who are still Marxists despite the entire history of the20th cnetury? Dude, talk about being a dead ender. And why do you care about him being published in peer reviewed journals? Most articles in economics and history journals tend to be longer than "two rotations of the scroll wheel", you'd probably refuse to read them - claiming they are so much drivel.

    As JohnL stated: "The presence of neoConfederates in the "libertarian" movement is just about the best example I can think of to explain why the movement is rightly considered a joke."

    As J sub D stated: "Get the fuck over it. The crushing of the slaveholder rebellion was over 143 years ago. Got it? It's fucking over. The south got it's ass kicked. One and a half god damned centuries ago, the immoral cause of the southern states was defeated."

    As I stated: Ideological hostility to any and all taxation and nostalgia for pre-industrial America (let alone the confederacy) is not going to help the cause of liberty and freedom in America.

    Keep shouting the same points over and over again while refusing to read people's counterarguments. If you shout it a few more times, I'm sure it will become true.

    Alan, thanks for the comic relief. You really brightened my morning.

  • tarran||

    Whoops, the last two paragraphs shouldn't have been flagged as quotes.

  • Alan||

    RE: But as long as the government stays out and lets the markets work their magic, life IS fair...

    I think economists have convincingly shown that free markets are, under theoretically ideal conditions, optimally efficient, but I don't recall any econometric studies showing they are optimally fair. Are you sure you aren't confusing efficiency and fairness?

    RE: Some people are better artists, athletes and businessmen than others...

    Yes, of course. And why is that so? In some cases, maybe because they were born with some intrinsic talent that others were not. In others, because they were raised in a family that had the resources and motivation to encourage and develop the talents they had, even if they were not very remarkable to begin with. Or perhaps they came from a humble background, but lived in a society that encourages and helps to develop such talents in all individuals.

    In any of these cases, it is not obvious that the existence of such talent legitimizes any special claim to any sort of differential or deferential treatment by others. Such talents are nothing more than the outcome of a "natural lottery" and confer no special ethical or moral status above and beyond the human dignity and respect owed by all to all.

    It may be, of course, to everyone's advantage to reward such individuals differentially, as a means of motivating them and therefore raising the general level of well being and accomplishment in society for all. And, of course, such individuals should not be treated with disrespect or resentment simply because they are more talented.

    But such differences in reward and respect are instrumental in nature, not entitlements conferred by some morally or ethically superior status that talented individuals somehow possess above and beyond others. As long as they are treated with the same respect and dignity that all are entitled to simply because they are human, they have no basis for complaint. Material differences are allowed for practical reasons, and are not held by right.

    If those who enjoy material differences become arrogant and disrespectful of others, if (as Maria notes) income disparity becomes so gross as to stand in the way of opportunities for individual development and general happiness, if it creates an environment of oppression and bullshit from the overly wealthy that leads to resentment and conflict, then it may simply be done away with.

    In the end, those of us who are "losers," "deadbeats," "leeches" and "socialist scum" don't really need those of you who are "the nation's highest achievers". Especially those "highest achievers" who post here.

  • Miller||

    @Alan:

    You should really read a post before you argue with it.

    Material differences are allowed for practical reasons, and are not held by right.

    An apple isn't "allowed" to fall because some poor people were hungry. It falls because of gravity, which is a lot like the free market. It doesn't always work in your favor, especially if you don't understand it. But arguing about it is silly. It is real, and you have to learn to live with it. No one is entitled to anything, except what they can get through their own achievement. If you believe in government thugs redistributing wealth, then you are a socialist plain and simple. Maybe you thought you were reading Nonsense magazine.

    You're losing two arguments at once. Not very bright, are you?

  • Alan||

    Miller, What constitutes a just distribution of wealth and what constitutes a "redistribution" by "thugs" is dependent on a society's system of justice. Our system of justice is largely libertarian, and it largely respects private property and it does encourage the accumulation of wealth. But it is also egalitarian and democratic and it imposes limits on liberty and on wealth for the betterment of all, and especially those who are not as well off.

    There are good reasons for that, rooted in justice, and, well, you are just going to have to live with it. Like I said, us deadbeat socialist scum can do just fine without you.

    I'm not the only one who thinks I might be reading Nonsense magazine. As has been pointed out by other commentaters the "libertarian" movement is rightly considered a joke.

  • Ellipsis||

    Stopped reading after The average taxpayer bringing in more than $200,000 makes over $20,000 of charitable contributions, according to the IRS.

    If you're going to approach the issue with honesty, shouldn't that be "claims?"

    If you believe in government thugs redistributing wealth, then you are a socialist plain and simple.

    Then everyone in office right now is a socialist, plain and simple. Until the right manages to rid itself of the notion that taking from the middle class and giving to the wealthy and well connected is morally superior to taking from the wealthy and the well connected and giving to the middle and lower classes, they don't have the high ground in any way shape or form.

    And Alan, you're right - you're not the only one who thinks Reason is full of it.

  • economist||

    Alan,
    Please explain in detail, what the "good reasons" are for restricting liberty for the sake of equality.

    Note that I am not saying they are nonexistent, but it's a point you have to prove before claiming that everything here is nonsense.

    And we can do without you socialist deadbeat scum. But as long as you don't steal from us, I think we should be cool.

    And you sound like a little bitch.

  • economist||

    Also, if you think that all differences in wealth exist only by permission, for practicality's sake, then you really are a socialist. And if you try to impose this vision on me, my boot would have an early with your ass.Don't tell me to fucking "live with it".

  • tarran||

    Also, if you think that all differences in wealth exist only by permission



    Well don't they all? Think about it. If the vast majority of people don't respect a property right, then people won't amass any more property than they can hold via force.

    So in some scheme like a Kropotkin-anarchist society, you wouldn't have much wealth amassed at all, since anything you weren't holding in your hand could get taken away in a flash.

    Thus, the only way to amass wealth is with the acquiescence of others. There's only so many people you can physically kick before you get worn out and overwhelmed.

    Of course, what I described is a decentralized sort of thing, while Alan seems to be a fan of the lawgiving state centrally dictating what is just and what isn't.

  • Alan||

    RE: Thus, the only way to amass wealth is with the acquiescence of others.

    It is also true that the only way to create wealth in the abundance we have come to expect is in cooperation with others. So being other-regarding is very important to a healthy, wealthy and free people.

    RE: Alan seems to be a fan of the lawgiving state centrally dictating what is just and what isn't.

    I'm not necessarily a fan, but I am a realist. This is why I originally mentioned the steam engine and the telegraph. Our constitution was formulated on the cusp of the industrial revolution. While it was very progressive and forward leaning in its time, the reality of our society was thirteen small, distinct, decentralized and agrarian states. Our constitution reflects that reality, but the industrial revolution rapidly and irrevocably transformed it. Nostalgia for that original reality (not necessarily expressed by tarran, but evident in some posts) is inappropriate.

    I also take some exception to the notion that the state dictates what is just and what isn't. My orientation is contractarian (Hobbes, Locke, Kant, Rawls) so my notion is that we should agree with one another as to what is just and what isn't. This notion is not without its problems, but this is what I think we actually attempt to do and maybe even approach doing in a democratic society that respects individuals as free and equal citizens.

  • tarran||

    . This is why I originally mentioned the steam engine and the telegraph. Our constitution was formulated on the cusp of the industrial revolution. While it was very progressive and forward leaning in its time, the reality of our society was thirteen small, distinct, decentralized and agrarian states. Our constitution reflects that reality, but the industrial revolution rapidly and irrevocably transformed it.



    How so? I argued in my earlier post which you declined to read that the industrial revolution enabled the rise of a more powerful central state. You seem to be arguing that that the industrial revolution requires the existence of a more powerful central state.

    Other than your implication that without a central state diverting taxed money into certain infrastructure you wouldn't have railroads or telegraphs or similar infrastructure you really haven't made much of a case to back up such a claim. Hell, I'm not even sure what you are arguing.

    I guess here is my question. Let us say that Shay's Rebellion had succeeded, and that the United States had retained a weak central government. How do you think the industrial revolution would have proceeded? Why?

    Don't worry, I don't have a scroll wheel that only turns through 4π, so i encourage you to get specific. ;)

  • Miller||

    @economist:

    Well said, as usual.

  • ||

    I'd be happy to pay higher taxes if the state would stop providing many of its "services".

  • Federal Dog||

    "But it is also egalitarian and democratic and it imposes limits on liberty and on wealth for the betterment of all, and especially those who are not as well off."

    So no matter why some people do not have the same wealth as other people, you demand forcible government confiscation of any wealth that all people do not have?

    Can you foresee any immediate and unevitable consequences of your demand?

  • Alan||

    RE: So no matter why some people do not have the same wealth as other people, you demand forcible government confiscation of any wealth that all people do not have?

    I certainly did not demand anything, let alone whatever it is that your statement is supposed to mean.

    It is simply a fact that our society and our prevailing system of justice is both libertarian, to a great extent, and also egalitarian, to a great extent. To a great extent these two values may be compatible, but at some point the extension of one requires a compromise in the other. If either of these two values is pursued monomanically to the complete exclusion of the other, the result will be an inhuman, unjust, and impoverished society.

    Our society does, and to be just, must, support liberty, both social and economic.

    Our society does, and to be just, must, support equality, both social and economic.

    Aristotle defined virtue as a golden mean between extremes. You might want to consider the path of virtue, rather than the path of extremism.

  • Alan||

    RE: I argued in my earlier post which you declined to read that the industrial revolution enabled the rise of a more powerful central state... Hell, I'm not even sure what you are arguing.

    You are right. I'm not reading and I'm not arguing, and I certainly would not make the claim that the industrial revolution required the existence of a more powerful central state.

    My point, and the point of more than one other commentator, was that the presence of "neo confederate" sentiment, federalist "states rights" advocates, and other such nostalgic eccentrics (sorry if that includes you!), along with extremist attitudes toward wealth accumulation and against taxation leads to the "libertarian" movement rightly being considered a joke.

    I mentioned telegraphs and steam engines as a way of differentiating the agrarian colonial period from the industrial era in a way that I thought would make obvious why decentralized governmental forms became obsolete and are antiquated.

    Although I am not a serious student of history, it seems obvious to me that the industrial revolution enabled, and even entailed, the rise of a more powerful central state. At the risk of espousing grandiose historical theories, the entire sweep of human history seems to follow a pattern of ever increasing material and technological accomplishment accompanied by ever more encompassing social organization, incorporating ever larger populations and territories.

    It seems reasonable to conjecture that a positive feedback loop might exist in which material advances encourage larger and more extensive societal forms and those social advances in turn lead to or encourage greater material advances. I again state that this is mere conjecture on my part, although I cannot imagine it being original to me and would expect it to have been argued somewhere. (I must have picked it up from some dead white male.)

    In this context, some event like Shay's Rebellion (of which I have only the vaguest memory from some long ago reading) would be a mere bump in the long road towards ever greater control over the material world and ever greater expansion of the social world.

    The real problem in the long term, from my point of view, is to understand this dynamic, to manage it and control it, so that it can proceed humanistically, with minimal violence, and with maximal benefit to all.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    There are a few major flaws in your arguments here, Alan. And at the root, it seems that there's also a misunderstanding of what type of systems actually produce a greater amount of equality.

    The flaw though - at least in the last post, is to equate "society" and "government" which are two completely separate concepts. I'm sure you know that, but because you're not being clear on that point in this case, you're arguing really two different things. You mention a "feedback loop" where economic advances in turn produce societal advances. That's very clearly true - more prosperity leads to more free time, which leads to more "pursuit of happiness" by more people - which usually leads to more innovation (and thus more wealth & more prosperity), and so on...

    HOWEVER, the way your point was phrased made it seem like you don't get the difference between *that* and larger government.

    Government, as we all should know, is force - and is more or less a specific entity.

    Society is not. Society is just the aggregate of the behavior of all groups of people living within a given population.

    I'll give you the benefit of the doubt here, but you can't possibly be arguing that more government produces a positive feedback loop with more prosperity, because that is quite clearly false.

    As for the first issue I mentioned - you seem to be making the assumption that you can use force to create equality, when it seems to me that that is quite opposite of how it really works. If you look at history and you look at the incentives involved, I think you'll find that the less free people are, the less equality there is. This is obviously in part because the people who do have money, assets, political connections, etc. already are going to find it very easy to get around the limitations that everyone else has to live by. If the barriers to entry in a market are hard to get past, then it's only the really rich who can be entrepreneurial - but that of course limits competition immensely and means that anyone who wants to get into an industry can't really start without an insane amount of initial capital. That kills the idea of small businesses, which kind of inherently kills prosperity (and generally kind of flies in the face of the whole "pursuit of happiness" thing).

    Anyway, I don't really need to get into all this. The point is, more freedom is what allows people to become more equal, not more government. I'm not quite an anarchist - in that I believe there needs to be an agreed upon mechanism for protecting freedom... by which I mean, providing recourse for people who have been the victims of initiators of force. But beyond that, government can't create wealth, equality or happiness. It can only get in the way... ESPECIALLY when it starts to try to force those things on people.

    Society on the other hand, can benefit to a great degree by increasing the freedom of people to associate with whomever they want, establish voluntary trading relationships and lower the barriers to market entry. Hell - I'm a small business owner, and when I first set up my company, it was some 3-400 dollars just to get the paper work done and sent into the appropriate government agencies. Now, in the scheme of things, maybe that's not that much and maybe a lot of people are trading with each other without the proper licensing, but that can be risky... especially once you start growing your business. $400 is nothing to a company that's got 2 million in investment capital ready to go... but it's a hell of a lot if you're a recent immigrant trying to land on your feet in a new country. That's government though, and that's a barrier to market entry - and not the only one by any means... wanna talk Zoning laws?

    Anyway, the thing is - if you want equality, then I have to highly recommend getting "extreme" about freedom. That's where you'll find the most of it... and for good reason. Yes, as Tarran said, there are downsides. Freedom of speech obviously means sometimes you might be offended by something someone says. But the alternative is totalitarian control of your thoughts and words backed by guns and jail. Maybe it's better to be offended, huh? But to be clear - that's what you really are talking about when you're talking about "managing" and "controlling" these things.

    Freedom is freedom - it's not broken down into "economic" and "social"... it's all the same thing. It's just freedom - and that's where you'll find equality.

  • Alan||

    RE: you seem to be making the assumption that you can use force to create equality, when it seems to me that that is quite opposite of how it really works.

    Since you are a small businessman, try this experiment - put an employement ad in the local paper and specify "whites only, blacks need not apply."

    Let us know what happens.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    What the hell are you talking about Alan?


    Geesh. Seriously man, that was the dumbest thing you've said by far, and I was honestly trying to give you the benefit of the doubt on your earlier posts.

    You've also made my point in a big way. You can try to use government to force people into not "discriminating" in their hiring practices - but the truth is all you'll end up doing is making the discrimination harder to see as any racist, etc. employers will learn to add phrases into their hiring practices that do what they want - or they just won't explain themselves at all... whereas if you allow employers to put ads in the local paper that say "whites only, blacks need not apply.", then I could almost guarantee that that company will be put out of business by boycotts, and other voluntary, market-oriented solutions in a matter of months. Which I assume was your point in saying "let us know what happens". My guess is I'd be out of business and flooded with hate mail pretty quickly.



    All you did there was convince me that you have no understanding of the difference between using government coercion to accomplish a goal versus using letting society grow and develop on it's own.

    Ugh... also - maybe it hadn't occurred to you, but if I were looking to hire an employee (I'm an independent contractor so I don't have anyone working for me actually at all), that because I'm interested in making wise financial decisions - I would actually hire that person on the basis of their ability to do the job I need them to do?? And that's the real point (and why your post was certifiably retarded) of all this... a free market rewards ability, not skin color. A creative company comprised of anyone who can do the job well will kick the crap out of any competitor who limits their hiring options to some arbitrary sub-group. Using government to force that on people is not only unnecessary, it also invites corruption.

  • Alan||

    RE: What the hell are you talking about Alan?

    You asserted that government regulations cannot create equality. Yet the regulations that prohibit businesses from discriminating on the basis of race or ethnic origin do indeed create equality.

    And, in fact, over time, the requirement to treat all citizens as free and equal in the public marketplace tends to stigmatize racists and creates a social climate where racial and ethnic minorities are treated as and regarded as equal in less public interactions also. (Just as stigmatizing smoking in public places tends to make it more and more socially unacceptable overall.)

    Government regulation can and does alleviate the negative affects of inequality and is effective at promoting social equality.

  • Alan||

    RE: major flaws in your argument, equation of "society" and "government"

    Sean, My post was not meant to be an "argument", it was supposed to be more descriptive, not prescriptive.

    I did use the term "social" in the sense of "social science", which includes the study of all human interactions, and encompass "political science" as well as "economics". I meant to do so in a neutral, encompasing way, without differentiating interactions that involve the market from the personal or from the state. The expansion of social organization that I am referring to can include anything that interconnects people, be it government or trade. And it can entail net gains or net losses in freedom and equality. I was not trying to imply that bigger is better - or that bigger is worse.

    My larger belief is that the over all direction is inevitably towards ever larger, more complex and interconnected societies in the world. We should not hope for or expect a reversal of this trend that would allow decentralized states or localized political entities to once again emerge and become the significant form. I simply do not see us going back to small, isolated, idiosyncratic communities where everyone knows your name. Globalization is inevitable. Resistance is futile.

    This expansion has often, maybe inevitably, been accompanied by much violence and misery. We are seeing, however, some signs that it can be accomplished peacefully, such as the establishment of the European Union.

    My prescription is to recognize it, accept it, and to start dealing with it realistically, rather than advocating a return to antiquated and obsolete social forms that are more appropriate to agrarian, pre-industial societies. Which seems to be the knee-jerk libertarian impulse.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Alan...

    Regulations did NOT create equality, they created gross *inequality* over centuries and then the "reverse" usage of force violated the rights of people to decide for themselves with whom they would associate with, which not only did not produce "equality" to any legitimate degree, but probably prolonged the negative tensions between multiple groups required *by law* to get along.

    Racial inequality is an especially stupid example if you want to talk about government using force for "good" since for thousands of years laws have been used to create the inequality that you find so repugnant. And the levels of integration we have now stem pretty much directly from removing those laws.

    And on a more historical note, I would like to point out that the negative "stigma" of being a racist was created over time had a hell of a lot more to do with increasing FREEDOMS than regulating - I might recommend looking into the history of racial integration through the perspective of the music industry (Dave Brubeck post WWII is a great example - Long before anti-discrimination legislation of the 60s I might add), or perhaps you might look into the Superman radio series and it's link to the decline of the KKK (incidentally I own every episode of Superman radio and it's interesting to listen as Superman fights racists, Nazis, Communists along with the standard set of villains like train-robbers, etc.)

    Frankly... if you think that government had much of anything to do with creating a social climate of tolerance and equality, I think you are sadly mistaken.

    FREEDOM produces such equality over time, because as people trade with each other for things that they need or want, social interaction arises naturally. People's economic choices are often far more practical than their philosophical positions and when someone offers you a better quality service or a cheaper price, most people are apt to take that deal rather than stick to trading *only* with those people who's race is similar.

    A little thought experiment... spend an afternoon thinking back on what we know of history and try to look for the times where government intervention produced more, rather than less, equality.

    Then ponder this...

    Thousands upon thousands of years of totalitarian/dictatorial governments (even so-called "benevolent" monarchies have to be included here) produced institutionalized economic and social inequality - and a mere 200 years of "western" political thought based around Enlightenment-era concepts and increased liberty produced some of the highest levels of equality the world has ever known.

    It was the REDUCTION in government force that did that... not the increase.

    PS. Your smoking ban is almost as farcical and made-up. Smoking has been on the decline for years prior to smoking bans, and private business owners have gone out of their way to cater to clientele who does not like to be around smoke as the majority of the paying population shifted gears.

    ...and the thing is... all you're really doing is showing that you have *no* respect what-so-ever for individuals deciding for themselves what to do with their bodies, their time, or who they should be allowed to associate with. Right now, maybe all that's going in your favor. You rarely have to be offended, you can be sure to go into a business which has to serve you almost no matter what, and soon enough you can assuage your conscience about people making other choices you disagree with like consuming the evil "trans-fat"! Had it occurred to you that actually some people like to smoke apart from some evil corporation's (tm) ingenious advertising scheme? Had it also occurred to you that just maybe... MAYBE... you don't have the right to tell people what to think or what to do?

    It seems that that hasn't actually occurred to you, but ok... fine... that's not uncommon.

    The real problem remains though... your understanding of history is remarkably sparse.

    Government regulation can and does alleviate the negative affects of inequality and is effective at promoting social equality

    ...I wish you were joking. Unfortunately you're not. It's just shocking when someone ignores virtually the whole of recorded history to make a remarkably stupid point. Let me recap - inequality is produced by laws which disrespect individual rights in favor of tribal/collectivist benefits. Since government has a monopoly on the use of force, the unlucky group (not always even a minority), has no recourse and often little means of support. So, socially & economically, they have more problems than the benefited minority. Agreed?

    Now, say some coup happens and the minority tribe/group/collective gains the upper hand politically - then institutes laws forcing the other side to accept or trade with them. Now the other group is oppressed.

    In the US - we took a much more moderate and pro-freedom approach than most governments, but the fundamental principle isn't any different than the Shiites taking control of the Sunnis and Kurds. It's just one more precedent we've set where government favors benefit you and if you're not in the "in-group" you are harmed, which even in the generally benign way it was treated in America still makes people bitter and prolongs the negative sentiment. The only thing government can do to promote equality (social AND economic) is by ALLOWING free association of all individuals, free speech and free trade (which is really just an offshoot of free association combined with respected property rights).

    If EVERY individual is guaranteed against the initiation of force then people are free to prosper based on the "content of their character" (and of course their talents and intelligence or that of their friends)... If the content of your character suggests that you only trade with (Insert Race) People, then you are severely limited in your trading options and are likely to make very stupid trading choices. A truly free market also punishes you for that - and as more people choose a higher quality lifestyle and meet more diverse people (and find out that they aren't all that different really) as they develop relationships they need to obtain said life style, you find that the collectivism/tribalism just naturally dies out.

    What you shouldn't do, is pretend you can force everyone to get along. You can't. And your pitiful "examples" are just flat out wrong.

    I'll say it again: You want equality? Promote freedom.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Re: your other post...

    Alan, I'm not advocating returning to some kind of agrarian society. I'm talking about increasing FREEDOM for people around the world - as defined by an individuals right to decide what the hell they do with their own body, own mind, own (freely acquired) property, etc. That is, notably, the opposite of having ever increasingly massive government bureaucrats telling them what is allowed and what isn't.

    Obviously. And if you'd read Tarran's actual post instead of saying it was too long and skipping it, you'd note that he made the case that technology actually flourishes under less restrictive governing and suggested that perhaps without government's forced involvement in those areas, we would be a lot farther along in medicine, transportation, energy, etc. It's a pretty easy case to make as well...

    Just like the social equality point I made above.

    Society at large and government are radically different concepts and I do hope at some point you come to terms with the difference between using force to get your way and convincing people to do what you'd like with ideas and voluntary (mutually beneficial) transactions like trade.

    I have yet to meet a libertarian looking for an agrarian society forced on anyone else... though I've met a few who prefer the lifestyle. Mostly - they just want the right to live as they see fit. A "right" that according to our (apparently in your eyes, antiquated) constitution that is actually supposed to be guaranteed.

  • Alan||

    Sean, I don't think you, or libertarians in general, are advocating a return to some kind of agrarian society. But many so called libertarians (neoConfederates, federalists who advocate "states rights", Founding Father worshipers, etc.) advocate (or are nostaligic for) GOVERNMENTAL FORMS that were appropriate in a small, preindustrial, agrarian society but are inappropriate in a global, industrial, interconnected world.

    As I have said, times have changed. Therefore our social structures and organizations* have changed. Look forward, not back.

    *Again, I use "social structure / organization" in a very broad sence that includes government.

  • Alan||

    RE: if you want equality, then I have to highly recommend getting "extreme" about freedom

    Let's see how extreme I can get about freedom. In defense of freedome and liberty, I advocate that we abolish private property.

    Let me start with an anecdote. In the subdivision where I live, I often want to walk over to the local shopping mall. But my house is at the end of a curving street on a cul-de-sac. So to get to the mall, I have to walk down the street a long way to the main road, and then walk almost all the way back to the mall. It is much easier for me to simply cut across a few front lawns and a few back lawns and get to the same spot more or less in a straight line.

    But most often I don't. To do so I would have to "violate" my neighbors private property and I don't really feel comfortable doing that. But in doing so, I am limiting my absolute freedom of movement. And my neighbors, by law, can insist that I do. Their private property is an imposition on me and an infringement of my liberty.

    If we value our liberty too highly, if we are unwilling to compromise our freedoms in order to avoid conflict and to get along with one another, we would have to dispense with the notion of private property. Private property is, quite literally, tyranny!

    But of course, to insist so completely on our freedom and liberty would be completely irrational. It would mean that we would be in constant social conflict and unable to advance our material well being. Such liberty would not be in our self interest, nor in the best interest of others. So we compromise our freedom and accept some notion of private property. For our own good. And for the good of all.

    A system of justice is a systematic way of structuring our social interactions so that we can avoid the conflicts of interest that inevitably arise in social life. It enables social intercourse by resolving conflict, and allows us to gain the benefits of social cooperation. It always entails some compromise of liberty, some compromise of equality, some concept of private ownership and some concept of sharing. In a humane and just society no one social value is pursued to the exclusion of all others. To do so would be inhumane, and would ultimately create a society that is unfair and impoverished.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Private property is so fundamentally intrinsic to staying a "might makes right" system that I'm not sure how you got that out of what I was saying. I specifically pointed out that the *one* thing government was useful and possibly even vital for was to protect people from theft and force. The idea of theft is only possible if you recognize that people can have ownership over various things... land being one of those things. Once that is established, then you have to recognize the owner's right to do with his or her property what he wishes (provided it doesn't interfere with someone else's property), and if that owner does not wish you to walk on his or her grass then you must abide by that.

    From a societal stand point, the alternative is to accept that what you consider to be yours isn't yours either. I'm not 100% convinced "government" in the traditional sense is needed here either, but it certainly helps to have an agreed upon system of recourse in case you feel that something you own has been taken or tampered with by force.

    I would generally contend that anyone who believes in liberty should also believe in extending that liberty to others, and at that point, as they say - my freedom ends at the tip of your nose.

    Seems reasonable to me though, if we're looking to maximize freedom, we have to respect people's right to ownership of themselves and things they've acquired. If we don't recognize those things then we're just cavemen clubbing each other over the head whenever we wants something currently in someone else's possession. Make sense?

    I don't really see that as much of a compromise, so much as maybe a treaty.

    Beyond that, private ownership & sharing are not oppositional concepts, neither are liberty & equality... and I wasn't suggesting that you pursue one above all others, I was suggesting you promote the *maximum* amount of freedom for all people.

  • Alan||

    RE: Once that is established, then you have to recognize the owner's right to do with his or her property what he wishes

    No we don't. We may decide an owner may do as he wishes within reason, with what is and isn't reasonable being established by law.


    RE: ...but it certainly helps to have an agreed upon system of recourse in case you feel that something you own has been taken or tampered with by force.

    When we agree on such a system, we have to decide what constitutes legitimate property and the terms and conditions on which it may be held. This system, which I have been calling a system of justice, then determines what does and does not constitute a taking or a tampering, whether by force or not.

    These decisions (about legitimate property and its terms and conditions) are known as distributive justice. They are largely prior to retributive justice, since they are necessary in determining if and when a violation has occurred. If a system's concept of distributive justice contains an obligation or duty to share property with others (which all such systems of any interest do, and which is known as taxation), then not fulfilling that obligation would constitute a violation of law and open one to retributive justice, including the use of force as a punishment.


    RE: Seems reasonable to me though, if we're looking to maximize freedom...

    We may not be looking to maximize freedom. After a certain point, maximizing freedom at the expense of other social values is unreasonable, irresponsible, and inhumane. That was what I was trying to illustrate.


    RE: I was suggesting you promote the *maximum* amount of freedom for all people.

    Including the freedom of an African American to walk into a store or other public accommodation and be treated with dignity and respect? By right, as a human being? And enforced as a mater of law?


    RE: I don't really see that as much of a compromise, so much as maybe a treaty.

    What is the difference between a "treaty" and a "compromise"? When we sit down to negotiate a system of justice, everything is on the table and we must be reasonable and treat each other with respect as free and equal citizens. That requires compromise. The resulting treaty is our system of justice.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement