Obama's Bogus Case for Tax Fairness

Calling something just does not make it so.

In his State of the Union speech Tuesday night President Obama played the fairness card in calling for higher taxes on upper-income people. He said:

[W]e need to change our tax code so that people like me, and an awful lot of Members of Congress, pay our fair share of taxes. Tax reform should follow the Buffett rule: If you make more than $1 million a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent in taxes. [Emphasis added.]

And:

When Americans talk about folks like me paying my fair share of taxes, it’s not because they envy the rich. It’s because they understand that when I get tax breaks I don’t need and the country can’t afford, it either adds to the deficit, or somebody else has to make up the difference. . . . [Emphasis added.]

There are lots of claims there that cry out for examination. For example, what’s need got to do with it? Does Obama really favor a tax system that leaves you only what you need—as determined by someone else? And look at that term “tax breaks.” If a burglar decides not to break into your house and take your things, have you gotten a break? Or have you simply kept what is yours? Is Obama really suggesting that how much of your income you retain should depend on what “the country” can afford? What does that even mean?

Buffett Rule

All that aside, I want to home in on Obama’s notion of fairness. “If you make more than $1 million a year,” he says, “you should not pay less than 30 percent in taxes.” How does he know that constitutes fairness? Obviously 30 percent is an arbitrary figure. If he’s concerned that income and payroll taxes take a smaller percentage of Warren Buffett’s income than the percentage they take from his secretary’s income, why not reduce his secretary’s tax rate? It’s certainly not obvious that Buffett should pay more. (For an interesting discussion of the secretary’s tax rate, see this and this.) Obama (like most other politicians) regards government spending growth as inexorable and virtually untouchable, but why? (Proposed “cuts” are merely reductions in the rate of growth.)

On this matter of tax fairness, no one tops Murray Rothbard’s discussion in his classic Power and Market: Government and the Economy (online in PDF format here). Rothbard starts by noting that for many years people thought products had a “just price.”

It is clear, even to those (like the present writer) who believe in the possibility of a rational ethics, that no possible ethical philosophy or science can yield a quantitative measure or criterion of justice. . . . Economics, by tracing the ordered pattern of the voluntary exchange process, has made it clear that the only possible objective criterion for the just price is the market price. For the market price is, at every moment, determined by the voluntary, mutually agreed-upon actions of all the participants in the market.”

Rothbard of course is talking about a market unblemished by government monopoly privilege and other interventions.

He goes on next to ask: “If the search for the just price has virtually ended in the pages of economic works, why does the quest for a ‘just tax’ continue with unabated vigor? Why do economists, severely scientific in their volumes, suddenly become ad hoc ethicists when the question of taxation is raised?”

We might also ask why a president makes ethical pronouncements about levels of taxation without first laying out his moral philosophy plainly for all to judge.

Canons of Justice in Taxation

Thus the “canons of justice” in taxation must not be taken for granted. Calling something just does not make it so. Rothbard writes:

The prime objection to these “canons” is that the writers have first to establish the justice of taxation itself. If this cannot be proven, and so far it has not been, then it is clearly idle to look for the “just tax.” If taxation itself is unjust, then it is clear that no allocation of its burdens, however ingenious, can be declared just.

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  • Bill||

    Robin Hood. As in the hero who fought the tax collectors. How did that message get lost?

  • Lewis H||

    Tax collecters were agents of the wealthy elite, to get wealthier and elitier.

  • cynical||

    So, how did that message get lost?

  • Live Free or Diet||

    By rewriting it as take from the rich and give to the poor.
    Myths and legends, like history, are rewritten by those who want to set the terms of the debate. After all, if a man has never heard of something how likely is he to think of it? Even if he does, he will find himself egregious, and we're taught not to stand out from the herd.

  • Take from Poor, Give to Rich||

    That's Capitalism.

  • Blacksmithking||

    I thought the tax collectors were agents of a corrupt, greedy government (the Sheriff).

  • Mr. FIFY ||

    "Still are", not "were".

  • Tax Collectors||

    Tax collectors are agents of government, which is merely Middle Management for the Real OWNERS of this country.

    The division of individuals into OWNERS and non-owners is an outcome of the division of labor. ~Ludwig von Mises, Socialism, p.311

    "The real OWNERS are the big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians, they're an irrelevancy. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don't. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They've long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the statehouses, the city halls. They've got the judges in their back pockets. And they own all the big media companies, so that they control just about all of the news and information you hear. They've got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying ­ lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want; they want more for themselves and less for everybody else." ~George Carlin

  • The Other Kevin||

    "Were?"

  • protefeed||

    "tax fairness" is an oxymoron. taxation is theft, so this term is exactly equal to "theft fairness", which even the most diehard liberal would say is a term that makes no sense -- while still denying the underlying premise about what taxation is.

  • ||

    Getting fucked equally is still getting fucked, but to some the equally part is still important.

  • Realist||

    ^^^This^^^

  • Live Free or Diet||

    Doesn't "taxed equally" imply each person pays the same amount? Not the same percentage, but the same amount? Who would think it fair if you went to the grocery store for a week's food and the clerk charged you 30% of your income?

  • Barry O.||

    Who would think it fair if you went to the grocery store for a week's food and the clerk charged you 30% of your income?

    Sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

  • Fairness =/= an Abuser's value||

  • wareagle||

    liberals operate from the premise that the money belongs to govt in the first place and only by its grace are you keeping a bit. Easiest way to watch a liberal sputter is to demand a number be attached to "fair share". They have none because that requires thinking and liberals know that thinking is dangerous to their cause, so they focus on creating feeling instead.

  • ||

    Similarly, you can ask some people what the perfect amount of school funding would be and what level of increased test scores, or whatever metric they want to use, they would expect from that level. Don't hold your breath for a straight answer. Pretty much they'll always want more, or they can identify the proper level of funding the same way a judge identifies pornography. ("I'll know it when I see it")

  • Michael S. Langston||

    It shouldn't surprise me, but apparently it does. Every time Obama or his administration makes some argument about fairness or things costing too much or people paying too little, no one ever asks him to prove how he came to that conclusion.

    At least with the 30%, he has an actual number, but it's only one number and therefore void of meaning.

    The followup question s how did you get that number? Why not 25% or 40%?

    If 30% is the gaol, why is it better than the alternatives?

    The scarier part is when he says, should not pay less than 30%. Another good question might be, what is the maximum rate this administration is OK with?

    Not that I believe any answer given would be truthful nor meaningful.... but still a worthy exercise for all of us when we think - that's too much/little/etc - good to ask yourself what is OK.

  • ||

    ""tax fairness" is an oxymoron. taxation is theft, so this term is exactly equal to "theft fairness", which even the most diehard liberal would say is a term that makes no sense"

    I'm not so sure of that.

  • CE||

    Hard to argue against the logic of Rothbard and Spooner. Hard to win any arguments about what tax rates should be, using Rothbardian/Spoonerian logic, against those who believe government and taxes are necessary.

    Even though we've lost the argument about whether we should have any taxes at all, and will likely continue to lose it for generations to come, we could still influence the debate about how the tax burden is distributed.

    In all fairness, taxes any individual pays should be capped at some level. After you pay your "fair share", right now around 10,000 bucks each, what additional benefit do you get? None.

  • Alice Bowie||

    Strongly disagree. As there is NO cap on Income (and there should NOT be in the USA), there should be no cap on TAXES. A Flat Rate is fine. No need for progressive tax. However, everyone should pay the FLAT rate on ALL INCOME and ZERO percent on ALL WEALTH...including property.

  • Sevo||

    Please hand me the envelop; let's see what's inside:
    "As there is NO cap on Income (and there should NOT be in the USA), there should be no cap on TAXES."

    And we have a WINNER in the False-Equivalence Event!

  • Alice Bowie||

    And that's your opinion.

  • JBA||

    GREAT argument!

  • Sevo||

    Alice Bowie|1.27.12 @ 5:22PM|#
    "And that's your opinion."

    No, you stupid shit, calling you on false equivalence is *not* opinion.
    How stupid are you? Or is that asking too much?

  • Concerned Citizen||

    The income tax is a fraud anyway.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    I favor the flat rate. It is the simplest equation with the minimal amount of arbitrariness. The only arbitrary thing is the actual rate selected, And I can think of logical methods to determine it.

  • wareagle||

    here's the irony: the people who talk about "fairness" usually lead the change against the flat tax even though, mathematically, it is the definition of fair. Whatever % it is, those earning more will pay more, which all good liberals favor. All will pay something, which creates a version of fairness. But you mentioned "logic" which immediately discounts the left, thus killing further discussion.

  • e||

    "It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion."

    Adam Smith

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P.....te_note-14

  • Michael S. Langston||

    Nice try, but Mr. Smith, in the very quote you reference was not talking about a progressive tax system on income.

    He was making the point, that during his lifetime, imposing a tax on housing would fall heavier on the rich, or those who have houses, and there is nothing necessarily wrong with that.

    Just as the rich pay more in sales tax, as they buy more expensive things and generally spend more, that tax too will fall more heavily on the rich.

    As people here have already explained.... sales tax is still fair as the percentage paid remains the same.

    In the future, you might try not using quotations which damage your argument....

  • e||

    It's true he's talking about house rents, not income tax. But he's justifying a tax on house rents, which would fall more heavily on the rich, by appealing to a more general, "not unreasonable" moral principle that the the rich should contribute beyond simply the proportion to their revenue, which is the same principle upon which progressive taxes are justified.

  • e||

    This HnR post fell off the front page and I got the last word on this thread which means that I won and Karl Marx is automatically president in 2012! Woot!

  • Gus||

    People of the same trade seldom meet together even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public or some contrivance to raise prices."
    -Adam Smith

    Guilds in general were a central constant during medieval times in Europe and Adam Smith railed against how badly it harmed economic progress. In fact, economic scholars agree it was the 1,385 guilds that destroyed Italy's economy in the seventeen century. By the end of the eighteenth century, guilds had been abolished. Then came Benito Mussolini. "Il Duce" decided on a scheme that hinted at Marxism in the sense of controlling production, but in this case, it controlled the companies that created production. It was formed from the word fasces, which meant bundle and was represented by the Roman symbol of an axe surrounded by a ring of rods.

    Fasci di Combattimento

    In this case, Mussolini would bundle collectivism and power. He blamed capitalism, boom-and-bust cycles, class conflicts, wasteful competition, and profit-orientation. Does any of that sound familiar? It's the same message we've heard from the President and liberals over and over even as we have slogged through the worst post-recession recovery ever. I remember President Obama blasting boom and bust cycles and fretted that if we were to ever find a system that would stop them, let it at least be during a boom part.

    http://finance.townhall.com/co.....italy__but

  • Liam||

    According to http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-soi/09in11si.xls (AGI from column 5 and average income tax column 20) her federal effective rate should be around 7.7%.

  • Alice Bowie||

    Taxation is really not Theft.

    If ten people live in a 10/family building mutually owned by them, a mandatory maint. fee along with special assessments for repairs/loans/etc. would be required. The Maint Fee is mandatory as for you won't be able to count all ten sharing the common costs...especially if they are libertarians who think that all taxation is theft.

    This Maint Fee is NOT THEFT. If nine of ten people voted to use the maint fee to buy flowers for the hallway, the 10th person that didn't vote for it can not consider this as theft either.

    This "Taxation is theft" crap is WING-NUT crap.

    What we call can agree is that the tax dollars are spent inappropriately. What we don't agree is on what is inappropriate.

    Some feel spending money on war is fine.
    Some feel spending money on social services are fine.

    Since we are subjected to having to pay taxes and no wing-nut is going to change that, we should each pay our fair share. That is, a flat income tax with absolutely no deductions on ALL INCOME irregardless of it being EARNED INCOME, CAPITAL GAINS, INTEREST INCOME, etc. I'm also for a ZERO INCOME Tax rate on all Corporations that employee 95% of their staff in the USA.

  • Muad Dib||

    "If ten people live in a 10/family building mutually owned by them, a mandatory maint. fee along with special assessments for repairs/loans/etc. would be required."

    Were these people coerced into living in this building? Probably when you bought into the thing the fees were spelled out which means they are not at all like taxes because you have the option to not buy in. Sooooo that argument is fallacious, next..

  • Muad Dib||

    Also, why would a fee be required? Just because that is the only business model you can imagine does not mean that it is the only one that would work.

  • Alice Bowie||

    Nice try, The analogy of the maint fee is similar to that of income taxes.

    Your argument is just as silly as me saying 'you don't have to stay in the USA if you don't like income taxes.'

  • ||

    Doesn't matter where you live. As long as you are a US Citizen the gov't claims a right to tax you wherever you are in the world/universe.

  • Muad Dib||

    They are not similar at all. Taxes are forced in the sense that if I don't pay armed thugs will eventually come for me. No one forces you into home-ownership.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    Government user fees would be slightly analogous to taxation.

    Maint fees on housing however are not will never be and your continuing attempt to make that round peg fit in the square whole, will never make it true.

  • Tony||

    How are you coerced into living in a particular country?

  • A Serious Man||

    Isn't that kind of like us asking a statist like you to move to Cuba or North Korea for government welfare and socialism?

  • Tony||

    No. The question is what gives you the right to freeload on my taxpayer-funded society.

  • A Serious Man||

    What gives you the right to get government to effectively monopolize services so that we have no choice but to use them?

    If Obama were to arrest you and send you to GITMO without trial or charge, would you be free-loading on the tax-payer funded system that provides you free food and shelter if you complained about your imprisonment? Would eating the prison food be tantamount to you accepting your condition of imprisonment?

  • Tony||

    Because I'm a control freak and all around cunt.

  • Tony||

    Nothing gives me the right. Government derives the right from the consent of the governed. When you get down to it, most of you are just bitching that you don't get your way in a democratic society 100% of the time--the worldview of a spoiled teenager.

    Prisoners don't get a vote--and nowadays they scarcely get due process. Living in a properly governed community is not the same thing as being in a prison--though many a spoiled teenager thinks so.

  • Shorter Tony||

    You don't like what your betters force on you? Pay the government then shut the fuck up.

  • cynical||

    "Government derives the right from the consent of the governed. "

    We don't consent.

    Actually, most people don't. It's not like ballots say:
    [] Barack Obama (D)
    [] John McCain (R)
    [] No.

  • Tony||

    Unanimous consent would be impractical. Majority vote is how consent is determined for groups of people of any size.

    Again, you are just bitching that you don't get to live exactly how you want, no questions asked, as if you are entitled to such a thing on a planet with 7 billion other people.

  • Rev. Blue Moon ||

    no questions asked, as if you are entitled to such a thing on a planet with 7 billion other people.

    Trolly trolly trolly...

  • protefeed||

    Unanimous consent would be impractical.

    "Unanimous consent" is what a marketplace delivers. If I go to a supermarket, everyone who is shopping there has consented to being there. If me and ten other people buy a particular brand of bread at that particular store, we have unanimously consented to that -- and those who dissent get to go elsewhere and join in a different unanimous consent.

    Government coerced taxes, of course, make sure unanimous consent impossible, and lead to the sort of high prices and shitty services you could expect if everyone was allowed to vote on what brand of bread to buy, and then everyone was coerced into buying just that bread and no other, even if they voted for a different brand of bread or abstained from voting.

  • cynical||

    "Unanimous consent would be impractical. Majority vote is how consent is determined for groups of people of any size."

    Who said anything about unanimous? There's a non-negligible chance that, given a ballot like that, "No" would win, and that must terrify people like you.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    Majority vote is nothing more than 51% of the population enslaving the other 49%.

    That apparently is Tony's idea of a good world.

  • ||

    As long as my actions aren't harming another human being it's NONE OF YOUR MOTHERFUCKING BUSINESS!!!

  • ||

    A majority of Americans supported nobody for president in 2008, yet somehow we still have one.

  • Tony||

    If I had my way they would say:

    [] Barack Obama (D)

  • wareagle||

    that's why you don't have your way. Most of us prefer not having a king or man who thinks he is king. And while majority vote determines consent, our system provides for the rights of the minority, too. Otherwise you have the proverbial two wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for lunch.

  • Rokk Krinn||

    Knowing you, you would want him to be prez for life.

  • Stop Picking On Barry!!||

    The only supporters Obama has are the ones who knew he was lying in the first place and don't care. Sadly, there are a lot of them.

  • Blacksmithking||

    Nah, I'm just pissed that Big Gov takes a bunch of money, wastes it, steals it, and then comes back for more every year. And then libs come around and say we need to pay more since nothing can ever be cut.

    And, ultimately, when I come around with my hand out for what Big Gov promised, for some benefit, it won't be there. Sorry Mr. King, no SS or MediCare for you, it was all looted. And we inflated all your savings away too.

    If every cent were spent wisely and more was needed, I'd be for it. I understand that things cost money. But every time some prick wastes government money equal to my salary, it burns, Tony.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    lol - Tony thinks this anger is because we all need a government which is 100% libertarian....it couldn't possibly be this President is forcefully making things worse.

    No. Since Obama can do no wrong, for Tony, any anger must be the result of something else.

    And yet he calls others spoiled teenagers... what an idiot.

    Tony - why not try arguing against what is actually written instead of making up crap you cannot possibly know?

    Oh yeah... I keep forgetting that if you ever verged near an honest argument the world would probably cease to exist.

  • KPres||

    "Government derives the right from the consent of the governed."

    No it doesn't. Governments derive their power from their possession of the guns. That's why governments fall when somebody else with more guns comes around and wrestles their power from them.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    "your" society, Tony?

  • Colonel_Angus||

    This is gold.

    "Your argument is just as silly as me saying 'you don't have to stay in the USA if you don't like income taxes.'"-Bowie 5:08

    "How are you coerced into living in a particular country?"-Tony 5:08

  • Alice Bowie||

    Not that I'm speaking for Tony, but we both seem to state that yes, it is silly to say "you can always move somewhere else".

    Communal liabilities are going to exists once people live together...and the volunteer system doesn't work.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    I actually don't think you are both thinking the same way. He just provided evidence that it is exactly what he is saying.

  • Tony||

    It's glib and perhaps not that convincing, but it does work. As long as you are allowed to leave the country, nobody is forcing you to accept its terms. It's just a fact of nature that people are born in some place and unable to immediately declare or renounce citizenship. So citizenship is conferred on birth and you are able to renounce at a later date. It's simple practicality in a world where new people are born--assume your consent until you say otherwise. Many types of contracts are like this.

    But if you wish to withdraw your consent, don't expect to freeload.

  • wareagle||

    so we should renounce citizenship because some in govt think they can just rewrite the rules to suit their whims? Bullshit. Not giving up that easily.

  • Sevo||

    Tony|1.27.12 @ 5:54PM|#
    "It's glib and perhaps not that convincing, but it does work."
    No, shithead, it doesn't.

    "As long as you are allowed to leave the country, nobody is forcing you to accept its terms."
    If I'm required to pay an 'exit fee', someone is "forcing" me, shithead.

  • ||

    American expats still pay income taxes, fucktard. Only one other country in the world had this arrangement - the USSR.

  • ||

    You aren't coerced to live in the US and I don't. I'm not going to work my ass off to provide Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous for the overlord class. I object to paying for other people's second houses, luxury cars, and children because the tax code screws me. Fuck that shit.

  • cynical||

    You can fund a government in a consensual fashion while discouraging free-riding. Coercive taxation is unnecessary, thus it's not unfair to call it theft.

  • Alice Bowie||

    That consensual fashion is income tax. Or, at least, it should be.

    I don't think consumption tax is fair. In fact, there should be ZERO consumption tax. It should all be Income Tax and at a Flat Rate. And ZERO income Tax to corporations that hire within the USA at a high rate.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Or just zero corporate tax would have sounded fine before you kept blabbing. Individual income does tend to come from commerce involving things like corporations, so why add extra complexity to the taxation?

  • Muad Dib||

    You are seriously confused. Can we agree on the definition of taxes “a coerced levy that the government extracts from the populace.” ? If so and the issue is not resolved lets look at the differences between the words consensual and coerce. We can agree on the Aristotelian principle that a thing cannot be simultaneously a and not a I hope. So, if taxes are coerced how can they then be consensual? These two things are mutually exclusive.

  • cynical||

    "That consensual fashion is income tax."

    While it's true that government employees and Democratic political appointees seem to view the income tax as elective, the law doesn't actually support such an interpretation.

    A true consensual form of funding (intended deliberately to empower individual citizens) would allow people to pay taxes related to a combination of their understanding of "fair share" and the value they attach to government programs, on at least an agency by agency basis. Pacifists would pay less for military expenses, objectivists would pay less for welfare, environmentalists would pay less for transportation, etc.

    In general the wealthy would pay more than the poor, of course; because they are expressing their values, the result might be less progressive, or substantially more progressive. As it stands now, Warren Buffett or Mitt Romney can hide behind the law to defend their payments. When the law is the law of the offering plate, it will be much harder to blame others for their unwillingness to fund the programs from which they benefit.

  • Alice Bowie||

    You know I always considered your Idea.

    I always considered allowing individuals to allocate their taxes to where they wanted it to go.

    Last year, I paid about $16 for aid to Israel. I also paid about $400 toward the iraq/afghan wars. Yet Jesus freaks complain about public money going toward abortions. I, actually didn't want to pay to murder people in iraq/afghan. I'd rather give the $400 to some girl in the projects that needed an abortion.

  • wareagle||

    I'd rather give the $400 to some girl in the projects that needed an abortion.
    ---------------------------
    as a bonus, you are also doing that with fed dollars that go to Planned Parenthood, a total abomination. Not for what the group does, but because it gets tax dollars to do it. Let those who support the cause vote with their wallets, just like folks who support other non-profits do.

  • A Serious Man||

    Your analogy is just reheated social contract crap.

    http://f.asset.soup.io/asset/2441/9311_cdc7.jpeg

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Actual Assignment Question given out by a university professor to an online acquaintance:

    What is one thing that government can do, or stop doing, to create jobs and redistribute wealth?

    My answer: Significantly cut taxes and regulations, cut welfare programs, and offer a dollar for dollar tax credit for donations to charity.

    Sadly, I don't think this answer is what the professor is looking for. Especially at UMass(hole).

  • There is no "we"||

    Between the 1950's and today, we did most of that, and we did get more jobs, and it did redistribute wealth (albeit upwards), but still people are not happy.

  • Sevo||

    "Between the 1950's and today, we did most of that"
    Ya know, someone might mistake you for an intelligent person if you didn't lie so transparently.

  • Blacksmithking||

    How does wealth get redistributed upwards, anyway? Crony capitalism? Someone buys an iPad?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    More bullshit from "we". Sun must've come up this morning.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    'People still are not happy' is such a vacuous statement as to lose meaning.

    To explain, please provide what happiness means, how one would measure it, and whether any government policy could truly affect the 'happiness' of most of its citizens.

    Beyond that, they actually do track happiness through polls.... and while I personally put little stock in words such as 'happiness' for governmental policies' the results are ever increasing levels of happiness as even the poorest are making more than ever before.

    And whether we like it or not, wealth and happiness track together.

    Shorter reply: what you say is wrong.

  • Alice Bowie||

    Donating to your local church/synagogue/mosque that your family and kid attends is not charity.

    And, if libertarians have their way with tax cuts, the dollar-for-dollar incentive would be moot.

  • Blacksmithking||

    If taxes are low I don't see a need to encourage or benefit charitable donations.

  • cynical||

    "Donating to your local church/synagogue/mosque that your family and kid attends is not charity."

    Most of those organizations do charity work, so it's at least partially charity.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    So you get to decide that giving to a church I don't belong to is charity, but giving to one I belong to is not....

    Wow.

  • Muad Dib||

    I'm becoming cynical. It feels like all we do is preach to the choir. Almost everyone that frequents this site is libertarian, and non libertarians have very little impetus to view the site. If you are happy in your wonderful dream world (team red/blue) why would you care to wake up to reality?

  • Tony||

    I'm not a libertarian, but everyone's constantly trying to drive me away.

    Some people like living in bubbles and really don't like to engage people who disagree with them. Possibly this is more common among those who hold ridiculous and easily refuted beliefs.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    There is enough for libertarians to debate with each other without having to keep repeating what we already have figured out. We "engage" people like you all damn day away from this web site.

  • Sevo||

    Tony|1.27.12 @ 5:09PM|#
    "I'm not a libertarian, but everyone's constantly trying to drive me away."
    Yes, shithead, it's because of your constant dishonesty.

  • Blacksmithking||

    Drive you away? Nah, it's fun to have someone intelligent that thinks differently than I do. This place would be boring with you.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    "Possibly this is more common among those who hold ridiculous and easily refuted beliefs."

    Glass houses, Tony. Put down the rocks.

  • Alice Bowie||

    I'm rather progressive and have found that i'm more libertarian leaning in various issues after arguing with people here.

  • Daniel||

    So for my five minutes, all I got from reading this article were some Murray Rothbard quotes. This is the second clunker put up by this Richman fellow that I've read here, the other being his bizarre piece on Obama's flawed Iraq strategy that basically attacked a polite speech he gave to the troops.

  • Tony||

    Which taxless society did Rothbard live in that provided him evidence that such a thing was possible, let alone desirable?

    If your principles lead you to thinking that the only ethically acceptable society is a nightmarish anarchic hellscape, then what good are your principles?

  • A Serious Man||

    A voluntary society can have taxation, you just can't force someone to pay if they don't want too.

    Medevial Iceland had an anarchic system where a person could migrate from clan to clan if he didn't like that clan's policies. Somalia has the anarchic customary law system of xeer that has in many areas provided stability in the absence of government.

  • Tony||

    Rothbard lived in Medieval Iceland and/or modern Somalia? I ask because I wonder if he felt that his inability to avoid benefiting from taxpayer-funded services resulted in an ethical conundrum for him.

    But anyway, so our choices are a historical anomaly and a modern-day nightmarish anarchic hellscape. For the sake of argument I'll give you Iceland. How is it useful to claim that the only ethically sound society is one that does not exist anywhere in the modern world? How can you have a political ethics that doesn't account for the actual wishes of people in societies?

  • Sevo||

    Tony|1.27.12 @ 5:38PM|#
    "I ask because I wonder if he felt that his inability to avoid benefiting from taxpayer-funded services resulted in an ethical conundrum for him."

    No, shithead, you asked since you are incapable of honest discussion.

  • ||

    a political ethics that doesn't account for the actual wishes of people in societies?

    As 47% of people don't pay any federal income tax, and they aren't seen clamoring for the privilege to do so, one can safely assume that the actual wish of the people is to not pay (income) taxes.

  • Tony||

    They don't pay it because they're too poor, because their wealth has been stolen by the elites via manipulation of the tax code sold to us as free market panaceas.

  • ||

    They don't pay it because they're too poor

    I don't believe them; I think they're full of shit and want to freeload on taxes paid by other people.

  • wareagle||

    tony,
    Who in hte hell had their wealth "stolen" and by whom? Please. Team Blue has been as complicit as anyone in mucking up the tax code. Ever wonder why no Dem, from Obama on down, EVER talks about reforming it? It's because they all know, Team Red as well, that the code is the single greatest source of power in existence.

  • Blacksmithking||

    I'm not sure how this wealth "stealing" works, either, except through government.

    Tony, if you're kvetching about crony capitalism or government-created monopolies, I'm right there with you. Otherwise I don't see how a poor person can be fleeced by a rich person.

  • Sevo||

    Tony|1.27.12 @ 5:49PM|#
    "They don't pay it because they're too poor, because their wealth has been stolen by the elites via manipulation of the tax code sold to us as free market panaceas."
    Shithead, you are incapable of honest discussion.

  • Socialism is murder||

    Hah, let's kill some more for the sake of the State.

  • Untermensch||

    How can you have a political ethics that doesn't account for the actual wishes of people in societies?

    The irony is strong with this one.

  • A Serious Man||

    So in this video when is it okay to threaten George? Does it ever become okay?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGMQZEIXBMs

  • Curious||

    I'm always a bit confused by the "tax is theft" meme. Suppose that everyone in the country except for the libertarian Bob had in fact agreed to pay taxes explicitly. Then Bob is born and he is told that he must pay taxes or go elsewhere.

    Are the taxes still theft?

    Even if you say there is nowhere to go, then tough shit right? The people who own the land get to decide what happens on it, right?

  • Alice Bowie||

    bingo. and if it is mutually owned, people will eventually see that mandatory contribution for mutual needs will be required.

  • ||

    We could eliminate the income tax, replace it with nothing, and still fund the same level of big government we had in the late 1990s. We don’t need to “replace” the income tax at all. I see a consumption tax as being a little better than the personal income tax, and I would vote for the Fair-Tax if it came up in the House of Representatives, but it is not my goal. We can do better.”

    - Ron Paul

    I haven't verified the facts, but it definately seems plausible.

  • Sevo||

    Alice Bowie|1.27.12 @ 5:43PM|#
    "bingo. and if it is mutually owned, people will eventually see that mandatory contribution for mutual needs will be required."
    Are you familiar with the New Soviet Man?

  • Brother Grimm||

    The forced confencsaction if legally aquired property is theft. Always. It's not complicated.

  • protefeed||

    I'm always a bit confused by the "tax is theft" meme. Suppose that everyone in the country except for the libertarian Bob had in fact agreed to pay taxes explicitly. Then Bob is born and he is told that he must pay taxes or go elsewhere.

    Are the taxes still theft?

    Let's try rephrasing that, and then YOU can answer the question:

    "Suppose that the vast majority of people in the country, with the exception of a handful of libertarians who are derided and forced to pay up or else, buy into the "justness of taxes" argument advanced in government indoctrination camps (aka "public schools") and explicitly agree in writing to pay taxes. Then Bob is born and he is told that he must pay taxes or go elsewhere. After listening to both the indoctrination he receives in the government indoctrination camps, and to the handful of libertarian dissenters, he agrees with the libertarian dissenters.

    Are the taxes still theft for those who have explicitly agreed in writing to participate in this scheme?

    Are the taxes still theft for the handful of libertarians plus their new member, Bob, who refused to agree in writing to this and were told tough titties, pay up or else?"

  • Curious||

    So this is the same question with more snark. The point of the hypothetical is that bob does not come into the world owning property, so those in possession of the land may ask bob to pay taxes before they begin doing business with him.

  • thirtyandseven||

    Right, and he better continue to pay up, for the rest of his life.

    Because the land belongs to the people, man. Why you think they say People's Republic, amiright?? We own it collectively, dude. Especially [ROADZ].

  • protefeed||

    Even if you say there is nowhere to go, then tough shit right? The people who own the land get to decide what happens on it, right?

    Are you saying the government owns all the land in a nation?

    What if I only engage in production on my own private property, and only buy from others who do likewise on their private property? Can the government that doesn't own that land still tax us under your argument?

  • Curious||

    I am supposing that individuals own the land and that these individuals have entered into an agreement before bob got there. When bob shows up, they tell he he has to chip in or they won't do business with him. Unfortunately bob did not exit the womb with any personal wealth, so he finds himself in quite a bind, but it is not clear that this amounts to "theft."

  • Bradley||

    You've constructed a hypothetical in which a cartel of all landowners conspire to boost prices by a fixed amount. This is a poor analogy for taxation as it stands now.

    Even if this scenario ever magically comes into being, incentives lead it to collapse. Any landowner who declines to charge the tax-like fee can offer a better price than the ones who do.

  • Llama||

    Your hypothetical has a serious flaw. In your scenario, it can be assumed that since Bob doesn't explicitly consent to pay taxes, the consequences would be that the those who have agreed to pay refuse to do business with him. He can freely choose not to pay and accept the consequences of that. Further, what if Bob was willing to pay to partake of some services and not others. What if he were willing to pay to use the roads, but not pay for something like social security? Could he do that- pay only for the services he wanted to use? In the US, you're not given the choice. You have no option to decline to pay and freely choose not to participate in the system. You also have no option to choose what you want to pay for and what you don't want to pay for. I would pay for national defense because I use it, but I don't want to pay for social security or public schools, since I don't use either of them and never will. In the US, I don't get that option. The government takes your money by force, right out of your paycheck, before you even have the option to decide whether or not you want to give it to them. Or, if you find a way to avoid having your money directly confiscated, the government comes and takes your liberty- they put you in jail. There is no choice but to pay or go to jail.

    And no, the option to refuse to pay and go to jail is not a real choice. There is no real choice when the only other option is to lose your liberty or your property by government force. Taxation is supposed to pay the cost of legitimate, constitutional government functions (ie- national defense), not buy you the right to be a free person.

  • Llama||

    Your hypothetical has a serious flaw. In your scenario, it can be assumed that since Bob doesn't explicitly consent to pay taxes, the consequences would be that the those who have agreed to pay refuse to do business with him. He can freely choose not to pay and accept the consequences of that. Further, what if Bob was willing to pay to partake of some services and not others. What if he were willing to pay to use the roads, but not pay for something like social security? Could he do that- pay only for the services he wanted to use? In the US, you're not given the choice. You have no option to decline to pay and freely choose not to participate in the system. You also have no option to choose what you want to pay for and what you don't want to pay for. I would pay for national defense because I use it, but I don't want to pay for social security or public schools, since I don't use either of them and never will. In the US, I don't get that option. The government takes your money by force, right out of your paycheck, before you even have the option to decide whether or not you want to give it to them. Or, if you find a way to avoid having your money directly confiscated, the government comes and takes your liberty- they put you in jail. There is no choice but to pay or go to jail.

    And no, the option to refuse to pay and go to jail is not a real choice. There is no real choice when the only other option is to lose your liberty or your property by government force. Taxation is supposed to pay the cost of legitimate, constitutional government functions (ie- national defense), not buy you the right to be a free person.

  • Mabal_Zarhare||

    YES!
    I'll have 1 from column A & 1 from column B and don't bring me any of that stinky shit.

  • adam||

    Here's a proposal for tax fairness:
    Everyone can either:
    1) pay the tax rate that you think is "fair," in which case your name is published next to your tax rate and amount paid in federal register.
    2) pay taxes under the current code, in which case you get to stay anonymous.

  • Alice Bowie||

    everybody here will still claim it's theft.

    For many employees, like officers of publicly traded companies, police officers, and other government workers, your salary is public knowledge.

  • cynical||

    "everybody here will still claim it's theft."

    Well, it would be more consensual than the current system. I wouldn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

  • protefeed||

    everybody here will still claim it's theft.

    Not at all. If I can pay a tax rate of 0%, and the government puts my name on a website as one of the those people who paid nothing because I feel taxation is theft, I would feel that would be an improvement over the current system.

  • KPres||

    I can't see what's wrong with it at all. In this case, "government" is just somebody who owns a website, asks for donations, and posts who gave donations. All perfectly legitimate as nobody's rights have been violated.

  • ||

    yup. mine is public knowledge, and quite a fair wage.

    thanks to my union!!!!

    NORMA RAE!!!!

  • Mabal_Zarhare||

    Problem is with the "rate". Price for a service should be fixed no matter who is "buying" it. Start from there.

  • There is no "we"||

    Taxation is theft. Property is theft. Abortion is murder. Forced pregnancy is slavery. There is no escaping the human condition.

    Every person who enters the world is forced into a pre-existing system, and has no voice in the original "set-up." The constitution was written long before our grandparents were born. Today's property lines were drawn on government maps just as long ago, or even longer. There is no cosmic law that guarantees income mobility or any other leveling effect in a society that already has vast disparities in wealth, and the power that comes with wealth.

    The best one can hope for is an equal voice in changing or reforming the system going forward -- one person, one vote. One outcome of voting could be a dissolution of the "coercive state" and a switch to a "voluntary society," but that is just one outcome, and it will need a broad consensus to have any chance of success.

    In the meantime, with a government like the USA printing money with one hand and borrowing money with the other hand, no system of taxation is going to "starve the beast" or otherwise frustrate the system's majoritarian prerogatives.

    If there was an end to all government borrowing in all forms and a strict dollar-for-dollar "pay-go" rule for all government spending, it might focus the public's attention on the real costs of government, and it might persuade people to limit government to the most indispensible services, but even that is not guaranteed.

  • Sevo||

    "The best one can hope for is an equal voice in changing or reforming the system going forward -- one person, one vote."
    Sorry, we don't live in a democracy.

  • Realist||

    "Sorry, we don't live in a democracy."
    Really? State the out come difference between a democracy and a democratic republic.

  • Sevo||

    US paper is not yet rated "junk".

  • Realist||

    Non sequitur.

  • Sevo||

    Wrong.
    You asked, you got the answer. Don't like it? Tough shit.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    The difference is that true democracy is 51% enslaving the other 49%.

    The entire reason for the Constitution and this 'republic' is to start by limiting the government, which by definition also limits the individual, as they cannot vote by majority to say, remove free speech rights.

    Of course humans are ingenious and have found a myriad of ways to 'read' into the Constitution what they want, so the end reality might not be that much different from a pure democracy, but your question has an easy and obvious answer.

  • ||

    EXACTLY correct.

    Democracy is mob rule. And we've abandoned our republic in favor of democracy by not strictly adhering to the principles that limit government.

  • ||

    We don't live in a democratic republic. We live in a constitutional republic.

    And one vote-one person will inherently lead to two wolves-one lamb.

  • Emperor Wears No Clothes||

    FLA hebrews would be relegated to the shuffleboard courts, where they belong. Instead of having any discernible influence on US foreign policy, which their numbers as a percentage of the US pop suggest they don't deserve.

  • ||

    [The best one can hope for is an equal voice in changing or reforming the system going forward -- one person, one vote.]

    You forgot cheating. While all the talking heads here attempt to pick flyshit out of pepper others refine the art of cheating on taxation. With the electronic age it's more difficult, and has systemic risk, but it can be done effectively.
    I've been fortunate to have been my own employer, so I've had many, many more opportunities. I've found, over the years I've cheated at a much higher rate during those times when I felt the government dick in me deepest. You can only imagine the size and scope of my cheating today.
    One thing: The IRS incarceration rate is commensureate with the victim's inability to pay the back tax, whore's interest, and pimp penalty. Keep your cheats free of fraud and keep a cash stash.

  • Mabal_Zarhare||

    Kennedys don't pay no stinkin' taxes

  • Mabal_Zarhare||

    got no income

  • Bondurant||

    Taxation is theft despite what Ms. Bowie claims. It's not a voluntary practice as Harry Reid claims. Not only is it theft, but the federal government also uses the threat of force to make me pay them. I don't pay, the feds knock down my door, put a gun in my face and haul me off to jail.

    If Ms. Bowie loves the IRS so much I would suggest she (and Buffet and Obama and any other leftist loon) make voluntary contributions to Lil' Timmy's IRS.

  • There is no "we"||

    Let me reiterate...

  • Sevo||

    There is no "we"|1.27.12 @ 8:02PM|#
    "Let me reiterate..."
    Repeating bullshit doesn't change it from bullshit.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    "we" is a master of that, Sevo. So is Tony, and the curiously-absent shrike.

  • ||

    Show me the law that allows taxation of my wages

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....re=related

  • ||

    "Taxes are not levied for the benefit of the taxed."-Robert A.Heinlein

  • Rokk Krinn||

    Isn't the Buffet rule just another name for the Alternative Minimum Tax?

  • Sevo||

    Except that it doesn't differentiate between income and capital gains.

  • Mischief||

    If he is only worried about the "rich" paying 30%, then he should be more than happy already. Since the "rich" make their money of company profit, that money is already taxed via corporate taxes at 35% and then another 15% is taken out before it reaches the investor.

  • Alice Bowie||

    Not True, Dividends are paid out in the same year as accrued...resulting in no Corporate Tax.

    In an S-Corp, no retain earnings so no corporate tax.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    An S-Corp is usually temporary as when an S-Corp does have consistent profit, the income will be taxed at the owners income level, which is higher than standard corporate tax rates.

    The reason people opt for S-Corp is because the tax burden might be higher, but in new businesses a loss is more likely and just like income of an S-Corp will be taxed at individual income rates, business losses of an S-Corp can allow owners to deduct that from their personal income taxes.

    Shorter version: S-Corp is not a magic pill which removes taxes.

  • ||

    The practice of classifying fund manager's bonuses as "carried interest" is unfair and unjust.

    If we are going to have taxation, then all income should be taxed at the same rate. Taxing wages at a higher rate than investment income is unfair and unjust to people who earn their living from wages.

    Even IF you find some economic rationale for taxing investments at a lower rate, it is still unfair and unjust to apply that rate to the pay the fund managers, who are not risking their own money, get.

    This is the big reason why Romney and Buffet pay less of a percentage in taxes. They are making most of their money from interest, dividends, and executive bonuses.

    I believe a core principle of libertarianism is not just to have as few laws as possible, but to make sure those laws are UNIFORM for everyone. Taxing different types of income at different rates is a fundamental violation of that princuple.

  • ||

    I'll go you one better.

    The purpose of taxes is to pay for the few legitimate services that the government supplies (protecting rights of individuals). Paying a tax "rate" insures that one individual pays more for those services than another, yet everyone receives the same services.

    So actually taxing anything other than an equal "dollar amount" is a violation of those principles.

    In addition, a system that taxes at an equal dollar amount will automatically regulate the size of government because the limiting factor would be the amount that the poor would be able to pay.

    A truly "fair" structure would require everyone pay the exact same amount for services received while providing only the services that everyone uses.

  • Nicholas D. Rosen||

    Mr. Richman quotes Frank Chodorov, who was a Georgist (I'm not sure whether he remained one all his life; at least he had disagreements with other Georgists; but he certainly was a Georgist when young). And what do Georgists believe? That there should be a single tax on the value of land, and that other taxes should be abolished. What you earn by your efforts should be yours, a libertarian position. But you did not create the land, which was there before any human being, and you did not create the value of the land, which is due to the whole community, and in particular to government services.

    This does not resolve all dilemmas, but it certainly comes closer than President Obama's incoherent philosophy of fairness in taxation.

  • NotSure||

    Tony accusing people here of being freeloaders, then at the very same time supports the idea of giving people free housing, education, food, health care, etc., which is actually is the real freeloading.

  • ||

    "We need to change our tax code so that people like me...." ....President Obama

    I suggest that the IRS simply put a little box on the 1040 form that says I like President Obama (yes on no).

    Problem solved. Next Problem?

  • ||

    You wrote, "If a burglar decides not to break into your house and take your things, have you gotten a break? Or have you simply kept what is yours? "

    Comparing taxation to theft is the sort of wrong-headed and false analogy - albeit one with populist appeal - that costs the author credibility with those of us who understand that society is built on concepts of pooling resources for purposes of defense, public safety, a judicial system, etc, and that taxes are the mechanism by which resources are pooled. I'm very disappointed in lack of reason or logic in an article that seems more partisan hackery than it does an application of reason.

  • oncogenesis||

    society is built on concepts of pooling resources

    Perhaps, but government is not society, and vice versa.

  • ||

    [society is built on concepts of pooling resources for purposes of defense, public safety, a judicial system, etc,]

    It's the etc. Can we at least agree when government pools our resources for etceteras that are outside the enumerated powers of the
    Constitution that theft is the correct term?

  • ||

    us who understand that society is built on concepts of pooling resources for purposes of defense, public safety, a judicial system, etc, and that taxes are the mechanism by which resources are pooled

    That sounds very nice & uplifting, but the practice isn't that. The trick is in the "etc" part: libertarians by & large don't have a problem with the other elements in the list, but with the unsaid things subsumed under those three letters.

  • ||

  • ||

    I have to say, Tony, you're the master of providing me with multiple face palms.

    Incredible.

  • ||

    I just don't understand why "tax fairness" always means raising taxes on the rich but never means lowering taxes on the poor.

    YES! It's not fair that a secretary pays similar tax rates as a billionaire. I totally agree. She should have her taxes lowered.

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