Progressives and the Politics of Envy

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For a Liberty Fund conference on "The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality," I've been reading selections from Envy: A Theory of Social Behaviour (1966) by sociologist Helmut Schoeck. Schoeck cites a 1954 article from The Economist which asks the intriguing question:

Would it be a hardship, or an injustice, if, while everybody had plenty, some people had more than plenty? If £3,000 a year, say, were the minimum income, would it be monstrous if some people had £30,000, or £300,000?

The egalitarians apparently think it would be monstrous. Ask them why, and they reply with that noble bromide "social justice." But this is merely a politician's periphrasis for "envy." Social justice is a semantic fraud from the same stable as People's Democracy. It means that when everybody has plenty it is right to hate people who have more.

Now lots of people in the past have proposed establishing a guaranteed minimum income in the United States including President Richard Nixon. Economics Nobelist Milton Friedman suggested a negative income tax which would have operated somewhat like today's Earned Income Tax Credit.

So just as a thought experiment–setting aside the very real problems of work disincentives, administration, and tax rates–here's the question: If every individual American was guaranteed an income of $40,000 annually (indexed perpetually for inflation), would it be a hardship or an injustice if some Americans earned $400,000, or $4 million, or $400 million per year?

Discuss.

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  1. “setting aside the very real problems of work disincentives, administration, and tax rates”

    And that $40,000 is worth $40,000 in today’s money? Is it $40,000 in NYC or Cuzzinfugger, GA? I think I’d be peachy if everybody had an income well above the poverty line.

  2. It would be an injustice if every individual American was guaranteed an income.

  3. Why does my little economics angel on my shoulder appear to be collapsing in apoplexy?

    If I know one thing though, some people will always be poor. They’ll have alot of “stuff”, but they’ll always be poor. Its a mentality for some.

  4. We may need to import some of these egalitarians over here before this discussion picks up any heat.

  5. What Warren said. If you dont product $40k worth of work, you dont deserve $40k worth of pay.

  6. Lamar,
    I think the real injustice here is that anybody lives in Cuzzinfugger, GA. I thought they had all immigrated over the border to West Cuzzinfugger, AL.

  7. Wouldn’t this have the same affect on the cost of living as subsidized college loans have on the cost of education? In other words, as soon as everyone is guaranteed $40,000 per year, wouldn’t stuff suddenly cost much more, thereby making $40,000 a year no longer non-poor?

  8. Well, for one, it wouldn’t work.

    But even if it did, I would guarantee that people would still be complaining that the rich weren’t paying their fair share whenever they wanted some new government program and didn’t have a way to pay for it.

  9. CM,

    Exactly, but notice Bailey said it was indexed to inflation, so next year it goes up, causing more inflation, so it goes up, causing more inflation, so it goes up….

    Winning situation right there.

    (I do think it converges, ignoring regular inflation, but its still not pretty)

  10. If every individual American was guaranteed an income of $40,000 annually (indexed perpetually for inflation), would it be a hardship or an injustice if some Americans earned $400,000 per year, or $4 million, or $400 million per year?

    Consider that money is about more than your ability to buy stuff – it’s also about the power you have over others.

    So let’s just say that if you’re the $40,000 guy you’re not likely to win any disputes with the $400 million guy no matter how legitimate your complaint is. In fact, the $400 million guys might get together and rescind your guarante to $40,000…

    Also, remember that price is affected high-end buyers. If you’re the $40k living in a town full of $40k guys, you’ll have a lot more buying power than if you’re the same guy living in a town of $4 million guys. This is why things are more expensive in NYC than they are in Pig’s Knuckle, Arkansas.

  11. If you dont product $40k worth of work, you dont deserve $40k worth of pay.

    But, but, but, that’s not fair.

    Everytime I read about income “inequality” all I can think about are my kids bitching about how the other one got exactly 3 grams more of chocolcate pudding then they did.

    Yep. Same dynamic at work.

  12. The real question here is, would it be unfair/unjust if one person made $40,001? Then your talking about an Orwellian dystopia where everyone must dress in the same close, and cut their hair alike.

    Otherwise it’s just as you say, pure spite and envy that causes one man to look at another and say I want what you have, therefore you must give it to me. It’s a despicable dictum.

  13. Er, “…affected by high-end buyers…”

  14. If $40,000.00 is the minimum with no restrictions, doesn’t that just reset the “zero”-point of the economy? Isn’t this like potentials in physics, where it’s not so important what a particular potential value is so much as the potential difference between two values?

  15. The issue is not just that those earning “$400 million per year” would have more goodies; they’d have more power and could make sure that everyone else would do what they wanted them to do, one way or another.

  16. I think people are focusing on the number too much. The hypothetical is essentially: ignoring for purposes of discussion the fact that this would be impossible to implement, would it be a hardship or injustice if nearly everyone had a decent, comfortable, middle class life if some were still able to be much richer.

    Hardship? No. If everyone has plenty, there is no hardship. From this standoint, someone who makes minimum wage has life better than a king 1000 years ago (in terms of food quality, air conditioning, TV, education, etc.)

    Injustice? No. Fairness can’t be based on outcome alone, isolated from the “shoulds” of life that define “justice” in the first place. By itself, there is no unfairness of some having more than others.

  17. Here’s another thought experiment. Which of these two societies are likely to be more libertarian (in terms of people being able to enjoy and exercise personal freedom and rights): one where wealth and income are basically distributed evenly, or one where the majority of wealth is controlled by a handful of individuals?

  18. All: Is enforcing equality the unstated point of welfare politics?

  19. All: Is enforcing equality the unstated point of welfare politics?

    I’d say the unstated point of welfare politics is to bribe the poor so they won’t rise up against us.

  20. Dan T.:

    It depends. How did everything get so equal in the one society and so unequal in the other. Libertarianism is not about the distribution of income or even about outcomes at all. It’s about the process and individual rights. I don’t think the Khmer Rouge was very libertarian, even though they achieved income equality.

  21. Which of these two societies are likely to be more libertarian (in terms of people being able to enjoy and exercise personal freedom and rights)

    I don’t think that’s answerable without defining the methods by which that income is distributed. If the even distribution is a matter of a powerful group doling out dollars, there has to be a commensurate control – loss of freedom – in place to make same possible.

  22. Unequal incomes is not a problem. Poverty is a problem, lack of opportunity is a problem, and the unequal political clout and access that wealth can create is a problem.

    Only the latter can plausibly be addressed via levelling, and even then, there are better ways.

    On the other hand, growing economic inequality can certainly be a symptom of other problems.

    So it’s not the wealth discrepancies by themselves that the vast majority of progressives are worried about, but the implications of growing inequality on a society that values a level playing field and the widest possible spread of opportunity.

    With the exception of a fringe of self-proclaimed communists, the mere fact of varying levels of wealth is not generally viewed as a problem among progressives. As much as some people like to pretend otherwise.

  23. dollars are imaginary anyway so who cares how many anyone has. all that matters is how many bullets you have for when the revolution comes.

    forget the gold standard, what we need is a lead standard.

  24. Robc: Sounds just like the Minimum Wage Amendment stuck into the Ohio Constitution last election…

    http://www.sos.state.oh.us/SOS/ElectionsVoter/results2006.aspx?Section=2319

    You just need to read the first two lines to see the part about tying the minimum wage increases to the CPI.

    Nephilium

  25. Is enforcing equality the unstated point of welfare politics?

    Implied: that there is a cabal of welfare policy wonks who are in charge of all things welfare. Conspiracies are too complicated to last.

  26. forget the gold standard, what we need is a lead standard.

    Let me know when you start shooting. Bluster bluster bluster.

  27. Ron Bailey | August 24, 2007, 3:17pm | #

    All: Is enforcing equality the unstated point of welfare politics?

    Have you ever actually SEEN the number printed on a monthy Social Security check?

    No, enforces equality is not even remotely a part of the western liberal project.

  28. Yes. It would be an injustice and it would require remedy – and were it not remedied, all sorts of personal and social illnesses would ensue. It is, after all, the exact situation we all face today.

    There is no such thing as ‘economic growth’ (except in matters relating to availability of food as well as better health) when one segment of society is wealthy, by that very definition, another segments is living in poverty.

    This is true in worlds where the wealthy are those with subsistence housing as it would be true in a future where even the impoverished all have iphones and laptops.

    Capitalism is a zero sum game.

    (And unfortunately i’m being paged so I gotta leave for now – damn.)

    mnuez

    http://www.mnuez.blogspot.com

  29. Dan T. & joe: So your answer is, yes, it would be a hardship and an injustice?

  30. Some people, no matter how good their lives are will complain everyday. Rich or poor it dosen’t matter. Contentment is largely in your head.

  31. If we’re talking Star Trek like equality where the cost of raw goods has been reduced to essentially 0, then fine, everyone can have pretty much any lifestyle they desire and everybody’s equal. As long as materials have value, there will be ultra haves and ultra have nots, relative to the advancement of society. Its the efficiency of society that raises the base lifestyle of those in society. It’s been that way through every society on the planet and no matter how we play with the numbers, that’s how it will be forever.

  32. Todd is right. The point of this hypothetical is to isolate an element (“justice”) of the equation. So, presuming the given circumstances were possible and sustainable, the only potential injustice arises when you consider where and how to obtain the 40K for each person. No injustice arises directly from the fact that some have more or earn more, unless they obtained said by unjust means.

    The just way to obtain the 40K for each person would be voluntary donations from the rich. To get one’s share, I presume, he or she would agree to perform work. If one refused to work: no money. If one were unable to work: euthanasia.

  33. Rich Ard raises an essential point:

    I don’t think that’s answerable without defining the methods by which that income is distributed.

    It is sloppy, lazy thinking on the left to assume that all inequalities in wealth result from some crime that needs to be redressed.

    It is sloppy, lazy thinking on the right to assume that all inequalities, or concern about problems related to inequality, have no merit and are based on envy.

  34. Dan T. & joe: So your answer is, yes, it would be a hardship and an injustice?

    I’ll say that economic inequality is not necessarily an injustice and hardship in and of itself, but its a situation that almost inevitibly leads to injustice and hardship.

  35. Dan T. & joe: So your answer is, yes, it would be a hardship and an injustice?

    Define “it.”

    I explained what I thought would be a hardship and an injustice, and what I did not.

  36. mnuez,

    unless you’re making a statistical distribution definition of poverty, ie “impoverished” = member of lowest quartile of income, assets, or purchasing power parity distribution, I don’t get it. What’s the functional definition of poverty to you?

  37. Dan T.,

    I don’t think Mr. Bailey is interested in such distinction.

    Either you believe that there are absolutely no actual, legitimate problems that are remotely related to economic inequality, or you think it is a hardship and and injustice for the poorest person in America to earn $100k while someone else earns $110k.

  38. equal opportunity is not a guarentee of equal outcome

    equal rights is not a guarentee of equal opportunity

  39. it = income inequality when every person is guaranteed an income which is close to today’s median family income.

  40. I think the question’s silly, to be honest. There’s no Kantian, objective definition of equality – we’re going to answer this differently than would a guy living under a bridge, or on a garbage heap.

  41. it = income inequality when every person is guaranteed an income which is close to today’s median family income.

    Find a country which has a median family income below a starvation wage and compare it to ours – don’t see a lot of people starving to death here. Is our income inequality an injustice when viewed by someone burying babies behind grass huts?

  42. I’d rather discuss the politics of ooo feeling good.

  43. It’s not a question of envy; it’s a question of power. In a capitalist economy, money is power. Somebody earning $400,000 a year has a lot more influence and power than somebody earning $40,000 a year. How can we ensure that the rich don’t dominate the political system and exploit it for their own benefit?

  44. carrick: Absolutely correct. What I was trying to get at with the query was the relative importance people put on income inequality per se.

  45. Lost_In_Translation nailed it.

    I don’t know if this is what you meant, but — I agree with that so totally that I think the development of efficiency-improving technologies is basically the fastest route to actual “social justice” at this stage in civilization.

  46. I assume that it is no coincidence that the current U.S. per capita GDP is very close to $40,000. Given that reality and the fact that income distribution is already a profoundly one-tailed curve, it would require some serious strongarming to ensure that everyone got $40,000. The period of time between enactment of that policy and the point at which the people who keep the average so high (Bill Gates etc) stop being productive could not be observed with the naked eye.

    There is no such thing as ‘economic growth’…Capitalism is a zero sum game.

    Wow…just wow. Despite generations of evidence to the contrary people still think this?

  47. Rich Ard: I’m confused–$40,000 is median U.S. family income. Why bring up dead babies in poor countries in this particular thought experiment?

  48. Edward: Many more poor and middle class people vote than do rich ones.

    Surely you are not saying that incomes must be equalized until everyone has the same amount of “power”? Or are you?

  49. It’s not a question of envy; it’s a question of power. In a capitalist economy, money is power. Somebody earning $400,000 a year has a lot more influence and power than somebody earning $40,000 a year. How can we ensure that the rich don’t dominate the political system and exploit it for their own benefit?

    If the rich use the political system to cause direct harm to other individuals, they should be thrown in jail.

    Short of that, collective society does not have the right to prevent the accumulation of wealth and power into the hands of the rich.

    So I argue that your question is inherently flawed and irrelevant.

  50. A better answer is that if the government has no power other than to resolve disputes and protect the natural rights of individuals, then there would be no power for the rich to exploit.

  51. “I’d rather discuss the politics of ooo feeling good.”

    ou mean legalized prostitution?

  52. I think I’d be peachy if everybody had an income well above the poverty line.

    Lamar, then the lowest earers, regardless of their income would become the poverty line. Econ 101.

    If everyone in the country earned $40,00 (or more), then $40k would be an “unlivable wage”.

  53. Envy certainly is a part of it, but as things are stated there would probably be resentment based on how those people accrued their massive wealth and how they use their influence.

    Look at paris hilton. Some people despise her because they are jealous, some people despise her because she has no talent and is just inheriting a massive fortune while we slave away for our peanuts.

  54. Look at paris hilton. Some people despise her because they are jealous, some people despise her because she has no talent and is just inheriting a massive fortune while we slave away for our peanuts.

    We are all free to despise MS Hilton for a wide variety of valid reasons. However, none of us has a right to expect the state to take her unearned wealth from her to distribute it to the needy.

  55. No.

    Look, in a very rich nation such as America, a very strong argument can be made that the very rich and pretty rich should be required to give up some of thier money (via progressive taxation and government programs for the poor) to allow the very poor to move up to at least “adequate”. But that doesn’t mean any attempt should be made to make the rich only “adequate” themselves.

    There becomes a point where additional income does not better one’s lifestyle, a point where additional money is just stuff on a bank ledger instead of something needed to spend on personal material goods. That is, somebody who makes a hundred million a year has a lifestyle no better than somebody who makes ten million a year, and not much better than somebody who makes one million a year. Requiring higher levels of taxation from such people, to feed the hungry or whatever, is not a bad thing.

    Of course, I’m sure this point of view will not be shared by many here.

  56. Look, in a very rich nation such as America, a very strong argument can be made that the very rich and pretty rich should be required to give up some of thier money (via progressive taxation and government programs for the poor) . . .

    Uh no, absolutely not. The state cannot force people to be “good” and to help the needy.

    Taxation should be limited to funding the legitimate operations of the state. Nothing more, nothing less.

  57. Paul said:

    “If everyone in the country earned $40,00 (or more), then $40k would be an “unlivable wage”.”

    That’s not true at all. Imagine a world where a Star Trek-style replicator existed. That is, where making material goods was basically free. In such a world, there would be no poverty-at all.

    That is to say, if there is an abudance of resources and capital and talent, it is possible for everybody in a country (or even the entire planet) to at least have an “adequate” standard of living. It is not neccessary for there to be very poor people for there to be very rich ones.

  58. “Some people despise her because they are jealous, some people despise her because she has no talent and is just inheriting a massive fortune while we slave away for our peanuts.”

    In other words, some people despise her because a) they are jealous, or b) they are, um, jealous.

  59. carrick-So you are in favor of people starving to death in a rich country if the rich people aren’t willing to give to charities?

  60. How can we ensure that the rich don’t dominate the political system and exploit it for their own benefit?-Edward

    The only way is to eliminate or greatly weaken the political system.

    That should be the goal of libertarians in the 21 Century.

  61. libertreee-Um, how the heck are you going to do that, unless you do away with Democracy and institute a King who enforces Libertarian policies by fiat?

  62. carrick-So you are in favor of people starving to death in a rich country if the rich people aren’t willing to give to charities?

    See, this is a prime example of progressive insanity.

    You assume that the only way to feed the unfortunate is for all rich people to contribute some similar percentage of their wealth to charity or have that money taken from them by the state.

    All that is necessary is for some percentage of the population (including the rich, the middle class, and the near poor) to willing donate to good causes to provide sustenance for those that can’t take care of themselves and support for those suffering temporary troubles.

    The problem in a voluntary system arises when a majority of the not-poor believe the poor are poor because they deserve it. That is not a problem that needs to be solved by government extraction of tax dollars from the whole population.

  63. If the rich use the political system to cause direct harm to other individuals, they should be thrown in jail.

    Of course they “should” be, but who is going to do it?


    Short of that, collective society does not have the right to prevent the accumulation of wealth and power into the hands of the rich.

    I think this statement sums up what I see as being the main problem with libertarian philosophy.

    I don’t think you can simultaneously support the right of people to horde as much power as possible and then complain when they use that power to oppress others.

  64. “Some people despise her because they are jealous, some people despise her because she has no talent and is just inheriting a massive fortune while we slave away for our peanuts.”

    I didn’t despise her because she’s inheriting a massive fortune. I despised her because, not satisfied with that outcome, she actually had a show that taunted people who do have to have jobs. I always got the impression The Simple Life’s “rich girl can’t hack it” premise was a veneer for a pretty crass hostility towards working people (the same way that sitcoms frequently center on a character who is “stupid” or frequently a mouthpiece for despicable ideas, but is nevertheless portrayed as sympathetic).

    That’s neither here nor there, though. And anyway, I don’t think I ever despised Ms. Hilton herself, since I don’t know her, so much as the media phenomenon she was at the center of.

  65. If every individual American was guaranteed an income of $40,000 annually (indexed perpetually for inflation), would it be a hardship or an injustice if some Americans earned $400,000, or $4 million, or $400 million per year?

    Right now it would cause hyper inflation and a collapse of the economy….20 years from now we will have robots and it would work out just fine.

  66. So you are in favor of people starving to death in a rich country if the rich people aren’t willing to give to charities?

    Why does it make a difference if the people starving are in a rich country or a poor one?

    I dont accept the 2nd part of the question, since rich people are willing to give to charity.

  67. carrick-Ok, let’s change my question very slightly:

    So you are in favor of people starving to death in a rich country if the people aren’t willing to give to charities?

    (I obmitted the second “rich” in the sentence.)

    The question is still valid-especially when the poor people in question are children, the eldery, the ill, or the handicapped (which is where most “welfare”-type programs are concentrated these days anyways). That is, if you can’t take of yourself, and you don’t have a family who is able to take care of you, the government should, and to pay for that, other people should be taxes, especially those who are rich or very rich.

    Now, as for pure welfare grants to those who are able to work but choose not to, that’s quite a bit different.

    There’s an in-between as well, which is people who are able and willing to work, but are not able to find work, or are not able to find work that pays well enough to have an “adequate” standard of living. I would be in favor of government assistance here, but being against this would be less…cruel…than being against giving starving kids government assistance.

  68. So you are in favor of people starving to death in a rich country if the people aren’t willing to give to charities?

    What about the farmers? Why is the focus always on the money, and not the people who provide the actual food?

    It all seems rather ex post facto to say that the government should collect money from rich people and give it to poor people in the event that they might starve. Working from the ground up, I would expect someone to advocate a government owned farm to distribute food to people down on their luck.

    Why is this not the case

  69. Kenobi-Well, in the past, there was the whole “government cheese”-type surplus food, although that has been reduced by a lot recently. Of course, that was tied to farm subsidies, which is one form of welfare I am very much against.

  70. “libertreee-Um, how the heck are you going to do that, unless you do away with Democracy and institute a King who enforces Libertarian policies by fiat?”

    Um, we already have such a “king”. His name is the Constitution. Large majorities support various restrictions on free speech, and those majorities get to suck it because King Constitution says Go Fuck Yourself.

    This implies that all we need to do is tweak the Constitution. Unfortunately, the only available mechanisms to do that at the moment are democratic or indirectly democratic. This does not necessarily mean that all is lost, however, because if you can succeed in putting over your “tweaks” during a crisis or some other momentary situation where you have the political advantage, you can then laugh in the face of democracy the rest of the time.

  71. “carrick-So you are in favor of people starving to death in a rich country if the rich people aren’t willing to give to charities?”

    It’s not purely a matter of what I favor. I favor plenty of food and miniature Americans flags for all. It’s a matter of what I’m willing to use state violence to attain. I am perfectly willing to use state violence to stop murderers, rapists and thieves from continuing their rampages. I’m less enthused about using state violence to compel people to pay to ameliorate hunger they didn’t create.

  72. Is the 40k indexed to deflation as well?
    Or are we to assume a permanent managed inflationary economy like we have now?

  73. if the government has no power other than to resolve disputes and protect the natural rights of individuals, then there would be no power for the rich to exploit.

    So, economic power would cease to exist? Why, I could buy and sell you!

  74. Let’s assume away government in both of these societies. An ancient endowment was set up with robots as executors. These robots are able to provide everyone on the planet with the comforts of a $40,000 per year income stream with no individual effort put forward. A man dies (of natural causes) and his pool of robot servants begin delivering their services to his wife. Now everyone has an unearned income stream of $40,000 and this woman receives $80,000 worth of service every year through no effort of her own. Is to world less just due to her receiving of twice what everyone else gets?

  75. Dan T. said,

    “Short of that, collective society does not have the right to prevent the accumulation of wealth and power into the hands of the rich.”

    I think this statement sums up what I see as being the main problem with libertarian philosophy.

    I don’t think you can simultaneously support the right of people to horde as much power as possible and then complain when they use that power to oppress others.

    The problem with your problem is that your “solutions” to the hoarding of “power” (exactly what am I exercising over someone else by having something?) involve extending real, violent power over others–which is precisely what political entrepeneurs and rent seekers use to oppress others. Halliburton waging a war and then stealing overcharging itself would not only be irrational, it would be well beyond its means.

  76. Ron Bailey:

    Surely you’re not contending that money doesn’t buy political influence, are you?

  77. This wouldnt work, nothing works. people are more concerned about what they want than what they need. too bad people do not think in terms of NEED, then HAVE, then WANT.
    every person NEEDS a home, food and clothing (because of weather). we HAVE enough in this entire world to shelter, feed and clothe everyone. everyone in this world WANTS a home, food and shelter……so why isnt this happening?
    oh yeah, you and i are different, we are not all people, and what you want and need i dont want and need…..
    oh yeah and its a capitalist world where everyone wants to be the best.

  78. The question is still valid-especially when the poor people in question are children,

    Where are the parents?

    the eldery,

    Where are the children?

    the ill, or the handicapped

    Where are the families, the friends, the neighbors?

    That is, if you can’t take of yourself, and you don’t have a family who is able to take care of you,

    How does this happen? How does someone have no one to help them? I personally believe that many people abandon their personal responsibilities to help the needy because the “government” will take care of the problem.

    the government should, . . .

    The government is extraordinarily bad at dealing with individual people.

    other people should be taxes, especially those who are rich or very rich.

    People who care so much, like yourself, should be willing to carry the burden.

  79. People who think that money is power are a strange lot. The only millionaires/billionaires that have power over me happen to be the folks in congress. Barack Obama has far far more power over me than Bill Gates does.

    What a cheap price tag these people put on their rights, that they think they would be powerless to resist selling them to the first millionaire flash some green.

    The problem is not the money. The problem is government selling political power and privilege on the open market.

  80. Edward:

    50% of libertarianism is the desire to adjust things so that money can’t buy political influence that will be of any interest to it.

    In a libertarian world, there are in fact ways in which the 4 richest guys in my town could try to “assume a position of economic power” over me. They could try to buy so much property that my movement is restricted. They could try to pressure everyone in town to refuse to do business with me or employ me. But these things would only take them so far, and there would be very little they could do to me if I already owned property, had some savings, had friends in the community or the ability to produce a good or service people really wanted, etc.

    On the other hand, under our current, non-libertarian system, the four richest guys in my town can fucking destroy me if they choose, with comparatively little effort. If I own property, via their political proxies they can get the town to seize it by eminent domain. If I have savings, their proxies can get those frozen by the state or federal government by associating me with unpopular political figures or with figures associated with the drug trade, or they can pore over my old tax returns to find ways to punish me for prior economic activity. If I have the ability to offer a good or service people want or need, they can use a state licensing regime to bar my entry into that field, or can use zoning laws to make sure I can’t produce any goods. With some time to think about it I could come up with many more ways to cause mischief using the powers the state has assumed in the last century. The rich have infinitely more ability to fuck with you under our current system.

  81. If you gave everyone $40K, taken from taxes, the economy would collapse, because most people would quit their jobs. Oh, and some folks would start pumping out kids to add another $40K apiece to their household income. There wouldn’t be enough money being actually earned by people producing stuff to come up with the taxes to pay for the $40K handout, and the confiscatory taxes and the obvious endgame would cause the best and brightest to flee the upcoming socialist nonworkers paradise.

    I could go on, but this sort of welfare state would collapse mighty quickly, no matter how you tried to tweak the premises.

  82. Fluffy,

    So what if you don’t own property, have no savings, are new in town, and don’t have a valuable skill or product?

    Do the four rich guys have any power over you?

  83. With the exception of a fringe of self-proclaimed communists, the mere fact of varying levels of wealth is not generally viewed as a problem among progressives. As much as some people like to pretend otherwise.

    joe wins the Delusional and Completely Unsupported by the Facts Comment of the Thread!

    Of course most progressives hate varying levels of wealth — when those varying levels are earned by people who aren’t closet socialists. Listen to any liberal politician talk about “windfall profits” (i.e., “earnings”) or rage about CEO compensation, and tell me they don’t have a problem with income differences, even if the income differences fell on a normal bell-shaped curve of distributions.

  84. If every individual American was guaranteed an income of $40,000 annually (indexed perpetually for inflation)

    Would that include children, or just adults?

  85. That’s not true at all. Imagine a world where a Star Trek-style replicator existed. That is, where making material goods was basically free. In such a world, there would be no poverty-at all.

    Geotpf:

    Or, I have an idea, instead of imagining a Star Trek-style world, we could imagine the world in which we actually live. And in that world, if the minimum wage were $40,000 a year, then the poverty line is $40,000 a year. Show me an inflational model that doesn’t bear that out, and you have an argument. Bringing Captain Kirk into the discussion does nothing for your argument.

  86. Surely you’re not contending that money doesn’t buy political influence, are you?

    Why would he? Afterall, we got the money out of politics already. Next issue…

  87. Paul-

    you’re judging poverty by relative wealth instead of objective measures like resources. If everyone has food, water, shelter, security, then how are they impoverished? The point of the star trek analogy was to point out poverty deals with limited ammounts of scarce goods. But what if those ammounts are no longer limited?

    As to paris hilton my 2nd comment was designed to point out that some people hate her because they feel she doesn’t contribute as much to society as they do and yet she is improperly rewarded, that is different than envy which is essentially desiring that lifestyle for yourself.

  88. The point of the star trek analogy was to point out poverty deals with limited ammounts of scarce goods. But what if those ammounts are no longer limited?

    *sigh*

    Ok, people, gather ’round, and listen very, very carefully.

    A long long time ago, on this very planet, there was a time when very very few people had any material goods. As the world became more industrialised, more and more poor people (in these industrialized nations) have access to more and more material “wealth”. Now, I’m not going to go into a dissertation on the difference between money and wealth, because then you’ll have to sign up for my 200 level class.

    Anyhoo…

    There are very poor people, in this country, right now, as we speak who have 1: enough to eat (see obesity crisis amongst nations poor) 2: probably drive a car, 3: might even own a cell phone. Yet, they are, by all reasonable accounts, poor. I see and work around them every single day.

    The point that’s being horribly missed, stephen the goldberger is that poverty IS based on relative wealth, and nothing else.

    In the ancient world that I described above, who is poor amongst a group of people that live in mud huts, have no medical care, and move nomadically with the rains and herds? Who is poor where cars haven’t yet been invented, and the only mode of transport is by foot, or animal? It’s the guy who doesn’t have a mud hut, that’s poor. It’s the guy who doesn’t have a pack animal, that’s poor. It’s the guy who only has a pack animal, but doesn’t have a covered wagon, that’s poor.

    So, to abandon this subject of nano-technology machines, Star Trek, and distant galaxies and turn this battleship around back to the subject of a $40,000 minimum wage for all citizens, the guy who only has $40,000 is poor. The guy who has $400,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 is rich.

    But if you insist on making analogies with literary flights of fancy (see: Star Trek), read a book called “The Diamond Age” by Neal Stephenson where such devices existed. Guess what: his made-up world was full of poor people. I tend to think that Neal Stephenson had a more realistic picture of what life would be like if you could push a button and could make a “free” widget.

  89. You call this happiness? Surrounded by toadying lackeys and paid sycophants? Living with a love-goddess sex-bomb model megastar? You call this contentment? You know, I stand here now and I look at the two of us, and I ask one simple question: Who is the rich man? You, with your fifty-eight houses, your private island in the Bahamas, your multi-billion pound business empire; or me, with… with… with what, I’ve got. It’s you isn’t it? Yes it’s all very clear to me now. You — richer and happier. –Rimmer, Red Dwarf

  90. So what if you don’t own property, have no savings, are new in town, and don’t have a valuable skill or product?

    Do the four rich guys have any power over you?

    You mean besides refusing to sell you anything or give you a job. If they “pressure” others to refuse to sell you stuff or give you a job, then they would be clearly harming you which would make they subject to civil or criminal prosecution.

  91. I’m sure Reason will be happy for the self-reference… there’s a space-time continuum joke for you trekkies here, somewhere. Anyway, an interesting article on how wealth is no longer defined by “stuff”, or “material goods”.

    https://www.reason.com/news/show/120764.html

  92. Carrick,

    To continue down the analogy path…

    I have no savings, can’t find a house, don’t have friends, and I am gonna take these guys to court? Who will have the better lawyer? Who will be better able to leverage the limited power the government has in our hypothetical Minarchy?

    Would this Minarchy have a law that said the rich guys couldn’t negotiate services with the rest of the town and pay for a general shunning? Would that be a crime?

    What if this Minarchy had fewer guns and resources than the four rich guys. Could they get away with hiring thugs to beat me up? How would the Minarchy enforce rules against a better funded coalition within its midst?

  93. Mr. Bailey,

    I do not believe that income inequality per se is either an injustice or a hardship.

    I believe that poverty is an injustice and a hardship. I believe that unequal opportunity is an injustice. I believe that unequal access to and influence over government is an injustice. I believe that the latter two thingsd I just mentioned are very likely to lead to hardship for people holding the short end of the stick, and that the liklihood of that happening increases once wealth inequality grows beyond a certain level.

    But no, income inequality per se – the fact that Bill Gates can buy a Maserati and I can’t – is neither an injustice nor a hardship.

  94. Did Bill Gates and a number of other billionaires put together a political organization dedicated to promoting the Inheretance Tax because they were envious of somebody?

    It sure feels good to tell yourself that disagreeing with you about politics can only demonstrate your opponents’ personality flaws, but if you do it too much, you grow hair on your palms.

  95. jh writes, Of course most progressives hate varying levels of wealth — when those varying levels are earned by people who aren’t closet socialists. Listen to any liberal politician talk about “windfall profits” (i.e., “earnings”) or rage about CEO compensation, and tell me they don’t have a problem with income differences, even if the income differences fell on a normal bell-shaped curve of distributions.

    So in other words, you know that progressives’ concern about concentration of wealth stems from a desire to see absolute equality. And you know this, because they express concerns about the concentration of wealth.

    I know this game!

    That guy says that George Bush made a mistake invading Iraq.

    Yeah, but don’t listen to him. He’s a delusional Bush-hater.

    How do you know that he’s a delusional Bush-hater?

    Didn’t you hear? He says that George Bush made a mistake invading Iraq.

  96. Fluffy,

    The problem with trying to solve the problem of wealth buying political influence by limiting the influence of politics is that you can’t put a limited government in a magical limited-government-de-growing-machine. If they wealthy maintain their power to influence the government, they will change the government in a way that allows them to use it for their ends. And they will continue to be able to do this, because of the power their wealth buys them.

  97. carick,

    In what world does being unable to buy, sell, or work not harm a person?

  98. “So what if you don’t own property, have no savings, are new in town, and don’t have a valuable skill or product?

    Do the four rich guys have any power over you?”

    The proper question is STILL whether they would have MORE or LESS “power” in a libertarian system, or a system where political leaders routinely intervene in economic affairs.

    The 4 rich guys can attempt to convince everyone in town to blackball me from employment. It’s harder to do that if the labor market is free and I can undercut the other laborers in town to get my foot in the door if that’s necessary. It’s harder to do that if the market for goods and services is free and I can turn my car into a taxi without buying a medallion, or start a dog grooming business without a license, or start a child care business without a license. It’s much, much easier to simply dominate local politics to close all these avenues off to me than it is to do it with pure economic power.

    And you can continue to handicap the person in the example by making them too incompetent to do any of the things I mentioned, or any similar things. But at that point I have to say – if you’re so completely fucked up that you have nothing to contribute to anyone anywhere, how exactly are you EXPECTING to not be in a position of dependence? It’s not the rich guys that have “power” over you then, it’s your own lameness.

    Joe –

    The Constitution did a pretty good job for a while, before the two Roosevelts fucked it over. And it could be improved. The striking thing about the history of the scandals that marked, say, the Grant administration is how extremely petty they are compared to the systemic rent-seeking we see today in, for example, all real estate development nationwide.

    And if my failure to buy your labor is a “harm” I’m imposing on you, why isn’t your failure to buy my product a “harm” you’re imposing on me?

  99. “Lamar, then the lowest earers, regardless of their income would become the poverty line. Econ 101.”

    I was under the impression that this thought experiment controlled for this concept, i.e., the only “poverty” would be a relative poverty, not an inability to put food in the table.

  100. Fluffy,

    You ought to read up on the blackballing of labor activists in industrial towns during the glorious free market era of the mid-to-late 1800s. Yes, they can do that, and the concentration of wealth of that era, and the ability of those with concentrated wealth to collude unimpeded by government, made it easier for them to do so.

    And if my failure to buy your labor is a “harm” I’m imposing on you, why isn’t your failure to buy my product a “harm” you’re imposing on me?

    I suppose it could be, if my business was so essential to your economic well-being that you would be unable to keep a roof over your head without it.

  101. Ron:

    If every individual American was guaranteed an income of $40,000 annually (indexed perpetually for inflation), would it be a hardship or an injustice if some Americans earned $400,000, or $4 million, or $400 million per year?

    Certainly not a hardship cuz it’s indexed for cost inflation. So even if half the folks in the country were making $4 million, which would mean higher prices, there would be no hardship possible.

    The only injustices would be 1) That folks are guaranteed $40,000 of other folks money. 2) If, and to the degree that, the folks making the larger sums got it thru involuntary (government or crime) means.

  102. In what world does being unable to buy, sell, or work not harm a person?

    You have a short attention span joe. I said that if the 4 rich guys pressured all the other residents of the town to prevent you from buying, selling, or working that they should be prosecuted.

    Whereas if the individually decide not to do business with you they are not harming you.

  103. So to summarize:

    You are a homeless, penniless, bastard with little to no marketable skills.

    You move to a new town hoping for a change of luck.

    You have no right to expect the town council will tax the four richest guys in town to provide you with food and shelter.

    You have no right to expect the town council to force the four richest guys in town to do business with you if they don’t want to.

    You do have a right to expect that the town council will prevent the four richest guys in town from interfering with your attempts to do business with the other residents of the town.

    In short, you can expect that the role of government is to prevent any individual from interfering with you exercising your rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. However, you do not have a right to expect government to help you catch up if you born at the wrong time or in the wrong place or to the wrong parents or whatever.

  104. Neu Mejican:

    So what if you don’t own property, have no savings, are new in town, and don’t have a valuable skill or product?

    So how was the person getting along in the old location? Whatever, government or crime are not ethical recourses! Charity is fair cuz it’s voluntary.

    Government welfare programs tend to harm prosperity cuz they sap capital. Government welfare also harms the ethical fiber of the recipients cuz they get the idea that they somehow have a “right” to other folks’ money, rather than having to depend on the voluntary patronage in some form or other to make money.

  105. I think most progressives hate inequality. But I think most people hate it too, especially when they feel it is not “deserved.” And most people actually do feel that the inequality they meet with was achieved through some unfair means (and not without some reason, I mean even libertarians would acknowledge how many use rent seeking tricks to get rich “unfairly”). But if they actually thought that guy x worked twice as hard as guy y I don’t think most people would be too upset with the former making twice as much.
    I thought most serious progressives had made their peace with inequality per se after Rawls acknowldged that incentives are conducive to the greater good and that you can’t have incentives without some inequality. But many still feel, and I think quite rightly here, that income and wealth largely translate into how many options a person has in life (what a person is “free” to do, in a positive sense [I know, I know, many libertarians only recognize negative or “freedom from”]) and that a guy with a million dollars has a lot more life choices available to him than a guy who makes $40,000. Now the Rawlsian would point out, is that fair? I mean, lets say the former guy made more because of his free choice to work 100 hours a week and the other guy freely chose to loaf. Anyone who thinks that is unfair strikes me as odd. But let’s now say the rich guy is rich because his parents were and he had obvious advantages the other guy did not. I think anyone who finds that distribution fair to be odd. In the middle are situations like this: what if the rich guy is rich because he was born smarter, or with a better singing voice. Does this stroke of fate warrant him having twenty times the life choices of the other guy? I mean, you can’t choose your IQ or singing ability, and to some degree you cannot even improve them (read the Bell Curve).

  106. “Government welfare also harms the ethical fiber of the recipients cuz they get the idea that they somehow have a “right” to other folks’ money, rather than having to depend on the voluntary patronage in some form or other to make money.
    Rick, do you really think that? Having to depend on the voluntary patronage of others not only does not strike me as any more conducive to creating moral fiber than the government dole (the former tends to bread incredible shame, trapped dependency and low self-esteem), but also puts some folks into a position to abuse people who depend on them for the charity (which often forces a person to choose between their dignity and feeding their kids).
    I agree wholeheartedly that a feeling of entitlement is not good for anyone, and that certain scamps have worked to try to foster in many groups a sense of entitlement to government (read: other people’s) money. But voluntary charity has plenty of moral fiber deflating tendencies as well, and in addition it is not as “rationalized” by public law traditions and the anonymity.

  107. But let’s now say the rich guy is rich because his parents were and he had obvious advantages the other guy did not.

    So what!

    I think anyone who finds that distribution fair to be odd.

    Life isn’t fair. Fair has nothing to do it. The role of government is not to undo the unfairness of life. Any effort by the government to resolve one unfairness will only create a new unfairness. And this new unfairness is not the result of random bad luck, but is the result of intentional actions by the state.

    The role of government must be limited to enforcing the rules, where the rules are created to minimize conflict between free individual pursuing there own lives, liberties, and happiness.

  108. Fluffy,

    The Constitution did a pretty good job for a while, before the two Roosevelts fucked it over.

    Bull. Let me take you back to the glorious, pre-Roosevelt free market capitalist utopia of the 1870s. In one notable Supreme Court ruling, the Court held that homeowners whose houses were destroyed by the tunnelling of the mining companies who owned sub-surface mineral rights did not have a legal recourse to recover damages, and that state laws that created such a recourse were infringing on the property rights of the mine owners.

    In another notable case from the same period, the Court ruled that a factory which was dumping so much soot on a neighboring apartment house that its residents were getting sick and its owner was unable to rent the rooms could not sue for trespass, because doing so would – you guessed it – violate the property rights of the factory owners.

    So yes, even with a government system which pledged allegiance to property rights uber alles, the rich were still able to bring the government to bear to push people around.

  109. I said that if the 4 rich guys pressured all the other residents of the town to prevent you from buying, selling, or working that they should be prosecuted.

    Whereas if the individually decide not to do business with you they are not harming you.

    So if I’m homeless, penniless, and unable to secure a job, no harm no foul, as long as I can’t prove that the employers shutting me out were collaborating.

    No, that’s not fair. You aren’t saying that I haven’t been harmed. You’re just saying you don’t give a crap.

    One side of this argument about harms is discussing people, and whether they are being hurt. The other side is using overly-cute weasel words to define away the harm those people are suffering.

  110. You have no right to expect the town council will tax the four richest guys in town to provide you with food and shelter.

    You have no right to expect the town council to force the four richest guys in town to do business with you if they don’t want to.

    You do have a right to expect that the town council will prevent the four richest guys in town from interfering with your attempts to do business with the other residents of the town.

    Thus sayethe carrick, the Giver of Law and the Definer of Rights, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end, amen.

  111. “I suppose it could be, if my business was so essential to your economic well-being that you would be unable to keep a roof over your head without it.”

    Joe, do you realize how asinine that is?

    That would mean that if you had a really, really shitty business that made a shoddy product and gave terrible service, and I was your only customer, and because of your lame business habits you could never get another customer, I’d be “harming” you if I stopped being your customer. But if you had a great business with a great product and great service and could get plenty of customers, I would not be “harming” you if I stopped being your customer. So I’m a bad, power-abusing rich guy precisely to the degree that you’re a piece of dung who doesn’t deserve my business. That CAN’T be right.

    “I think anyone who finds that distribution fair to be odd.”

    The right of the loafing guy to have the money isn’t an issue. If his parents earned it, it’s theirs and it’s fair that it’s theirs. Once it’s theirs, they can use it for whatever purpose they want, and it stays fair. If they give it to their worthless loafer son, it stays fair. If they give it to charity or use it to support the arts or stray dogs or to fight global warming, all of that is fair too.

  112. You ought to read up on the blackballing of labor activists in industrial towns during the glorious free market era of the mid-to-late 1800s.

    Yeah, joe, I can’t imagine why an employer would not want to employ a statist agitator who would try to get everyone to join a labor union and encourage them to go on strike, and maybe vote in politicians who would put all sorts of restrictions on the ability of employers to freely negotiate wages and working conditions. Seems like those agitators would be valuable employees that all the employers in town would scramble over themselves to hire. The agitators had every right under those circumstances to complain about being “blackballed”, thus preventing the otherwise inevitable bidding war from developing for their valuable services. :p

  113. The role of government is not to undo the unfairness of life.

    This is the Word of Our Lord.

    Thanks be to Mises.

    You don’t care about fairness as a moral imperitive? I don’t care about noninterference in economic activity as a moral imperitive.

    We appear to be at a stalemate. Competing sets of values. See you at the ballot box.

  114. “One side of this argument about harms is discussing people, and whether they are being hurt. The other side is using overly-cute weasel words to define away the harm those people are suffering.”

    When you use harm as a verb, it’s an active verb. As in “Fluffy harmed Joe.” That means that if you’re born with no arms and no legs and no eyes and no ears and the brain of a lizard, and can’t support yourself as a result, I’m not “harming” you if I don’t support you, because I didn’t DO any of that shit to you.

    I won’t dispute that you’re suffering if you’re hungry and can’t get a job. What I’m disputing is whether I FUCKING DID IT TO YOU. But that doesn’t matter to you, because you’ve stated before, over and over, that justice doesn’t matter to you.

  115. Fluffy,

    That CAN’T be right.

    No, it’s not right. Who said all harms were wrong? Who said all harms need to be redressed? I run a lousy business, you take your business elsewhere, I’ve been harmed.

    You’re defining harm as something a bad person does that’s bad; it’s a harm based on the moral standing of the act and the person committing it.

    I’m not. I’m defining harm from the standpoint of the person being harmed.

    At this point, I’d hope you’d realize that when something I write strikes you funny, it’s not because I’m stupid, but because we aren’t sympatico in our values systems and ways of seeing the world.

  116. Yeah, joe, I can’t imagine why an employer would not want to…

    First of all, I’d change the subject, too, if I was trying to argue that employers didn’t have immense amounts of power in the pre-modern, laissez-faire Gilded Age society. I’d probably try to change it to why what the powerful employers wanted was unimpeachably right.

    Second, oh, ok, if it’s what the most wealthy people in town wanted, then I guess that’s ok, then. Great ethical system you’ve got there.

  117. Fluffy,

    I don’t think that people who are suffering can be cast aside by muttering “Not my problem.” They are human beings and entitled to decent treatment from every single one of us.

    I care about justice a hell of a lot more than you – I just don’t define it as “I got mine, screw you buddy.”

  118. Fluffy,

    We don’t collect taxes to help the poor to punish people who pay taxes. We don’t collect taxes to help the poor to save the souls of taxpayers.

    We collect taxes to help the poor to – wait for it – HELP THE POOR.

    Aw, did you have to get the cloth seats instead of leather, so that a few dumb kids you don’t even know can live in apartments that don’t have peeling lead paint? That’s the price you pay for living in a civilized society. Those kids could easily be you.

  119. “You’re defining harm as something a bad person does that’s bad; it’s a harm based on the moral standing of the act and the person committing it.”

    Uh – yeah. In the context of this thread we’ve been using the word “harm” in the sense of a harm that is actionable and requires redress. So were you when you jumped in to the whole “harm” question:

    “So if I’m homeless, penniless, and unable to secure a job, no harm no foul, as long as I can’t prove that the employers shutting me out were collaborating.”

    But if now you’re saying, “Hey, I include cloudy days in my definition of harm and I’m not saying all harms need to be redressed,” then fine. We’ll set aside and ignore the harms that don’t need to be redressed, since they, you know, don’t need to be redressed.

  120. So in other words, you know that progressives’ concern about concentration of wealth stems from a desire to see absolute equality. And you know this, because they express concerns about the concentration of wealth.

    No, joe, I know this because I’ve sat through committee hearings where statist liberals said they wanted everyone to get equal pay for unequal job descriptions and unequal work loads. Not everyone is as coy as you about their dreams of a socialist workers paradise. Not all statists are quite this clueless about economics, but a fair chunk are.

    But nice strawman attempt with the bit about “absolute equality”.

  121. Thought I’d translate joespeak for y’all:

    We collect taxes use thugs with guns to rob others, keep some for ourselves, and give some of the swag to politically powerful groups to help the poor less wealthy to – wait for it – HELP THE POOR POLITICALLY ADVANTAGED CLASSES STEAL.

    Aw, did you have to get the cloth seats instead of leather, so that a few dumb kids you don’t even know can live in apartments that don’t have peeling lead paint? steal from you? That’s the price you pay for living in a civilized society kleptocracy defended by statists feigning compassion.

  122. Thus sayethe carrick, the Giver of Law and the Definer of Rights, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end, amen.

    No joe, it was a pretty straightforward description of libertarian philosophy which I know you don’t give a rat’s ass for. So why do you come here?

    You don’t care about fairness as a moral imperitive?

    I didn’t say that, I said it was not the role of government to address unfairness. It is the role of free individuals to address the unfairness in life. You do comprehend the concept of individual responsibility don’t you?

    I don’t care about noninterference in economic activity as a moral imperitive.

    You have made this point ad nauseum.

    We appear to be at a stalemate.

    I wasn’t trying to convince you, that would be a pointless exercise.

    Competing sets of values.

    Most definitely.

    See you at the ballot box.

    As it should be.

  123. “I care about justice a hell of a lot more than you – I just don’t define it as ‘I got mine, screw you buddy.'”

    No, you define it as forcing people not responsible for harms to redress those harms.

    You define it as forcing people to ameliorate “suffering”, even if they weren’t the ones who created it.

    This is EXACTLY as if [not even just analogous, but identical to] setting up a system of criminal justice where you can bring any random person in off the street and punish them for any crime.

    You know what? The stereo I bought from Best Buy doesn’t work. I’ve been harmed and I’m out 400 bucks. Now, I could bring the stereo back to Best Buy and get my money back, but I think you should pay me my 400 bucks instead, Joe. Because I’ve been harmed here and it doesn’t matter who’s actually responsible. I’m a real person and I’ve suffered a real harm and if you say it’s not your fault those are just pretty words you’re using to hide from my harm.

  124. Carrick, we might be equivocating here. You of course believe that government should be policing fairness, you even say “The role of government must be limited to enforcing the rules.” So you recognize a set of behaviors that would be “unfair” that government should prevent or address. If I bopped you on the head and took your property I bet you’d think government could come and rectify this unfairness.
    Now you might want to claim that inequality resulting from one guy taking something from another is morally different than ineuqality resulting from one guy being given a ton by his dad and another being shafted by his. I mean, that first guy didn;t ask to get bopped on the head and robbed, but you know, the other guy did not ask to have a crappy day (and the rich guy did not do anything to deserve the rich dad). So I’m not convinced that the inherited millionaire is not an unfair one. I might go as far with you to say that it may be one of the unfair situations that government should probably stay out of trying to fix (for example Selma Hayeks refusal to let me ball her till she walks funny).

    “If they give it to their worthless loafer son, it stays fair.” Fluffy, I’m gonna have to call for a reason to justify that assertion, because it strikes me as not only odd, but that it would strike most people as odd. Not odd that a person should have the right to leave whatever inheritance they rightly make to whoever. But wrong that guy x is twenty times richer simply because of who his daddy was. He did nothing to “deserve” to have a rich daddy, hence he did nothing to “deserve” to have his daddy’s largesse. Sure, he was plainly lucky, but luck don’t usually=deserve in most people’s moral calculus.

    Imagine you are in a soap box derby, where each contestant will be pushed by his father. You line up with your average sized, hard working father, and your opponent lines up with Lou Ferrigno in his early days pushing. He creams you because his dad pushed waaay harder. Now of course these things happen, life’s not always fair, yadayda. But was that race between you two fair in any way? Heck, if the race had been between the two fathers that would be more likely fair (unless we want to talk of Lou’s luckily superior genetics or, ahem, enhancement). But the pushes were unequal, they were arbitrary (in the sense that each person did not get the push the “deserved” relative to their efforts, desire, etc.) and therfore unfair under any conceptual understanding of that word I’m familiar with…

  125. Fluffy,

    I was not defining harm in terms of the moral status of the person who did the harm. Not in that quote, not ever. You just read into it. Heck, I think society should help people who get mauled by bears, and I ain’t got nuffin against bears.

    Once again, we don’t collect taxes to help poor people because we think that taxpayers have done anything wrong. You’re conflating quite a bit under the term “actionable.” I don’t want to take put anyone in jail becasue people are poor, anymore than I want to put pepole in jail because an old road is bumpy. Nonetheless, the government should take action.

  126. jh,

    Socialist workers’ paradise? And then you follow that up by accusing me of a strawman argument?

    Good night.

  127. “Imagine you are in a soap box derby, where each contestant will be pushed by his father. You line up with your average sized, hard working father, and your opponent lines up with Lou Ferrigno in his early days pushing. He creams you because his dad pushed waaay harder. Now of course these things happen, life’s not always fair, yadayda. But was that race between you two fair in any way?”

    But that race isn’t between the two of you. It’s between the four of you.

    Saying it’s unfair that the other kid has Lou Ferrigno as a dad is like saying that Kevin Millar should give his World Series ring back, because he sucks and the only reason he has a ring is because the other guys on his team were good.

    “Not odd that a person should have the right to leave whatever inheritance they rightly make to whoever. But wrong that guy x is twenty times richer simply because of who his daddy was.”

    These statements are mutually exclusive. If the first sentence is true, the second can’t be. If the first is true, the only person who gets to decide if guy X “deserves” the money is the person who gave it to him. If the first is true, the gift is self-justifying as soon as the giver makes the decision to make it.

  128. carrick,

    So why do you come here? To argue with smart people who disagree with me. Have you ever read the stuff on Repubican sites like Red State? Where else am I to go?

    I didn’t say that, I said it was not the role of government to address unfairness.

    Um, let’s go to the tape:

    “carrick | August 24, 2007, 9:00pm | #

    But let’s now say the rich guy is rich because his parents were and he had obvious advantages the other guy did not.

    So what!

    I think anyone who finds that distribution fair to be odd.

    Life isn’t fair. Fair has nothing to do it.”

    You then brought up the issue of govenrment – not your interlocutor, but you, carrick. He mentioned that a certain situation was unfair, and you replied “So what!” He said that something wasn’t fair, and you replied with “Life isn’t fair.” And you want to pretend that you value fairness? Bullshit.

  129. “We collect taxes use thugs with guns to rob others, keep some for ourselves, and give some of the swag to politically powerful groups to help the poor less wealthy to – wait for it – HELP THE POOR POLITICALLY ADVANTAGED CLASSES STEAL.”
    Hey, jh, and some of the others. I’ve heard Locke thrown around on H&R, and then I see things like this. I’ve read a little Locke. Locke beleived in a social contract, right? That, due to the precariousness of the state of nature, people entered into compacts to have the government, which they would choose by consent, become like the ultimate third man and referee. Now when the people voluntarily agreed they gave up their right to decide their own cases in life and agreed to obey the majority decisions of the government provided they always had a say in the making of the laws (that consent thing again).
    In this sense are’nt we all part of this contract? We are all enjoying the benefits from being out of the state of nature (which I imagine would be like that old sci-fi flick A boy and his dog), and we all have a voice in whether we get taxed and how much. If you now say taxation, which you had a say in determining, is just theft shouldn’t you back out of the contract altogether (stay off the highways, homeschool your kids, etc)? Curious as to how libertrians deal with Locke on this…Open to the idea that I’ve badly misread him, or maybe libs don’t give a fig for him (no reason I geuss why they necessarily should)…

  130. “I don’t want to take put anyone in jail becasue people are poor”

    Perhaps. But you couldn’t collect the taxes to give to the poor without filling the federal prisons with people who decide not to pay, and without the threat of those prisons to induce everyone else to pay.

    Ultimately, every last government action is only possible because the state is willing to imprison or kill people who won’t comply. That to me is a compelling reason to limit actions taken by the state on behalf of individual citizens to remedying concrete harms with identifiable guilty parties.

  131. Fluffy,

    As much as you clearly value money, paying progressive taxes is not remotely comporable to being prosecuted and jailed.

    And if an actual person does you harm, that person has a moral obligation to redress that harm. That is a different point, and a different moral obligation, than the one all people have towards their fellows.

    If someone burns down your house, he is responsible for making restitution. Until that happens, if your kids are homeless, every human being who is aware of it has an obligation to help out – not buy you a new home, but contribute to the safety net that exists to help people going through a tough time.

    Two different points, two different obligations, two different levels and types of responsibility.

  132. It is unfair that Kevin Millar has a World Series ring, but Stanley Morgan never got a Superbowl ring.

    What should the govenrment do about this? Nothing. But it still isn’t fair. Something doesn’t become fair because you don’t wish to see the government intervene, nor vice-versa.

    You should let your policy prescriptions flow from your understanding of the world, not make your understanding of the world dependent on how well it makes the case for your preferred government policies.

    If you haven’t figured that out, I’ve got some Russian geneticists who’d like a word with you.

  133. Why should I pay to repave a road on the other side of town, that I’ve never used, just so other people can use it?

    So that we can have a roadway system, that’s why.

    Why should I pay taxes to help the poor, when I’ve done nothing to make them poor?

    So that we can have a safety net, that’s why.

  134. Fluffy
    The rich father’s freedom justifys his gift. It may not justify the subsequent situation where we have one guy who is super wealthy through no achievement of his own and another who is super poor through no fault of his own.

    Some more examples readily come to mind: you and I are racing (a race with no rules but to win). As we are racing your hard work looks to be about the win the day when I notice that Professor Frink has left a pair of rocket skates behind a bush. I strap them on and whip you. Did I deserve to win? Was my win fair? Again, I think to say yes to both is extremely odd, at odds with what most normal people would instantly think.
    When people beat people through hard work, shrewdness, etc. we tend to think they deserved their win and the spoils. When one wins through sheer arbitrary luck we tend to think not. DO you really think people “deserve” what they get from arbitrary luck?
    If you want to understand any serious progressive since Rawls you have to understand this idea: they don’t want to see any inequality that came from this luck. Now one’s man luck may not be another man’s luck: Rawls thought it unfair that one person would be born cripple and that for him to then make less than one not was unfair (and that government could do something about this, like the ADA). But it can go pretty far: he seems to imply that even advantages in areas like looks make the world unfair to the point that perhaps action should be taken…Regardless of his excesses, he’s on to something that fairness is something that ties rewards to actions, not luck…

  135. If government just took its jackboot off the necks of the poor the resulting society would be a lot more equal, without having to gerrymander things purposefully to force an artifical equality. First, get rid of protectionist licensure laws that serve no rational purpose other than to raise prices and keep large numbers of people from making an honest living, like requiring would-be legal advisors to spend three years in law school, cabbies in NYC to obtain a medallion, hair braiders to obtain a cosmetology license, etc, etc. Then, implement the Georgist “single-tax” on the unimproved value of land, which is not only the most economically efficient tax but is grounded in everyone’s equal natural birthright to the use of the earth (Google “geolibertarian” for some good articles and FAQs). This tax amounts to a community collection of the rent value created by society as a whole, and is in part compensation for the disinheritance of the landless from their natural equal right to the earth, so it would be within the realm of justice to not only spend the revenue from the single-tax on public goods like police protection, but to also provide lump sum payments to the disenfranchised, say on their 21st birthday, in line with the suggestion of Thomas Paine in his essay Agrarian Justice.

    It also is within the realm of justice to tax inheritances, since if you think about it, what natural property rights does a dead guy have? “Left libertarians” like Hillel Steiner and Peter Vallentyne have also pointed out that society is not naturally and absolutely compelled to recognize the claims of rights in property received by gift. While it would be stupid and inhumane to drastically tax gifts, a modest tax on gifts is not per se unjust, particularly if it is part and parcel of an inheritance tax system and since the gift-giver by the very making of the gift has demonstrated that he doesn’t need the gifted property for his own financial security.

    Finally, IF we’re going to have income taxes at all, they should be levied only on income exceeding the median (or better yet mean) family income. There is something to the argument that the very possibility of earning income on the scale it is possible to earn it today is due to the infrastructure provided by society as a whole (including government infrastructure) and to the argument made by Teddy Roosevelt that those with a lot of wealth to lose benefit more from the protection provided by government than those with little to lose.

    What is “absurd” (according to Adam Smith, for example) and outrageously unjust and totally unacceptable is taxing income below the median, which amounts to taxation on the necessities of life, defined broadly per Adam Smith in the Wealth of Nations. Goverment is by far the greatest cause of poverty in the U.S. today.

  136. I saw A Boy and His Dog.

    It’s fun, because you really don’t mind seeing bad things happen to Don Johnson.

  137. “That is a different point, and a different moral obligation, than the one all people have towards their fellows.”

    Then by the terms of your own argument you’re a dreadful moral failure, so I guess I don’t need to listen to your opinion. Why would I listen to someone who is failing so utterly at what they themselves identify as their state of moral obligation?

    “It is unfair that Kevin Millar has a World Series ring”

    Wow, apparently there’s no example I can use that’s outlandish enough that you won’t agree with it.

    Baseball is a team sport. The championship is awarded to the team.

    It’s perfectly fair. Definitionally fair.

    “The rich father’s freedom justifys his gift. It may not justify the subsequent situation where we have one guy who is super wealthy through no achievement of his own and another who is super poor through no fault of his own.”

    It can’t do one without doing the other.

    In an exchange economy, there are going to be exchanges you don’t think are sensible. Say you think Faberge eggs are stupid. It might strike you as absurd that a person would pay huge sums of money in exchange for a Faberge egg. Your opinion of the absurdity doesn’t really matter, however, because the only opinion that matters is the opinion of the person making the purchasing decision. The guy with the Faberge eggs deserves the money he gets in exchange for them. Similarly, you may think that it’s stupid for someone to exchange large sums of money for the satisfaction of raising and providing for their offspring. But that doesn’t really matter. If some rich guy wants to waste his money on his worthless son, that transaction is just as justifiable as any other free transaction. If the worthless son doesn’t deserve his money, neither does anyone else who was involved in an economic exchange with the rich guy. You may dispute that this is an “exchange”, because you don’t see what the rich guy is getting from his worthless son. But you don’t have to see it, as long as the rich guy sees it.

    “If you want to understand any serious progressive since Rawls you have to understand this idea: they don’t want to see any inequality that came from this luck. Now one’s man luck may not be another man’s luck: Rawls thought it unfair that one person would be born cripple and that for him to then make less than one not was unfair (and that government could do something about this, like the ADA). But it can go pretty far: he seems to imply that even advantages in areas like looks make the world unfair to the point that perhaps action should be taken…Regardless of his excesses, he’s on to something that fairness is something that ties rewards to actions, not luck…”

    Well, if someone has extraordinary intellectual talent “naturally”, you might say that’s luck. But if that talent produces something of value, it doesn’t matter if it’s based on luck. What matters is that it’s produced something of value.

    I think one problem with the concept of merit that we’ve inherited is that it relies far too heavily on the concept of effort and not enough on the concept of product. If some natural-born genius dicks around and doesn’t work very hard and produces the cure for cancer, that is of more “merit” than an average guy busting his ass working hard 16 hours a day and producing a cure for restless leg syndrome.

    The problem with Rawls right at the outset is that game theory is not an appropriate tool to apply to the question of justice. Particularly when an element of your thought experiment is the withholding of information. This should be obvious to any college freshman familiar with the prisoner’s dilemma thought experiment, which is the example usually employed to teach game theory to freshmen. The prisoner’s dilemma produces the same outcome whether the prisoner is innocent or guilty. That should be enough to demonstrate that the application of game theory produces, not justice, but the outcome desired by the designer of the game, whether that designer is a criminal prosecutor or a Harvard professor.

  138. Huh?

    Definitionally fair?

    Dreadful moral failure?

    Post sober.

  139. It’s a fantastic idea (assuring everyone of a guaranteed lower middle class income that is adjusted for inflation.

    Most businesses could do just as well with half their employees.At least 25% of all employees don’t do anything useful anyway and a lot of them have a negative impact with their peevish personalities anyway. They’d jump at the chance to veg out for the rest of their lives. So let ’em. Who knows? One of them might write a poem or something.

    Another 25% work hard but are so disagreeable that you don’t want them around anyway. They should be out starting their own business but they are too damned scared to quit. Now they can.

    This leaves you with a mostly productive and agreeable 50% who will produce just as much (maybe more now that they aren’t worried about asking for help with their computer from some 20’s slacker who is a computer expert because he knows how to pronounce “server”, or because they don’t have to service the twit who plugged his printer into the SCSI port–this happened back when right here where I work and it was a computer tech who did this to all the new apples). So why should you give all these people $40 k per annum? So they can buy your stuff. You just had better fire the right people, cuz if you fire the people who can help you, they’ll become your competitors.

    Of the 25% self starters who leave, half of them are idiots–they work hard but their businesses will fail because they have stupid unworkable ideas or because they want everyone to give power point presentations or make up SWOT analyses–you know you don’t need these folks. This leaves 12.5% who will refresh the business climate by competing with you.

    What you do need is a couple of other things–one is you gotta tear down barriers to starting new businesses, someone mentioned cab medallions as an example of this a few posts up. Another thing is that you need some kind of easy and fair tax to fund the freeloaders. Probably also you need to rein in the accrediting bodies–someone mentioned this as well.

    But I’d gladly pay taxes to rid me of the drones and mosquitos. They’d be happier in their own state of grace too.

    Look–the basic reason we have welfare and social programs is that businesses need a ready source of cheap labor to hire during boom times and need to be able to get rid of it during recessions without conditions becoming so bad that enough social unrest would bubble up so as to threaatentheir cushy lives. So why not get rid of all the moralizing and ugliness and just let everyone take a breather on welfare when they have the urge? They are sucking you dry anyway and making your life unhappy while they do it–so why not just formalize and civilize the arrangement (sort of like twin beds for a bad marriage)?

  140. paul-

    no you are missing the point. Of course there would be people who are considered poorer than others, that comes from the fact that there is unequal distribution of wealth, and of course we could call these people poor. That’s irrelevent. The question is this. Is what really matters to these people not their actual problems stemming from poverty, but instead the fact that they have problems stemming from poverty that no one else has, hence they are consumed with envy of other members of society.

    If they are able to take care of all their basic wants and needs and avoid starvation, malnutrition, etc then would that be a true hardship and injustice because others have it even better?

  141. I realized my previous comments never really answered Mr. Bailey. So here goes.

    Human psychology will always dictate that some people that have a significant amount less will always want something someone who is rich has.

    Take healthcare for example. We can cure all known diseases and allow the poor to live a perfectly healthy normal life, but if someone develops a gene repairing drug that doubles the life of billionaires, there will be an argument as to whether the poor should gain access to such a drug.

    The goalpost is constantly moving on what is fair or not, but in the end, the real argument is should those at the bottom be appeased by those at the top to reduce societal unrest. Everything else is semantics. There is no equality, there is only appeasement and bribery.

  142. I don’t particularly care about fairness, but inherited wealth is kind of dicey. If you don’t know anybody who knew anybody who knew the person who actually gained the wealth, you should have to fend for yourself. This is what the rule against perpetuities attempts to guard against. It isn’t some newfangled commie rule, either. It’s a reasonable (in theory….in practice, whoooo boy) rule that guards capitalism against sloth.

  143. Lamar,

    I don’t understand the concept of sloth, except in a strictly personal fashion. Money is not lazy unless its just sitting under a mattress. Just because the main benefactor is not having to do much to maintain the wealth doesn’t mean another individual has the right to deprive that person of passed on property, or should we take that to the extreme and conclude that everyone should have to purchase from the government what their relatives left in death?

    If I were to worry about some people having alot of money, I’d worry that they use the money to prevent others from achieving what they have, denying equal opportunity. Paris Hilton worries me alot less than Rupert Murdoch, even though Murdoch is arguably more deserving of the money. My only solution to that is that there needs to be enough wealthy factions in a country to prevent oligarchal structures from forming. Other than that, wealth of others holds no envy from me.

  144. Libertarianism, like socialism, is a nice theory applied to the wrong species.

  145. Now when the people voluntarily agreed they gave up their right to decide their own cases in life and agreed to obey the majority decisions of the government provided they always had a say in the making of the laws (that consent thing again).
    In this sense are’nt we all part of this contract?

    Show me the contract I signed. Show me the document where I gave my explicit consent. There is no effing contract, Mr. Nice Guy. There is a gang of thieves who steal from me and say it is all legit because they held an election and the people I didn’t vote for won by getting the majority of the votes of other thieves who split the loot with them. How is that consent? The closest thing we have to a contract is the Constitution, that no one alive voted on, and that is being trampled all over.

    We all have a voice in whether we get taxed and how much

    Really? I missed the election where they had a referendum on whether we want to get taxed or not. I somehow don’t recall ANY politicians at any level except Ron Paul talking about the possibility of eliminating taxes. I missed the election where they allowed us to vote on the level of taxation. In fact, in Hawaii, they threw out a referendum that would have allowed us to vote on whether to lower taxes.

    Open to the idea that I’ve badly misread him

    Are you also open to the possibility that he is not the final authority on what constitutes a libertarian, or that anyone is?

  146. Hey, the dreadful moral failure stuff was a cheap shot, but it’s the appropriate cheap shot for the argument.

    You asserted a moral obligation on the part of every human being to attend to the needs of every other human being insofar as they are able. If that obligation does in fact exist, you’ve either met it, or you haven’t met it, personally. Since you were posting on a message board with me on a Friday night instead of washing the feet of widows in India with your own tears, I am assuming that you haven’t met it.

    The usual counterargument to this point would be to claim that you only meant that you have a moral obligation to pay a few bucks in taxes, and that the rest of your free resources and time aren’t subject to the obligation. It’s hard to see how you can draw that line, however. Either the obligation is there or it isn’t. Either you’re able to continue to offer more help or you aren’t.

    And as for the definitionally fair thing, it’s utterly obvious and you’re being deliberately obtuse. The World Series championship is a team victory by definition. If you received a World Series ring because you had the lowest goals against average in the National Hockey League, that would not fit the definition. The goalie might be a great guy and a world-class athlete, but there’s already an award for his achievement and it’s not a World Series ring. Ernie Banks gets to be in the Hall of Fame, and gets to be eternally loved by Cubs fans. Those are the appropriate rewards for his achievements. A World Series ring is not. You seem to think there is some version of “fair” by which people receive awards that don’t fit the definition of the award, and that’s a bit silly.

  147. Uh uh uh, Fluffy. I didn’t claim “insofar as they are able.” I don’t believe the responsibility extends to the limit of one’s ability to give.

    “It’s hard to see where to draw the line” isn’t a terribly compelling argument. You can use some common sense, and society can arrive at a rough consensus. We can play the “Why is 65 a better speed limit than 64?” game all month, but it still doesn’t amount to a compelling argument against having a speed limit.

  148. Your confusing approval over a transaction with approval over the status created by that transaction. I may think it is stupid for a rich guy to give his money to his ne’erdo-well son. But that is a seperate question as to whether it is then fair that the son and a comparison son have unequal life chances, and ones that are not connected to merit in any sense. The first question is, can people make exchanges with their own stuff? The second issue is, is it fair for someone to have more lifechances than another because of the blind luck of things like the kind of exchanges we just discussed (or worse, because of things like birth defects).
    Yes, most of us (meaning human beings) tend to tie our ideas of “justice” to “deserves”, and we think of that in terms of “effort.” I’m afraid the burden is on you fluffy to demonstrate why something so phenomonologically odd as thinking of fairness and desserts in terms of outcomes should be accepted. If someone is walking down a path picking his nose and trips over a gold bar most people would agree he is lucky, but how many people would say “boy, that guy really deserves that gold bar” or “it is emmintently just that this guy found that gold bar rather than the trained mettalurgist who has been spending 50 hours a week carefully searching for it.” I said, and will say, that’s a bizarre way to look at justice. I mean that empirically (in the sense that the vast majority of people naturally don’t think that way) and normatively (in the sense that they shouldn’t think that way, that merit should entail a tie of results to ones efforts [broadly defined to include the idea that one should often “work smart” rather than hard when appropriate).

  149. jh-I sympathize with your point of view, as social contract theory has never been a fav of mine. I did not mean to imply that you or any libertarian had to follow Locke, just that I’ve seen his name thrown around here on H&R and I was curious as to how libertarians squared that. I appreciate your explanation of how you do. I would say that a Lockean would probably say that you signed the contract by remaining in this nation under its protection recieving its services after you reached adulthood. You could have moved to another nation, and in doing so affirmed a contract with that one. Now, before you say, hey, there is a limited number of nations, they all suck, and/or why should I have to move, I remind you that the same thing could be said to those libertarians who oppose any worker protections by saying “you are always free to contract with another employer, even if it means moving.”

  150. “The problem with Rawls right at the outset is that game theory is not an appropriate tool to apply to the question of justice. Particularly when an element of your thought experiment is the withholding of information.”

    I disagree, though I’m going to hold open the idea that I’m misreading your argument here.
    Rawls thought experiment is simply designed to make people exclude factors about themselves that are utlimately morally irrelevant (my skin color, whether I am disabled, whether I have a rich uncle, etc., again, things not tied to ones free choices or their efforts) when designing structural policy around us. For example, if you were designing a fair society, and you had to make rules about race, if you did not know whether you were going to be black or white you would make rules that would be much fairer to all across the board. I’m afraid I agree with Rawls that having a rich uncle is like skin color, an arbitrary classification which should not effect your life chances in a fair world. Rawls concept is actually just plain common sense: when thinking about fairness we should not consider whether certain rules will favor us due to our individual characteristics but instead develop neutral policies. I’ve always wondered why the hate on Rawls. The man made incentives and inequality (albeit limited) acceptable to the serious left. You really have to be a glass half empty libertarian to not see that as progress from Beatrice Webb…
    BTW-overall value is a valid concept, but can’t be the whole story. Pottersville probably had the same value created as Bedford Falls, but who thinks the former a better society than the latter?

    {sorry for the triple post, should have addressed all those who addressed me in one big-ass post]

  151. Here is the basis of the hate of Rawls:

    I alluded to the problem with the prisoner’s dilemma in my post above, which is my view is the problem with ALL game theory approaches. I’ll go into that in more detail because that illuminates the entire point.

    If you have two prisoners who have been arrested and charged with a joint crime, and they are being held separately and cannot communicate, if you offer the first person to confess to the joint crime and extremely lenient sentence, while stressing that the person who does not confess will receive a harsh sentence, game theory says that the rational thing for each prisoner to do is to try to be the first person to confess. The reason it’s rational is because the prisoners lack the information you need to make any better choice – they don’t know if the other party is about to confess because they can’t communicate with them.

    The problem with this is that confession becomes the rational choice whether you’re guilty or not. If you’re innocent, you can’t know if the other person will confess, and you can’t know if the system will exonerate you if the other person does in fact falsely confess, so the “least worst outcome” you can reasonably expect is for you to confess. But the prisoner’s innocence or guilt is the most important thing in determining whether or not it’s JUST for the prisoner to be imprisoned for the crime. So the application of game theory to the prisoner’s dilemma does not contribute to a just outcome, it just produces the outcome desired by the guy who withheld the information critical to making the right decision [the prosecutor].

    Rawls’ thought experiment is just this process writ large. He withholds ALL information, and thereby produces the outcome he wants. If I don’t know anything about the person I’m going to be, I don’t only lack information about whether I’ll have a rich uncle. I lack information about ALL of my capacities. I have no information about whether I’ll be able to produce any wealth at all. This is only appropriate information to withhold if you assume Rawls’ conclusion before you even begin the thought experiment. If you don’t assume his conclusion, and if you at least entertain the notion that one’s contribution to producing goods and services should have something to do with your economic outcome, then Rawls has done exactly what the prosecutor does – he’s withheld the information you need to make your decision. Naturally people choose the least worst outcome – but as we have seen above, if the least worst outcome is the rational choice in the thought experiment whether you’re “innocent” or “guilty”, the thought experiment has been dishonestly designed.

  152. Nicely put fluffy. Food for thought, thanks!

  153. Now, I haven’t read all the comments – cut me some slack, there was too much repetition. But my bottom line is this: I KNOW a multi-millionaire. I trust HIM with the money a lot more than I trust the government. And I know some people who will blow every dollar they get, rapidly, so I don’t trust them with $40,000. Let ’em have it if they can lay hands on it, sure, but thinking it’ll give them living conditions the same as some other family with $40,000 is — unrealistic.

    Since your hypothetical is outside my boundary conditions, most of this discussion is beside the point. “The poor we shall always have with us”, because poverty is graded on the curve.

  154. You could have moved to another nation, and in doing so affirmed a contract with that one. Now, before you say, hey, there is a limited number of nations, they all suck, and/or why should I have to move, I remind you that the same thing could be said to those libertarians who oppose any worker protections by saying “you are always free to contract with another employer, even if it means moving.”

    Mr. Nice Guy, the two situations are not comparable. If you don’t like your employer, you can live in your current house and still get a different employer; there are millions of different employers to choose from; you can set up your own business and become the employer; you can choose to not be employed.

    If you don’t like the gang of thugs robbing and oppressing you that calls itself the government, you can’t live in your current house and switch to a different government to rob and oppress you somewhat less; you don’t have millions of different governments to choose from; you can’t set up your own government and become the robber and oppressor, short of throwing a revolution and then ascending to the top in the ensuing battle for power; you can’t choose to not be subject to any government at all without becoming an outlaw and being constantly stalked by people trying to kill you or throw you in jail.

  155. There are hundreds of governments to choose from, thousands if you count municipal governments. And you can’t always “live in your house” and get a different employer, especially if you live in a one company town or something (rare but happens, but the point is that the only thing “employers” have over “governments” is while there a lot of both there are more of the former).
    You’re certainly not as free as you think you re to set up your own business (quick, set up a movie theater right now) as many take intensive capital, and to get that you need the good favor of, you guessed it, other employers (investors). Your comment that you have to go from one government that will rob you and opress you somewhat less is not much; I can say that the freedom to go from one employer that mistreats you somewhat less is also no big deal (common in areas where industry standards are quite similar).
    One area there is a very strong difference between a government and an employer: you can participate in the governing process of the former but not the latter, that is you actually have a say…But I’m betting that’s not the difference you were looking for.

  156. Why should I pay to repave a road on the other side of town, that I’ve never used, just so other people can use it?

    So that we can have a roadway system, that’s why.

    Actually for most roads there is no reason people who use the road the most should also pay for it.

    The only reason why government spreads its cost all over hell is so little planners like joe can play sim city in real time.

  157. To argue with smart people who disagree with me.

    Ah HA!

  158. I’d say the unstated point of welfare politics is to bribe the poor so they won’t rise up against us.

    That is why god invented jobs.

    There is plenty of opportunity and anyone incapable of working is incapable of rising up.

    No the the politics of welfare is to use the state’s legal monopoly on violence to keep a perpetual underclass that is beholden to the state and its surrogates.

  159. Guy #1: his daddy gave him everything, that’s not fair.

    Response, too fucking bad.

    Guy #2, he stole my money, that’s not fair.

    Response, call the police.

    I believe that people should play fair. And that the refs should enforce the rules when people don’t play fair.

    But if you don’t like your situation in life, bitch to the deity of your choice.

  160. Actually – as in, when not deliberately being a smartass in order to “prove” how much better you are than people who dare to disagree with you – there are many reasons the government spreads the cost of roads around.

    One of which is to make sure that the roads used mainly be poor people don’t suck.

    Another is to provide a sufficient pot of money to cover any immediate or large repair work, by spreading the risk.

    Yet a third is because the roads operate as a system, and the rest of the system will cease to function as well if part of it is no longer usable.

    Each of these points is applicable to the safety net as well, if you’d care to look at the question with a modicum of honesty and thoughtfulness.

    Or you can just pull a corning.

  161. Mr. Nice Guy, re: your comment: One area there is a very strong difference between a government and an employer: you can participate in the governing process of the former but not the latter, that is you actually have a say…But I’m betting that’s not the difference you were looking for.

    Most individuals actually have very little say in the governing process — when was the last time your vote swung an election? A handful of people running labor unions or other politically powerful special interests tend to pull the strings. You have no say in boycotting a government by withdrawing your support.

    Businesses, on the other hand, can be powerfully influenced by you. You can buy their stock, and thus influence how they are governed. You can vote with your wallet and not purchase their products. You can urge others to also boycott the business.

    As to your other comments, they are based on the illusion that businesses and government operate similarly. This is completely not true. Governments are ALWAYS a non-market monopoly in their geographic area enforced by violence, imprisonment, or the threat of both. Businesses, unless in collusion with government and thus an extension of it, are market-driven, usually not monopolies, subject to competitive constraints even if a monopoly by the threat of new entrants, and prohibited from using force to make you purchase their products. Once you grasp that, the fallacy underlying the assertions in your 2:24 post will become clear.

  162. As much as you clearly value money, paying progressive taxes is not remotely comporable to being prosecuted and jailed.

    joe, since not paying progressive taxes is not only comparable, but identical, to being prosecuted and jailed, is your defense of them something like everyone can afford a 15% to 33% [or whatever] deprivation of income, plus it’s going to what (the depriver claims is) a good cause? No smarminess intended here; I know you’re smart.

  163. joe, since not paying progressive taxes is not only comparable, but identical, to being prosecuted and jailed

    Stealing other people’s property is identical to be prosecuted and jailed.

    You live a society, and have obligations, just as others have obligations to you.

    But I’m all for indexing taxes to what people can afford.

  164. So my earnings are not my property, others have the right to determine what I can afford involuntarily to surrender, and third parties have the right to exact a commission for determining and imposing reciprocal obligations against the wills of agents of sound mind. That was actually conceptually helpful. And again, I mean what I say; it helps me think.

  165. Anyway, I like the turn this thread has taken.

    This mutual obligation among members of society – not “thinking it’s nice when people are nice, and being nice yourself, if you want to,” but an actual obligation – is what motivates almost all support on the left for policies with a redistributive effect.

    I realize that most libertarians, at least most right libertarians, don’t buy into this concept of mutual obligation. That’s where the difference lies. Not in “envy” – that’s just a cheap ad homenim, a lazy smear done for the purpose of seizing the moral high ground in place of justifying one’s position on its merits. It’s no different from the old lefty trope that conservative economic politics stem from an excess of greed in their adherents. They’re both empty excercizes in patting one’s self on the back.

  166. Wow, M, you’re just a string of nonsequitors.

    Yup, what I’m really saying is that you don’t own your property and everyone can afford the 35% tax rate.

    Remember when I explained why I come to these threads, M? This ain’t it.

  167. joe, sorry I’m not up to your level; I’m trying. Clearly I begin from premises from yours, and I engage you when I feel I might learn something from the exchange. Just as clearly, you’re at liberty (so long as liberty lasts) to ignore, or disparage, my efforts.

    The rate at which your income is taxed is the percentage of your earnings that are not yours and were never yours and never will be yours. I take that to be tautological. I infer from your comments that it’s indeed “mine” in a larger and better sense than it would be if I retained – no, acquired – the right to allocate it as I choose.

    I honestly don’t know what I wrote that led you to paraphrase it as claiming you had said “everyone can afford the 35% tax rate.”

    I may be, as I take you to imply, below your intellectual level, but it seems that would offer (though not impose on) you a more, rather than, less careful reading and response of my attempts to make sense. I thought you championed noblesse oblige.

  168. “Not in “envy” – that’s just a cheap ad homenim, a lazy smear done for the purpose of seizing the moral high ground in place of justifying one’s position on its merits. It’s no different from the old lefty trope that conservative economic politics stem from an excess of greed in their adherents. They’re both empty excercizes in patting one’s self on the back.”

    They’re empty when they are trotted out in place of any other substantial arguments. But as complements, there might be a grain of truth in both charges. The degree to which there is truth to this will depend on the person of course…we know that joe and the rest of the us only operate from the best of intentions…

    “This mutual obligation among members of society – not “thinking it’s nice when people are nice, and being nice yourself, if you want to,” but an actual obligation – is what motivates almost all support on the left for policies with a redistributive effect.”

    Yes, and so why we’re at it, why don’t we extend this legal obligation to be nice to other forms of social interactions? After all, think of the hurt that insults can cause. Speaking of patting oneself on the back, are not compassion and sensitivity virtues that liberals champion, virtues that they imply they have an overabundance of compared to conservatives when they trot out the ‘greed’ charge? So, let’s extend this a bit. Why not a legal obligation to refrain from insults and put downs, sarcasms, etc.? Is it really enough to say that people ‘should’ be nice? I expect joe to get on board with this at least.

  169. Lost_In_Translation:

    I view the rule against perpetuities as a guard against sloth in a utilitarian way. Just like copyright creates a non-existent property right for utilitarian purposes (which I support), the rule against perpetuities and inheritance taxes act the idea that one doesn’t have to earn one’s place in the world. Neither abolish inheriting one’s riches, and that’s a good thing, but they are a check against meritless (the copyright comparison ends here) accumulation of wealth however attenuated they might be. The idea is that captains of industry can’t insure wealth to five generations down the line. If they could, we’d have an aristocracy system. I’m not arguing against a system where a rich guy can give his wealth to his offspring, only the institutionalization of wealth. Sure, the rich can kind of do that, but the effects tend to wear off after three or four generations. The beauty of capitalism is about innovation, not blowing cash on fabulous lifestyles. Sure, the money blown on lifestyle goes to an entrepreneur, etc., all I’m saying is that, at some point several generations down the line, one has to fend for himself.

  170. I may well have missed mention of it here, but I thought a central justification for preserving the jus disponendi – the right to allocate one’s assets – is that eliminating it reduces the incentives of all but the most selfless individuals to produce wealth from which everyone benefits. Private vices = public virtues and all that.

  171. “Sure, the money blown on lifestyle goes to an entrepreneur, etc., all I’m saying is that, at some point several generations down the line, one has to fend for himself.”

    You first, perfessor.

  172. “You don’t care about fairness as a moral imperitive (sic)? I don’t care about noninterference in economic activity as a moral imperitive (sic).

    We appear to be at a stalemate. Competing sets of values. See you at the ballot box.”

    Or how about this? You and your friends who live by expropriation could take 90 percent of the country and we could have 10 percent. Then you can just expropriate from the likeminded and leave us, who don’t wish to be stolen from, the fuck alone.

  173. Since the average, modern leftist or liberal is likely to deny that he is in favor of enforcing *total* income equality, an alternative to Bailey’s question might be “At what point does the income gap (between the lower to middle classes and the very rich) become so great that leftists or liberals feel intervention is needed to ensure fairness?” Or in other words, when does a difference become an ‘unfair’ difference? And who should get to decide that? Just ye olde ballot box again?

  174. First, a little about where I fit in the Libertarian spectrum. Foremost, I believe in civil liberties. Free speech, right to self defense (legal guns), right to personal choices about ones own body and life (legal abortion, drugs, bio-tech, “Alternative Lifestyles”, etc.), right to privacy (no legal wire-tapping, etc.), right to freedom of and FROM religion (I’m an agnostic with a strong athiest leaning), and anything else that could be possibly concidered a civil liberty, including the right to be able to accumulate wealth through work.

    I believe that capitalism has been the most important single factor in the great wealth of our modern world. I believe that ANY government intervention in the free markets will ALWAYS cause a net loss of total wealth in the society as a whole, therefore less government regulation of business is a primary concern for the goal of raising the total wealth of society, which is a primary concern for the goal of reducing poverty.

    However, I am also quite “Progressive” economically. I believe that capitalism as actually practiced in the real world almost inevetibly leads to Facism. The very wealthy (say the top 1%), find it almost impossible not to use that power to influence society and the state to further their accumulation of wealth and power at the expense of the rest. A classic example of these issues sits in the Oval Office right now. I believe in Labor Unions, free public education, high inheritance taxes, progressive taxation, and socialized medicine as good measures to counter-balance to these problems.

    Now, to the original question, no, income inequality per se is not unjust. I would agree even if the value was $12k instead of $40k. In fact, I believe that without significant amounts of income inequality, our economic system would cease to function well enough to allow ANYONE the opportunities of a modern lyfestyle. While my progressive thinking leads me to like the idea of minimum income, I believe that any minimum income provided to people should be in the form of a minimum government job, doing whatever projects the government can find for them to do, from cleaning up trash to infrastructure construction to millitary service, unless it is absolutely proven that such a person is completely incapable of any economic output of any kind. Even then, I would make them put in their 40 h/wk doing supervised nothing for that minimum income. I know that I am not alone in being someone who would cease to work at all were I provided with $40k/year for nothing.

  175. “Since the average, modern leftist or liberal is likely to deny that he is in favor of….”

    What a dickheaded way to make that comment.

  176. You live a society, and have obligations, just as others have obligations to you.

    And happily the most fair and efficient way to meet and distribute those obligations without squandering limited resources is found within a free market capitalist system.

  177. I realize that most libertarians, at least most right libertarians, don’t buy into this concept of mutual obligation.

    Bullshit strawman

  178. Another is to provide a sufficient pot of money to cover any immediate or large repair work, by spreading the risk.

    Yet a third is because the roads operate as a system, and the rest of the system will cease to function as well if part of it is no longer usable.

    And yet you somehow lack the mental ability to imagine meeting these goals in many if not most cases through mutually beneficial contract and without state intervention.

    Government is not the only place you can raise a pot of money and there are plenty of systems that do not require centralized control. In fact considering that we are talking about a network…ie road network…a distributed system has all the merits for its administration where as a centralized control system really has no advantage.

  179. I don’t particularly care about fairness, but inherited wealth is kind of dicey. If you don’t know anybody who knew anybody who knew the person who actually gained the wealth, you should have to fend for yourself.

    So I can spend my money the way I want to but I can’t spend it on my daughter?

    Hey I have a great idea, lets destroy the institution of family and replace it with a centralized state system.

    Cuz we all know that people who generate wealth will not pass on that ability to their children though raising them or through genetics, and the state will be far better at taking that wealth and selecting those who can generate more of it.

    I swear it is like no one here has even read Hayek.

  180. opps i missed one

    One of which is to make sure that the roads used mainly be poor people don’t suck.

    I need poor people to rent my rental home, mow my lawn and buy my stuff…why on earth would I make a crappy road to my rental, my store and to my lawn?

    If i did then poor people would mow someone else’s lawn, rent someone else’s rental home and shop somewhere else.

  181. the endgame is here: libertarians now find more in common with ronald reagan than with milton friedman or friedrich hayek (who defends a safety net in ‘constitution of liberty’ while attacking price controls). to paraphrase hayek: in an affluent society, what possible reason could we have not to ensure bread on the table? also, hayek attacked the notion that income has anything to do with deserts. meritocracy is fantasy. explain to me how michael knight somehow ‘deserves’ more money than he could ever spend in his life for employing children in sweatshops while backbreaking but honest physical labor here is served a pittance? a million and one factors go into why people are paid what they are, get the education they get, and connect with the people they do. those reasons generally have more to do with factors beyond their control than those within them. How much of this so-called ‘culture of poverty’ is a realistic fatalism?
    perhaps we should question whether, given its support from friedman and hayek, economic safety nets are the same thing as egalitarian income distribution, and whether such a scheme would a priori lead to economic disaster or pre-Thatcher tax rates. remember how much money we spend in iraq and on the drug war. *our economy still grows*. perhaps i am simply not that averse to a bending of the free market dogma when the goal is to feed hungry people, rather than kill them, torture or imprison them. how downright immoral of me!

  182. the sheer coldness with which the posts here have dismissed the pain and suffering of those in needless poverty not only does a disservice toward a libertarian approach to markets (which I thought was *always* meditating on the elimination of poverty), it gives ammunition to socialists who love to cite examples of greedy, cold-blooded ‘capitalists’. Whether you feel a solely private approach to helping the poor through charity or that gov’t intervention is the cure, simply telling those who are hungry or living in squalor to ‘bitch to a deity of their choice is an indefensibly callous remark. You, sir, are missing something fundamental to the human experience if you can watch others starve and suffer and feel nothing but contempt.

  183. . . . simply telling those who are hungry or living in squalor to ‘bitch to a deity of their choice is an indefensibly callous remark.

    Thank you.

    You, sir, are missing something fundamental to the human experience if you can watch others starve and suffer and feel nothing but contempt.

    My family and friends say the same thing to me every day.

  184. All: I see it’s been a busy weekend on the thread. For the record, I support libertarian capitalism because it is the ONLY system that in the long run has been able to lift billions of people out of abject poverty. I will also argue, again in the long run, that capitalism works best (alleviates poverty faster) when it operates within the political context of individual equality before the law. (In other words, I predict that China will sooner rather than later liberalize its political institutions. If not its economic growth will falter.)

  185. “So I can spend my money the way I want to but I can’t spend it on my daughter?”

    No, that’s too extreme. The rule I’m talking about says that you can’t bequeath your wealth to somebody who was born 21 years after the death your last remaining heir who was alive at the time of the grant. Basically, this means that you can’t give your wealth to your potential great-great-great granddaughter.

    If you pass your wealth and business acumen to your daughter, and she does like-wise and so on, that wealth could still make it to your great-great-great whatever. But the business acumen part becomes important the more distant the offspring is.

    It isn’t communism, and your money generally doesn’t escheat to the state. It usually goes to somebody else in the line of inheritance, i.e., somebody alive (or many people) who will use the money. Hope this clarifies my point.

  186. I actually agree with joe that we have a moral obligation to help each other.

    However, I argue that it is a personal obligation and not a state obligation.

    I also argue that joe (or any group of people) cannot decide what my personal, moral obligation is for me, and that joe (or any group of people) has (or have) no right to use the power of the state to force me to adhere to his (or their) vision of what my personal, moral obligation should be.

    And josh, if you want I will give you the name and address of the local charity here that helps pregnant teenagers cope with life. After you match the $2500 my wife and I give to this charity each year, you can call me a cold, heartless prick.

  187. “Since the average, modern leftist or liberal is likely to deny that he is in favor of….”

    ‘What a dickheaded way to make that comment.’

    And what an eloquent, mature, original, and well-reasoned way to respond.

    Okay, I’ll put it this way, “since “some” progresssives claim they are not in favor of enforcing total income equality….”

    I’m just interested in finding out at what point some progressives, or those sympathetic to the idea of an enforced narrowing of the income gap, think a difference in the income gap is significant enough to enforce a narrowing of that difference.

    For my part, I wouldn’t support any enforced narrowing of the income gap. I do support a social safety net, just not one that is backed up by swat teams if the state doesn’t think someone is contributing enough.

  188. What Ron Bailey said at August 26, 7:50pm, with the exception of the expressd optimism vis a vis China. I hope that part is right as well, but that ragime has been ruthless in repressing dissent.

  189. grimey wretch: Why don’t you just be accurate and say, “some progressives actually aren’t in favor of enforcing income equality….”

    Speaking of maturity, I find it much more reasonable to take people at their word rather than accusing them of claiming to support something that they really want to abolish. Most people say what they mean and leave the elaborate ruses to Bobby Bowden.

  190. hap,

    First of all, I didn’t describe “being nice” as the purpose of the social safety net, I called it out as a false argument thrown up by critics of that safet net.

    But on your substantive question, I would distinguish between aid to the poor and laws against rudeness on two grounds. First, intrusions into one a person can do with his voice, mind and body are much more intrustive that collecting mere money from him. Second, the harm done to a person by not having enough material wealth to provide for a decent life and the opportunity to better one’s situation is much more severe than the harm done by hearing people say things.

  191. get out of my back pocket,

    Pay your taxes like everyone else, you parasite, and stop insulting firemen, policemen, and EMTs.

    joshua corning,

    You really shouldn’t write about “eliminating the institution of the family and replacing it with a centralized state system” two comments after accusing someone else of making up a straw man. It makes baby Jesus cry.

  192. Ron Bailey,

    “Libertarian capitalism” has never lifted a single person out of poverty. There has never been “libertarian capitalism” as it see it defined on these boards, in opposition to a managed capitalism or a mixed system.

    Every single person that has been lifted out of poverty through economic growth brought about by private industry – every single one of them – was so lifted while a non “libertarian capitalist” system was operating.

  193. carrick,

    If you don’t believe there should be enforcement for not meeting one’s obligations, then you are saying that you do not believe they are obligations. How about this: I believe that I am obligated to pay for the services I contract for, but I don’t believe the state should be able to force me to do so. Doesn’t really make any sense, does it?

  194. First, intrusions into one a person can do with his voice, mind and body are much more intrustive that collecting mere money from him. Second, the harm done to a person by not having enough material wealth to provide for a decent life and the opportunity to better one’s situation is much more severe than the harm done by hearing people say things.

    Hi joe – Is the difference between the much less intrusive “collecting mere money” vs. the much more intrusive collection of “enough material wealth to provide for a decent life and the opportunity to better one’s situation” simply a matter of how much money is being collected, as determined by the State?

    If you’ve written me off already from my previous question, please just say so, or ignore this post, and I won’t trouble you again.

  195. M,

    Since you asked a fair and meaningful question:

    I would agree that, at some level of taxation, the economic burden would amount to a severe intrusion into one’s person. We can go back to medieval tyrants who took so much of the grain harvest in taxes that the peasantry were on starvation rations.

    Writing “as determined by the State” doesn’t actually add anything to you point.

  196. We can go back

    joe, thanks for the offer, but I’d rather not revert to feudalism (joke! joke!). Nor need we examine how unfair and meaningless my part of our previous exchange was. Unless of course you want to. Which I take it you don’t. At least, I think not. For now, anyway. I’ll just let it go. Not think about it anymore. No point licking old wounds. Much. No, no, none at all, none at all. None at all.

    Believe me or not, my clause “as determined by the State” was meant to mean something, namely “as coerced by groups of individuals who justify such coercion as in each instance serving the common good,” the truth of which claim I’ve taken to be the nub of the disputes here.

  197. Well, M, if you acknowledge that something has to be done on a society-wide level, we’re stuck with one institution that has the reach and authority to do so; the state.

    That’s why we have a democratic state – because it’s better than all the others.

  198. joe, thanks for sticking with me. I think I may be seeing something new.

    My effort here is to try to crawl into perspectives I find alien as well as explore facets of what I find congenial. With the many shades of opinion expressed on this board, largely but not exhaustively unified by a common orientation, I have ample opportunity to discover rationales for, say, the merits or demerits to restricting weapons availability, what kinds of weapons, etc. Your articulations are often attractive in that regard by opposing most others’ shared premises.

    Sometimes I cannot tell whether a comment originates from a genuine belief that it’s self-evident, or from a recognition that it’s highly controversial, in which case its apodictic tone seems to be a rhetorical strategy of overkill designed to anticipate and discourage familiar, wrong-headed opposition. That sometimes puzzles and occasionally frustrates my effort to empathize with a view grounded in premises that aren’t, for me at least, transparent.

    I understand that the platform of unmoderated brief comments about heartfelt topics compensates in entertainment-value and the rapid introduction of novelty what it may withhold in scholarly method, stamina, and sometimes rigor, and that the rest of the www and the rest of the world remain accessible for more specialized pursuits. I guess I’m just a bit greedy to get to first principles, to find out just at what level of analysis, or ontology, the differences can be found that give rise to some of (say) your expressions at which I chafe because they seem to point to avoidable trouble.

    I hold what may be a self-serving prejudice that anything that “has to be done on a society-wide level” is best done voluntarily, otherwise it’s John deciding for Jim what’s “best”. I’m new to political theory, and of course, being mortal, participate in every possible bias our fool flesh is heir to. I just sometimes wish you’d be a bit more patient in explicating what, say, I find opaque in your implied premises. We may never come to agree on what constitutes human nature, but it can be interesting to discover the differences among viewpoints. As a case in point, I discover, reflecting on my own sometime urgency to get something from you, a still greater urge to leave to your discretion what you want to give, and I presume you wouldn’t want to be forced to change your style. So I’ll continue to wonder what distinguishes the desirability of discretion that I imagine we agree should apply to that class of goods from the compulsion that (it seems) you’d impose in other arenas of human interdependence.

  199. If it’s being done “voluntarity,” it’s not being done on a society-wide level.

    Jim may well know, and care, what’s best for him, personally. That doesn’t mean he knows what’s the best course of action to achieve some outcome that outside of his area of knowledge, or care about accomplishing that outcome.

    Yes, “John” is deciding for “Jim” what’s best when he requires Jim to pay taxes for services Jim wouldn’t have chosen to pay for himself, if we assume that “John” is “the American polity.” But not what’s best for “Jim” – rather, what’s best for society as a whole.

    Go back to the tragedy of the commons – each shepherd wasn’t being stupid when he maximized that year’s sheep, even though it sped up the destruction of the grasslands. He was being smart. He knew exactly what to do to maximize his own profit. And yet, these smart individuals decisions didn’t add up to a smart course of action, and as long as any of the shepherds were allowed to “use their own discretion” without regard to the larger society, all of the selfless or enlightened decisions of his fellows would have been for naught.

  200. The price system performs three vital functions:

    1. Transmits information
    2. Provides incentives
    3. Determines the distribution of income

    Most attempts to have it perform 1 & 2 but not 3, end in tyranny. Reference the ever-expanding U.S. Federal government.

  201. “Most attempts to have it perform 1 & 2 but not 3, end in tyranny.”

    And societies that refuse to recognize the imperfections inherent in #3 end in revolution.

  202. Reference Central and South America.

  203. carrick :

    I actually agree with joe that we have a moral obligation to help each other.
    However, I argue that it is a personal obligation and not a state obligation.

    I disagree that we have a moral/ethical obligation to help each other. However, I think that it’s often (but not always) a morally /ethically laudable thing to voluntarily do. I agree that helping each other shouldn’t be state enforced and in fact it’s unethical and immoral when it is. It’s ethically wrong In addition to, and also in part cuz of, the practical problems attendant to forced redistribution of wealth.

  204. If it’s being done “voluntarity,” it’s not being done on a society-wide level.

    It seems to me that members of uncentralized communities can better arrange their affairs than “society-wide” rulers.

    Jim may well know, and care, what’s best for him, personally. That doesn’t mean he knows what’s the best course of action to achieve some outcome that outside of his area of knowledge, or care about accomplishing that outcome.

    Yes, “John” is deciding for “Jim” what’s best when he requires Jim to pay taxes for services Jim wouldn’t have chosen to pay for himself, if we assume that “John” is “the American polity.” But not what’s best for “Jim” – rather, what’s best for society as a whole.

    “Polity” is but a collection of Johns (so to speak) who, it seems to me, have no more, and often markedly less, wisdom or love than Jim to qualify them to determine what Jim should do. Wisdom (knowldege) and love (caring) seems to attenuate the more farther a surrogate agent travels from his ward.

    each shepherd wasn’t being stupid when he maximized that year’s sheep, even though it sped up the destruction of the grasslands.

    joe, I’ll keep an eye out for a more prominent toehold to discover the level at which our diverging assumptions about human nature lead us into opposition. For the time being I can say only that I seem to have more confidence than you do in shepherds’ ability and inclination to steward common resources prudently, and what seems even more noteworthy, I expect that shepherds outrank, in incentive and practical wisdom, every other candidate for directing affairs ovian. Which is what distinguishes them from sheep.

  205. joe:

    “Libertarian capitalism” has never lifted a single person out of poverty. There has never been “libertarian capitalism” as it see it defined on these boards, in opposition to a managed capitalism or a mixed system.

    I think Ron meant that the capitalism that has lift billions of people out of abject poverty is the type where government is largely not involved except to create a level playing field which protects individual rights. I think that Ron was delineating between libertarian capitalism and so called “corporate capitalism”, “state capitalism” , ” welfare state capitalism”, etc. And the evidence of history validates his observation.

    Every single person that has been lifted out of poverty through economic growth brought about by private industry – every single one of them – was so lifted while a non “libertarian capitalist” system was operating.

    Yeah but the evidence is that it was the capitalism that did the lifting, not the remaining government intervention. And the trend is that the more libertarian, the more dramatic he lift. Also, history is replete with examples of wonderfully huge ascendancies of peoples’ standards of living where government has done little more significant with the economy than to protect property rights.

  206. “Pay your taxes like everyone else, you parasite, and stop insulting firemen, policemen, and EMTs.”

    Ouch, joe, that was just mean…. 🙂

    But I think you need to take a long look in the mirror bud. I produce and contribute. What do you do, but suck more money from the economy?

  207. “Work those fields or else, you lazy good for nothin’s!” Said the slave master to the slave.

    “Give all for the good of all, you selfish bastards,” Said the Commintern to the workers

    “Pay your taxes, you parasite”

    Said the….

  208. “First, intrusions into one a person can do with his voice, mind and body are much more intrustive that collecting mere money from him.”

    At first glance, I agreed with this. But then I realized that ‘collecting mere money’ could often entail the most violent use of force if necessary, certainly a great ‘intrusion’ into one’s body. Secondly, even if I were to accept the reasoning here, it wouldn’t follow that these are categorical differences – they are all differences involving harm; the only difference is one of degree. If what underpins progressive philosophy the desire to mitigate harm (and by force if necessary), then surely emotional harm inflicted on others does not suddenly fall out of this category.

    On another note, in thinking more about this question involving the influence of envy in progressive politics, I would also agree that perhaps it is not such a strong influence as suggested by Bailey, at least among prosperous progressives who probably greatly outnumber the non-prosperous progressives (where fear of not having needs met probably is most influential). For the prosperous, mixed in with a genuine desire to do good, is the desire to be seen as good. In other words, a kind of social vanity.

    Greed might play an influence among some libertarians and conservatives yet the problem with this is that greed is an especially non-binary type of feature. Everyone is greedy to some degree. Secondly, it’s not easy to define where simply the natural desire to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor stops and greed begins. Third, earning as much as one can is no vice if no force or fraud are employed. And last, greed can sometimes have a positive influence in society as the greedy man who creates a successful business contributes to society through the money he puts back into the economy and the thousands of jobs he creates.

  209. “Why don’t you just be accurate and say, “some progressives actually aren’t in favor of enforcing income equality….” ”

    Well, because it might be more accurate to say, “total” income equality. So, why don’t you try responding to a question without junior high style retorts or analogies that only reveal how impressed you are with yourself.

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