Cass Sunstein and the "Second Bill of Rights"

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Following up on Matt Welch's post on the reaction to Cass Sunstein heading up the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, it's also worth revisiting Tom Palmer's dissection of Sunstein's 2004 book The Second Bill of Rights: FDR's Unfinished Revolution and Why We Need It More than Ever:

The title comes from Franklin Roosevelt's 1944 State of the Union address, in which he proclaimed that "necessitous men are not free men" and proposed a "second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all." Among the rights FDR proposed were the rights to "a useful and remunerative job," "a decent home," "adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health," "adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment," and "a good education."

[…]

[Sunstein] says that "to believe that people have a right to their current holdings, so that any diminution of those holdings amounts to a violation of their rights… is an utterly implausible position. Those who possess a great deal do so because laws and institutions, including public institutions, make their holdings possible…. In the state of nature—freed from the protection of law and government—how well would wealthy people fare?" Let's see what else this theory would entail: If a doctor were to save my life, then, since the doctor would be responsible for my existence, and therefore for all of the liberty and wealth that I might enjoy or create henceforth, the doctor would have the right to decide what should happen with that liberty and that wealth, since without the doctor neither I, nor the liberty, nor the wealth would exist. In short, Sunstein's ethical theory is just silly.

The Second Bill of Rights may rest on a logical fallacy, a primitive economic theory, and a silly ethical claim, but it is instructive nonetheless. Sunstein's treatment of the problem of how to use the judiciary to enforce welfare rights shows what a radical departure they are from the rule of law, how they introduce arbitrariness into government policy, and how, ultimately, the contradictions and incompatibilities generated by welfare rights undermine the very idea of rights itself—for when "rights" conflict, the state must decide whose "rights" are to be respected, but, since it has been stipulated that both of the conflicting parties are in the right, the state's decisions must be on the basis of something other than right.

Whole thing here. Reason.tv on the problems with FDR's New Deal here.

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  1. “Those who possess a great deal do so because laws and institutions, including public institutions, make their holdings possible….”

    Nonsense.

    They do so because they were smart, productive, industrious or possibly just plain luck (such as a lottery winner). But the public institiutional framework that protects people from having the fruits of their labor stolen is there for all.

    This idiotic theory is akin to saying a consistently winning race car drive should be forced to pay higher race entry fees to the racetrack owner because it was the racetrack itself that somehow “enabled” him to win instead of his own driving ability.

  2. We’re so fucked.

  3. We’re so fucked.

    Yeah, that right’s in Sunstein’s philosophy somewhere, too.

  4. You mean, prosperity is NOT a birthright? Damn.

  5. You can’t have society or civilization without buildings. You cannot have buildings w/o construction workers. In addition, construction is the most physically dangerous job as measured by on the job fatalities.

    Therefore, everything you have you owe to construction workers and they can take whatever they want.

    That makes no more sense if you replace “construction worker” with “all of us”.

  6. “adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident”

    So when do I get my federally issued Lazarus Pit?

  7. Actually aren’t cab drivers and lumberjacks the most dangerous jobs?

  8. This stuff makes me think of the sort of science fiction where everybody seems to be comfortable (if not fabulously wealthy) and happy, but nobody ever does anything.

  9. “Actually aren’t cab drivers and lumberjacks the most dangerous jobs?”

    I’d say commercial fisherman ranks right up there with them – if not higher.

  10. You do pay a doctor for services rendered, do you not? So why not pay back to the society whose existence made your success possible? How willfully naive do you have to be to believe that 100% of your wealth derives from personal ingenuity? If Bill Gates were born in Bangladesh, would he be a billionaire now? Why aren’t billionaires equally distributed throughout the world rather than concentrated in advanced economies, if wealth only depends on one’s personal genius and drive?

    We have a system that in theory enables the sufficiently motivated to become wealthy. But they would not have that ability without the infrastructure that permits it. Hence the moral and practical necessity of progressive taxation. It’s not that hard to understand, and it’s hardly as silly as pretending that wealth is a product of pure individual ingenuity.

  11. Why aren’t billionaires equally distributed throughout the world rather than concentrated in advanced economies

    Ahh.. so you want fewer billionaires, right? So you want to live in an economy that is less like the advanced economies and more like the economies where there are fewer billionaires, right?

  12. Reinmoose,

    By advanced economies I of course don’t mean libertarian economies. You have to have an advanced enough social infrastructure in order for anyone to become wealthy. What the right-wing corporatists want to do is exploit the system we have for personal gain and not pay anything back. They’re using your philosophy as an excuse to do this, by the way. I can ignore the moral argument completely and still point out that this is unsustainable, eventually resulting in less wealth for everyone.

  13. The deal is this:
    You create a game with a certain set of rules and everybody knows the rules up front. The wealth that those who object to people owning their own wealth object to is likely the wealth that’s acquired by breaking the rules. I have no problem with this. I also have no problem to objecting to corporate welfare or favoritism under the law for giant corporations. However, for those who earn their wealth by operating within the rules of the game, I would have trouble seeing how they owe something to everyone else for having performed better within the agreed-upon rules than others did.

  14. If Bill Gates were born in Bangladesh, would he be a billionaire now?

    Curious point to offer in an argument for making our economic rules more like Bengladesh’s.

  15. Why aren’t billionaires equally distributed throughout the world rather than concentrated in advanced economies, if wealth only depends on one’s personal genius and drive?

    In the literary and art world wealth depends on crapola and drivel. The only reason your chosen victims are poor is because they are trying too hard.

  16. Tony –
    you are new here, yeah? I think you’ll find a lot of us are in agreement with you as to your division of republicans, neocons, and libertarians. There are exceptions (people who are still very much Team Red), but for the most part we’re with you on being done with the Republicans.

  17. Occupation Fatalities per 100,000
    Timber cutters 117.8
    Fishers 71.1
    Pilots and navigators 69.8
    Structural metal workers 58.2
    Drivers-sales workers 37.9
    Roofers 37
    Electrical power installers 32.5
    Farm occupations 28
    Construction laborers 27.7
    Truck drivers 25

    http://moneycentral.msn.com/content/invest/extra/P63405.asp

  18. How do have a right not to get older?

  19. Lawyers should not be allowed to hold political office, nor allowed to reproduce, and not get paid more than the minimum wage. These simple measures would be a boon to free people everywhere, and perhaps the legal profession would be made honorable again.

  20. Actually the timber industry is the most dangerous. The Wall Street Journal put out a ranking of best and worst jobs (by environment, employment outlook, physical demands, and stress) and lumberjack was dead last. (I think mining conditions must have improved in recent years; miner used to be the most dangerous.) Apparently it’s good to be a mathematician, on the other hand.

    Anyhow, to answer Tony, the problem isn’t with progressive taxation per se, but with the idea of welfare “rights.” American voters simply aren’t going to cut all tax-funded benefits to the poor or the elderly, and that (in my possibly heretical view) is a good thing. But it’s worth making a distinction here. It’s one thing to say that there’s a moral case for progressive taxation. It’s another thing entirely to say that everyone has a right to health care, say. That means that the courts get to strike down laws that don’t give people their welfare rights, just as they can strike down laws that violate free speech or due process. Can a judge — even a good judge — decide what is “adequate” health care? Shouldn’t something like that be hashed out, if not in the market, at least through the democratic process? There’s a danger here for arbitrariness.

  21. I think Sunstein’s point is the problematic nature of a “right” to the stuff you currently have, or “property.” Nozick himself, no squishy liberal, noted what a problematic concept this is. What makes your property yours? That you currently have it? And then, given that, how do property rights trump overall welfare in any sensical understanding?

    And I think he’s making a point I’ve often thought about: libertarians say that a person can use his “natural” smarts to take something from somebody through contract, but that I can’t use my natural ass kicking ability to take something from somebody. It’s something magic about force that makes it bad, and we can have enough government to protect people from that, but not from other forms of advantage and coercion.

    There’s a lot of people who simply would not need government protection from force very much at all (bad asses, and to some extent people who have nothing for others to take), and some people who really, really get a lot out of it (wimps for one, and many wealthy people, because it protects their stuff so much).

  22. So, Marxist Nice Guy does not the first thing about contracts either? Color me shocked!

  23. Wow, Tony made some great points.

    “Why aren’t billionaires equally distributed throughout the world rather than concentrated in advanced economies, if wealth only depends on one’s personal genius and drive?”

    “You do pay a doctor for services rendered, do you not? So why not pay back to the society whose existence made your success possible?”

    I’ve often made the first point here in pointing out that 24% of blacks in the US live below the poverty rate while 8% of whites do. If we are to believe the myth that everyone is where they are at because of their own initiative and decisions then we would have to believe that for some reason 3 times as many blacks make bad decisions and/or lack initiative. And I don’t think it would help much to say “well blacks have a different culture that promotes bad decisions and lack of initiative” because they we would have to ask “why do 3 times more blacks buy into that culture than whites do?”

  24. Guy
    I know quite a bit about contracts, what are you talking about?

    Are you saying property rights are derived from contracts?

    Well brainchild, how would we justify the initial acquisition of certain properties? Like the first person to “own” Blackacre before they “contracted” to sell it to me.

  25. MNG,

    I was talking about this: . . . libertarians say that a person can use his “natural” smarts to take something from somebody through contract, but that I can’t use my natural ass kicking ability to take something from somebody.

    I was not talking about any of that other bullshit you added for yet another discussion that exists in your head and spilled out onto your keyboard.

  26. Someone does not know jack about how abandoned or unclaimed real property becomes owned either.

    I can’t wait to read the 20 comments of babble that are coming.

  27. Well, yeah, I guess you are unaware that “contracts” are declared void or voidable every day for non-physical forms of coercion. So I guess it’s you that needs to bone up on contract law.

    My point was that libertarians recognize government to protect the victims of some kinds of coercion but not others, and I’ve never really heard some compelling reason why. If it’s OK to coerce someone’s property with my superior economic position, or with my natural born wiles, then why not with my ass kicking ability?

    Anyways, if anyone wants to read up on how problematic the idea of “property rights” is and how many smarter people than you and me have thought long and hard about it, then here is a good place to start:

    http://web.missouri.edu/~johnsonrn/nozick.html

  28. Actually the vast majority of natural resources were originally “owned” by force. Hayek even admits this in his later work. He just says we have to draw the line somewhere and rely on something like Nozick’s Wilt Chamberlain argument.

    But that’s a silly root for an absolute right that would trump overall welfare…

  29. Wow, your ignorance did amaze me that time.

    Well, yeah, I guess you are unaware that “contracts” are declared void or voidable every day for non-physical forms of coercion. So I guess it’s you that needs to bone up on contract law.

    Missed a few things that impact on the stupid statement you made and I quoted. Like the loads of things that render a contract void for being “unfair”. For one, just taking something from someone with no consideration (the contract term) pretty much voids your statement. Plenty of other reasons too, reasons that are every bit as wrong as kicking someone’s ass to steal their stuff.

    What is it again about contracts that you know? The last classes I had on it were around 14 years ago and I can still remember that you can’t steal with a contract.

  30. At base, it is unintelligible to talk about the “right” to, say, “a decent home”. If I have a right to such a thing, that means that someone else has to provide it for me at their expense.

    Also, none of these concepts are quantifiable:

    “a useful and remunerative job”
    “a decent home”
    “adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health”
    “adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment”

    That is not to say that they do not exist, but when it comes to administration, we have a problem. When the Government Office for Decent Housing sets the standard for what a “decent house”, it’s going to require pages of description, significant costs on the part of the contractor and construction company to comply with those regulations, and you are going to have a hell of a time finding anyone willing to pony up the capital for that.

    Additionally, if government sets the standard for “decent” too high, suddenly millions of claims will be filed for a new “free” home that is better than the previous dwelling. Set the standard too low and you’ll get a bunch of whining about how we’re “fucking over the poor”, despite the fact that they would not have a had a house in the first place.

    People need to think about the moral and practical implications of policies before we get too many visits from the “Good Idea Fairy”

  31. Yes, I KNEW the business of “natural resources” being taken by force would come up. A common example is in the Americas when Europeans “took” land from the Indians. Hard trick to take something from people who have no concept of ownership, even if they are given consideration and still want to keep property they never claimed anyway.

    Last one in this thread for you Che.

  32. It is additionally unintelligible and unworkable to talk about having a right to remunerative job. I mean, even if you do a bad job? Even if you do not do your work at all…even if you do not show?

    What kind of drag on economic efficiency is that going to produce? Jesus.

  33. I do think it’s pretty funny though that Guy obviously referred to the legal process for determining ownership of unclaimed or abandoned land, not only because he clearly didn’t get what I was saying about original ownership of land, but because he refers back to the very government institutions Sunstein refers to!

  34. Why aren’t billionaires equally distributed throughout the world rather than concentrated in advanced economies

    How did advanced economies become so?

  35. “How did advanced economies become so?”

    Good question, but here is what is certainly not going to be the answer:
    unrestrained market economies

  36. TAO,

    What about “living wage” and “equivelant pay”?

    🙂

  37. Good question, but here is what is certainly not going to be the answer:
    unrestrained market economies

    Sure about that?

    Well, we know it ain’t restrained non-market economies, so where does that leave us?

  38. Paul,

    Guessing the answer “theft” or some similar term is in your future for an ‘answer’.

  39. Yo, fuck Cass Sunstein.

  40. Guy, not sure I’m proferring an answer. I’m just fascinated by Tony’s perspective, and complete blinders-on-driveby of even giving reference to those issues.

  41. Maybe the safety rate in the timber industry would be better if they wouldn’t wear high heels all the time.

  42. What makes advanced economies advanced is strong property rights, stable definitions of the law and regulations and a fair and equitable justice system.

    Given that these things are not that expensive to operate, it is really disingenuous for Sunstein to be claiming that millionaires go that way because of roads.

    We have been living off of the “Golden Goose” of strong property rights and divided powers for centuries. I think America has about 500 years more in its current state, but the chaotic flux of the regulatory structure, the ridiculous amounts of laws that are cranked out every year and mass discontent with our system of governance and our governmental institutions will lead to instability.

  43. “Sure about that?”

    Yes. As libertarians remind us all the time the U.S. (or the UK, or France, etc) has never been a “real” free market economy ever in its history. So yeah, advanced economies certainly evolved in nations with restrictions on the market that would make a libertarian…yell.

  44. Maybe the safety rate in the timber industry would be better if they wouldn’t wear high heels all the time.

    I saw that in a documentry about Canada before. It was done as a short musical.

  45. Threadjack: Welcome to the new Boston, or better known as Big Dig II, The Big Dig goes to Washington.

    Apologies, but you guys are going to be ponying up for this as Federal Dollars will be involved.

    You got your big-ticket infrastructure projects. Welcome to Obama-ville.

  46. In addition, construction is the most physically dangerous job as measured by on the job fatalities.

    #10, bucko.

    Rank – Occupation Death rate/100,000 – Total deaths
    1 Fishers and fishing workers 118.4 48
    2 Logging workers 92.9 80
    3 Aircraft pilots 66.9 81
    4 Structural iron and steel workers 55.6 35
    5 Refuse and recyclable material collectors 43.8 32
    6 Farmers and ranchers 41.1 341
    7 Electrical power line installers/repairers 32.7 36
    8 Driver/sales workers and truck drivers 29.1 993
    9 Miscelleneous agricultural workers 23.2 176
    10 Construction laborers 22.7 339

    You should notice that cop doesn’t even rank that high.

  47. The great thing here is libertarians will be stuck in a neat spot, if they argue (as I have constantly here) that of course since there have never been anything like free markets in our history that we should concentrate on the relative economic freedoms of the past vs. the present then they have to answer for times in the past which had terrible consequences without recourse to the famed “well that doesn’t count because the market wasn’t really free at the time [Smoot-Hawley!].” But if they rely on the absolutely free market meme they have to admit that no advanced economy has been built on such a thing.

    This is going to be delicious.

  48. You create a game with a certain set of rules and everybody knows the rules up front. The wealth that those who object to people owning their own wealth object to is likely the wealth that’s acquired by breaking the rules. I have no problem with this. I also have no problem to objecting to corporate welfare or favoritism under the law for giant corporations. However, for those who earn their wealth by operating within the rules of the game, I would have trouble seeing how they owe something to everyone else for having performed better within the agreed-upon rules than others did.

    I found this paragraph interesting, and I mostly agree with it. I think the point that tony was making as that *setting up the game* and *maintaining the integrity of the game* are things that cost, and yet it is not in any one person’s advantage to help pay for them if they believe that they would do better if the game were destroyed or corrupted. Being able to read and write, do arithmetic, understand contracts and the rule of law: these things are not built or taught for free.

  49. So, we are to have the rights to “enjoy good health,” and “adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment”

    Perhaps we should have Monty Python run the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

    From Life of Brian:

    STAN: I want to have babies.

    REG: You want to have babies?!

    STAN: It’s every man’s right to have babies if he wants them.

    REG: But… you can’t have babies.

    STAN: Don’t you oppress me.

    REG: I’m not oppressing you, Stan. You haven’t got a womb! Where’s the foetus going to gestate?! You going to keep it in a box?!

    STAN: [crying]

    JUDITH: Here! I– I’ve got an idea. Suppose you agree that he can’t actually have babies, not having a womb, which is nobody’s fault, not even the Romans’, but that he can have the right to have babies.

    FRANCIS: Good idea, Judith. We shall fight the oppressors for your right to have babies, brother. Sister. Sorry.

    REG: What’s the point?

    FRANCIS: What?

    REG: What’s the point of fighting for his right to have babies when he can’t have babies?!

    FRANCIS: It is symbolic of our struggle against oppression.

    REG: Symbolic of his struggle against reality.

  50. You should notice that cop doesn’t even rank that high.

    You guys left out the cowboy and the indian!

    Since we are on a musical tangent to this thread, I was just listening to a city built on Rock and Roll! How awsome can that be?

  51. MNG is shooting his shorts by ascribing the double-whammy of a “strawman/false-dichotomy” to libertarians.

    Neat-O.

    then they have to answer for times in the past which had terrible consequences without recourse to the famed “well that doesn’t count because the market wasn’t really free at the time

    And…

    But if they rely on the absolutely free market meme they have to admit that no advanced economy has been built on such a thing.

    Erm…no one said absolutely free economics is required to attain an advanced economy, only that the freer the economy, the more likely and more quickly it will advance.

  52. But if they rely on the absolutely free market meme they have to admit that no advanced economy has been built on such a thing.

    I thought capitalism just died?

    Oh wait, no. Our market was more regulated when this nation was founded, then George W. Bush deregulated everything. So we Capitalism for eight years of Bush… you’re right, MNG, this is delicious.

  53. Actually, Tony does not make a great point, because he misses what makes billionaires possible.

    Cast your mind to the neolithic era. How would a Richard Brantiff or a Thomas Edison fare in the cultures of the era? Not well. They certainly would not be able to amass vast amounts of wealth through peaceful commerce or through personal production.

    The difference between now and the neolithic era is not just in technological knowledge, after all there have been numerous dark ages we know of in different places where technological knowledge regressed. Something else must be needed to make people sufficiently productive that they are not on the ragged edge of ruin, and to permit people to peacefully amass vast quantities of wealth.

    Nor is the answer institutions – the Vikings had some pretty enlightened institutions yet suffered from privation.

    The answer lies in capital goods, the goods that permit people to be more productive in creating goods to satisfy consumer needs. Institutional frameworks that protect property rights are vital for allowing people to create capital goods, since stability and predictability are pretty much preconditions that people have before they invest time, energy and property into creating them.

    If one looks at the world, the concentration of billionaires is pretty much a function of how many capital goods are produced, which in turn is a function of economic freedom.

    Most importantly, it is impossible for someone to amass billions of dollars under a system of economic freedom without creating something that other people need desperately, or at least facilitating it. In other words, they must improve the lives of their fellow men in order to amass their wealth. If I produce zillions of widgets which nobody else wants, I may have zillions of widgets in my back yard, but I will still be starving on my subsistence farm. Thomas Edison, amassed his fortune by creating new machines that people did want.

    Last but not least, systems of property rights are not arbitrary. They are, at their heart, an attempt to eliminate conflicts over the usage of scarce resources, by identifying who has a moral right to some scarce object or objects. Cass Sunstein’s philosophy does not provide a guide for how to reduce conflicts, rather it makes them more likely.

    His ideas will hinder the creation of capital goods, leading to either lower growth, or if especially badly applied to shrinkage as the incentives to create are reduced and the disincentives are increased.

    One aside, often people like to point to people like Paris Hilton as an example of someone that does not deserve her wealth. While certainly Ms Hilton had not created anything of great value, her wealth was amassed by someone who did create something of great value, who then decided to give it to her as an act of love. I may be jealous that she got it instead of me, but envy is no justification to take stuff that other people have that I want.

    Another aside, in this day and age, one rarely sees billionaires amassing wealth in the U.S. who are not beneficiaries of violence by the Federal, State or local governments. The growth of the state over the course of the 20th century has effectively made it impossible for people to amass a fortune without some form of tax exemption/dispensation of rents via govt fiat.

  54. No woman would exist w/o govt. Therefore, no woman’s womb would exist w/o govt. Therefore, all wombs belong to the govt and it can ban any abortion it wants.

    No, I don’t buy the above, but why is it different when you replace womb with wallet?

  55. “Erm…no one said absolutely free economics is required to attain an advanced economy, only that the freer the economy, the more likely and more quickly it will advance.”

    That’s great TAO, I’ve been wanting a hard core libertarian to admit to this point for a while. Oh the places we can go now!

  56. We have a system that in theory enables the sufficiently motivated to become wealthy. But they would not have that ability without the infrastructure that permits it. Hence the moral and practical necessity of progressive taxation.

    I can see how this might justify taxation, but not progressive taxation? How did you make that leap? I have access to exactly the same legal protections and infrastructure that Bill Gates does. Why should he pay more for it?

  57. Because we all know the results of the much FREER policies of the 1920’s were so great!

  58. Argh, remove the question mark from the first sentence.

  59. The even greater thing is that progressives have derided this economy as an unregulated, old-west shootout between the haves and the have-nots. So is that how we became an advanced economy?

    Damn, I nucular bombed with that question, didn’t I?

  60. How many times has it been pointed out to a libertarian some negative results following a period of RELATIVE lessening of economic restrictions and their response is “well, that doesn’t count because that was not a “FREE” market, there was Smoot-Hawley, or the de-regulation did not go far enough, or…

    Glad to know TAO is giving up that line. Because now we can get somehwere!

  61. Because we all know the results of the much FREER policies of the 1920’s were so great!

    They fixed all that with the Fed, the SEC, Sarbanes-Oxley, and high home-ownership rates.

  62. By the same token, no state could exist without private production because then the state would have nothing to expropriate for its own survival. States are parasites. You can argue that they’re beneficial parasites, but that’s a lot less than Sunstein claims.

    That’s why large welfare states can only exist where there is already a lot of capitalist wealth creation. Large states built on a non-capitalist foundation (e.g., the USSR) only exacerbate privation and then collapse. Even by Sunstein’s own logic, the state owes capitalists as much or more than capitalists owe the state. Even Marx, in his own way, got that much right, which is why he (incorrectly) predicted communist revolutions in capitalist countries, when in fact they occurred in feudal countries.

  63. Because we all know the results of the much FREER policies of the 1920’s were so great!

    Not an argument. Are you stating that the policies were freer but not great? That life was not great because of the lack of policies? That different policies have somehow made life better?

  64. How many times has it been pointed out to a libertarian some negative results following a period of RELATIVE lessening of economic restrictions and their response is “well, that doesn’t count because that was not a “FREE” market, there was Smoot-Hawley, or the de-regulation did not go far enough, or…

    I never said anything about “giving up the line” that government policies make things worse rather than better.

    Most of your arguments of that type are post hoc ergo propter hoc or they’re intellectually dishonest. I will readily grant that so-called “deregulation” caused the S&L crisis, but it was, in fact, the existing regulations that actually caused the problems.

    I know this is way too nuanced for you.

  65. Large states built on a non-capitalist foundation (e.g., the USSR) only exacerbate privation and then collapse.

    Hold the fuck on. Are you arguing that the USSR’s privation increased and productivity decreased throughout its existence? They were around for seventy years; I find this to be unlikely just on that basis.

    I thought the big problem was that it couldn’t grow *fast enough* to compete, not that it didn’t grow at all.

  66. So TAO, despite the relative overall “freeness” of the climate, we just have to hunt for some government restriction on the market that is to blame for the bad effects that followed that climate, and since there will always be some government restriction (as there is no such thing as an absolute free market), then we can always find one.

    That’s a neat trick to turn an ideology into a non-falsifiable religion. My neighbors do that too. When something good happens they say “that was God’s will” when something bad happens they say that was Satan at work…

  67. Uh, no, again, go back and read the argument. It is the intellectually dishonest who blame the current crisis and the analogous S&L crisis on “deregulation”. They’re the ones with the axe to grind.

  68. Most of your arguments of that type are post hoc ergo propter hoc…”

    Pretty much every argument in this area from everyone is post hoc ergo propter hoc. Srsly.

  69. I thought the big problem was that it couldn’t grow *fast enough* to compete

    Not quite. Competition wasn’t important. Self-sustinance was, however. Trying to compete was probably the biggest contributor to killing them(another thread for this).

    There’s certainly no math trick about a slave nation putting people to work and pulling raw materials out of the ground, and forcing production. So sure, the USSR ‘grew’ during their 70 year existence. But as predicted, their economy collapsed due its own internal inefficiencies.

    We’re attempting to emulate that by hiding the cost (and price) of goods while remaining relatively free in the social realm. So far, we’re doing a bangup job.

  70. MNG,

    I have a question. Given that the government much more actively controlled the economy in the 1920’s through the remnants of wartime planning boards, the new agriculture department etc than in the 1900’s,

    Why was the crash of the 1930;s so much worse than the crash of 1908?

    Why wasn’t the economy in a permanent depression in the 19th century?

    Dude, the idea that the roaring 20’s were the product of unparalleled laissez faire is absolute baloney. In fact, the opposite is true, for the first time, the Federal Government was controlling several crucial sectors of the economy, and in their inexperience and naivete, they fucked it all into a cocked hat, buying and destroying crops and livestock, printing money like there was no tomorrow to prop up the Bank of England and the like.

    The roots of the Great Depression lie in the attempts of the Federal Government to reverse economic trends caused by the aftermath of World War I – using methods that were about as smart as trying to keep the tide away using dynamite.

  71. Don’t you guys know that you are missing the 2009 Dakar race?

    Western technology battle in the wilderness!

  72. TAO
    Did or did not the choices made by those (Phil Gramm et al) trumpeting their cause as de-regulation enact less regulation or restrictions on market activity?

    Those choices resulted in being more freer overall. You argue otherwise?

  73. I can’t wait to read the 20 comments of babble that are coming.

    I count 10 MNG comments since guy’s prediction.
    Half way there!

  74. Damn 11

  75. The roots of the Great Depression lie in the attempts of the Federal Government to reverse economic trends caused by the aftermath of World War I – using methods that were about as smart as trying to keep the tide away using dynamite.

    And FDR gave us even more of that resulting in a much longer and deeper recession throughout the 1930s.

    “Great Depression” must have been contrived by one of FDRs campaign staff.

  76. That post ergo hoc stuff cuts both ways, just because a positive result followed any policy which results in freer markets we cannot ascribe that positive result to the becoming freer. It could have been some restriction that still remained that resulted in the positive result.

    As I’ve noted with relatively few data points in history it’s not illogical to suppose that results that followed major policy changes were in fact caused by those major policy changes.

    tarran
    TAO has let the cat out of the bag now, it’s going to be difficult to ignore him sitting there meowing and stuff. Even if the 1930’s involved more goverment than in 1908, it surely involved less government than say 1940, or 1950, or 1960, and the results of the latter were better than the results of this plainly “freer” climate…

  77. Please Guy, the big people are talking.

  78. MNG-

    Cheeck out the federal register. Look at the number of pages through the years. Over the past 50 years, do you think that the number of pages has grown or shrunk? Take a wild fornicating guess.

  79. Well, I am missing Dakar now too. They changed the channel.

    Ah, a good time to test this G3 wireless gadget!

  80. “I’ve often made the first point here in pointing out that 24% of blacks in the US live below the poverty rate while 8% of whites do. If we are to believe the myth that everyone is where they are at because of their own initiative and decisions then we would have to believe that for some reason 3 times as many blacks make bad decisions and/or lack initiative. And I don’t think it would help much to say “well blacks have a different culture that promotes bad decisions and lack of initiative” because they we would have to ask “why do 3 times more blacks buy into that culture than whites do?””

    MNG, Your post above assumes that we will all agree that blacks and whites have equal initial starting points with respect to talents, intelligence, drive. Go ahead, flame me if you want, but consider this: it’s ok to say someone is stupid because they come from a “white trash family” but somehow taboo if they are black. Ashkenazi jews are statistically smarter than the general population. it’s not taboo to say that, though somehow it’s bad to say some group is less smart. If you can avoid flaming me for ten seconds, read the following website. agree or hate him, it’s stuff that will blow your hair back.

  81. Please Guy, the big people are talking.

    Then quit commenting and read us.

  82. MNG-

    Talk to me about the construction of transcontinental railroads. Do you think that the federal gvt. had to be a player in the development of the transcontinental railroads? Could a railroad have been constructed of greater length without any government money, state or federal, all the while paying the indians for the right to build upon and use their land and without importing slave irish and chinese labor?

  83. This is the descriptive part of “Socialism is the economic equivalent of Creationism” in another post. Basically, neither believe something as complicated as an ecosystem or a modern economy can just evolve, and both must be the designed creation of some higher intelligence to be worshiped as a god.

    Creationists want that to be Jeebus, Socialists want that to be govt.

  84. Guy-

    Off topic.

    Perhaps you did not look at Chapman’s blog(on Blajoevich) from this morning after you posted, but you did not respond to my post concerning your assessment of a certain 39 year old quarterback. Do you think that you can respond with a big people argument?

  85. Face it, there exists many who can’t hold any fucking job due to their work habits or lack thereof.

    There exists people who will trash any decent housing you place them in.

    There exists people who cause their own health problems through substance abuse, poor diet, lack of exercise and poor judgement.

    … economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment? WTF? We fixed all that, right liberals?

    The social security ponzi scheme fixed the first.
    Medicare/medicaid fixed the second
    Workman’s comp and SSD fixed the third.
    Unemployment insurance fixed the fourth.

    FDR’s policies had us still in a depression 8 fucking years into his presidency, let’s try that again! For what looks to be a long overdue severe recession.

  86. MNG should really try reading some Hernando de Soto.

    But if one has a fetish for solving the “first ownership” question, then he’s not really interested in a discussion as it is already known that one can’t really determine it.

  87. libertymike
    You are absolutely correct. But here is my point to tarran: to use your example the federal register (if it existed then, but you get my drift) would have been thinner in 1929 than in 1949 or 1959, or 1969, etc, but the latter was a much better time economically for Americans than the former. Therefore the connection between “freer” and “better off” becomes problematic.

    In fact, the US arrives on the truly world scene right around…the Progressive Era…

    I’m actually just trying to point out how complicated this all is, I actually believe that there is some correlation between economic freedom and development, but that the correlation is probably more curvi-linear (extremes of little or lots of economic freedom being bad for development, but some middle amount being good for it)

  88. we would have to ask “why do 3 times more blacks buy into that culture than whites do?”

    Why would we have to ask that? Why should we care? This is a serious, non-rhetorical question. It’s none of my business why you want to be a failure as long as I don’t have to pay for it.

  89. Dude, I like De Soto, he’s part of the institutional economics movement I cite here all the time. He’s all about how those institutions Sunstein refers to are so crucial and necessary for any invidual or national success.

  90. Bob
    You might ask this because it seems to put a hole in the idea that success and failure must solely be due to invidual values and choices, because if that is the case then why do we see this regular gap in values and choices along these demographic groups (there are lots of others)? If race has nothing to do with it at all, then the rates of poverty and such should be somewhat equally distributed among these groups. The only way to escape it is to posit group differences (biological, cultural) or differences in how those groups are treated (discrimination) that libertarians tend not to want to talk about…

  91. Jordan,

    I would argue that libertarians, if they believe that taxes must exist at all, should favor progressive taxation. Why would you prefer a system that heavily burdens the majority of people, while the rich get away with paying what is a trifle to them? Wouldn’t a system that raises the necessary funds but that attempts not to burden anyone with taxation maximize liberty?

  92. In fact, the US arrives on the truly world scene right around…the Progressive Era…

    Nay nay. The end of the civil war, the first modern war fought between two western European* nations. But you knew that.

    * Culturally.

  93. Tony
    Because sadly libertarianism to many is about protecting their sense of wealth and privilige from people they tend to think are far less deserving of what they have “earned” (yes I’m winking at you TAO). And this logic means the wealthy must be really special and thus not to be f*cked with. Look at Ayn Rand’s longwinded homages to the great and productive few and her revenge fantasies brought down on any who would f*ck with them.

  94. There was a several-week-long pissing contest in the comment section of the local paper between cops, claiming their occupation was more dangerous than all others, and everyone else. Eventually they resorted to the irrefutable point, “Well, try calling a roofer when you’re getting robbed!”

  95. libertymike,

    You should capitalize Chinese.

    On that quarterback thing, he is not playing for a team I root for therefore he sucks. Your taste may vary.

  96. “Eventually they resorted to the irrefutable point, “Well, try calling a roofer when you’re getting robbed!””

    Well, roofers rarely hit the wrong house, and if they did the results would certainly not be so bad 🙂

  97. libertymike
    I’m not certain what you are getting at about the railroads. Government involvement in the railroads is I think just one of many points of evidence that the government has been acting in non-libertarian ways for a loooong time.

  98. Tony,

    I would argue that libertarians, if they believe that taxes must exist at all, should favor progressive taxation. Why would you prefer a system that heavily burdens the majority of people, while the rich get away with paying what is a trifle to them?

    Because our idea of fair is taxing at the same rate. It also gives people more incentive to earn more without a penalty for being more productive.

    Last one for you Che Jr.

    BTW, how is that MNG count going?

  99. Gotta love how Guy missed the most important point of Tony’s post (the last sentence).

    We really missed you while you were gone Guy, Urkobold can’t carry the comedy load all by themselves…

  100. J sub D,

    Many of the current logistics systems are based on logistics problems solved during the American Civil War.

  101. MNG, count me on Bob Smiths side in that I don’t care why people under perform as long as it’s not my tab.

    You’re right that not caring implies one of the assumptions you cite – and so it becomes the sort of libertarian question that I HATE – either we end up as dicks (don’t care that some group is baselessly discriminated against, not my problem) or we think blacks are dumber, and we are racists. The standard dodge is sputtering that the government shouldn’t decide, get out of the way, etc. BUT – if its the former, then any inequality in government hiring, pay, etc. are legitimately subject to quotas, and perhaps affirmative action. SO, in my view libertarians either have to be for affirmative action, or willing to posit and defend group differences – which are currently ugly.

  102. You might ask this because it seems to put a hole in the idea that success and failure must solely be due to invidual values and choices, because if that is the case then why do we see this regular gap in values and choices along these demographic groups (there are lots of others)? If race has nothing to do with it at all, then the rates of poverty and such should be somewhat equally distributed among these groups. The only way to escape it is to posit group differences (biological, cultural) or differences in how those groups are treated (discrimination) that libertarians tend not to want to talk about…

    I’ll discuss racism if you like. It exists. It always has. It always will. Government efforts to prevent or alleviate the admitted harmful effects of some slack jawed yokel bigots are counter-productive and end up harming the very groups they claim to champion.

    Cultural attributes of course matter in economic success. In spite of a certain regular commeter here at H&R, ghetto culture exists, it’s nut conducive to amassing wealth and governmental policies bear a large portion of the blame for creating said ghetto culture.

    Not that effin’ complicated, is it?

  103. Jordan,

    I have access to exactly the same legal protections and infrastructure that Bill Gates does. Why should he pay more for it?

    My argument would be that he has more to protect, so he should pay more for the protection. Isn’t that kind of like a market for protection of private property? He has more, therefor, he has more to lose without the system, i.e. paying for police and military. He has more, therefor, he has more contracts to enforce, i.e. paying for the courts.

    Thinking that the rich should pay more doesn’t mean that I think the rich should pay for me, just enough to cover their own higher costs.

  104. MNG,

    Yeah. I come to this site because I’m pretty radically socially libertarian, and I believe liberal economic policies actually promote more liberty than what so-called libertarians peddle. Reasonable people can disagree about whether Ayn Rand was a second-rate or a third-rate philosopher, but what baffles me is how libertarians have let the plutocrats use their philosophy as an excuse to enact socialism for the rich. I feel they should be much louder in their opposition to this type of socialism than to social welfare, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

  105. Why would you prefer a system that heavily burdens the majority of people, while the rich get away with paying what is a trifle to them? Wouldn’t a system that raises the necessary funds but that attempts not to burden anyone with taxation maximize liberty?

    A government that only attempted to raise “necessary funds” (i.e. funds for activities permitted by the Constitution) would not need to burden anyone with taxation. We managed just fine for 100 years with a 0% income tax.

  106. Tony,
    Another view, for which I have some sympathy, is that progressive taxes simply reflect the idea of the decreasing marginal utility of wealth. past a certain point, people are already comfortable, so they don’t mind more taxes. Despite being a libertarian, anti tax, and having been raised poor, and become wealthy by my own brains and brawn – if know this is true for me…

  107. BGM,

    My argument would be that he has more to protect, so he should pay more for the protection.

    If he wants to settle for what he gets from the government he gets the same as everybody else, more or less. But I will go out on a limb here and suggest that he uses privately paid lawyers rather than public defensers, has some form of private security rather than relying exclusively on the local police wherever he happens to be, has a few network security folks on his own payroll rather than relying exclusively on the Secret Service (or whomever has that turf now), etc.

    I hope nobody here (that I am paying any attention to at this point) is suggesting that he should be denied the right to hire these people.

    He still should be paying the same taxes as anybody else of his means.

  108. Dude, I like De Soto, he’s part of the institutional economics movement I cite here all the time. He’s all about how those institutions Sunstein refers to are so crucial and necessary for any invidual or national success.

    Which institutions is Sunstein referrring to? The topic here was Sunstein’s second bill of rights support – concepts that are antithetical to property rights.

  109. Reasonable people can disagree about whether Ayn Rand was a second-rate or a third-rate philosopher, but what baffles me is how libertarians have let the plutocrats use their philosophy as an excuse to enact socialism for the rich.

    How exactly have we “let” this happen? How many libertarians compose Congress in your world? Have you tried looking through the bazillion articles that Reason alone has written on the subject of corporate subsidies and bailouts?

    My argument would be that he has more to protect, so he should pay more for the protection. Isn’t that kind of like a market for protection of private property? He has more, therefor, he has more to lose without the system, i.e. paying for police and military.

    As I said before, Bill Gates receives exactly the same services from the Seattle PD and FD that any other resident does (or wherever the hell he lives), as well as the U.S. military.

    He has more, therefor, he has more contracts to enforce, i.e. paying for the courts.

    User fees for the legal system? Cripes, that’s perverse. Do I have a quota for the number of times I can call the cops?

    Another view, for which I have some sympathy, is that progressive taxes simply reflect the idea of the decreasing marginal utility of wealth. past a certain point, people are already comfortable, so they don’t mind more taxes. Despite being a libertarian, anti tax, and having been raised poor, and become wealthy by my own brains and brawn – if know this is true for me…

    A view for which I have no sympathy. If you find your wealth less useful past a certain point, than you’re free to give it away or smoke cigars made of $100 bills.

  110. “The idea of progressive taxation is central to democracy. Indeed, the idea that taxes should be based on ability to pay was intertwined with the birth of the first democracy, 2,500 years ago, Ancient Athens had been a tyranny in which each person paid the same tax–a hard burden for most, a trifle for the rich. Then a moral principle was developed: the more one gained economically from living in civilized society, the greater one’s duty to maintain that society by paying taxes. Every classic worldly philosopher–Aristotle, Plato, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, David Ricardo, John Locke, and all the rest–endorsed this moral principle, arguably making it the most conservative principle in Western civilization.”

    –David Cay Johnston

    But then again Ayn Rand was smarter than all those dudes.

  111. Tony,

    You are a funny person on many levels.

    Are you going to next suggest a poll tax for the ‘rich’ because they ‘get more’ from their representatives than the ‘poor’ do?

  112. “Why aren’t billionaires equally distributed throughout the world rather than concentrated in advanced economies, if wealth only depends on one’s personal genius and drive?”

    Nice Strawman.

  113. Once again, Bill Gates lives and works in the same system we all do, and receives exactly the same services. MS-DOS wasn’t magically bestowed upon him by a government bureaucrat.

  114. Tony,

    Did not see that gem before I posted. Nice.

    Are you going to start quoting yourself, writing snap and declaring others ‘spanked’ soon?

  115. Tony – what kind of irrelevant shit is that? Ayn Rand rarely talked about politics, for one. For two, she had a much deeper idea of being for a thing rather than just against things.

    Tell me, Tony, what are you for? What do you support? Or can you only tear down?

  116. Jordan,

    I am sure the ‘contracts equal theft’ crowd can tell you how purchasing MS-DOS from its creator for $50,000(?) was some sort of fraud.

  117. Guy Montag,

    The rich may get more from their representatives than the poor, but that’s only because the crime of bribery apparently has a very loose definition in this day and age.

    I believe in maximizing individual liberty. That’s why I favor progressive taxation.

  118. How is liberty restricted in a flat tax scheme?

  119. Tony, you might be new here, but you are kicking ass as far as I’m concerned. There can and should be a bright line between libertarianism and objectivist philosophy. But most people got started on teh liberty thing by reading atlas shrugged (or fountainhead if you are a girl).

  120. TAO,

    We got roped into an argument with joe or one of his little joeists who decided to visit.

    Go ahead and continue if you must.

  121. For shame, domo. I haven’t seen much here in accurately portraying Objectivism.

    Then again, I am exceptionally tired of dispelling falsehoods and strawmen about the philosophy. It’s just too much.

  122. they tend to think are far less deserving of what they have “earned”

    In MNG’s worldview, nobody has ever earned anything. He’s a helpless kitten in a world of scary genomic supermen.

  123. The Angry Optimist,

    Assuming we have to pay for the same government regardless of the tax scheme, a flat tax means most people have to pay a greater portion of their worth in taxes. As I’m sure you’d agree, the more taxes you pay the less liberty you have. Why do libertarians favor a tax scheme that makes most people less free?

  124. TAO,
    Really. Ayn Rand only rarely talked about politics? Her whole view of what was sick and evil and corrupt in the world was tied up in the notion of political power bestowing favors on its supplicants. Seriously.

    Ayn Rand was for things and didn’t tear them down? Like her oddly dystopian fantasy of letting society crumble around her without her contributions and intelligence? odd claims, at best.

  125. I believe in maximizing individual liberty.

    Ok…

    That’s why I favor progressive taxation.

    So, robbing people of the fruits of their labor doesn’t conflict with your concept of liberty? See, where I come from, if what you earn gets taken away, you’re not free.

    -jcr

  126. . Even if the 1930’s involved more goverment than in 1908, it surely involved less government than say 1940, or 1950, or 1960

    Actually no…

    In many ways, the 1930’s were the high water mark for Federal control of the economy as FDR adopted many of the programmes of Mussolini’s Italy.

    Truman repealed a great deal of direct Federal Control in the late 1940’s. Needless to say, the economy took off like gangbusters as that occured.

    You are right, though, that economic problems do not directly proportional to the degree of government intervention in the economy. The reckless abandon with which Hoover intervented in the economy as agricultural secretary and then as president was amazing. Many of the problems stemmed from Churchill’s insistence to returning the British Pound to the Gold Standard at pre-war levels of exchange, which was based not on any economic calculation but on a bullheaded insistence based on national honor.

    However, there are two questions that we need to consider:
    1) Does government control improve over the regulatory structures that arise in a free market?

    2) Are some forms of governmental control more destructive than others?

    It seems to me you are taking evidence that (2) is true to argue that 1) must be true. I argue that (1) is false, but that much of the evidence that (1) is true really are examples of (2) in action.

    I do agree, with your comment that the matter is complex.

  127. For anyone who thinks that Ayn Rand is actually writing homages to only the great and productive few, I suggest that you read up on this literary device:

    Characters as representative of a group, and consider this Ayn Rand quote:

    A nation’s productive-and moral, and intellectual-top is the middle class. It is a broad reservoir of energy, it is a country’s motor and lifeblood, which feeds the rest. The common denominator of its members, on their various levels of ability, is: independence. The upper classes are merely a nation’s past; the middle class is its future.

    Like her oddly dystopian fantasy of letting society crumble around her without her contributions and intelligence?

    Dude, seriously, what the hell are you talking about?

  128. *Yawn*. I probably haven’t even read a single page’s worth of material from Ayn Rand in my lifetime. I just happen to believe that confiscatory and redistributionist taxation policies are incompatible with liberty. Yeah, I know, only some crazy cultist could possibly believe that.

  129. TAO. I read (and loved) the books as much as anyone here. But they don’t posit a workable worldview. In my view, they jar the reader into considering an alternate universe where un-libertarian ideas are allowed to run rampant and destroy the society from within. They are great motivation to adopt libertarianism – but they do not, in my view, describe a workable libertarian society. I won’t make you defend – I suspect we don’t disagree all that much in the end, and it does get tiring.

  130. John C. Randolph,

    If you wish to argue that all taxes are improper, fine. There may be an intellectually coherent argument to make vis a vis liberty if you believe that.

    But if you accept that at least some taxes must exist in a civilized society, then I offer my previously stated argument about why progressive taxation results in more liberty than a flat tax.

  131. domo – you thought the characters in Atlas represented Ayn Rand writing some kind of giant Mary Sue?

    That’s actually a pretty stunning revelation to me. Thanks!

  132. Assuming we have to pay for the same government regardless of the tax scheme, a flat tax means most people have to pay a greater portion of their worth in taxes. As I’m sure you’d agree, the more taxes you pay the less liberty you have.

    I don’t think you quite understand fractions. If Bill Gates pays 10% of his income in taxes and I do too, neither of us is paying more than the other. Although, the absolute amount that he pays will be greater than what I pay. And it would make just as much sense for him to argue that he’s paying more in taxes than I am, as it does for you to argue that he’s paying less.

  133. But if you accept that at least some taxes must exist in a civilized society, then I offer my previously stated argument about why progressive taxation results in more liberty than a flat tax.

    Noooo, Tony, your argument was “IF we have to fund the government at its current levels of spending, THEN progressive taxation maximizes liberty.” NOT “IF there is to be taxation at all, it MUST be progressive.”

  134. Guy Montag | January 12, 2009, 6:11pm | #
    Someone does not know jack about how abandoned or unclaimed real property becomes owned either.

    I can’t wait to read the 20 comments of babble that are coming.

    BTW, how is that MNG count going?

    20 exact!!! (since 6:11)

    It is like you are psychic Mr Montag.

  135. JFC one more and I am done. Battery running out anyway.

    Assumging we have to pay for the same government regardless of the tax scheme, a flat tax means most people have to pay a greater portion of their worth in taxes.

    Nice switch from income to worth with the unsubstantiated assumption that greater income automagically means greater ‘worth’ and that greater ‘worth’ is something bad.

    We are talking of a flat income tax, not some crazy personal property tax on your furniture like Indiana had/has.

    Besides, under a flat income tax all of ones stuff was already taxed. At least twice if there is a sales tax. Three times if the merchant is taxed too, and on and on.

    Okay joe, I am done with you now.

    BTW, I have never read an Ayn Rand novel (some essays, no novels) and have great fun with Randoids in-person pronouncing her first name “Ann”.

  136. Tony,

    You argue

    but what baffles me is how libertarians have let the plutocrats use their philosophy as an excuse to enact socialism for the rich.

    Dude, libertarians are a minority. In fact, I would argue that the proportion of consistent, ethical libertarians is vastly smaller than the proportion of homosexuals in society. It’s not like we have much of a say.

    Secondly, libertarians are human, and just as vulnerable to being hoodwinked as followers of another ideaology.

    The plutocrats cite whatever justification they can get their hands on to justify their rule. Since the United States is founded on a classical liberal mythology, they often use classical liberalism as a justification of their rule. They trick alot of people, including many people who want to be libertarian, but haven’t thought things through thorougly. C’est la vie.

  137. TAO,

    I interpret Atlas Shrugged as an incredible frustrated (and often mendacious) novel in which the author fantasizes about how most people in society are hangers on, and refuse to take personal responsibility for their own success or failure. The heros of the story (including herself as Dagny) end up quite content to let the old society crumble and fail, by removing their own wealth and intellect that was feeding it. It screams “I’m taking my football, and I’m going home”

    dystopia, crumble, odd, blah blah blah

  138. So, yes, you do think of it as a giant Mary Sue.

    Unbelievable!

    Regardless, did you see the links I provided for Characters as Representative of Groups and Ayn Rand’s quote about the middle class?

  139. TAO, I’ve never heard that term, but yeah, I guess that’s close enough…

  140. Although I’d say given her philosophy, she’d probably reject the idea that such a label was a priori a pejorative one. Do you disagree – you have peaked my interest!

  141. The novel is not self-projection into the character of Dagny Taggart. The heroes of the novel represent the entire productive class. They’re symbols.

  142. Somewhere, way, way up there in the comment thread, the Tiger began a statement with “It’s not that hard to understand…” In other words, “if you don’t agree with me, you are willfully obtuse, or an idiot.” I hate that kind of a statement. Makes stop listening right then and there.

  143. My submission in defense of the much beleaguered, but holding-in-well Tony is: If you accept the principle of decreasing marginal utility of wealth – then a progressive tax could be seen as a flat utility denominated tax, and is thus defensible in terms of liberty. Chew on that, Randroids.

  144. TAO,
    I can’t believe a person can write a thousand pages of copy about a character without inhabiting her head to a certain degree. This is not an economic man argument that she is making. Dagny loved, left, and acted in many personal ways similarly to Ayn in real life. I don’t say Dagny is a pure Mary Sue, but can you reject it entirely knowing what you must about Ayn’s personal life?!

  145. TAO – damn, Dagny Taggart is even mentioned on the wikipedia page for “mary sue”! Cmon – i’m new to this term, but I’m hardly the first person to say this!!!

  146. Jordan,

    My metric of liberty is not some arbitrary percentage. Sure, 5% means more freedom than 10%. How do you arrive at the correct percentage? Certainly whatever is necessary to fund the government. But by what moral standard or otherwise do you apply a single percentage to all regardless of wealth? 10% to a billionaire does not alter his standard of living. 10% to a person making 10 grand a year is a huge burden.

    Morally, the difference we have is merely a factual matter. To what extent to people attain and defend wealth via their own initiative, and to what extent do they attain and defend it because of tax-funded services (including everything government provides)?

    If Bill Gates pays less to fund the same government, that means poorer people have to pay more. At some point taxation becomes such a burden on people that they cannot live a free life. That burden is much higher for the wealthy. All I’m talking about is maximizing individual liberty.

  147. “At some point taxation becomes such a burden on people that they cannot live a free life. That burden is much higher for the wealthy.”

    I’ll take some issue here. You could not deprive me of enough wealth to take my freedom. What’s more insidious, is you could easily deprive me of freedom, but not my wealth. I’ll stand by my view of marginal utility and taxation, but I’m taking one leg out of your boat…

  148. You see how Tony keeps saying “the same government”, as if any libertarian has ever advocated keeping government at its current rate of “throwing money into the coal furnace”.

    And please review the AS character Orren Boyle, for anyone who thinks Rand is defending the “plutocracy”.

    TAO – damn, Dagny Taggart is even mentioned on the wikipedia page for “mary sue”!

    To each his own. Given the woman’s words about the middle class, I am hard-pressed to see her uplifting the “supermen” of Nietzschean fame.

  149. But by what moral standard or otherwise do you apply a single percentage to all regardless of wealth? 10% to a billionaire does not alter his standard of living. 10% to a person making 10 grand a year is a huge burden.

    The person making $10,000 a year receives the same services (actually many more services) and is just as free to improve his or her situation as Bill Gates was. I’m not responsible for their life choices/genetics/parenting/whatever the fuck is holding them back.

    If Bill Gates pays less to fund the same government, that means poorer people have to pay more.

    No, it doesn’t. Cutting spending is possible, you know. Especially given the obscene spending levels we currently have. Middle class workers wouldn’t have to pay almost half of their income in taxes to support a minimalist government as prescribed by the Constitution. Even including a social safety net.

  150. domoarrigato,

    I think I am with you except I’m too high to process those big words.

    I’m not suggesting wealth is freedom and freedom is wealth. Just that, all other things being equal, more wealth equals more freedom. And there must exist some minimum amount of wealth for an individual in order for him to attain a certain minimum level of liberty. They are arguing that one percentage for all regardless of wealth is fair, but I can’t figure out what moral precept they’re using to justify that. Why isn’t the actual burden on individual freedom more important than a mere arbitrary number (made all the more arbitrary for its universal application)?

    The Angry Optimist,

    I assume you’d in actuality prefer a smaller government; that’s why I made that qualification. I’m just making the argument for progressive taxation vs. a flat tax. Perhaps there is a maximum size of government whose funding would guarantee equal liberty via a flat tax, but it would have to be a very small government indeed.

  151. At some point taxation becomes such a burden on people that they cannot live a free life.

    Freedom is not tied to wealth. The bum on the street has exactly the same rights that I have. Having the right to bear arms does not imply that the Government has to write a check to anyone who is too poor to afford a gun.

  152. I think Rand conceptualizes the plutocracy in mental and moral terms, instead of in terms of wealth (which in the book, is too often appropriated from people like Orren Boyle’s better’s) She idolizes her own sort of supermen.

  153. The “supermen” are symbols! Gah!

  154. “And there must exist some minimum amount of wealth for an individual in order for him to attain a certain minimum level of liberty.”

    This is why I have one leg out of your boat. I insist that even with virtually all my worldly possessions stripped, I could remain and live free for as long as I could survive with my wits. I don’t assert that I would be as happy. But I could be free with nothing but the suit I was born in.

    I agree that the moral justification for the flat tax needs to be fleshed out. Why should we assume a fixed percentage is the fairest, more liberty enhancing way to fund the minimal government which I advocate? It’s worth asking the question.

  155. Jordan,

    Even if I agreed that both the poor person and the billionaire receive exactly the same services from the government, it doesn’t follow that people shouldn’t pay taxes based on wealth. Again, my standard is based on individual liberty. At what rate is a poor person’s liberty threatened? What about a billionaire (assuming an agreed-upon minimum standard of liberty)?

    Again, I’m sure you’d prefer a smaller government, but I don’t think a debate on the morality or practicality of a flat vs. progressive tax depends on how big the government is, unless the government is so small that a flat tax wouldn’t represent a burden on the poorest.

  156. TAO – sorry dude, I know you said you didn’t want to do this. They ARE symbols – but they aren’t JUST symbols. She polishes her characters like gems – she imbues them with all sorts of admirable qualities, and bestows a glorious happy ending upon them. If they were merely symbols to make some point, her treatment of them would have been far more callous. She LOVES them, because she identifies with them – because she is them.

  157. No, dammit! They’re heroes to her, which I know is incredibly hokey in this post-emotion, double-self-referential, Iron Irony Ironic hipster world, but they’re heroes.

    Heroes! Good people who do good things and deserve happy endings…

  158. Jordan and domoarrigato,

    Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. So my difference with both of you is whether wealth has anything to do with liberty. I suppose it is one of the basic tenets of liberalism that one’s freedom depends heavily upon one’s ability to access basic necessities. If a tax scheme thus hinders anyone, it restricts freedom. That’s an anti-tax argument. But given the necessity of taxes, minimizing the burden on individuals via a progressive system seems to promote the most liberty.

  159. MNG-

    Compare the building of the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific with the construction of the Great Northern Pacific. One was built with federal dough, the other was privately financed. Which one just disregarded the concenrns of the Indians? Which one actually paid the Indians? Which one had to have soldiers protect large tracts of the line while being erected? Which one had an eastern starting point of Council Bluff, Iowa? Which ugly ass presiedent just happened to own land in Council Bluff?

    Take a wild f……in guess which one generated one of the largest corruption scandals in our history?

    Thus, the land upon which the gvt. funded railroads were built was taken, by force, from a prior owner in order to enrich a number of rent seeking scum along with their republican party cohorts. Indians were murdered and they retaliated-as was their natural right to slaughter any pale faced pony soldier; property was taken from people who actually made or produced something in order to finance the boondogle and hordes of Chinese were Irish were treated no better than slaves and were frequently beaten and cheated out of what was due them.

    The story of the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific is universally taught in public school history classes. The story of the Great Northern Pacific is not. The former represents the old Hamilton/Clay/WHig/Lincoln school of internal improvements/mercantilism school of thought while the latter represents something much more akin to free enterprise.

    Both were prominent institutions. Were both indispensable to the creation of wealth?

  160. I suppose it is one of the basic tenets of liberalism that one’s freedom depends heavily upon one’s ability to access basic necessities. If a tax scheme thus hinders anyone, it restricts freedom.

    Then we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

  161. “I suppose it is one of the basic tenets of liberalism that one’s freedom depends heavily upon one’s ability to access basic necessities.”

    To which I can only rejoinder with:

    “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

    That’s a moral statement, not an economic one. As much as I tend to harp on the economic in this forum, I disagree completely with the idea that liberty requires anything more than human spirit.

  162. the it takes a village philosophy is nothing more than pretext for control freaks.

  163. Freedom is not tied to wealth.

    Except that the freer people are, the more wealth they will produce.

    -jcr

  164. TAO – I suppose that’s what she meant. It’s certainly how I read it the first time. As an older and wiser reader, I took in more of the subtext. I’m not saying she didn’t view them as simple heroes – I’m saying the type of person she views as a hero says something about her. To the extent that her heroes are eerily similar to the author in action and thought (intentionally or not) – they are Mary Sues.

  165. the it takes a village philosophy is nothing more than pretext for control freaks.

    It’s also a rationalization for those who can’t be bothered to care for their own offspring.

    -jcr

  166. JCR,

    Good point – that wealth depends on freedom – not the other way around.

  167. JCR,

    I totally agree, but that depends on how you define freedom. I simply place access to basic necessities as central to a certain minimum, morally acceptable, level of individual freedom. Further, I posit that the more wealth you have, the more free you are, which as far as I can tell is self-evident unless someone wishes to argue why not.

  168. Anyone who reads Atlas Shrugged, and comes away thinking Ayn Rand was *fantasizing* about economic collapse, has a very different sense of life from Ayn Rand. Eddie Willers’ fate is tragic, but in the context of the novel it had to be so, because Rand couldn’t slow play the harsh outcomes of collectivism and willful disregard for reality and reason.

    People who think Atlas is some kind of 1950s version of Fight Club are *waaaaaaaaaay* wide of the mark.

  169. Eddie Willers’ fate is tragic

    Jim Taggart (Hank Paulson), Wesley Mouch (Barack Obama), Bertram Scudder (Paul Krugman), and Cuffy Meigs (Rahm Emanuel), on the other hand, get exactly what’s coming to them.

  170. On Ayn Rand,

    She developed a standard of who is virtuous and who is not that is as simplistic as it is arbitrary. I admit a certain fascination with her–when I was in 8th grade. But that’s because she was the only outspoken atheist I was allowed to read at that age. Her claimed affection for objectivity was very appealing. Her ideas about humanity were harsh and based on false premises, in my opinion.

  171. Or, for those who would prefer the Republican version of the villains:

    Jim Taggart (Hank Paulson), Wesley Mouch (George W. Bush), Bertram Scudder (David Brooks), and Cuffy Meigs (Dick Cheney)

  172. Her ideas about humanity were harsh

    Don’t know where you get that idea, given that she was one of the few philosophers of the twentieth century who actually thought humanity was worth anything at all.

  173. Graphite,

    Touche.

  174. I think Ayn was fantasizing about her own value in the world such that it collapses without her support – not necessarily the collapse itself – though she does seem to get off on the torturing her villains.

  175. though she does seem to get off on the torturing her villains

    I don’t really blame her. I like to imagine Hank Paulson suffering a Jim Taggart-style mental collapse …

    “uhhhggg… credit … Wall Street’s losses are Main Street’s losses … nnnnuuaaahgghh … ”

    But alas, the guy’s a Christian Scientist, he went through his “mental collapse” phase years ago.

  176. tony you are awsome. keep spreading the word and give it to the man sideways.

  177. ” But by what moral standard or otherwise do you apply a single percentage to all regardless of wealth?”-Tony

    Equality before the law. Perhaps some word of this novel concept has leaked through to whatever godsforsaken land you live in? (Just an aside: You are aware the progressive income tax taxes income and not wealth. How much wealth a person has is utterly irrelevant to what income tax rate the pay? You do know that, right?)

    On a practical level progressive taxation creates perverse incentives to do economically unproductive activities to avoid paying the increased rates. It also tends to have the worst affect on the group of people who are just on the cusp of building real wealth.

    Your notion that it is “libertarian” to minimize liberty for a minority so the majority can be freer is laughably absurd.

    “Why isn’t the actual burden on individual freedom more important than a mere arbitrary number (made all the more arbitrary for its universal application)?”

    Which presumes that you can calculate the “actual burden” in an objective, non-arbitrary fashion. How? That “actual burden” is amorphous, insubstantial philophical construct that has little tangible connection to the real world, yet you treat it as if it trumps all other considerations, both principled and practical.

  178. MNG sez Those choices resulted in being more freer overall.

    and Therefore the connection between “freer” and “better off” becomes problematic.

    Is MNG channeling GWB? Or is he full of GHB?

  179. Tony sez But then again Ayn Rand was smarter than all those dudes.

    I’d probably give a nod to her over the person you are actually quoting.

  180. Tony sez I believe in maximizing individual liberty. That’s why I favor progressive taxation.

    and I think I am with you except I’m too high to process those big words.

    Well that explains a lot.

    I was wondering if Tony was about 14 or had sucked down a big swig of stupid.

    Further, I posit that the more wealth you have, the more free you are, which as far as I can tell is self-evident unless someone wishes to argue why not.

    Tony, Tony, Tony. Let me introduce you to one Billy Beck.

    [Some days I’m an evil fuck.]

  181. juris – NOOOO! What is wrong with you?!

    Oh wait…you’re an evil fuck. I got it.

    (dammit)

  182. Totally OT, but according to two Obama transition team members, Obama is drafting the order to close Guantanamo Bay prisoner camp, to be announced and submitted within the first week of office.

    Is “Phew!” or “Ha ha!” the appropriate reaction here>?

  183. elemenope, thank you for the 12 hour old news bro. check the 4:30 thread from yesterday.

  184. I didn’t bother to read through the whole thread, but the funniest thing was in here was MNG talking about using his “natural ass kicking ability” to take something.

    He’s a liberal.

    It isn’t physically possible for him to have a “natural ass kicking ability”!

  185. “Tell me, Tony, what are you for? What do you support? Or can you only tear down?”

    Lord, you can almost see the tears in TAO’s eyes with this one.

    It’s like a weepy housewife “all you can do is criticize, criticize, criticize!” Boy, you just can’t talk to some people about their religion 😉

    Besides, I thought it was quite plain what Tony was putting forth, a system that maximizes liberty by placing any necessasry burdens/restrictions of government on as few (and as capable to bear it) as possible. (see his post @ 7:48).

    Oh, and who’s counting, you missed Guy Montag’s 23 posts, but I guess since only about 1/3 of them were relevant to what anyone was talking about it’s kind of not that many…

    Gilbert
    I’ve found it’s conservatives who lack any ass-kicking ability. In fact, several studies have borne this out:
    http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/index.php?term=20061222-000001&page=2

  186. Don’t laugh, MNG. You really do not believe in anything either. You’re a hollow shell that lacks principles or beliefs.

  187. “Gilbert
    I’ve found it’s conservatives who lack any ass-kicking ability.”

    That’s another howler, MNG.

    You’re a liberal. You’ve never “found” anything.

    Nothing on earth is ever an established fact on the say so of any liberal.

    If a liberal tells you that water is wet, it isn’t actually wet until it is confirmed as such by a conservative.

  188. “Besides, I thought it was quite plain what Tony was putting forth, a system that maximizes liberty by placing any necessasry burdens/restrictions of government on as few (and as capable to bear it) as possible. (see his post @ 7:48).”

    Liberty is the abscence of government control – period.

    So maximum liberty is the maximum abscence of government control – not government forcing some people to subsidize the existence of others.

  189. Did FDR get his ideas from Oswald Mosley?

    “Real freedom is economic freedom. Economic freedom cannot come until economic chaos ends ; and it cannot end until a Government has power to act. Real freedom means good wages, short hours, security in employment, good houses, opportunity for leisure and recreation with family and friends.”

  190. MNG, that is funny. You are the most brilliant observer in this thread.

  191. Real freedom is economic freedom.

    I would say that economic freedom is a necessary but not sufficient component of real freedom, bu, OK so far.

    Economic freedom cannot come until economic chaos ends;

    I really have no idea what this is supposed to mean, but fortunately it is clarified for me below, in which the author makes clear that freedom = chaos in his mind, and government control = freedom.

    and it cannot end until a Government has power to act. Real freedom means good wages, short hours, security in employment, good houses, opportunity for leisure and recreation with family and friends.

    Orwell didn’t have to make anything up, did he?

  192. Late to the fight, but you guys have done a fine job showing the newbie the ropes. One point everyone seems to have missed:

    Why aren’t billionaires equally distributed throughout the world rather than concentrated in advanced economies, if wealth only depends on one’s personal genius and drive?

    That assumes that billionaires stay put. Sure Bill Gates is a US native, but many billionaires (Soros, Theokratis, et als) were born offshore and moved here because we’re unlikely to arbitrarily seize their wealth without due process.

  193. Just that, all other things being equal, more wealth equals more freedom.

    This is all a big discussion about positive v. negative liberty and rights. If you define freedom and liberty consistent with negative rights(that is, you are free to do whatever is not illegal), then there is zero correlation between wealth and freedom.

    Any equation between wealth and freedom is a result of buying into the “positive” liberty viewpoint/fallacy. And that, my friends, is the fast lane to ever larger government, because there is no principled upper limit on positive rights to housing, health care, food, etc.

  194. Clicked too soon.

    The claim that you aren’t free to do something because you can’t afford to do it is fallacious, conflating capability with freedom. Freedom is about possibility, not capability.

  195. Gilbert sez but the funniest thing was in here was MNG talking about using his “natural ass kicking ability” to take something.

    Oh, I just assumed that was a typo – considering the key one over to the right from ‘K’.

  196. I think Sunstein’s point is the problematic nature of a “right” to the stuff you currently have, or “property.” Nozick himself, no squishy liberal, noted what a problematic concept this is. What makes your property yours? That you currently have it? And then, given that, how do property rights trump overall welfare in any sensical understanding?

    Well then, I can take your stuff if I feel like it?

  197. This is the descriptive part of “Socialism is the economic equivalent of Creationism” in another post. Basically, neither believe something as complicated as an ecosystem or a modern economy can just evolve, and both must be the designed creation of some higher intelligence to be worshiped as a god.

    Creationists want that to be Jeebus, Socialists want that to be govt.

    I suspect the two groups overlap a lot .

  198. Did FDR get his ideas from Oswald Mosley?

    His “brain trust” certainly cribbed a lot of the New Deal from Mussolini.

  199. After the win victory, he decided to send milk network as the carrier, also more [url=http://www.coachoutletmalls.com/]Coach outlet[/url] business. Then, he and some stores, e-commerce for distribution, but also established the new business magazine ads, and based on this, the company network spread far higher than the profit margins milkman.

  200. I don’t know what you all are blabbing about, if Cass wrote it, it sucks. Real simple stuff. This is the same sack of human waste that said we should arrest conspiracy theorists… Screw this guy, with a sand paper didlo.

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