Class War

The Good Kind of Class Warfare

|

Watching the GOP presidential contenders rake the smiley-faced, undocumented-alien-shooting Herman Cain's loopy 9-9-9 tax plan over the coals last night, William Saletan had this interesting observation over at Slate today. Republicans are not as immune from class warfare as they pretend. Consider the line of attack that all of them adopted against Cain (with the exception of Michelle Botox Bachmann, who, bless-her-soul, engaged in reverse class warfare, pledging to tax the poor so that they too can pay their fair share for all the great things that this great country provides).

 Take Santorum. Slaten notes:

[He] cited an analysis by the Tax Policy Center, which concluded that the plan would cut taxes on the top 20 percent of earners but raise taxes on the bottom 80 percent. Santorum objected: "When you don't provide a standard deduction, when you don't provide anything for low-income individuals, and you have a sales tax and an income tax and, as Michele said, a value-added tax, which is really what his corporate tax is, we're talking about major increases in taxes on people."

(Emphasis added.)

And then Ron Paul:

"The worst part about" Cain's plan, he argued, was that "it's regressive. A lot of people aren't paying any taxes, and I like that." The 9-9-9 plan, Paul repeated, "is a regressive tax."

And then Mitt Romney:

"I want to reduce taxes on middle income families," he told Cain. "Middle income people see higher taxes under your plan. If it's lower for the middle class, that's great. But that's not what I saw."

This certainly smacks of class warfare. But does this mean that the Republicans are being their usual contradictory and hypocritical selves? Not necessarily. It's one thing to engage in class warfare to protect the income of the poor from the tentacles of the government and quite another to extend those tentacles into the pockets of the rich just because they are rich. The first involves protecting the poor from legalized robbery. The second involves engaging in legalized robbery against the rich.

NEXT: Want to Live Forever? Sonia Arrison Explains How In Her New Book

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

  1. I suppose we could leave the tax code the way it is now and just cut spending to get things back in order.

    1. that’s a good one…..

  2. Is there a politician alive that doesn’t pander to the “middle class” (which as I recall is what 80+% of the people in this country believe they are)? The poor don’t vote and the rich will always buy their way out – so it makes political sense to promise to protect the middle class.

    The real question is why anyone believes this kabuki is actually meaningful.

    1. My rule of thumb is as soon as a politician says “middle class” you know they’re full of shit.

      1. or “children”

    2. What I really hate is when politicians talk about the government abandoning the middle class or some shit like that as if it is a bad thing. Isn’t the point of being middle class that you can be self sufficient and don’t need to depend on other people for your wellbeing and comfort?

  3. If taxes are immoral then what sort of society do you propose? One in which only a limited amount of legalized robbery is tolerated? What? This hangup with equating taxation with theft has implications you know.

    1. I propose a society where the common law against theft applies to everyone, even those in government, and where governments are voluntary associations of people for their own protection, with membership dues agreed upon in advance, as with any other contract.

      There is no logical reason why only one government should exist in a given geographic area. Let people join the government they want to, then let the various governments reach agreements to handle disputes between their members.

      1. I don’t see how that’s meaningfully different than the system we already have. It just deals with the fact that people are born without the capacity to choose their citizenship status. And given any group of people you’ll need some practical way to achieve consensus, which means not everyone gets their way, i.e., democracy. But you’re free to renounce citizenship once you’re old enough and move away to choose among a large number of other voluntary societies. You don’t, of course, get to freeload on the society that others have already helped pay for.

        1. “You don’t, of course, get to freeload on the society that others have already helped pay for.”

          How’s that? Don’t a lot of people do that now? And what if you contribute more than you take?

          1. It’s hard to determine if someone contributes more than he takes since many of the benefits of civilization are intangible. One can assume that if you’re successful you’ve benefited handsomely from what has been built for you.

            1. One can assume that if you’re successful you’ve benefited handsomely from what has been built for you.
              ——————
              perhaps on the planet Voltron, one can assume that. But on Earth, the typical narrative is that if you are successful, you provided a product or service that people find valuable; you worked your ass off to develop it, market it, and distribute it; and you quite likely enriched the lives of a few others (known as employees) along the way. As a bonus, you more than contributed to the costs of those mighty govt services from which you benefitted, through all the taxes you pay on your income, company property, payroll, the attendant taxes those you employ pay, and so on. The Elizabeth Warren School of Logic is, or should be, closed; ask for your money back as it has committed economic education malpractice with you.

            2. You may not charge for benefits provided without consent.

    2. “This hangup with equating taxation with theft”

      It’s really silly, like equating any restrictions with TEH SLAVERY. Anytime someone equates two things because they share some aspect (while not sharing others) one should be suspicious, but when it’s so laden with moral smugness (who wouldn’t want to equate those they disagree with with slave-owners and robbers?) it really stinks.

      1. Just let us know when you’re posting from Africa.

      2. It’s a fraudulent method of claiming a sort of mystical superiority for their own policy beliefs, which if they were any good would stand on their own merits.

        You can’t be 100% right and your opponents 100% wrong when it’s just a matter of degree of theft (or legitimate differing opinions on constitutionality, for the sacred text libertarians). Heaven forbid we discuss why certain policies are good or bad on their merits instead of trying to figure out what the gods of property rights and freedom declare.

        1. But then that smug feeling of certitiude and righteousness will be lost Tony.

          1. IRONIC COMMENT OF THE YEAR!

            1. I don’t feel certitude about many issues. I feel certain that some other people’s certitude is ill-founded, but that’s different.

          2. Don’t worry, Tony will never lose that feeling.

        2. Because, of course, no one could possibly believe that freedom and property rights have any merit, eh?

        3. Can Reasonable start filtering for consequentialism? That might be easiest.

        4. You can’t be 100% right and your opponents 100% wrong when it’s just a matter of degree of theft (or legitimate differing opinions on constitutionality, for the sacred text libertarians). Heaven forbid we discuss why certain policies are good or bad on their merits instead of trying to figure out what the gods of property rights and freedom declare.

          You do realise that not everyone is a utilitarian, right?

    3. If taxes are immoral then what sort of society do you propose?
      ————————–
      STRAW MAN ALERT…… No one says taxes, per se, are immoral; taxes are necessary to pay for specific govt services, like the ones enumerated in the Constitution. Not even the Founders opposed taxation in principle; they just had the audacity to believe federal power should be limited and that people should have a voice in govt.

      1. “No one says taxes, per se, are immoral”

        New here, huh?

        1. Still having trouble figuring out which taxes the majority oppose? I’ll give you a hint…It’s the ones they had to create an illegal and undersized quorum to enact. Also known as fractional slavery.

          1. But then there is Old Mex… Who else is an anarcho instead of a minarchist or utilitarian type? I forget.

            1. Episiarch in an ancap.

        2. mng,
          no one is advocating zero taxation unless they also advocate anarchy. Even the most legitimate functions of govt have to be funded somehow.

          1. Which is why he asked if you are new here. Some libertarians here and elsewhere are ancaps and some like myself aren’t quite sure (and frankly find the distinction irrelevant because neither will happen in my lifetime). Some definite minarchists might still say taxes are per se immoral but a “necessary evil”. So for you to say “noone” is actually quite wrong and majority may in fact say so.

          2. Not everyone agrees that it’s straight-forward common sense to assume that the only way the legitimate functions of government can be funded is by taxation. Also, that ‘unless they also advocate anarch[ism]’ thing is actually a pretty big exception.

    4. Taxes are necessary a necessary evil to fund the necessary evil of self government. Given this, the next question should be, how to raise them easily, cheaply, and with minimal intrusion on the private sector. Making the tax code far simpler than the current one would be a good start.

      1. Sounds good, but then it’s just a question of which functions the people want government to do. So if a solid majority want Medicare, you have no good reason to deny them their democratic will. You can’t say that service is paid for by illegitimate theft, but the ones you like are OK.

        Government’s job is to redistribute resources to accomplish social tasks, and democracy lets us legitimately figure out what tasks those should be.

        1. You know what would work? A document which specifically listed the powers of the government. But what would we call it?

        2. Government’s job is to redistribute resources to accomplish social tasks, and democracy lets us legitimately figure out what tasks those should be.

          I understand that you fervently believe in this principle, like liberals everywhere, however it runs counter to the principals on which the US was founded. The Founders did not intend to create a system whereby the majority could simply vote to appropriate for themselves the property of a minority.

        3. Silly me, I thought that the government’s job was national defense and regulating commerce.

          1. unless, as Tony explains, people want it to do more.

            1. So as Tony expains, if the majority wants the government to supply all their earthly needs without raising a finger by taking it from those that do then there is no good reason to deny them their democratic will, right?

              “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” – Alexis de Tocqueville

              1. One can assume that there would be political pushback against attempts to do that. We certainly don’t lack for it in this country.

                Even so, I’ve yet to see anyone explain just what alternative is superior to letting people have the government they want.

                1. If it is true democracy and a simple majority wins, the majority will always be able to legally take from the minority, no matter the “political push back” of the minority.

                  Two wolves and a sheep are voting on dinner… Come on now Tony.

                  Pure democracy is doomed to fail. Our founders understood this. We started as a constitutional republic with specific enumerated powers.

                  Nowhere in the constitution will you find the word “redistribute”

                  The reason we’re having so many problems today is because we’ve gotten so far away from the limited powers our federal government was granted.

                  1. Well said, Sam.

        4. Government’s job is to redistribute resources…

          With that premise nothing more need be said.

  4. Many conservative voters and politicians take exception to the fact that around 50 percent of Americans don’t pay income taxes, and want to shift some of the burden on to them.

    Ron Paul says that if half the people aren’t paying any income taxes, he’s halfway to his goal of no one paying any income taxes.

    1. If the rich feel so burdened by income taxes I don’t know why they don’t just become poor and start living the good life.

      1. That’s actually a clever line, Tony. Probably one of the better zingers you’ve come up with around here. Now, it’s pure grade-A sophistry, granted — but clever nonetheless.

      2. Which is one reason I could never buy the whole Galt’s Gulch bit in Atlas Shrugged. Sure, rich and productive people don’t like shouldering the burden for the parasitic class, but they would never give up their millions and billions of after-tax profits to go live in some valley where they could earn thousands tax-free.

        1. Dude, they weren’t exactly roughing it. They had all the technology they could want, an inexhaustable source of power and apparently they could leave anytime they want. All they had to do was stop fighting for power. That’s where Rand started the mistake. Rich people aren’t necessarily rich because they were smart, but because they were smart in how they got to the top and often want to be there just because of the power it gives them. That’s what I don’t think they would be able to give up. The money is just part of the reward for their efforts.

          1. I find it unfair that I have to shell out cash for an iPhone 4S because I want Siri voice recognition when it was taxpayer funded Darpa that developed the technology.

            1. Is this even an argument? Even if taxpayers shelled out to develop the technology, your percentage of ownership is so miniscule that the discount on the product containing it would be inconsequential to the price. Of course why would a sockpuppet need voice recognition anyway?

              1. Isn’t it a wonderful society we live in, where people can profit fabulously on the back of government-directed research? I’m even willing to pay taxes to support such a productive system.

            2. This has to be a spoof.

            3. tony,
              give it a rest. Govt often funds research for its own purposes. Do you know how many patents govt is sitting on re: reasonable uses for cannabis? Please. Govt research did not pay for all of Apple’s costs in bringing any model of the iPhone to market; the company did that on its own.

              And just because govt agencies were involved in ARPAnet does not mean fedzilla holds the patent to all operating systems. You are making ludicrous arguments in supporting something that I am not sure even you understand.

              1. But surely it’s in everyone’s interest to pay collectively for the basic research that entrepreneurs may exploit for productive gain. Capitalism exploits the Internet imaginatively and productively, but the Internet was invented by the government.

                1. So, the internet was created by the government, with taxpayer dollars. Which entrepreneuers contributed disproportionately to their representation of the overall population. What’s the problem here?

                  1. You seem to be equating entrepreneurs with rich people. I thought capitalism was supposed to reward ingenuity and hard work.

                    Is this conflation the reason why our economy tends to only reward already being wealthy?

                    1. I did equate them that’s true for the purpose of simplification required to post on the internet.

                      All entrepreneurs are not rich and I can offer no proof that they all pay income taxes. However, successful entreprenuers probably do pay income tax, and seeing that only about 55% of filers pay any income tax, thier contribution is likely out of proportion to thier representation within the general population.

                      Capitalism does reward hard work and ingenuity.

                      Our economy tends to only reward already being wealthy? That simply isn’t true. It can reward it, if you have a fortune and build on it, but it can also punish it if you are incompetent with your inheritance. That is why you don’t have generations of the wealth class hoarding their holdings and ruling from on high, they get displaced, unlike when wealth was all held in land.

              2. But surely it’s in everyone’s interest to pay collectively for the basic research that entrepreneurs may exploit for productive gain. Capitalism exploits the Internet imaginatively and productively, but the Internet was invented by the government.

            4. no one ever got rich own their own.

        2. The way that I interpret that is that they finally got tired of all of the leeches sucking off of the fruit of their labors. If I were in the woods getting vamped to death by black flies and mosquitoes I’d get the hell out of the woods.

          … Hobbit

  5. I wonder what the person who operates the Tony sockpuppet does for work. Seeing how much time they have to shit all over H&R threads, it can’t be anything productive. Probably a goldbricking government worker like joe.

    1. Tony lives in my basement, so the only work he does is massage my feet.

    2. Tony’s posts don’t come even close in number to some of the regulars here, many of whom often preach about parasites and the productive.

      1. Or yours. Or John’s.

        1. What do you think your average daily count would be?

          At least I tend to stick to a few time periods a day.

          1. You can’t seriously be comparing my number of posts to yours. I mean, I have a job. A real one.

            1. Me too. I likely outmake you (I’m just saying that based on my knowledge of the median income and mine, odds are I’m right).

              We could pick random days and do counts dude. I’m just saying that a lot of the people who accuse others of posting all day instead of working would probably be…surprised by the results of such a count.

              1. I’m sure you outmake me since I specifically chose to work for a startup and took stock options instead of salary, but it’s good to know that you immediately divert to a completely irrelevant aspect of the point I’m making in order to try and stoke your anemic ego.

                By the way, if/when we get sold, your salary will be fucking peanuts compared to my options, so enjoy your pathetic salary. I choose to work hard and take risks; you choose to goldbrick from your pointless job.

                But hey, keep trying to compare us. Especially by post count. You crush me by a mile.

                1. Epi, no offense, but like I told old TakTix, the day you are rich I’ll put a Herman Cain poster on my front lawn. It’s evident you’re young and you’ve got a libertarian dream, but the odds are in my favor that that shit ain’t going to work out like you think.

                  1. I already have money, you dipshit. How do you think I can afford my lifestyle on a shitty salary? And I’m young? Only in spirit and looks, baby.

                    You’re 0 for…like, 4 already just on this subthread. Maybe you should stop while you’re way the fuck behind. You won’t, though; digging the hole deeper is your style.

                    Dig, dude! Dig!

                    1. “Having money” doesn’t equal what I said, “rich.”

                      I’d be willing to bet nobody that posts here regularly is what I would consider rich, and more so, nobody will be so in the next few decades either.

                      The odds are in my favor on that one too, Randian fantasy scenarios aside.

                    2. And he just…keeps…digging.

                      Fucking gold, dude. Please; give us more. Another post. Just one more. You know you have to; you can’t help it.

                      Dig, baby, dig!

                    3. I don’t know what to tell you Epi, check out any statistics on the distribution of wealth in this nation. The percentage that are rich is small. Therefore my bet that you or anyone else I run into on this site is not wealthy is a pretty safe one.

                      Of course I also factor in (to my favor) how unlikely it is that a wealthy person is going to be a regular poster on an obscure libertarian website…

                    4. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

                      More! Another one! You know you can’t resist!

                    5. Oh, shut up Episiarch. You’re just on an obscure libertarian website that a hard working, wealthy leftist dipshit is compelled to troll constantly. You don’t count at all.

                    6. psst….episiarch is a Koch brother

                      he looms large.

                    7. I’d be willing to bet nobody that posts here regularly is what I would consider rich

                      Daddy Warbucks? Scrooge McDuck?

                      Dude, just shut the fuck up.

              2. Meh… Internet “I make more than you!” fights are far less interesting than internet “I could kick your ass!” fights.

                1. Or “you post way more than me” ones?

  6. Someone needs to tell Ron Paul that regressive is the opposite of progressive, so regressive is good.

    1. Huh, why would it be good? A progressive tax could be a tax that asked for 1% from top earners and 0.025% from bottom earners. At that level, I doubt there would be many complainers left.

    2. Someone needs to tell Suki what “progressive” and “regressive” actually mean.

  7. Very disappointed in Ron Paul, who is wrong on two counts:

    A lot of people aren’t paying any taxes,

    Only if you ignore the @15% payroll tax.

    and I like that.

    A class of people who pay no taxes is a Bad Thing in any kind of democracy or representative republic.

    And, really, Reason? The Brookings/Urban Institute analysis that is fatally flawed by its bizarre insistence on treating income taxes on business and individuals as no different than a sales tax? And, if memory serves, by its insistence on ignoring the current payroll tax when estimating the impact on individuals?

    1. I agree. I know what Paul is getting at–no income tax for anyone–but having a class that receives government largess while paying fewer taxes is an electoral nightmare.

      Something we should all keep in mind is that the GOP is also (at least!) a partially socialistic party. It’s had all the control it needed on more than one occasion to dismantle the welfare state and shrink government.

      1. but having a class that receives government largess while paying fewer taxes is an electoral nightmare

        Explain

        1. Representation without taxation. What are they going to vote for?

          1. so are you arguing only those who net in to income tax should be represented?

            1. No, I’m saying that when there is a sizable contingent of the population who pay no taxes, but still vote, bad public policy will result.

              1. don’t worry, the part of the population that does pay taxes and votes love equally horrific public policies. I’d call it a wash.

              2. Yes, I argue that point frequently. Voting while getting the benefits for free or even being paid by the government is a HUGE conflict of interest.

                There are only a handful of people I can think of that would vote themselves less benefits, and most of them are fictional characters.

                Hell, I’m very libertarian and I’d have trouble not voting myself benefits.

            2. I’ll say that. Everything can be qualified as to cost and abstract value, even the services the government provide. Why should anyone who falls below that minimum have a say in how the country is run? I’d even be so lenient as to set that minimum at what the government is constitutionally allowed to do (a far lower number than what they get away with doing.)

              People who are wholly supported by the state are dependents, like children, and we don’t let them vote.

              1. SF,

                That’ll be a fun day, bringing your tax return into the balloting area to prove you’ve paid enough to vote. I guess when you lose your job and go on disability, you’ll just have to sit out an election cycle.

                1. I’m perfectly fine with that. I’m not against a safety net, I’m against people who land it being able to control the tightrope walkers still up there.

                  I’d like a maximum voting age as well, average life span for demographic, -18 years. And stop withholding: write one big check, due the Monday before election day.

                  1. You’ve really narrowed down the enfranchised demographics, with a poll tax to boot.

                    Just admit it SF, what you really want is the world’s most complex computer making government decisions for us based on statistics and raw formulations from natural laws.

                    Until then, I’ll be relatively satisfied giving all citizens their chance to spew idiocies and attempt to raid my pockets, because I know a democratic republic is the worst form of government, after all others.

                    😉

                    1. Well, it’s not like I think I’d really get my way or anything, but the concept of limited franchise doesn’t really bother me. I am the guy that occasionally writes in “Batman” for President.

                    2. I could get behind Batman for president.

                    3. Batman/Robin 2012 “Justice”

          2. Representation without taxation. What are they going to vote for?

            Anything that they want.

            I live adjacent to an Indian Reservation, and their children attend the local public school. Every election to raise taxes for the school district passes 100% in the pueblo? Why? They pay no taxes. It’s not costing them a damn thing.

            … Hobbit

        2. It’s an electoral nightmare for the country as a whole, as it entrenches the receiving class on at least a quasi-permanent basis. How do you overcome that? I suppose a good number of Republicans actually would attack the welfare state, for instance, more directly, but they can’t ignore the votes they still manage to get from the recipient class.

          1. like the AARP, a group of citizens who had paid taxes for many years previously?

            I’m all for reducing government to the point that everyone is taxed for the goods and services the government renders, but unless you’re all about ensuring that the abject poor staying netting in to government, there will be no upward mobility, because the very fact that they’re poor will mean that society is in some way paying for their condition (if they ever sleep in a city park or use a public restroom or take a bus, etc). All they’d be doing is accumulating societal debt they wouldn’t be able to pay off.

    2. The 2nd error makes up for the first one.

      The payroll (and sales) tax prevent us from having a true tax free class, while increasing the number of people not paying the income tax gets us closer to the ultimate goal.

      1. Increasing the number of people not paying the income tax just increases the number of people who will support (or at least not oppose) taxing the living fuck out of anyone who does pay the income tax.

        Bad. Very Bad.

        ALL taxes should be as broad based as possible. Period.

    3. It was a simplistic answer, but the error doesn’t cost him anything in my book. He’s for lowering taxes overall, which is the right stance.

    4. The payroll tax is technically a tax, but since the only likely path to reforming SS and Medicare (aside from government collapse) is by guaranteeing most of what was paid in (and that’s certainly what Ron Paul is taking as a platform), we can consider it more a case of compelled “savings” in a fractional reserve bank, where all of those savings were loaned to a company that controls the bank and appears to be headed toward fiscal catastrophe. Fraud, in most contexts, but anyway. The point being that if you give the government money, expecting to get at minimum the same amount back, then it isn’t much of a tax in the long run.

  8. Off Topic:

    Today I recieved notice from the DMV that I need to renew my drivers license, and they have graciously offered me the option to get a “verified” ID.

    On its face it sounds creepy as hell.

    Any Reasoners know what the hell this is?

    1. Yes. You submit to ten hours of enhanced interrogation. If they’re satisfied with your answers, you get the verified ID.

    2. I have an enhanced ID from New York. Basically, it allows you to go to Canada and Mexico (and some islands via cruise ships) without needing to bring your passport.

      1. Get a passport and tell the state to fuck-off.

        1. I’ll just let you figure out the problem with that doozy yourself.

          1. I think he meant state as in “1 of 50”, not as in “statist”.

  9. It’s amusing that when we talk about income distributions around here many of the hard core libertarians say “what’s with all the bitching about fairness, life ain’t fair” but they change their tune and become disciples of fairness during discussions of tax policy.

    They never knew they liked fairness so much, it just took rich people being the ones getting the shaft to awaken their moral sense.

    How fucked up is that?

    1. One involves taking money from people to give to other people by coercion, the other does not.

      Of course, you knew that.

      1. That’s not actually true, one can discuss and lament income distributions with no mention of what should be done about it, much less mentions of coercive solutions.

        And, of course, current income distributions are certainly not free of coercion (rent seeking) or the lingering effects of past coercion.

        1. “one can discuss and lament income distributions with no mention of what should be done about it, much less mentions of coercive solutions.”

          OK then, in other words, what’s “amusing” is not that libertarians “change their tune” about the concept of fairness. It’s that they (mistakenly?) assume you’re advocating government force when you talk about unequal income distributions.

          And because you know this, that makes your original post dishonest.

          1. Not true, it’s not uncommon to have people use these lines regarding any mention of income inequality. “Boo-hoo, life ain’t fair, shut up” they will say.

            But when you talk about the unfairness of tax policy, suddenly the fairness of life becomes a topic they love to talk about.

            1. Usually when a libertarian is dismissing an argument with “Life isn’t fair”, its usually because his opponent is trying to justify an argument of taking someone else’s possessions through threat of force to create an apparent equality. The situation would leave that equality as the end goal, without consideration as to whether that would be best for all parties.

            2. Again, I can only assume you’re being dishonest here, because I know you’re not stupid and I know you’re already familiar with libertarian premises and arguments.

              And so you already know that your Hypothetical Libertarian Guy is responding to two totally distinct arenas here: one, a free market where he wants no government interference, “fairness” be damned; the other, the internal mechanics in place when government does happen to be involved.

              Your hypothetical libertarian is saying: “I don’t want government meddling in this area of life, and if that means stuff there winds up ‘unequal,’ so be it. However, when government does insist on meddling in something, it sure as hell better treat individuals the same.”

              1. Sure, I get the distinction libertarians make whereby the only unfairness involves government involvement. But getting it and thinking it meaningful or correct are two different things.

                But I’ve posted here a long time and I stand by my assertion: I’ve frequently seen posters here respond to any mention of income inequality with “life ain’t fair, quit whining”. The same people though love to weigh in on how tax policy is unfair.

                I submit the problem is these people don’t understand the naturalistic fallacy, or they don’t half the time. It may be true that as an descriptive matter “life ain’t fair” but that has little bearing on the normative debate.

                1. But I’ve posted here a long time and I stand by my assertion: I’ve frequently seen posters here respond to any mention of income inequality with “life ain’t fair, quit whining”. The same people though love to weigh in on how tax policy is unfair.

                  we’re not resigned nihilists. If we were, we wouldn’t care about government at all, associating it with the likes of all other natural disasters. But since we consider government a human, rather than natural force (economics of trade would be considered natural as long as certain conditions are met), the element of fairness is important to maintain.

                  Your house may be washed away in a tsunami and you’re complaint that me in Iowa owes you a house will be met with “Life’s unfair”, but if you then demand that the government take my money to buy you a new house, I would protest the equality of that situation. I bought in a low risk area and kept insurance on my house while you lived a coastal floodplain with no back-up plan.

                  So maybe your complaint is not that libertarians think life should be unfair at one time and fair at another, but that they want life to be fair always, but they express is incorrectly when talking about forces of nature.

                2. Human beings gave themselves an Enlightenment and overthrew monarchies not because they demanded to each have the same stuff the king had, but simply to each have the same rights.

                  And THAT is the relevant “fairness” for classical liberals, the ones we now call libertarians: political equality. So we had revolutions and civil wars and constitutional amendments, and we finally got there by about the turn of the 20th century.

                  But then the likes of you looked around and said, “Huh, OK, well that was cool, but now we do want to focus on the ‘stuff,’ after all.” And that’s been your destructive quest ever since.

                3. Market Forces being unfair is a natural occurrence whereas government forces being unfair is a creation of man. Thus the concept of equal treatment under the law.

                  1. Restoras,

                    Its not that their unfair on principle, but unfair on outcome because of information inequality, but equal knowledge is an impossibility.

                    1. I agree, though I would include unequal ability as well.

                    2. ability is really just knowledge combined with ambition.

              2. There is a chapter from Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty called Equality, Value, and Merit that I wish more people would read.

                From the fact that people are very different it follows that, if we treat them equally, the result must be Inequality in their actual position,, and that the only way to place them in an equal position would be to treat them differently. Equality before the law and material equality are therefore not only different but are in conflict with each other; and we can achieve either the one or the other, but not both at the same time. The equality before the law which freedom requires leads to material inequality. Our argument will be that, though where the state must use coercion for other reasons, it should treat all people alike, the desire of making people more alike in their condition cannot be accepted in a free society as a justification for further and discriminatory coercion.

                We do not object to equality as such. It merely happens to be the case that a demand for equality is the professed motive of most of those who desire to impose upon society a preconceived pattern of distribution. Our objection is against all attempts to impress upon society a deliberately chosen pattern of distribu?tion, whether it be an order of equality or of inequality.

                Couldn’t have said it better myself!

                1. What is the natural distribution to which preconceived patterns are compared?

                  We don’t have to eliminate all unfairness or inequality of outcomes, but we can have a minimum acceptable level beneath which we don’t let people fall. Nobody’s freedom is harmed by doing that, and I would argue that freedom for all is hugely enhanced.

                  1. Fine but what will your boundaries be? Should we start with the bottom 10% pays nothing, and the top 10% carries them, and let everyone else pay the same? What happens when some power-greedy pol wants to get elected and stay in power and figures that hey, why not make it 15/70/15? And the next one says, hey, how about 20/60/20?

                    1. I don’t understand how you prevent bad politicians from doing bad no matter the system. We shouldn’t have a tax code because some idiot might come in and mess it up?

                      My bottom line is that people should be able to become as rich as they want so long as there is not a single person who lacks access to the basic needs of life, and that includes education and healthcare.

                    2. I don’t understand how you prevent bad politicians from doing bad no matter the system.

                      You can’t, hence the concept of limited government.

                      We shouldn’t have a tax code because some idiot might come in and mess it up?

                      Of course not, but you do see the point? When would you say enough?

                      My bottom line is that people should be able to become as rich as they want so long as there is not a single person who lacks access to the basic needs of life, and that includes education and healthcare.

                      I’d like to see that kind of utopia too but again we come to how much education and how much healthcare do you think should be paid for through redistribution? Certainly the benefits to society of an educated citizenry are clear in terms of being able to compete in the global market place, but in no way does this mean that everyone should have access to a free college education, especially if they aren’t actually learning anything. The same goes for healthcare; basic public health is obvious, more productivity, more growth, etc., but unlimited healthcare for all is simply not realistic, especially in this country where no one is incentivized to take care of themselves.

                    3. If the support of the unfortunate was voluntary, then by all means, yes. Let’s all help out the little guy. Most people would be agreeable to that.

                      Libertarianism boils down to one simple question. When is it appropriate to use force.

                      In your example, forcing the top 10% to support the bottom 10% against their will is a violation of the property rights of the top 10% and an unacceptable use of force.

                  2. What is the natural distribution to which preconceived patterns are compared?

                    Natural distribution of what? I’m trying to envision a way in which that sentence can make sense.

                    1. Hayek objects to a deliberately chosen pattern of distribution, but what is the alternative he prefers? What’s a natural distribution and how do we figure out if we’re there?

                    2. I’m not sure of what you’re getting at. Who cares what the “natural distribution” (a silly term) is?

                      Hayek’s argument is in plain English. He preferred a free society where everyone is treated alike by the law over one in which people were treated differently by the coercion of the law to make them materially equal.

                    3. So how do you treat a poor and a rich person equally in a tax code? Is it the same percent taken, the same dollar amount taken? Why can’t it be an equal application of burden? The latter makes the most sense if you care about a meaningful definition of equality, but it implies heavy progressivism.

                      The point I’m trying to make is that the distribution of wealth in a society is always going to be determined by government policy. If you don’t think so, then explain how we arrive at a natural or correct distribution.

                    4. Flat tax. The rich pay more, the poor pay something. You also eliminate the ability of politicians to manipulate the code to suit favored interests, a big plus in my book.

                      Why can’t it be an equal application of burden? The latter makes the most sense if you care about a meaningful definition of equality, but it implies heavy progressivism.

                      This implies ‘from each according to thier ability’ and is a basic tenent of a socialist society. Fine if you want it but it is unequal treatment.

                      The point I’m trying to make is that the distribution of wealth in a society is always going to be determined by government policy.

                      Or lack thereof. The more government is involved in determining ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ the less meritocracy you have. The less intrusion you have, the closer you would get to a natural distribution.

    2. Sigh. Seriously?

      The distinction between “equality under the law” and “equalized by force of law” is really that difficult for you to figure out?

      1. It’s not part of the politics of equality to treat economic classes the same way you treat races or the sexes. A rich and poor person are inherently unequal, not just because of the difference between their account balances, but in the degree of liberty they have access to as a result. Shouldn’t the goal to be to encourage upward mobility, rather than worry about whether poor people are being treated too well relative to rich people? That is almost logically impossible, as with wealth comes political influence.

        And it depends on how you define fairness. A more meaningful definition isn’t about applying an equal percentage to all people, it’s about recognizing the burden that comes with poverty (and the freedom that comes with wealth) and applying a calculation of burden. Taking half the income of a rich person results in a person still fabulously able to exercise freedom. Taking half the income of a poor person cripples his ability to provide even basic necessities, let alone be upwardly mobile.

        1. “A more meaningful definition isn’t about applying an equal percentage to all people, it’s about recognizing the burden that comes with poverty (and the freedom that comes with wealth) and applying a calculation of burden.”

          +1000

          1. Nice answer. Please provide a formula and show your work.

            1. This is a commonly silly libertarian answer to this; “fairness doesn’t come mathematically therefore its a nonsense concept.” There’s no formula for many important concepts in life (probable cause, reasonable doubt, due process etc.,), that doesn’t make them meaningless terms.

              1. Um, for a magazine called Reason…

              2. When you are going to help yourself to a substantial portion of other peoples’ private property, it might be a good idea to present something far more concrete and based in logic than ‘because I said so’.

              3. And who is proposing a “calculation” for probabable cause, reasonable doubt or due process like a “calculation of burden” was proposed?

            2. This is the wrong response. The right response is, “What did the richer folks do to the poorer folks to warrant having their wealth confiscated at gunpoint?” Trying to argue this from a utilitarian standpoint is going to fail: you need to argue from the moral highground, which is that robbery is always and everywhere bad, and taxation is by definition robbery.

              1. Trying to argue this from a utilitarian standpoint is going to fail: you need to argue from the moral highground, which is that robbery is always and everywhere bad, and taxation is by definition robbery.

                True enough, but it’s not out of line to try and get someone who is arguing from a utlitarian standpoint to actually, you know, argue from a utilitarian standpoint instead of with vauge platitudes.

                1. True enough, but it’s not out of line to try and get someone who is arguing from a utlitarian standpoint to actually, you know, argue from a utilitarian standpoint instead of with vauge platitudes.

                  Right, but I’m contending that you will never be able to produce a utilitarian argument that will satisfy these people. Hayek wrote a fantastic one back in the 40’s, and most people still don’t believe it.

                  1. Agreed. It’s just a fun way of needling people who haven’t thought out the shit they spout. Like asking someone for concrete examples of a corporation forcing them to do anything.

                    1. I prefer changing peoples’ minds to trolling, because trolling just causes them to dig in their heels. The only people I troll are those whose cognitive dissonance is so deep-seated (think Jack Beatty from NPR) that any attempt to change their minds would be utterly useless.

                    2. I dig your point, but MNG is not changing his mind. He gets more libertarian theory patiently explained to him than an intern at Mises Institute.

                    3. Indeed, but you shouldn’t be responding here for the benefit of a known ignoramus in the first place: you should write as if other people are reading… because they are.

                    4. I do, often in fact. But this is more akin to socratic method than trolling. If it’s considered trolling to ask someone to define their terms, what the hell is the point of the discussion?

                    5. That’s sort of why I’m arguing against bothering with MNG in the first place. 🙂

        2. And you’re still batting zero.

        3. A more meaningful definition isn’t about applying an equal percentage to all people, it’s about recognizing the burden that comes with poverty (and the freedom that comes with wealth) and applying a calculation of burden.

          This strikes me as a really fucked up argument. You don’t say ‘well, we all like equality, now let’s decide what equality means’ (and by the way, I really don’t know what you mean by ‘more meaningful’. How can any definition by more or less meaningful than any other?) You need to decide what the term means before you start using it. You can’t say ‘now that everyone’s agreed to outlaw murder, let’s decide what murder is. Is it the deliberate killing of another human being without their consent, or is it the polishing of a ceremonial headdress. I favour the more meaningful definition’. Even if I agree with your definition of equality, there’s still an open question as to what the right thing to do is. If that’s what equality means, maybe I don’t care about equality all that much, but I do care about this other thing called schmequality which means that everyone’s treated the same way under the law, and that I care about very deeply. Arguments ‘by definition’ are a complete waste of time.

    3. Life isn’t fair. But the law should be.

      1. There. Thanks. I wrote all those long-winded responses above, and this was all that needed to be said.

      2. But then we are right where you started, the seeming wisdom of your saying notwithstanding: what would be a fair law (in this case tax policy)?

        Fairness could be treating everyone the same, or it could be treating like cases alike.

  10. Speaking of Class Warfare = Greek Protests Turn Violent… again

    http://www.reuters.com/article…..FI20111019

    No one seems to pick up on the irony of the fact that they’re protesting the failure of a gigantic welfare-state, while on this side of the ocean, kids are protesting *because they want to be more like Greece*

    1. What’s amusing about all that is that someone has to be productive. The results of all this will only be self-destruction.

      1. Much of the country was shut down by the 48-hour general strike, the largest since the outbreak of the crisis two years ago with government departments, offices and shops closed and at least 100,000 people taking to the streets of Athens.

        Holy fuck. It’s like the entire country is populated by teenagers. They know everything.

        Ya know, if I were a Greek pol, at this point I would be packing away all of the money I embezzled and moving my family to Switzerland.

        Have at it, kids. Have a nice life, once you get everything you want and the whole fucking thing implodes.

    2. Is Greece struggling because of their gigantic welfare state or because the economy has tanked? It was only when the economy tanked and tax revenue took nosedives that most of the current hulla-ballou became prominent in the states and elsewhere.

      1. Why did its economy tank?

        1. Because of the Community Reinvestment Act?

          Please don’t be so coy, join the conversation.

          1. Because everyone (rich and poor) wanted to get shit from the government, but no one (rich or poor) wanted to pay for it. And the government could make that work for a while through borrowing, which gave people time to internalize the notion that such a situation was actually sustainable.

            1. But let’s not let obviousness get in the way of a good narrative.

          2. love of the CRA is the root of all [EVILZ] !!11!1!!!

      2. Greece was in trouble well before the economy tanked. Their debt as a percentage of GDP hasn’t been less than 97% in over a decade.

  11. So taxation is “legalized robbery.” The Constitution gives Congress the power to tax. So the Constitution legalizes robbery? Oh, and class war on behalf of the poor is OK, but against the rich it’s not? And “class war” means “advocating a graduated income tax”? Doesn’t “war” usually mean, you know, killing? Shikha, you’re reasoning like a shiksa. (I just made that up.)

    1. Hey, if minimum wage laws=slavery and taxation=robbery we can use the word warfare sans any killing.

      It makes us look really, really righteous Alan, and makes us feel doubly so!

  12. Concern for the poor != class warfare

    Not that I expect someone who glowingly quoted “research” proving that Hummers were better for the environment than Priuses to understand that.

  13. “(with the exception of Michelle Botox Bachmann, who, bless-her-soul, engaged in reverse class warfare, pledging to tax the poor so that they too can pay their fair share for all the great things that this great country provides).”

    Exactly how is saying that people who use government services should pay for them engaging in “reverse class warfare”?

    Fairness in paying for government services is no different than it is for private sector ones – on a user fee basis.

    1. It seems you really do see poor people as a sort of separate caste who ought to be treated equally on a numbers basis–and not as people who are by definition underprivileged. It doesn’t make sense to say “the poor benefit from a safety net for the poor–so they should pay for it!”

      Such programs, like infrastructure and national defense, are considered things society as a whole benefits from, and so society as a whole pays according to hopefully a rational and fair tax code.

      And while not everyone gets direct assistance from safety net programs, everyone benefits under the assumption that a run of bad luck could hit even a wealthy person, and it will be there for him. Unless of course you see economic classes as rigid castes and no one has a chance of moving from one to another.

      1. Another +1

        Everyone gets from the existence of social insurance programs, whether they use it or not, just like people in an insurance plan get something from it even if they never have to make a claim.

        Now of course the objection is “but in the latter it is voluntary.” Yes, governmental social programs require all those who can to chip in, but of course that is kind of how they work. Since Doofus X who thinks he will never need it will have to be taken care of if he doesn’t just like anyone else we have to make him pay too.

        1. Then how would you propose limiting the shitty outcomes which always come with people voting who don’t have skin in the game? Any plan at all? Or do you think that people would never, ever vote for unsutainable policies (and if you do, I’ve got an island in Greece you can visit. Just visit, since I already bought it for $200 and a bottle of wine).

          1. The only way politicians have been able to paint social safety nets as unsustainable is by deeply cutting taxes and then crying about the resulting deficits. Poverty is a social cost whether you have a safety net or not. At the very least we should be willing to raise taxes on people who can easily afford it before we decide whether a safety net for the most vulnerable is unsustainable.

            1. the hell w the poor tony, let em die in the streets. wait…they already do ((

            2. So you’re saying that the economic problems in Greece were because politicians deeply cut taxes?

        2. Now of course the objection is “but in the latter it is voluntary.”

          By George, I think he’s got it.

          Since Doofus X who thinks he will never need it will have to be taken care of if he doesn’t just like anyone else we have to make him pay too.

          So close. I think. Did you not pay your punctuation bill?

          Yes, being opposed to SS, Medicare, etc., means that you don’t want to plan for your own retirement and want old people to die in the street.

      2. “It seems you really do see poor people as a sort of separate caste who ought to be treated equally on a numbers basis”

        I don’t see them as having different obligations from anyone else. If they use a service they should pay for – the same as everyone else.

        McDonald’s can’t get away with forcing some people to pay for burgers for other people. There’s no legitimate reason for government getting away with doing the same sort of thing.

        “Such programs, like infrastructure and national defense, are considered things society as a whole benefits from, and so society as a whole pays according to hopefully a rational and fair tax code.”

        No, society “as a whole” are not paying for it because half the population is not paying federal income taxes.

        “And while not everyone gets direct assistance from safety net programs, everyone benefits under the assumption that a run of bad luck could hit even a wealthy person, and it will be there for him”

        And just like all of your other assumptions ,that is flat out wrong.

        You are, therefore STILL batting absolute zero.

    2. Basically if all city services required immediate payment, the poor would have to be exiled from the cities.

  14. So Ron Paul is happy that some people aren’t paying any taxes. OK Paulians, explain that! I want to know why does Mr. Big Show think is fair for some people to pay no taxes while other people pay all the taxes. 100% of us should be paying taxes.

    1. Because Paul’s answer is simplistic and wrong. Poor people still pay sales tax and local and state fees for certain goods and services, but they do not pay the full cost of living in a wealthy society (to fix this, we would literally have to kick them out of the country).

      Now whether we should be subsidizing their lives to the point we are is a real and sticky question, but to not subsidize them at all would be asking them to live in an African style poverty (albeit the natural human existance), but one that I don’t think many hardcore libertarians would be willing to subject their fellow Americans to.

      1. Would the U.S. have third world poverty in any meaningful sense if we didn’t have social welfare? I’m not sure I buy that.

    2. Because Paul is trying to get elected, and the 1% have 1% of the votes.

    3. Because you have it backwards. He wasn’t saying that it was okay for only some people to pay taxes but that we were half way to the goal of no one paying taxes.

  15. @Dalmia,
    Seriously, you really have your panties in a wad since Cain’s electric fence comment(or did I just miss your statements before that?) Apparently others have joined the bandwagon, as well. Get over it. Not all liberterians agree with your views on illegal aliens(I know you used the PC term in your previous article; but, I’ll use the more accurate term.) If you took the time to reason through the inherent overhead and hidden costs that 9-9-9 would eliminate; then we could have a rational debate.

    1. IRRATIONAL FEAR OF MUSLIMS AND PANICKING ABOUT MEXICANS IS A PERFECTLY LEGITIMATE LIBERTARIAN POSITION…ESPECIALLY IF A PERSON HAPPENS TO BE A BIG IGNORANT PUSSY WHO BELIEVES TEAM RED PROPAGANDA CRAP ABOUT THE LOOMING RECONQUISTA

      VOTE GOP!!! BURN DOWN A TACO TRUCK!!

      1. Dammit, Gilmore! You no there is no more of a libertarian ideal than the restriction of the labor supply in order to line the pockets of the unions!

        1. *know* Filthy Meeheecans made me make a typo!

      2. 1) Stop yelling.
        2) Who said anything about fear, panic, or a “reconquista”?
        3) Do you have a point you would like to make and/or discuss?
        4) I’ve actually never voted for a GOP candidate.
        5) Border protection is a valid position. So is fixing immigration policy so that more people can enter legally. The two are not mutually exclusive goals. I have simply noticed a trend in the articles that reference Cain since the article that read to me as a hysterical over-reaction to his fence comments by Dalmia. Every reference I have seen since then appears either negative or dismissive.

  16. Threadjack: build pyramids, say the Keynesians.

    No, I mean real, literal pyramids.

    1. What is it with these pyramid schemes? Besides, a $2,000,000,000,000 pyramid is too much of a risk — they should start with a $10,000 pyramid, then if that works they could move up to a $25,000 pyramid or even a $100,000 pyramid.

  17. Does Reason really believe that raising taxes on the poor is the way forward?

    The commentariat is just as stupid. “In a democracy…” or “The burden should be equal” are not libertarian phrases

    What possible gripe could there be with Paul’s answer from a libertarian perspective?

    1. I think it’s more from a practical perspective — if the majority aren’t burdened at least somewhat by government spending, then the majority will be apathetic about waste and corruption, which is bad for society. Not from a specifically libertarian perspective so much as a “government collapse and social upheaval” perspective.

    2. Paul’s attacking Cain tax plan by defending the status quo tax policy. Cain’s 9-9-9 plan may be problematic or not, but we currently have an absurdly complicated federal tax code that is good on it’s own merits.

  18. Let me get this straight. Raising taxes is “bad class warfare” but cutting taxes is “good class warfare.”

    Clearly, what’s either bad or good is taxes (i.e., the raising or lowering thereof) and “class warfare” has nothing to do with it. The author of this post only reinforces Saletan’s point. If you’re for lower taxes then say so, but it’s hypocritical to selectively complain about “class warfare” only when it comes to policies you oppose.

  19. I enjoyed watching Bachmann explain how a national sales tax is the same thing as a VAT tax.

    Christ, she’s a fucking idiot.

  20. Middle income people see higher taxes under your plan.

    I’m pretty sure that’s wrong.

    Consider: A family making from $50 – 100K/year is already paying (directly or indirectly) @15% in payroll taxes.

    So, just counting the 9% personal income tax, and assuming they spend every penny they take home on taxable goods and services, the 9% sales tax, their burden under Cain’s plan is around 17%. Just 2% more than their payroll taxes, and I’ll bet their effective federal income tax rate is far more than 2%.

    1. Unless Herman Cain is going to shutter Social Security, that payroll tax will still be there under his plan. (and of course it’s dubious they’re really “paying” the full 15% anyway)

  21. “It’s one thing to engage in class warfare to protect the income of the poor from the tentacles of the government and quite another to extend those tentacles into the pockets of the rich just because they are rich. ”

    …. no those are the same thing. The proof of this assertion can be found via a handy little system called “math”.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.