Archive for the ‘taxation’ Category

Immorality Writ Large and How to Fight It

May 20, 2009 1 comment

We are living through a time in which all common sense and logic has been sacrificed for blind hope and misplaced faith. According to the current gospel, peddled by the Messiah and even his anti-Christ enemies (the Republicans ironically), in a crisis in which millions are being thrown out of jobs, debts are being called in and people are being forced to cut back and save more, naturally we must see to it that these forces are prevented.

So we pump public funds into failed banking institutions that took risks imprudently and followed a business model in which short-term windfalls were rewarded over long-term viability and sustainability…all at the cost of the taxpayers and the financial companies that would have been able to find value and profitability in the assets that would have been liquidated had the banks been allowed to fail. We do the same with the auto industry, bailing out our failing companies, and specifically the UAW – the union that pushed the companies towards failure by demanding the massive salaries and benefits that bankrupted the companies in the first place. We reward debtors who purchased homes they could never afford by forcing lenders to rewrite mortgage contracts and allowing the government to purchase mortgage debt to keep interest rates low, with the government thumbing its nose at those who had responsibly paid off their mortgages. We relieve people who took on too much credit card debt by forcing lenders to lessen their fees (the fees necessary to compensate them for the risk involved in allowing people to finance their purchases through debt) by putting restrictions on “unfair” charges, inevitably causing those who were more responsible in paying off their debts to pay higher rates of interest.

When it comes to the protection of failing bureaucracies, it looks as if all of the states in the nation will be forced to bail out California (amongst others) when the federal government comes in and helps ameliorate their debts created by reckless spending. More importantly, the responsible states will not only be sacrificing their money, but their sovereignty to the federal government, due to the fiscal idiocy of the other states.

Even looking to something as fundamental as our progressive tax structure, whereby those who generate more income are penalized through higher levels of taxation (and forced to subsidize) those who earn less income, in every single case the people that are in the wrong are rewarded, while the people that are right or at least not responsible for these problems are penalized. Given the rate at which our national debt is expanding, the burden of these current problems unfortunately will be borne on the backs of future generations of Americans as well.

At length I have spoken in the past about how economically destructive these policies are, merely exacerbating problems instead of allowing markets and the individuals that make up the markets to adjust. I have explained that many of these problems were created by the government in the first place. I have also spoken to the fact that the holes that we are digging in attempting to stave off our problems, in the wasted future resources and diverted current resources being put towards government-planned projects, the massive amounts of money and debt creation by the federal government and also in our move overall towards a collectivist society.

But fundamentally, what I am seeing is that there is something far more insidious at play. What this crisis has illuminated to me is that because everything the government does has the force of law, it allows it to embody all of the worst traits of fallible man, writ large. More specifically, practically every single thing the government does and has done is about taking things from one group of people or more often all people and redistributing them to other people. Since the government can tax, it has the legal authority to rob you of your wealth and give it to someone else. Since the government can regulate, it has the power to help certain companies and harm the ones it doesn’t like. Since all can vote for government officials, government can allow 50% + 1 of the people to destroy the rights of all people; or allow 99% of people to subjugate the rights of the other 1%.

What I have come to realize is that unfortunately, our Founding Fathers did not think through deeply enough how far men were from angels, because the Founders were imperfect just like the people that they built the government for. They did not understand that while they tried to protect us from democracy, given the power to amend the Constitution, democracy could be implemented, with certain classes plundering other ones and bankrupting the nation in the process. Were the document to lay out in clear language any number of restrictions separating the public sphere from the private, this would simply lead to innovation amongst the people in subverting law and usurping power. Unfortunately, they didn’t understand the fatal flaw that they designed a framework in which the people got the government they deserved, not the government that was best. I do not mean to decry their efforts, but merely point out that as great as the Constitution they crafted was, it still could not ensure that people did not corrupt or disregard it.

As some have argued, were the populace to be more educated, our government would be better policed and regulated by the people it is supposed to help protect, and closer to the kind of paradigm that was intended by our forefathers. However, the government through public education gets to indoctrinate the citizens from day one. Even for those who are home-schooled or receive a private education, they still might be deluded into voting for bad candidates — just look at the New York Times crowd or the Ivy League (I know, I can’t believe I am emerging from it with a clear head either). And an educated populace might be even more adept at using the government to serve its interests as is.

I have always found that more influential than any of these institutions are the people that we grow up with and live with – our families, our friends and our mentors. And this is why I believe that our role as free-thinking individuals is so important, and that we must seize this moment in which the world is upside down, when good is treated as bad and moral is treated as immoral to seek to open the eyes of our fellow men. We need to educate by teaching in theory, demonstrating in practice and appealing in good sense and morality to the fact that this system whereby everyone plunders everyone else in the end leads to our demise; into a land devoid of all values, corrupted and whithered like so many empires that came before us.

We need to engage in debate, unafraid of saying what we feel in our hearts and in our minds is right. We need to sharpen our arguments against our challengers so that we can swiftly, calmly and rationally show them the errors of their ways and turn them into our friends, or at least respectful enemies. We need to explain that our actions affect more than just those around us, but also our future: our children, and our children’s children. We need to preach that as Reagan put it “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” We need to argue that principles and values do matter, and that the consequences of sidestepping them are fatal. We need to scream at the top of our lungs that all progress comes from individuals, not coercive powers that dictate to free men that they must build pyramids or dingy fuel-efficient cars.

As things get worse and worse, people will first most likely react angrily. They will be looking for heads to roll. But we must keep our heads. We must be there with the answers, because it is only when people have lost everything that they will be willing to listen to the voices they dismissed before. If socialism can come into fashion so quickly from the height of what people thought was capitalism, then why can’t Liberalism supplant socialism just as quickly?

Until that day however, we must continue to advocate our principles in the face of angry, irrational intolerant sophists. We must keep fighting the good fight even if it means being hated. Derision and ridicule should be met with satisfaction, because it will mean that our detractors can only react emotionally to our reasoned arguments.

There is no shame in being hated by a group that is wrong theoretically, practically and morally. We must continue along, emboldened in the face of tyranny. We must defeat the gravest of evils with the greatest of goods: freedom.

On the Notion of Sacrifice

January 23, 2009 2 comments

One of the central messages of President Obama’s inaugural speech was that Americans now must sacrifice in a time of great hardship. This sounds noble, but also is rather vague. What kind of sacrifice is Obama talking about?

It would be fair to venture to guess that sacrifice for Barack Obama means a number of things that our forefathers would have shunned. Sacrifice means higher subsidization of the masses by those at the top of the economic scale through increased taxation. Sacrifice means imposing the will of the government on the people in the name of “fairness,” “equality” and “justice.” Sacrifice means that everyone must be required to bail out the few who are reckless and irresponsible. Sacrifice means coercive taking of our life, liberty and property for the “greater good.”

At root of all of this is collectivism. How did we end up here? We had an economy that was mixed as opposed to a true, free-market one. We had a small republican government that grew to be a massive democratic one. We had a society built on success and failure, that gave way to one of success and protection against failure. We took the middling path, which inevitably led us to this socialistic mentality. I posit that democracy mainly paved the way for this collapse, but that will be addressed in a post in the near future.

Prior to the Great Depression, we lacked a government-imposed social safety net because of the sacrifice of individuals. Some voluntarily chose to provide for those who were less fortunate, not always with just a handout, but for some like Rockefeller by providing an education for those who showed aptitude in the hopes that they could better themselves. Our forefathers fought for our country, sacrificing their lives so that they could build a society where they would not need to sacrifice their liberty and their property. They sacrificed so they could establish a country built on the natural rights granted to them by G-d, not the rights so determined by the new Messiah, Mr. Obama.

People labored in steel mills and coal mines not out of the goodness of their hearts, but out of self-interest, and this work helped pave the way for unprecedented economic growth. It all brings to mind Adam Smith’s line in the Wealth of Nations, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”

We did not achieve our prosperity from forced sacrifice, but from voluntary trade predicated on the self-interest of individuals seeking to better their lot. People could dispose of their wealth for the most part as they so chose. Universities, libraries and medical institutions were established by wealthy folks, and charitable institutions were able to provide (probably much more efficiently than the public) services for those who were needy. But this charity again was voluntary.

You have to wonder why it was the case that the government stayed out of the business of charity. Was it because individuals knew that politicians would only use these programs out of their own self-interest to gain votes? Was it because of the belief in a government with limited responsibilities? Was it because of the belief that it wasn’t the job of all of society to take care of those who were broke?

I think it was probably a combination of all of these things. Also, I think that while individuals may have acted out of self-interest in giving charity like politicians (be it for PR purposes or for religious reasons), they were still making this decision unto themselves, not forcibly requiring all others to sacrifice as well. There just is not this sense of individualism anymore. It is one for all and all for the banks. We all own a piece of Wall Street, we all own a piece of Fannie and Freddie over on Main Street and we all own a piece of Detroit too. Of all cities, I mean come on…Detroit?!

We did not build the most prosperous nation in the world through sacrifice and collectivism. We built it through the self-interest of the skillful, visionary individuals that immigrated to this land. Our forefathers did not sacrifice themselves during the Revolution for more sacrifice; they sacrificed themselves for freedom. To forget this fact would be to tarnish their efforts.