Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Question

Eugene D. Genovese was a historian and university professor.  In the summer of 1994 his article titled "The Question" was published in Dissent Magazine.  The full article can be read at the following link:

https://www.dissentmagazine.org/wp-content/files_mf/1353953160genovesethequestion.pdf

Highlights from this article:

The Question: "What did you know, and when did you know it?" For at the age of fifteen I became a Communist, and, although expelled from the party in 1950 at age twenty, I remained a supporter of the international movement and of the Soviet Union until there was nothing left to support. Now, as everyone knows, in a noble effort to liberate the human race from violence and oppression we broke all records for mass slaughter, piling up tens of millions of corpses in less than three-quarters of a century.

About twenty years ago, picking up on some passages in Roy Medvedev's Let History Judge, I wondered if Comrade Stalin had not killed more communists than were killed by all the bourgeois, imperialist, Fascist, and Nazi regimes put together.

We easily forget the economic rationale that Marx taught us, namely, that socialism would have to provide unprecedented abundance if it were to sustain social liberation of any kind. With a few notable exceptions, leftists no longer find it fashionable to discuss economics at all beyond the now routine rejection of a "command economy" and some disingenuous mumbling about the necessity for markets. But where is there a serious attempt to determine the extent to which any socialism could function without a command economy or to show how a socialist economy could integrate markets?

Am I crazy to think that if we do not understand why and how we did what we did, we shall certainly end by doing it again—and again? Crazy I may be, but I try not to be a fool., And only a fool would trust those who are now playing possum with even a modicum of political power.

The horrors did not arise from perversions of radical ideology but from the ideology itself. We were led into complicity with mass murder and the desecration of our professed ideals not by Stalinist or other corruptions of high ideals, much less by unfortunate twists in some presumably objec­tive course of historical development, but by a deep flaw in our very understanding of human nature—its frailty and its possibilities—and by our inability to replace the moral and ethical baseline long provided by the religion we have dismissed with indifference, not to say con­tempt.

Our whole project of "human liberation" has rested on a series of gigantic illusions. The catastrophic consequences of our failure during this century—not merely the body count but the monotonous recurrence of despotism and wan­ton cruelty—cannot be dismissed as aberra­tions. Slimmed down to a technologically appropriate scale, they have followed in the wake of victories by radical egalitarian move­ments throughout history. We have yet to answer our right-wing critics' claims, which are regrettably well documented, that through­out history, from ancient times to the peasant wars of the sixteenth century to the Reign of Terror and beyond, social movements that have espoused radical egalitarianism and participa­tory democracy have begun with mass murder and ended in despotism.

The allegedly high ideals we placed at the center of our ideology and politics are precisely what need to be reexamined, but they can no longer even be made a subject for discussion in the mass media and our universities, to say nothing of the left itself. They are givens: an unattainable equality of condition; a radical democracy that has always ended in the tyranny it is supposed to overcome; a celebration of human goodness or malleability, accompanied by the daily announcement of newly discovered "inalienable rights" to personal self-expres­sion; destruction of all hierarchy and elites, as if ideological repudiation has ever prevented or ever could prevent the formation and reforma­tion of hierarchies and elites; condemnation of "illegitimate" authority in the absence of any notion of what might constitute legitimate authority; and, at the root of all, a thorough secularization of society, bolstered by the monstrous lie that the constitutional separation of church and state was meant to separate religion from society. And we have yet to reassess the anti-Americanism—the self-hatred implicit in the attitude we have generally affected toward our country —that has led us into countless stupidities and worse.
 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Thoughts on the Public Discourse over Climate Change

The link below will take you to an essay written by Richard Lindzen Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology, Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

http://merionwest.com/2017/04/25/richard-lindzen-thoughts-on-the-public-discourse-over-climate-change/

His conclusion to this article is as follows:

"The system we are looking at consists in two turbulent fluids interacting with each other. They are on a rotating planet that is differentially heated by the sun. A vital constituent of the atmospheric component is water in the liquid, solid and vapor phases, and the changes in phase have vast energetic ramifications. The energy budget of this system involves the absorption and reemission of about 200 watts per square meter. Doubling CO2 involves a 2% perturbation to this budget. So do minor changes in clouds and other features, and such changes are common. In this complex multifactor system, what is the likelihood of the climate (which, itself, consists in many variables and not just globally averaged temperature anomaly) is controlled by this 2% perturbation in a single variable? Believing this is pretty close to believing in magic. Instead, you are told that it is believing in ‘science.’ Such a claim should be a tip-off that something is amiss. After all, science is a mode of inquiry rather than a belief structure."

Monday, May 1, 2017

Obamacare Replacement Act

With all of the media coverage of the failed attempt by the House of Representatives to replace Obamacare you may not have noticed that there is a current bill in the Senate to do just that.  Senate bill 222 was introduced by Senator Rand Paul on January 24, 2017.  A summary of this bill is at this link:

https://www.paul.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/ObamacareReplacementActSections.pdf

The full text of this bill is at this link:

https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/222/text

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Income Tax Implies that Government Owns You

The following article is by Jeffrey A. Tucker and was published by The Foundation for Economic Education.

The income tax is enshrined into law but it is an idea that stands in total contradiction to the driving force behind the American Revolution and the idea of freedom itself. We desperately need a serious national movement to get rid of it – not reform it, not replace it, not flatten it or refocus its sting from this group to that. It just needs to go.
The great essayist Frank Chodorov once described the income tax as the root of all evil. His target was not the tax itself, but the principle behind it. Since its implementation in 1913, he wrote, "The government says to the citizen: 'Your earnings are not exclusively your own; we have a claim on them, and our claim precedes yours; we will allow you to keep some of it, because we recognize your need, not your right; but whatever we grant you for yourself is for us to decide.”
He really does have a point. That's evil. When Congress ratified the 16th Amendment on Feb. 3, 1913, there was a sense in which all private income in the U.S. was nationalized. What was not taxed from then on was a favor granted unto us, and continues to be so.

This is implied in the text of the amendment itself: "The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration."
No Limits
Where are the limits? There weren't any. There was some discussion about putting a limit on the tax, but it seemed unnecessary. Only 1% of the income earners would end up paying about 1% to the government. Everyone else was initially untouched. Who really cares that the rich have to pay a bit more, right? They can afford it.

Today, the ruling elite no longer bothers with things like amendments. This perspective totally misunderstands the true nature of government, which always wants more money and more power and will stop at nothing to get both. The 16th Amendment was more than a modern additive to an antique document. It was a new philosophy of the fiscal life of the entire country.
Today, the ruling elite no longer bothers with things like amendments. But back in the day, it was different. The amendment was made necessary because of previous court decisions that stated what was once considered a bottom-line presumption of the free society: Government cannot tax personal property. What you make is your own. You get to keep the product of your labors. Government can tax sales, perhaps, or raise money through tariffs on goods coming in and out of the country. But your bank account is off-limits.

The amendment changed that idea. In the beginning, it applied to very few people. This was one reason it passed. It was pitched as a replacement tax, not a new money raiser. After all the havoc caused by the divisive tariffs of the 19th century, this sounded like a great deal to many people, particularly Southerners and Westerners fed up with paying such high prices for manufactured goods while seeing their trading relations with foreign consumers disrupted.
People who supported it – and they were not so much the left but the right-wing populists of the time – imagined that the tax would hit the robber baron class of industrialists in the North. And that it did. Their fortunes began to dwindle, and their confidence in their ability to amass and retain intergenerational fortunes began to wane.

Limit to Accumulation
We all know the stories of how the grandchildren of the Gilded Age tycoons squandered their family heritage in the 1920s and failed to carry on the tradition. Well, it is hardly surprising. The government put a timetable and limit on accumulation. Private families and individuals would no longer be permitted to exist except in subjugation to the taxing state. The kids left their private estates to live in the cities, put off marriage, stopped bothering with all that hearth and home stuff. Time horizons shortened, and the Jazz Age began.

Class warfare was part of the deal from the beginning. The income tax turned the social fabric of the country into a giant lifetime boat, with everyone arguing about who had to be thrown overboard so that others might live.
The demon in the beginning was the rich. That remained true until the 1930s, when FDR changed the deal. Suddenly, the income would be collected, but taxed in a different way. It would be taken from everyone, but a portion would be given back late in life as a permanent income stream. Thus was the payroll tax born. This tax today is far more significant than the income tax.

The class warfare unleashed all those years ago continues today. One side wants to tax the rich. The other side finds it appalling that the percentage of people who pay no income tax has risen from 30% to nearly 50%. Now we see the appalling spectacle of Republicans regarding this as a disgrace that must change. They have joined the political classes that seek advancement by hurting people.
The Payroll Tax

It's extremely strange that the payroll tax is rarely considered in this debate. The poor, the middle class and the rich are all being hammered by payroll taxes that fund failed programs that provide no security and few benefits at all.
It's impossible to take seriously the claims that the income tax doesn't harm wealth creationIt's impossible to take seriously the claims that the income tax doesn't harm wealth creation. When Congress wants to discourage something – smoking, imports, selling stocks or whatever – they know what to do: Tax it. Tax income, and on the margin, you discourage people from earning it.

Tax debates are always about "reform" – which always means a slight shift in who pays what, with an eye to raising ever more money for the government. A far better solution would be to forget the whole thing and return to the original idea of a free society: You get to keep what you earn or inherit. That means nothing short of abolishing the great mistake of 1913.
Forget the flat tax. The only just solution is no tax on incomes ever.

But let's say that one day we actually become safe from the income tax collectors and something like blessed peace arrives. There is still another problem that emerged in 1913. Congress created the Federal Reserve, which eventually developed the power to create all the money that government would ever need, even without taxing.
For the practical running of the affairs of the state, the Fed is far worse than the income tax. It creates the more-insidious tax because it is so sneaky. In a strange way, it has made all the debates about taxation superfluous. Denying the government revenue does nothing to curb its appetites for our liberties and property. The Fed has managed to make it impossible to starve the beast.

Chodorov was correct about the evil of the income tax. Its passage signaled the beginning of a century of despotism. Our property is no longer safe. Our income is not our own. We are legally obligated to turn over whatever our masters say we owe them. You can fudge this point: None of this is compatible with the old liberal idea of freedom.
You doubt it? Listen to Thomas Jefferson from his inaugural address of 1801. What he said then remains true today:"…what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one more thing, fellow citizens a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned."

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Tale of the Slave

The following passage is from the book "Anarchy, State, and Utopia", pages 290-292 (1974), by Robert Nozick.

Consider the following sequence of cases... and imagine it is about you.

1. There is a slave completely at the mercy of his brutal master's whims. He often is cruelly beaten, called out in the middle of the night, and so on.
2. The master is kindlier and beats the slave only for stated infractions of his rules (not fulfilling the work quota, and so on). He gives the slave some free time.

3. The master has a group of slaves, and he decides how things are to be allocated among them on nice grounds, taking into account their needs, merit, and so on.

4. The master allows his slaves four days on their own and requires them to work only three days a week on his land. The rest of the time is their own.

5. The master allows his slaves to go off and work in the city (or anywhere they wish) for wages. He requires only that they send back to him three-sevenths of their wages. He also retains the power to recall them to the plantation if some emergency threatens his land; and to raise or lower the three-sevenths amount required to be turned over to him. He further retains the right to restrict the slaves from participating in certain dangerous activities that threaten his financial return, for example, mountain climbing, cigarette smoking.

6. The master allows all of his 10,000 slaves, except you, to vote, and the joint decision is made by all of them. There is open discussion, and so forth, among them, and they have the power to determine to what uses to put whatever percentage of your (and their) earnings they decide to take; what activities legitimately may be forbidden to you, and so on.

7. Though still not having the vote, you are at liberty (and are given the right) to enter into the discussions of the 10,000, to try to persuade them to adopt various policies and to treat you and themselves in a certain way. They then go off to vote to decide upon policies covering the vast range of their powers.

8. In appreciation of your useful contributions to discussion, the 10,000 allow you to vote if they are deadlocked; they commit themselves to this procedure. After the discussion you mark your vote on a slip of paper, and they go off and vote. In the eventuality that they divide evenly on some issue, 5,000 for and 5,000 against, they look at your ballot and count it in. This has never yet happened; they have never yet had occasion to open your ballot. (A single master also might commit himself to letting his slave decide any issue concerning him about which he, the master, was absolutely indifferent.)

9. They throw your vote in with theirs. If they are exactly tied your vote carries the issue. Otherwise it makes no difference to the electoral outcome.

The question is: which transition from case 1 to case 9 made it no longer the tale of a slave?"


You can watch a video of this passage at this link:

https://youtu.be/uxRSkM8C8z4

 

Monday, April 10, 2017

2017 Tax Burden by State


The study linked below is authored by Richie Bernardo and was recently published on the WalletHub website.  It has a very interesting table that allows you to sort the tax data by state and also by any of the 6 column headings.


Congratulations to New York coming in 1st place with the highest state tax burden.  I am also proud of my home state, Hawaii, finishing in second place.  I know that our state and local politicians are trying harder and someday we will make it to #1.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Socialism: Force or Fantasy?


An interesting article on a subject that should have died in 1991 was published by Lawrence W. Reed on the Foundation for Economic Education website.  Where are some highlights:

"Some socialists say that they are simply advocating “sharing,” and since socialism’s advocates have good intentions, it must be voluntary and beneficial, too. Except that it never is. If it were voluntary, it wouldn’t be socialism, and if it were beneficial, you wouldn’t need force to create it and sustain it."

"Today’s socialist dreamers think and act as if they just arrived from an alternate universe. A $19 trillion national debt means that the federal government hasn’t spent enough to solve our problems. Stealing money that belongs to others through taxation is perfectly alright if you spend it on good things. People become much more honest, fair, competent, and compassionate once they get elected to office. If you force employers to pay someone more than their services are worth, they will hire them anyway and just eat the difference. Regulations always do good because their advocates mean well. Civilizations rise and become great because they punish success and subsidize failure, then they collapse when they embrace freedom and free enterprise. Each person is entitled to whatever he wants other people to pay for, like free college and birth control."

The article is at this link:


This is the list of recommended reading at the end of the article:
·         TheWelfare State Has Slowly but Surely Eroded Nordic Character by Daniel J. Mitchell
·         “NordicSocialism Isn't the Answer for America” by Nima Sanandaji
·         “The Mythof Scandinavian Socialism” by Corey Iacono
·         “ScandinavianMyths: High Taxes and Big Spending are Popular” by Nima Sanandaji
·         “How LaissezFaire Made Sweden Rich” by Johan Norberg
·         “The Denmark Delusion” by Scott Sumner
·         “’DemocraticSocialism’ Is a Contradiction in Terms” by Sandy Ikeda
·         “DoesDemocracy Lead to Socialism?” by B.K. Marcus
·         “Socialism’sPrescient Critics” by Philip Vander Elst
·         “RenderingUnto Caesar: Was Jesus a Socialist?” by Lawrence W. Reed
·         “MillennialsReject Capitalism in Name but Socialism in Fact” by B.K. Marcus
·         “ActuallyBernie, Markets, Not Socialism, Promote Kindness” by Julian Adorney
·         “SocialismIs War and War Is Socialism” by Steven Horwitz
·         “VenezuelaRuns Out of Toilet Paper, Achieves True Socialism” by David Boaz