Discuss

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

So we free market folks often point out that about half the country pays no income tax. Our worry is that as an increasingly small percentage of earners fund the government, we’ll soon have a majority of people who pay no tax voting for more and more government services they benefit from, but don’t have to pay for.

The response from the other side is that the poor do pay Medicare and Social Security payroll taxes, and that those taxes aren’t progressive. So they hit the poor especially hard. That doesn’t exactly refute the problem of all other government programs getting funded by an increasingly small pool of taxpayers. But it’s still a valid point in and of itself.

So here’s my idea: Let’s make the Medicare and Social Security taxes more progressive. (While we’re at it, let’s subject both programs to means testing.) But in exchange, we also scrap the Earned Income Tax Credit in favor a negative income tax. Built into this would be a mechanism ensuring that when government spending goes up, everyone pays for it—it’s just that people in lower tax brackets would “pay” by getting a smaller reverse income tax payout. The idea is to be sure everyone has to sacrifice a bit of discretionary income when a politician proposes some big new government program, so everyone can decide whether the benefit from the new program is worth its cost.

I’d prefer scrapping the income tax altogether, mostly because I don’t like the idea of government knowing how you earn a living—which leads to government snooping on how you spend your money, money laundering laws, and all sorts of other nastiness. But as long as we have it, I’m curious to hear what my fellow free marketeers, and our opponents, make of this . . . I guess we’ll call it a “compromise.”

Digg it |  reddit |  del.icio.us |  Fark

155 Responses to “Discuss”

  1. #1 |  Jeff | 

    As a lefty, I, for one, like this idea.

  2. #2 |  Stephen | 

    Made me think of that thing where two wolves and a lamb are voting on what to have for lunch.

  3. #3 |  qwints | 

    I think too many liberals think about cutting social security and medicare the way conservatives think about tax cuts to accept means testing. It’s too absolute a line in the sand. Uncapping payroll taxes might be popular though since taxing the rich more always seems to poll well among them.

    As for the negative income tax, the biggest problem I see is the increase in government intrusiveness – right now poor people often don’t see the abuses from the IRS like rich people don’t see the abuses from police. The solution in both cases is not to expand the number of people being abused (we don’t want more Cheye Calvos), but to expose the abuses in order to end them. That said, I’m sure if you took the EITC as a base for the negative income tax, most liberals would be fine with it.

  4. #4 |  BamBam | 

    “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.”
    — Professor Alexander Tytler over 200 years ago

  5. #5 |  JPP | 

    Imagine the IRS giving you a breakdown of your taxes, so that you knew the dollar amount of the portion of your taxes which went to farm subsidies, to Iraq, to Afghanistan, to paying interest on the national debt. People often vote against levies for for schools and libraries because they have a dollar amount attached to them; imagine the effect on support for a war of having a (large) line item for that war in your federal tax bill.

    On a separate topic, the rules for EITC are relatively complicated. A negative income tax could be much simpler and more fair.

  6. #6 |  Bob | 

    You did not define what “More Progressive” means.

    I guarantee you the bill that results will have SS and MC shoot way up for the higher earners, and not drop for the low ones.

    At the end of the day, there are only 3 options: Dump SS and MC, screw the half that pay income taxes even more, or go the way of the Roman Empire.

    The basic problem is that we just don’t need all these people. There are only so many service industry jobs, with even those being streamlined out. In addition, most labor intensive manufacturing jobs have been replaced with off shore manufacturing. Good luck making a mini-fridge in the US for 60 bucks retail.

    So, get ready for the tax increases.

  7. #7 |  John | 

    It’s an interesting proposal, but there are a number of problems. First, it would encourage voters to support greater deficit spending to increase negative income tax payouts (unless it were coupled with a balanced budget amendment).

    Second, the battle would shift from spending levels to how progressive the tax rates are. Those who benefit from the negative income tax wouldn’t see nearly as much benefit from spending reductions as they would if the tax rates changed to benefit them. You would never see progressives allow spending increases reduce the negative income tax payments to those who qualify. Those rates would have to be set in stone beforehand.

  8. #8 |  Leonson | 

    Change the tax rates to something like 5%/10%/15%/20%/25%, get rid of deductions.

    Everyone should pay taxes.

  9. #9 |  johnl | 

    Governments that spend a high proportion of GDP have regressive taxes, because workers are the easiest thing to tax. .

  10. #10 |  JOR | 

    The problem isn’t that we have too many tax eaters. The problem is that we have too many taxpayers.

  11. #11 |  jb | 

    Two things: First, among the 50% of households who don’t pay income tax include people whose sole income is social security, or whose non-social security earnings are under $5700. These are in fact a large portion of the non-taxpayers, so the EITC reform wouldn’t make that big of a dent.

    Second, the EITC is carefully structured to give bigger payouts the more money you make, up to a point, so as to encourage people to actually work as opposed to being a guaranteed minimum income. Any negative income tax would have to work the same way.

  12. #12 |  John David Galt | 

    This is an interesting topic for me; as a tax professional myself, I know all about the payroll taxes that come out of your check but that you don’t see.

    First of all, I don’t see it as a calamity per se that most Americans don’t pay (net) income taxes. Indeed, when the income tax was first introduced, it was touted a tax on the rich, which fewer than 10% of Americans had to pay, and the Democrats promised it would always be that way.

    What is a calamity is that recipients of government spending (not only welfare, food stamps, and social security, but also government jobs) still have the vote, thus allowing them to bankrupt us as Tocqueville warned.

    Second, a negative income tax really is a welfare benefit. The only real reason to prefer a negative income tax (such as the EIC) is to try to remove the Catch-22 situation in which a lot of welfare recipients find themselves. TANF (the former AFDC) is means-tested so heavily that if you have as much as $100 saved, you no longer qualify, so once you start receiving it, saving up (with or without taking a job) to get yourself off welfare is not allowed, and is a federal crime if you keep quiet about it in order to keep receiving benefits until you have enough to make the move.

    Ideally the negative income tax, if you *work* (which is how EIC is designed) should be large enough to blow away this disincentive and enable people who want to improve themselves to do it. Therefore I would increase the EIC, maybe to double the present ceiling, while at the same time I would allow people receiving TANF or other means-tested payments to save for six months or a year before the payments stop.

    Finally, the payroll taxes. Not only the Social Security and Medicare taxes (both employees’ and employers’ shares) but also the taxes you never see because only the employer pays them (unemployment insurance tax, disability insurance tax, and two others here in California) ought to be abolished and the shortfall made up by increasing the regular income tax rate. This would accomplish two good things. One, it would make the personal exemption and standard deduction apply to all of them, so that the very poorest workers wouldn’t be paying them — as it stands now, this represents about a 20% tax burden that begins with the very first dollar of wages, and is the most regressive bit of our entire tax system. And two, it would make visible to voters all of the tax that they are already paying — so just maybe, voters would take it all into account on election day.

  13. #13 |  Michael Pack | 

    Making FICA taxes progressive would turn both programs into open wealth transfers from the rich to older folk no matter their wealth. The wealthiest ,when you figure in all assets are people 55 and up.I’d like to point out,lower income families also receive earned income tax credits which negates much of the FICA tax.You need to keep in mind ,the employer pays have the tax,and raising it will affect them also.I’d much rather see a flat tax on income starting after the first 25,000,means testing,and moving more of medicare to the market.Plus,for those like Warren Buffet,who wants to pay more,tax his investment income at the the flat rate of say,20%.Treat all income the same.I wonder how he’d feel about paying the self employment tax?This would also hit the fund manager.

  14. #14 |  Aaron | 

    Sounds good to me, as a lefty. Devil is in the details though.

  15. #15 |  CyniCAl | 

    Representing the anarchist wing of libertarianism, blah blah blah blah blah. That’s all you non-anarchists hear when we speak anyway.

  16. #16 |  Tim | 

    Mr. Halt hit it on the head. The true problem is that those most interested in confiscating wealth are the recipients of that wealth. With 50% of the population on the receiving end and not putting anything into the pot, the incentive becomes “grab more for free”.

    The framers of the constitution had the right idea, but the wrong execution. They never could have envisioned the vast welfare state we have now, so they tied the voting right to property ownership. Heinlein was closer to the mark in Starship Troopers by tying that right to military service. Today, it needs to be tied to a net-positive tax payment.

  17. #17 |  Coises | 

    The ideas of a negative income tax and of scrapping income tax altogether combine in the fair tax: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FairTax

    There are some things I really like about the fair tax: use of what is in effect a negative tax; no means testing; and elimination of the ridiculous “April 15th” system we have now, comprised of incredibly intrusive government, self-reporting that places honesty at odds with self-interest, and a tax code so complex that we require an entire industry of professionals just to help people figure out what the law actually says.

    There are also things I think are all wrong with the fair tax; and it would be such a radical change, I think it would be a huge mistake to move that way in a sudden jump, rather than gradually. The economy is not well-understood (recent events should demonstrate that clearly enough). We really need to be able to make changes watchfully, adjusting for errors and correcting our mistakes as we make them.

    That our political system is incapable of doing anything remotely like that says to me that we have to find a way to build a system that actually governs intelligently and responsively before we can hope to solve any other problems. Nothing that comes out of Washington as it is now has any significant chance of making anything any better.

  18. #18 |  EH | 

    With 50% of the population on the receiving end and not putting anything into the pot

    I’m gonna guess without research that the intersection of these two groups is smaller than you think.

  19. #19 |  Murc | 

    A couple things I’d like to ask about, Radley.

    “Our worry is that as an increasingly small percentage of earners fund the government, we’ll soon have a majority of people who pay no tax voting for more and more government services they benefit from, but don’t have to pay for.”

    Err… can I ask why? No snark, I’m legitimately asking. Because my worry on hearing that something like half the country doesn’t make enough money to pay income taxes on it, my initial worry is ‘holy shit, half the country is doing really, really badly. What can we do to make sure they have good jobs that pay well?’

    Secondly, I have a question or two about this paragraph.

    “Built into this would be a mechanism ensuring that when government spending goes up, everyone pays for it—it’s just that people in lower tax brackets would “pay” by getting a smaller reverse income tax payout. The idea is to be sure everyone has to sacrifice a bit of discretionary income when a politician proposes some big new government program, so everyone can decide whether the benefit from the new program is worth its cost.”

    This would seem to be a stealthy way of trying to cap both overall public spending AND to set a ceiling on the amount of government assistance poor people can receive, yes? If every time government spending (not taxes; you specifically mention just ‘spending’ here, not ‘government taxation’) ticked up a percentage point, the amount of benefits provided to people receiving a negative income tax credit goes down, that means that you can never ever provide more benefit to those people than where said benefits were at the instant this deal was adopted, at least not without scrapping the entire deal.

    At least, I think that’s what you’re saying. I’m having trouble parsing the intended policy effects behind that entire paragraph. I could just be dumb and not seeing it.

    Oh, and as far as scrapping the EITC in favor of a negative income tax and making SS and Medicare more progressive and means-tested… I’d be all for that, depending on the details involved. At least from a policy perspective. I’d be a little bit worried from a political perspective, as right now Social Security and Medicare are really hard to touch because they’re regarded as a broad social benefit that everyone will partake in, no matter, what. Sort of like roads, or firefighters, or (supposedly; you can’t read this site for very long without becoming dubious) law enforcement. Making them programs that only apply to those in poverty is the first step to making them programs that can be demonized en route to getting rid of them.

    Now, for people who think those programs are bad policy, that would be a FEATURE, not a bug. For those of us who think they are GOOD policy, however, it would be a legitimate concern you’d want to address as part of any compromise.

  20. #20 |  Aresen | 

    Take all the welfare money at the federal, state and local level: Social security, medicare, food stamps, etc and put it in the same pot. I estimate this around $3T

    Divide it out amongst the adult population = $3T / approx 240 million = roughly $12,500 per person. Tell everyone “This is your money, spend it how you want. It does form part of your income.”

    Over this base amount, tax all income at a flat 18%. No deductions for anything except direct business expenses. (Trips to the Superbowl in the corporate jet, etc., count as income for every person on board, be they corporate execs or “clients.”)

  21. #21 |  Coises | 

    “So we free market folks often point out that about half the country pays no income tax. Our worry is that as an increasingly small percentage of earners fund the government, we’ll soon have a majority of people who pay no tax voting for more and more government services they benefit from, but don’t have to pay for.”

    Looking at the current state of the federal government, I’d hardly say that placing the interests of the majority ahead of those of wealthy and powerful minorities looks like an impending danger.

    Democracy as we do it here and now is two wolves and two thousand sheep voting on what to have for dinner… with the choices being lamb or mutton.

  22. #22 |  iipalindromeii | 

    I’m glad to see Negative Income Tax getting mentioned more. It’s an idea I’d like to try.

    In many ways, we suffer from the fact that the federal government directly sets tax policy rather than dividing out required income among the states and allowing the states to figure out how best to come up with the money. It’s too bad that didn’t work out very well with the Articles of Confederation.

    Here’s a thought: would it be possible for a State to meet its federal requirements (for social services, etc) while still implementing a negative income tax? States spend quite a bit on all the different welfare programs. If it’s a good idea in the large, it should be a pretty good idea in the small.

  23. #23 |  DK | 

    All I see with this means testing and compromise is more government control. Why is compromise always towards the statist view and not the libertarian view?

    The solution? Repeal the 16th. Then, we can talk about how to fund this bloated government. Perhaps a consumption tax. The Fair Tax seems to be ok, though I wonder how easily the prebate would get abused. Or, we can exempt certain necessities (food, clothing).

    The other thing I’d like to see implemented is to limit the current year’s budget to the prior year’s receipts. The consumption tax rate would then be self-regulating. Raise it too high or too low, at some point the receipts would fall and limit the budget. Actually, this seems like it would be a beautiful experiment in free-market economics with the effects immediately being seen on an annual basis. I guess the one downside is how to place exemptions on war funding (actual war – you know, the kind where we actually get invaded), and disaster funding (actual disaster – normally of the natural type where compassion generally kicks in for most people).

  24. #24 |  Murc | 

    @Aresen

    This is an interesting re-distribution scheme. I’d very much like to hear more about it. For example, you seem to propose that any sort of in-kind compensation a person receives from an incorporated entity, such as the aforementioned jet, be assigned a dollar value and treated as taxable income, yes? The natural corollary to this would be that said corporate entities pay no taxes in their own right, yes?

    Which I’d be fine with, by the way. If every time a corporation gives you a company car or use of the corporate jet or a big house or fifty million in stock options, it gets treated as taxable income, I’d be totally on board with it.

  25. #25 |  Michael Pack | 

    By the way,I don’t care for the ‘fair tax’.It turns every company and sel employed person into the tax collector and invites even more government into the market.Even a smal company,say,a barber shop,would have to collect and transfer the money to the feds.If we need taxes,and we do, spread the pain.Don’t just put the burden on the employers and self employed.Part of the problem not is that fact that many do not pay their taxes themselves.It’s done through withholding and many love that refund at the end of the year.Everyone should have to write their own check.

  26. #26 |  Joseph Stalin | 

    CyniCal “Representing the anarchist wing of libertarianism, blah blah blah blah blah. That’s all you non-anarchists hear when we speak anyway.”

    That’s not true CyniCal! I sometimes cut and paste some of your brilliant if slightly angry rants.

  27. #27 |  Sanders / Krugman 2012 | 

    Do we want people to be working or not?

    If we want people to work, we should stop taxing employment and make it up with taxes on things we don’t want people to do, like putting carbon into the atmosphere.

  28. #28 |  Me2 | 

    Maybe I’m not understanding the NIT correctly, but it seems those at or above the zero tax point would be more inclined to vote in favor of gov’t programs since it would have little effect on them. Also, the zero point would have to be tethered by law to something like inflation. Otherwise the gov’t could raise the minimum income level whenever they need more revenue.
    Either way, there’s little chance of tying benefits to burdens so long as borrowing, easing, and taxing the loathsome rich remain the paths of least resistance. Won’t it be fun when they aren’t.

  29. #29 |  Kolohe | 

    I always thought the EITC (a righty Jack Kemp led initiative to begin with) *was* a negative income tax directly derived from Uncle Milty’s teachings?

  30. #30 |  Radley Balko | 

    Err… can I ask why? No snark, I’m legitimately asking. Because my worry on hearing that something like half the country doesn’t make enough money to pay income taxes on it, my initial worry is ‘holy shit, half the country is doing really, really badly. What can we do to make sure they have good jobs that pay well?’

    The mere fact that half the country doesn’t pay income tax doesn’t mean that half the country is impoverished. By the time you factor in the various deductions, a family of four making $50,000 would have no federal income tax liability. When you start to earn enough to start claiming other deductions, you can make $200,000 or more and still pay no federal income tax, depending on how you earn you money. When you look, for example, at how Congress keeps raising the minimum income for eligibility for the CHIP program to the point where it extends well into the middle class, you get an increasingly large part of the population that pays little to no federal income tax, yet gets an increasingly large package of federal benefits. That isn’t sustainable. Someone has to pay for it all.

  31. #31 |  David | 

    The proposal has merit, but, I think, mostly as a device to make some of the more angry fiscal conservatives a little less angry.

    Specifically, while I do see the merits of the “skins in the game” theory, I don’t think it is possible to have a system where the proportionate share of the cost for the programs a person votes for is close to being perfectly reflected on his/her tax bill so that he/she can rationally evaluate the cost while voting. So there will still be plenty of folks who are motivated to pay for programs which they don’t need to pay for.

    A big example of this is medicare and social security. Even under the system proposed above, the AARP members, i.e. people at or near retirement age, will be economically motivated to favor spending more on these (and disfavor cutting benefits) because every $1 in additional benefits they get will mostly come from younger taxpayers.

  32. #32 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    OK, first off, making the tax system “fair” is beside the point. The government grabs entirely too goddamn much money, and tries to do entirely to goddamn much with it. No matter how the taxes are arranged, most people will feel that they pay too much, even if it were only a head-tax of a penny a day. Cut taxes. Cut government. Get the government the hell out of areas where it has a demonstrated lack of talent – for my money that would be pretty much everything but building roads, delivering the mail, and opening the occasional can of whop-ass on people who would do us harm. Ashcan the War on Drugs; THAT should produce a real ‘peace dividend’. Stop sending money to governments that are even more disfunctional than ours.

    Yes, I know it’s a dream. Now. Time was when pushing back the relentless advance of Gun Control by passing state by state ‘must issue’ laws was a pipe dream too.

    Secondly; what do you propose to replace the income tax with that wouldn’t be at least as intrusive? Sales tax? Can you see infernal revenue agents swooping down on weekend yard sales and taking everybody into custody? No means of taxing the populace is going to be free of government buttinskiism. What has to happen is that there have to be real penalties to putting some taxpayer through the legal wringer if you can’t find anything with which to charge him. And the charge can’t be saying in public that you are innocent of charges that the government doesn’t prove in court (what happened to Martha Stewart is a national disgrace). Maybe the department that picked on the taxpayer to begin with should have to estimate at the start what they hope to recover, and if they fail to prove their case they should pay that sum to the taxpayer out of their yearly budget.

    I love the Smithsonian. I love the National Parks. The fact remains that they should not be supported with Federal money …. not with the government unable to account for its spending better than it does.

    More should be done on a state and local level; if some program hacks me off I can probably make enough time to go to the State capitol and harangue my representative about it. Going to DC is another order of magnitude of bother.

    Stop telling people what they should eat; the science changes too often.

    If we can’t stop all farm support payments, at least stop supporting agriculture that could not possibly be worthwhile without them – sugar in florida comes to mind.

    Stop writing insurance for people who build homes in absurdly dangerous areas. Honor the policies that exist, just stop writing new ones.

    The problem isn’t tax policy per se. The problem is spending policy.

  33. #33 |  Chris Mallory | 

    And why should that family of 4 making 50k pay one dime of Federal income tax? In all probability they aren’t anything one thing from the Feds, except for inflation, a lower standard of living, and a horde of mindless bureaucrats to direct their lives.

  34. #34 |  SOLVED IT! | 

    Make taxes voluntary (i.e. not taxes).

  35. #35 |  Ryan | 

    How about we start paying the 43% of our fellow Americans who do unpayed work so we can tax them. Yaknow. Like mothers raising their kids. Or is the genius of free market thought these days that, “~we~ don’t need ~these people~” anymore?

  36. #36 |  Murc | 

    @Radley-

    Fair enough. I have a much better idea of where you’re coming from in policy terms there.

    And there IS a policy discussion to be had there, I feel. A family of four that’s earning 200k in take-home (I’m going to interpret that as ‘two adults and two dependent children,’ although I may be wrong in assuming that) and has no income tax liability at all indicates that there’s something wrong with the tax code.

    I’m less sure about the family making 50k a year in take-home, tho. If you have two people working full-time and each making 25k with two dependent children, I can maybe see how they’re in a financial situation where, on policy grounds, they’re not exactly freeloading by not having an income tax burden. My understanding of the relevant economic metrics is that the various tax breaks and benefits you get from having dependent children do not even come close to covering the cost of raising said children.

    Which is fine, but it does have salience to the amount of tax burden put on said family of four. It also ties into the discussion of whether we want to use the tax code as an instrument for incentivizing or de-incentivising activities or behaviors; I tend to take that on a case by case basis, whereas I know that you feel it is a bad idea, period.

  37. #37 |  celticdragonchick | 

    and a horde of mindless bureaucrats to direct their lives.

    You bet. They are always knocking on my door and wanting to know what I am doing at any particular moment and making me sign multiple forms. Then, they smell whatever my spouse is cooking (the extra virgin olive oil and the garlic does it every time) and they end up staying for dinner and talking about how fucked or funny all the rest of the Balko readers are. It gets tiring, I tell ya.

  38. #38 |  the innominate one | 

    Bambam – Tytler never wrote that, in all likelihood. At least there is no evidence that he did so. Read snopes and Wikipedia.

  39. #39 |  hilzoy fangirl | 

    Most rich people likely owe most of their wealth to the existence of government, so I’m not sure how higher tax rates for rich people is in any way unfair or inappropriate. A negative income tax doesn’t quite work for people who are involuntarily unemployed, which in case you haven’t been paying attention describes quite a few people right now. And anyway, Warren Buffet’s tax rate is half that of most taxpayers anyway, but I suppose libertarians aren’t too worried about wealth inequality when it tilts in favor of the powerful.

  40. #40 |  JS | 

    I think that if they have enough tax money to give the Egyptian army 2 billion a year for 30 years then they take way too much in taxes. The US government needs far less in taxes not more.

  41. #41 |  JohnJ | 

    I guess my fear would be that politicians would screw up the negative income tax even worse than they’ve screwed up the income tax we have.

  42. #42 |  Brandon | 

    Another problem is that the federal government itself is now a significant voting block. How many federal employees are going to vote against tax increases?

  43. #43 |  JS | 

    celticdragonchick “They are always knocking on my door and wanting to know what I am doing at any particular moment and making me sign multiple forms.”

    That’s kind of like the response that people give when they think we are making too big a fiss about no knock raids and police beatings-it didn’t happen to me therefore I’m not worried about. I always remind people that police state repression didn’t happen to the majority of people on any given day in the old Soviet Union either. But it could have.

  44. #44 |  JohnJ | 

    It never ceases to amaze me how politicians get elected by telling the poor that the rich are to blame for everything while promoting policies that hurt the poor and middle class and favor the rich.

  45. #45 |  JS | 

    hilzoy fangirl “…but I suppose libertarians aren’t too worried about wealth inequality when it tilts in favor of the powerful.”

    Riiiight. Because libertarians are known for favoring the powerful and working hard to protect the rich, the well connected and the police from any consequences. Oh wait, that’s not libertarians that’s conservatives.

  46. #46 |  Brandon | 

    #42, it’s liberals too.

  47. #47 |  kt | 

    I wouldn’t describe sucking Koch bros’ ass as earning a living, Badley.

  48. #48 |  JS | 

    You’re right Brandon, my bad.

  49. #49 |  Just Plain Brian | 

    Most rich people likely owe most of their wealth to the existence of government

    Ok, you’re halfway there. Government power often works in favor of the wealthy and powerful.

    But the solution is not more government.

  50. #50 |  GT | 

    First – I oppose ALL taxes, because I oppose government because it’s dominated by sociopaths and it doesn’t solve the public goods problem (the only rationale for its existence). So yeppers… I’m a voluntaryist (or as I prefer, kratoclast).

    BUT… I also graduated summa cum in Economics, so I am aware of the Public Finance literature. And if you are someone who accepts that the State ought to exist to solve Public Goods problems (that’s the only valid reason for it, by the way), then you ought to support progressive taxation – because of diminishing marginal utility of money.

    One of the identifiable ‘market failures’ due to public-goods aspects, is income support (welfare); nobody who is economically literate believes that there would not be a ‘free rider’ problem if redistribution was left to the market. So again… if you’re a Statist, you can’t sensibly oppose some income redistribution.

    What that means, is that in an economy with a Gini coefficient that is at the levels currently experienced in the US, nobody below the median OUGHT to pay taxes in excess of what they receive from government; the bottom quintile especially should be the recipient of redistribution.

    That said, the initial statement – that only the top 50% pay taxes – is false on its face. State and local value-added and sales taxes hit everybody’s budget, as do property taxes (either directly or indirectly through their impact on rents).

    And of course everybody is on the hook for some share of the vast and growing debt – which simply reflects government expenditure in excess of receipts, and thus future implied taxation to clear the debt (or more realistically to pay the interest and roll the debt over).

    Once you do the sum properly, you will see that taxes (in ALL forms, direct and indirect) plus the implied coupon required to service an individual’s share of government debt, comes to over 50% of income.

    So by all means, kick downwards at les misèrables, and only count income taxation when trying to get a handle on the size of the burden that your overlords put on you. but be aware that that only plays well to people who don’t think.

    As to why, despite being aware of public-goods/market failure arguments, I still oppose the State in all its forms? Three letters: W-A-R.

    The standard public-goods-amelioration argument relies on adding up a whole bunch of little welfare ‘triangles’ – little improvements in consumer surplus that arise when government expands a suboptimal market.

    All lovely, theoretically defensible, and fine on its face. But nobody counts all the little triangles – seen and unseen – when the state turns parts of the Earth’s surface into a charnel house. Count up the man-hours – both actual and potential (a life extinguished in war is several thousand hours of labour not performed) from war, and it’s in the trillions… that’s a lot of welfare triangles.

    And that’s before we get to the preposterous notion of the ‘social contract’ – which I have never signed, and which it appears can be varied by one party without notice.

    So to make al long story longer: even knowing – chapter and verse – the economic rational (such that it is) for the State, the only right thing to do as a rational utility-interdependent agent is to say “Fuck them”.

    Expect Us.

  51. #51 |  JS | 

    kt “I wouldn’t describe sucking Koch bros’ ass as earning a living, Badley.”

    First off, what Fluffy said. Second, just the fact that you’ve resorted to a childish insult means you lost. I’m guessing Radley touched the idol you worship and now you’re in a state of impotent rage about it so you typed the worst sounding insult you could.

  52. #52 |  Matt D | 

    What about state and local taxes?

  53. #53 |  Radley Balko | 

    And anyway, Warren Buffet’s tax rate is half that of most taxpayers anyway, but I suppose libertarians aren’t too worried about wealth inequality when it tilts in favor of the powerful.

    So I propose a compromise that actually gives quite a bit away on my end, and you respond with a broad, uninformed attack on libertarians. Are you actually interesting in having a discussion?

    FYI, I think Buffet and others are right about the capital gains loophole. As for inequality, no, all else being equal, it isn’t a huge concern for me, so long as everyone’s standard of living is improving. But the wealthy get far more government handouts than the poor. And when government policy is a big part of the reason for rising inequality, then yes, I think it’s a problem.

  54. #54 |  DoubleU | 

    How about a war tax? Three percent fee put on each citizen to fund each military action we take. So, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya would be a nine percent tax on each citizen. Bet those battles would come to a quick end.

    I know, the government always seems to find a way to keep charging the taxes after the war is over.

  55. #55 |  Me2 | 

    @Murc:
    You hit a nerve mentioning family benefits. Maybe I’m just cruel, but it seems only fair to me that financial burden of raising children should be shouldered by the children’s parents. Personally, I’d grandfather current beneficiaries and those currently expectant, then switch to individual taxpayer accounts for both K-12 and children’s health care. This would make the financial burden of raising children easier the longer prospective parents wait to have their children -and benefits received are directly connected to burdens shouldered. I wouldn’t rule out aide for things like teen pregnancy or ‘unusually fertile’ couples either. But again, maybe I’m just a jerk.

  56. #56 |  hilzoy fangirl | 

    So I propose a compromise that actually gives quite a bit away on my end, and you respond with a broad, uninformed attack on libertarians. Are you actually interesting in having a discussion?

    You say that it’s a compromise, but it’s only a compromise insofar as you want to abolish progressive taxation altogether, but would be willing to allow it in a limited fashion provided that poor people submit to the very “government snooping” from which you yourself want to be completely free. (That’s what means testing is, in case I wasn’t obvious enough.) I’m saying that this entire discussion was predicated on a false assumption, i.e., that poor people are lucky duckies who don’t pay their fair share of taxes and that the rich are thus forced to pay excessive taxes to fund the programs supported by the poor. That’s not something that I see any evidence for – indeed, look at the federal tax revenues versus expenditures per state and you’ll see that to at least some extent it’s the states who pay more taxes than they receive in benefits voting in favor of more spending, and the states who receive more benefits than they pay in taxes voting in favor of lower taxes. Until we can merely agree on what’s actually wrong with the current arrangement, talk of compromise is premature.

  57. #57 |  Pasquin | 

    Social security and medicare already give back more than the average person puts in—that’s why they are either going bankrupt or in deficit, or both. The Ponzi is baked in.

    However, I do like the idea of making everyone feel every new entitlement enlargement, but that’s why I don’t think it’ll fly with the left. If they can’t give their constituency free stuff, why vote for them? You saw how the Donks reacted when W tried to avert SS disaster and was treated like he a war criminal.

    As intriguing as this idea package is, and it *is*, the political effect of making people pay more for what they already are told they are ‘entitled to’ will get zero political support. The collecting electorate will be uniformly pissed off.

    Better, in my opinion, to let the entitlements fail and disappear. Buttressing the system will just Rube Goldberg-the-thing up.

  58. #58 |  Ryan | 

    @Brandon So you support stripping the voting rights of our troops I take it? They are dirty public employees after all. And cops. And prison guards. And the dirtiest of all evil public school teachers.

    As for the rest of you that are still stroking the “govt + taxes = evil” meme, please vote with your feet and move to Somolia. Life without govt is going swimingly there. Thanks

  59. #59 |  John Thacker | 

    Social Security’s benefits formula is progressive, compared to what you put in. There’s a progressive “income tax” like formula used to compute what you get out based on what you put in. (Of course, there’s then a question of whether and by how much wealthier people outlive the working poor and thus collect for more years, since Social Security also functions as insurance against dying earlier.) The payments in are a flat rate, though.

    For people at the very top of the scale, Social Security becomes less of a good deal, so there’s a certain non-progressive part there.

    “As for the rest of you that are still stroking the “govt + taxes = evil” meme, please vote with your feet and move to Somolia. Life without govt is going swimingly there.”

    Nice to see that people on the left can do the whole “if you don’t love it, leave it” without a sense of irony, together with their version of calling people Communists or socialists for supporting slightly higher taxes.

    Ryan’s like a less intelligent Glenn Beck over here.

  60. #60 |  (B)oscoH | 

    A couple posters above have mentioned sales taxes. Seems to me that they meet your requirement of everyone feeling the pain better than any other tax.

  61. #61 |  Ryan | 

    @John

    Yes pointing out a reality based example where the absence of govt has had a devastatingly negative impact on a society is just like Beck demagoguery.

    And because you’d make that special leap I’ll ignore your light speed jump to the ad hominem while counseling on MY intelligence.

  62. #62 |  UB | 

    Since Ryan brought up Somalia, I’d be curious to hear the libertarian-leaning folks here list any existing countries that they’d consider to be good examples of stable and thriving libertarian paradises.

  63. #63 |  SamK | 

    ….I make about $75k a year, a hell of a lot less than $200k. I own a small business besides my salaried employment that I dump my expenses into and write off. I pay a hell of a lot of money to a damned fine accountant each year and she saves me a hell of a lot more money than I pay her.

    Now…how the hell do I not pay taxes? I’m not an economist but I’m certainly no neophyte…Radley, you seem to be implying that I shouldn’t have a tax burden and I’d love some clarification on that. I’d be more than happy to pay *anyone* here $1000 if they do no more than refer me to someone that ensures that I do not (legally) have to pay taxes. Do please help me out here, I’m sure my family and everyone else I know making well under $50k a year for their families will benefit…because we all still pay one fucking hell of a lot of taxes.

  64. #64 |  GT | 

    #62 – Ryan, you need to learn some history, my friend. Somalia under Siad Barré (the last genuine State there) was FAR worse – on EVERY welfare and economic indicator – than Somalia now.

    It’s fine to be ignorant – it’s practically the national pastime of America when it comes to the rest of the world – but don’t use something about which you know fuck-all, to try to score ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’-esque zingers over folks who know what they’re talking about.

    And your ‘love it or leave it’ drivel is so fucking retarded it makes my mighty scrotum clench.

    Using LIOLI as a template, we should all shut the fuck up and recite the totally-fucking-creepy Pledge of Allegiance. And we should still have slaves (that was the founding policy… and policy can’t change if dissent is met with ‘well fuck off to Somalia’).

    Damn, bitch.

  65. #65 |  GT | 

    Oops… #61 Ryan, not #62 (Sorry, SamK – it was hard to type accurately with my mighty scrotum in mid-clench).

  66. #66 |  Comrade Dread | 

    My main concern with gutting the safety net is that it’s not just poor people who make use of it. During recessions, the middle class draws on some of these programs and it’s the difference between bankruptcy and making ends meet.

    That said, I’d be perfectly okay with your proposal.

  67. #67 |  JS | 

    By the way, the libertarianism equals Somalia is about as valid as socialism equals North Korea so maybe we should retire that inapt comparison.

  68. #68 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    Tax is tax. Saying that people are not “paying tax” when they hand over a proportion of their pay cheque is laughable. The name on the tax is quite irrelevant, that’s an internal government issue.

    Hint: In most countries, you only need an accountant if you’re rich and trying to dodge tax. If you have a normal job, all you need to do is check that a few figures are correct at the end of the year. In America, you can dodge tax a lot more easily, so…

    Also, universal benefits should be just that, universal. You then set the tax rate such that richer people pay for their share of it over and above the standard contributions, so it’s effectively “invisible” to them. You save a SHITLOAD of money this way, means testing is intrusive and expensive.

  69. #69 |  PTLindy | 

    I think the original complaint is in error. People don’t get that upset when Libertarians/Free Marketers make the 50% don’t pay income taxes statement because they at least can respect (if not agree) with the overall philosophy behind it. The problem is that Conservatives are running with this meme as a dog whistle to their “more likely to vote slightly above the poverty line” folks to rile them up about “those people” who don’t pay taxes while getting Gov’t benefits that they don’t receive. Formthose politicians, it isn’t principal, it’s getting elected by generating envy in the lower classes while promising lower effective tax rates for the well off.

  70. #70 |  Ryan | 

    @GT

    Oh, let me guess you are one of those guys that thinks politics = sports. And convincing you’re thoughtless cronies of your “point” = truth.

    Stop.

    Please for the non-thoughtless cronies among us cite some evidence that life under a bad semi-US backed dictator was worse than the millions of lives at threat TODAY in the Horn of Africa. (http://www.unicefusa.org/work/emergencies/horn-of-africa/)

    Then Champ, please illuminate us on why Siad Barre doesn’t make exactly my point that what kind of govt you have MATTERS.

    Then bring it to the hoop by explaining why the millions dying of starvation in Somolia TODAY wouldn’t be better off if they had had good govt these last 4-5 decades providing the rule of law, so>> business could florish, so>> they would have the tax income to build the physical and social infrastructure, so>> they could have at least mitigated the toll the drought is taking on the people there.

    And then please, for the Love of Raymond, tell us why we would EVER want to do to ourselves what has been done to the Somolies alive today?

    Because my whole point wasn’t ‘love it or leave it’. It was that there are places in the world where no taxes and no govt aren’t special Austrian school theory. Its reality. And the reality is fucking horrible.

    *And once again, I’ll ignore your ad hominen because one can only expect so much from a libertarian.

  71. #71 |  Fascist Nation | 

    Stop supporting war. Stop paying. Fuck them!

  72. #72 |  DPirate | 

    Welfare is supposed to provide a bare minimum. If you decrease that, you defeat the purpose.

  73. #73 |  Sean | 

    I had a pretty intelligent econ prof who felt it was much more important to discard the corporate income tax, that it leads to all sorts of market distortions, corporations hiding their wealth, increasing stock price inefficiently by building conglomerations instead of paying out dividends, etc. He made a very good case. So if it was between scrapping corporate or income tax, I buy his take and would scrap the corporate tax.

  74. #74 |  David DeCaro | 

    The federal government can easily fulfill the duties (and respect the bounds) allotted to it by the Constitution on about 6% of the GDP. But choose any arbitrary percentage to suit your political stance. The bottom quintile pays nothing, second quintile pays 5%, third pays 15% fourth pays 30% top pays 50%. The interesting thing is that this is very close to what a flat tax would produce.

  75. #75 |  Amy J | 

    This suggestion seems much more effective in theory than in practice. First of all, it is highly unlikely that the wealthy would back this idea. They are already evading taxes at their current rates, and making the taxes “more progressive” won’t encourage them to start paying up. I believe that taxes should be proportional across the differing socioeconomic statuses; increasing the rates for the wealthy will only encourage more desperate measures to avoid taxation, such as illegal offshoring. Additionally, I agree with Leon in that means testing is just intrusive and too pricey, neither the rich nor poor would sit too well with it. If our goal is to redistribute wealth, I feel that we’d be better off focusing on reducing our reliance on foreign resources.

  76. #76 |  Tybalt | 

    Does C.S.P. Schofield live in some sort of fictional country where National Parks, disaster relief, direct farm subsidies and public nutrition programs matter more to the level of federal spending than an empty can of beans with the word “goddam” shouted into it?

  77. #77 |  a_random_guy | 

    If the point is to help someone who has too low an income, this is welfare. I object to implementing a welfare program through a negative tax.

    The only possible reason to do this is to avoid the open discussion of when and how to help people with low incomes. By hiding welfare in the tax regulations, one circumvents the proper legislative process.

  78. #78 |  Tybalt | 

    Sean, if you’re worried about companies “increasing stock price inefficiently by building conglomerations instead of paying out dividends” then the corporate tax is the LAST thing you want to eliminate. Dividend tax credits work out so that where corporations pay dividends, the effective corporate tax rate (as in the “extra” amount of tax payable on that income by the corporation + the shareholder) is pretty much zero.

    The corporate tax actually functions as an incentive to funnel profit out to shareholders (where the market will put it to work) and away from empire-building management wealthsucks. Unfortunately, the low rates on capital gains make wasteful and inefficient empire-building much more attractive.

    Take it from someone who is usually too bashful to call himself a tax policy expert – your prof should be advocating an elimination of capital gains exemptions, not an end to corporate tax.

  79. #79 |  Tybalt | 

    “The only possible reason to do this is to avoid the open discussion of when and how to help people with low incomes.”

    No, the reason to do it is because it’s incredibly efficient and aligns almost everyone’s incentives together.

    We definitely should NOT do it to hide anything. If people are going to opt for a negative income tax, the idea of (broadly speaking) universal social credit that is built into it needs to be front and centre.

    Any advocacy of negative income tax without making clear that its goal is to increase welfare (not that you have to call if Welfare, but whatever works) will doom it to failure.

  80. #80 |  Tybalt | 

    DPirate, I’m not sure what you’re presuming the purpose of welfare is, but I’d love to hear it.

  81. #81 |  BSK | 

    Let’s do a flat tax completely across the board, on individuals and businesses. No deductions. No credits. No nothing. Everyone pays X%. Again, individuals and businesses. If a business loses money, tough; you still pay taxes. If my expenses outpace my income, I still pay taxes.

  82. #82 |  Mike T | 

    Liberals don’t seem to grasp that raw income means virtually nothing with respect to how wealthy one actually is. $100k/year in rural Arkansas vs $100k/year on the outskirts of Northern Virginia vs $100k/year in Manhattan are very different discussions about wealthiness. The first one is likely a rich man, the second firmly middle class and the third is just barely middle class. The opposite is also true; $20k/year in rural Arkansas is a healthy income, in metropolitan DC it is borderline poor.

    The reality is that the “progressive” income tax draws no distinction between where these income earners live. It’s no wonder that the middle class is getting destroyed in leftist states. The cost of living is higher, thus the income needed to be middle class is higher, but the tax code and rhetoric blithely ignore that reality.

  83. #83 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Tybalt; those programs matter less because of their fiscal size than because of their existence in the first place. As a people we have gotten used to saying “This would be a Good Thing To Do, so let’s have the State do it”. We no longer much question whether the State has any business doing something, or if the State has any demonstrated ability to do something. All of my politically aware life I have listened to supposedly intelligent people dismiss lists of government waste by saying “But that isn’t really enough money to matter. We need Congress to concentrate on Important issues”. I have several problems with that;

    1) What do you mean, that isn’t enough money to matter? The sums involved routinely run into hundreds of thousands of dollars. Maybe that isn’t much compared to the overall budget, but it would be a hell of a good year to ME.

    2) If it “isn’t enough money to matter” than let’s just cut it. If it doesn’t matter, nobody will care. On the other hand, if somebody raises bloody hell, it was probably worth spending the time to cut, wasn’t it?

    3) We aren’t going to get the biffledinks in Congress to stop spending until they HAVE to cut the small stuff to fund their hobbyhorses. If nothing else we need to get them into the habit of looking for waste, rather than dismissing it with a ‘statesmanlike’ wave of the hand.

    4) If we aren’t willing to fight the good fight on behalf of cutting a program that nobody paid much attention to, and which ‘only’ wastes (say) $150,000, where do you think we’re going to get the stamina to do the fight to cut the big entitlement programs?

    I could easily rant on for days about this, but I expect you get the general drift…

  84. #84 |  BSK | 

    Mike T-

    But wages are also different. In Manhattan, my starting salary (private school primary teacher) is over $50K. In rural Arkansas, it is far less. The correlation might not be perfect, but wages are context specific. Of course, the taxes still ignore this. But, honestly, as far as I’m concerned, that is the cost of doing business (and I say this as someone who has lived exclusively in big cities or in their metropolitan areas… Boston, NYC, and DC). Making $100K in NYC might mean I have a smaller home than making $50K in rural Arkansas, but I also have access to much more. So, essentially, I’m trading spending power for other things. If I didn’t care about those things, I’d move to Texas and live on 50 acres. But I do. So I’m willing to live in a smaller home.

    Obviously, not everyone has the flexibility that I do and that is a real issue. But it is a lot more complicated to compare two very different areas than simply to say that income X makes you rich in one spot and poor in another.

  85. #85 |  Michael Hamilton | 

    Social Security is more progressive than it looks, but you can’t tell that from the tax burden alone.

    There is a maximum tax on earnings, which is why it seems regressive (i.e. you have the rich paying a far smaller part of their incomes in SS taxes). However, the formula that determines benefits makes it an extremely progressive tax. (http://ssa.gov/pubs/10070.html)

  86. #86 |  Buddy Hinton | 

    Wealth should be taxed, not income.

    It is as simple as that.

    Nobody gets it.

  87. #87 |  Radley Balko | 

    I’d be curious to hear the libertarian-leaning folks here list any existing countries that they’d consider to be good examples of stable and thriving libertarian paradises.

    I don’t know of any libertarians who believe libertarian policy would lead to “paradise.”

  88. #88 |  GaryM | 

    It’s a waste of time to talk about it. If we could actually change federal tax policy, we could come up with something better. Talking about hypothetical compromises just confuses the message.

  89. #89 |  JohnJ | 

    I totally agree with Buddy and the others who support repealing the income tax in favor of a tax on wealth. The government protects wealth, not income.

  90. #90 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @82 – Why should liberals ignore that? I’m on the left and I think it’s a reasonable argument, and something to consider. However, I’d point out it applies regardless of the precise tax levels, and you have to take into account the fact that salaries are often higher in the more expensive areas as well.

    Also, things like the welfare net should take these things into account as well. Yes, you’d probably need regular testing for a basket of goods, services and house prices in every area. But that’s very useful data for everyone for quite a few reasons…

    Bear in mind that currently, not all types of income are equal. If it was (add up your income, from all sources…wages, dividends, “benefits”…) then it’d be perfectly possible to greatly simplify the tax system, cutting tax dodges and allowing a lower overall rate, with a lower curve.

    (Yes, I do support a redistribution as-practised by curving the income tax. I’m sure that offends some sensibilities here, but honest discussion is best…)

    You’d want to keep certain elements like reductions for entrepreneurs for their businesses, sure, but that could be worked in as a few specific exemptions, rather than the miriad ones of today.

    Hell, simplifying the tax code is something is a good thing in it’s own right, even if the main rates don’t change. I doubt many here would disagree with THAT!

  91. #91 |  Sam | 

    So if I understand this argument entirely:

    -It is unfair if fewer and fewer people are paying more and more of the taxes.

    -It is fair if fewer and fewer people have more and more of the money.

    Perhaps we should just implement a caste system and get it over with.

  92. #92 |  Ryan | 

    @Buddy Hinton Now there’s a man talking sense but the political reality is that most very wealthy people pay something around the 15% for cap gains and then only when the take profits. They have large amounts of unrealized wealth. So the tax mechanism would be unclear (although a stock trade transaction tax would be aimed principly at wealth) and the opposition would be intense.

  93. #93 |  newshutz | 

    #62 UB “I’d be curious to hear the libertarian-leaning folks here list any existing countries that they’d consider to be good examples of stable and thriving libertarian paradises.”

    Utopia is not an option. The search for Utopia is one of the reasons Progressives (of both the R&D variety) have brought us to this point.

    A first step is to recognize that markets are the best system to aggregate dispersed and nebulous information on “the pursuit of happiness”, and to direct resources to that end. All non-market utilitarian schemes fail due to the knowledge problem if nothing else (often they first fail to human ability to profit from the scheme at the expense of others)

    A second step is to recognize the idea that “the purpose of government is solve peoples problems” is one of the most poisonous ideas ever to be developed. Peoples problems are dispersed and nebulous and a centralized, top down command structure is very bad at dealing with those kind of issues.

    A third step, if you are on the left, whatever your bugaboo is, be sure that empowering government will not help. In the end, you will be lucky to have a dominate position of power in that government half of the time. As the power of government grows and centralizes, it will look more like China (corporate plutocracy) and less like the utopia you hope for. Ted Kennedy was the author of “No Child Left Behind”, are you happy with that result of the Liberal Lion’s work? After 2008, the left had more control of government than they ever had before. Is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act the kind of change you hoped for? Are you comfortable with the ever increasing estimates of what it will cost?

    As time goes on with the “great successes” of progressive policy (SS, Medicare, Medicaid, and PPACA) either bankrupting the nation, bankrupting the government or squeezing out all other spending, please reflect on the surety of those technocrats in the soundness of what they created.

  94. #94 |  Ryan | 

    +1 Sam. Gotta love how cons oppose redistribution toward the middle and working class but ignore that the wealth gap has grown to the top 20% owning 85% of all wealth in the US while the bottom 80% squabble for the remaining 15%. If that not political redistribution and class warfare than please, tell me what is. cit. *Who Rules America?* http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html

  95. #95 |  MountainTiger | 

    82: My first contact with that argument came from liberal blogs, so I don’t think that it is correct to say that liberals are ignoring it. But not only are wages in high cost of living areas higher, we don’t see a ton of people fleeing them for, to take your example, rural Arkansas. Indeed, places like New York and San Francisco are considered desirable places to live even though a dollar doesn’t go as far, suggesting that many people think that they are getting a good deal by living in high-cost areas. So why should they also get favorable tax treatment if they prefer to live in high cost areas knowing full well that they could consume more in a low cost area?

  96. #96 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @93 – Except, of course, a free market and capitalism are not the same thing. At all.

  97. #97 |  CyniCAl | 

    @ #26 | Joseph Stalin

    Thanks for the kind words Joseph, glad to know that my perspective, and that of other anarchists too, is appreciated.

  98. #98 |  CyniCAl | 

    #87 | Radley Balko – “I don’t know of any libertarians who believe libertarian policy would lead to “paradise.””

    Well put. In human affairs, there is conservation of violence. The idea behind decentralization of power is to attenuate the magnifying quality of violence by the State and redistribute violence down to the individual level where it can do less harm in aggregate than the State. Violence would still exist, but evenly dispersed on a smaller scale.

  99. #99 |  Ryan | 

    @Newshutz The really fascinating thing about your meme is why you’d trust unregulated private power over elected public power.

    I mean its the mother of all poll taxes to get enough stock in Wal-Mart to have a voice in its policy choices (unless by fortune of birth
    you happen to be in the
    family) but even even a lowly libertarian such as yourself can vote, petition the govt, protest, engage in civil disobedience with
    due process to shield your rights
    and even hand over unlimited
    campaign money to whatever
    crackpot organization you think
    advances your cause.

  100. #100 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    CyniCA – Or, in practice, force the same battles to be fought over and over in a hundred little places, and the areas where you lose are inevitably the ones it would matter most to. And yet you’ll be unable to whip up widespread anger, as there would be over a national policy.

  101. #101 |  Zeb | 

    Ah, the old “but, but, Somalia” argument. Cute.

    First, most libertarians are not anarchists and believe that government should (or at least inevitably will) exist.

    Second, Somalia doesn’t have no government, and a lack of government is not why they are in the sorry state that they are in.

    Citing a single example of a failed state with many complex problems when arguing against anarchists or libertarians is a complete non sequitur. It says absolutely nothing about how a minarchist government (or anarchy) would work in a relatively wealthy country with functioning industry and civil society.

    For you own sake, please find a better argument. It makes you look desperate and silly.

  102. #102 |  Zeb | 

    Ryan,
    Businesses are regulated. And they also have to provide something that people are willing to pay for, or they quickly cease to exist. This idea that corporations can do whatever they want and are not accountable to people at large is ridiculous.
    If you don’t like Walmart, don’t shop there. A lot of other people are happy with what Walmart provides. They get to go to Walmart and you don’t have to. See how that works? We don’t get that choice with the government, not matter how hard we vote. When Walmart can force you to shop on their stores at gunpoint, you will have a point.

  103. #103 |  Mike T | 

    @82 – Why should liberals ignore that? I’m on the left and I think it’s a reasonable argument, and something to consider. However, I’d point out it applies regardless of the precise tax levels, and you have to take into account the fact that salaries are often higher in the more expensive areas as well.

    You, #84 and #95 are looking at this wrong. The same raw take home income in three areas with very different costs of living can have a substantial difference on the basic fairness of the taxes paid. It is not fair to treat a guy living in San Francisco, making $100k, the same as a guy making $100k in take home in rural Alabama. You can’t justify it based on whatever goodies come from choosing one locale over another. The specific issue of fairness is the level of duty to contribute to the common good. If you accept the idea that the rich–ie those with substantially higher buying power and wealth–have a higher duty to contribute resources to the common good, then you have to concede that the two tax payers are simply not equal; the one in the rural area is clearly richer.

    Now I don’t accept that idea. I support a flat tax precisely because it is both easy to enforce and rigidly egalitarian in that it has no respect of persons to it.

  104. #104 |  cb | 

    @79 mike t – your statement is absolutely correct. But I get the sense when talking about wealthy we are talking about millionaires which are wealthy no matter where they live.

    As for the topic, I would go with a progressive tax with no deductions leading to much lower rates. Say 15, 20 and 25% rates at numbers of 75, 150 and 500k.

    And end the wars. I liked the comment above that said automatic increase of x% for each military intervention/war.

  105. #105 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    The issue of ease of enforcement isn’t down to, in this day and age, something as simple as the rate. It’s down to the miriad – thousands – of exceptions and special rules surrounding those rates.

    And of course the ability to have shelter, utilities and to buy essentials is the measure by which any reasonable welfare system should be measuring itself.

    A flat-rate tax on the lower end severely hurts their ability to purchase those, and you end up either with the poor on the street or driven out of the better areas completely (where the jobs are in the first place), or with programs to support them anyway…with far less revenue.

  106. #106 |  MountainTiger | 

    103: Why shouldn’t we consider the amenities of living in a major city? Where someone lives is, ultimately, a consumption decision like any other (heavily constrained by employment opportunities but still a decision). If one person decides to live in a high-cost city and another in a low-cost rural area, why should the tax code prefer the first person’s consumption to the second’s? This is even stronger when comparing parts of the same metropolitan area: if one person insists on living in Manhattan while another is willing to live in a lower-cost part of the NYC area, should the Manhattanite receive favorable treatment because they have chosen to consume more expensive housing than the suburbanite? I see no compelling reason to treat living in an expensive area as a fundamentally different type of consumption than any other. If your neighbor insists on buying a new top of the line TV every year and then complains that he should get a tax break to reflect his higher expenses, you would laugh in his face. Why should living in a low cost vs. high cost area be considered differently? (It actually occurs to me that certain parts of the federal tax code, primarily the mortgage deduction and deductions for state and local taxes, actually do work to subsidize high-cost areas already. Still, I see no reason why progressive taxation requires one to adjust for different costs of living rather than treating them as consumption decisions.)

  107. #107 |  JS | 

    CyniCal “@ #26 | Joseph Stalin

    Thanks for the kind words Joseph, glad to know that my perspective, and that of other anarchists too, is appreciated.”

    Damnit I accidently posted that with my secret identity name of Stalin but that was me CyniCal.

  108. #108 |  CyniCAl | 

    #99 | Ryan

    The two systems you describe have exactly the same result. A distinction without a difference.

  109. #109 |  CyniCAl | 

    #100 | Leon Wolfeson

    I’m usually the first one to admit that human beings generally lack the maturity to successfully coexist anarchically, at least when it comes to conflict. But at least if there were no megastates, there would be no megadeath.

  110. #110 |  CyniCAl | 

    I should clarify that there would still be Megadeth. That’s fine even for anarchists.

  111. #111 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @109 – Given the number of religious and ethnic-based conflicts, I am just rolling my eyes.

    @106 – You rapidly end up pushing the poor out of the cities with jobs entirely otherwise. See the UK Conservative Party’s changes to housing benefit, which will leave only 30% of the country affordable for people claiming it by 2015!

  112. #112 |  Mike T | 

    If your neighbor insists on buying a new top of the line TV every year and then complains that he should get a tax break to reflect his higher expenses, you would laugh in his face. Why should living in a low cost vs. high cost area be considered differently?

    If your poor neighbor insists on living in a city where they can barely afford to live, why do they deserve welfare?

  113. #113 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    (Admittedly, the way the UK system works screws you over instantly on losing a job. Instead of there being a % of income, it’s a very low fixed amount as the base benefit. Someone earning the equivalent of minimum wage, doing a 40-hour week, you’d get about a THIRD of the equivalent in the US!)

  114. #114 |  Mike T | 

    A flat-rate tax on the lower end severely hurts their ability to purchase those, and you end up either with the poor on the street or driven out of the better areas completely (where the jobs are in the first place), or with programs to support them anyway…with far less revenue.

    5% on an income of $80k for a family of 4 hurts more than 20% on an income of $320k for a family of four. 20% on the latter hurts more than 40% on $640k.

    Of course, that does assume that these families are not living like crack-addled strippers with stolen credit cards which is very common among higher earning families today…

  115. #115 |  MountainTiger | 

    112: Local context is naturally going to be more important at lower incomes. I’m not exactly convinced that this means that the hypothetical 100k earner in SF should be treated favorably within the federal tax system when compared to the 100k earner in rural Alabama. Indeed, unless I’m missing something, increasing federal support to the upper and middle classes in high-cost areas seems likely to make these areas more attractive to the upper and middle classes, resulting in even higher prices which make life even more difficult for the poor who attempt to remain.

  116. #116 |  BSK | 

    Mike T-

    It’s not clear to me if you are talking about differing costs of living as a function of local taxes or of market forces. If it is the former, I could see an argument over somehow accounting for these differences (though I have no idea how you would accomplish this). If it is the latter, you are essentially subsidizing some folks who have opted for a higher cost of living.

    You are also still making an apples to oranges comparison. The $100K earner in Alabama might be a lawyer or a high executive in a local company. The $100K earner in NYC might be a school principal. By your logic, that school principal should receive tax breaks to give him the same earning power as a lawyer. Really?

  117. #117 |  Ken | 

    I’m not a big fan of “means testing” for the following reasons:

    1. It punishes productivity. A friend of mine is legally blind and on disability. He works a job, but avoids working too many hours, for fear of losing his benefits because of means testing. This is obviously counter-productive, and any kind of means-testing system will reduce productivity.

    2. If you pay into Medicare, you should be able to collect it. Medicare was never supposed to be a wealth redistribution system, nor was social security. And on paper, my parents might be of means to buy private health insurance, but until “ObamaCare” kicks in, they would be ineligible because of pre-existing conditions. Medicare is very important to them, and means testing it would cause a lot of harm.

    3. I don’t like complexity. Means testing means more laws, more forms, more technicalities. To the extent that I like government programs, I like them to be simple. Medicare, actually, is pretty simple given that it’s a massive government-run insurance program. I don’t want to make it unnecessarily complicated.

  118. #118 |  Ryan | 

    @Zeb

    !. Wow. Back in reality, the TeaParty/Libertarian wing of the Republican party in the HOR just got done threatening the existance of our govt to prevent it from investing in infrastructure/etc. Yaknow. Very anarchist like.

    2. Somalia has a tribal govt thats in a state of effective civil war. To claim they have a true national govt is absurd. As for your “they aren’t suffering from a lack of govt” comment, thats profoundly intellectually dishonest. But then you probably think there is no correlation in the existance of Hoover Dam and Las Vegas (which represents billions in private wealth).

    3. Ok another fine example of how a minarchist govt functions in an industrialized civil society, Katrina. Answer. Not well.

    But listen my friend, my point (again) is that there ARE libertarians, cons, laissez-faire apologists running around these days claiming Obama and Democrats are socialists because they support keeping some social welfare/public education/green tech industrial policy/etc. even if only modestly. Its a very narrow point which the rest of you “accepters of SOME govt” seem to be overly sensitive too.

  119. #119 |  buermann | 

    “we’ll soon have a majority of people who pay no tax voting for more and more government services they benefit from, but don’t have to pay for”

    Aside the social insurance programs the poor pay their premiums on when they can actually find work, and some rather atrociously structured welfare programs that mostly just afford their otherwise destitute children will something resembling food and education, where are all these services they uniquely benefit from?

    We’ve been backstopping trillions of assets mostly owned by the richest fraction of percent and handing them billions of dollars through more backdoors than there are subsidized lending windows at the Federal Reserve, in return they pay the same effective tax rates as somebody making the median wage while the merely upper class more or less foot the bill for the DoD’s global protection of international capital flows and superfluous warfare. The poor are on the receiving end of the costs, with the jobs they might aspire to outsourced via said international capital flows, their lives as grunts in the military expended superfluously in said wars, and 30 years of bipartisan mismanagement/non-management of the financial sector resulting in successive financial shocks that are paid for in part by the mass unemployment that added abundantly to the ranks of the poor, just so the kleptocratic class doesn’t have to take a haircut, let alone a bath.

    If the poor were actually paying nothing it’d be too much for this level of service. I don’t have any great animosity towards the incentive curve of the EITC, which is otherwise basically just a negative income tax, so I’m not sure why a negative income tax would be any better.

  120. #120 |  buermann | 

    “when a politician proposes some big new government program”

    What planet are you living on, anyway?

  121. #121 |  newshutz | 

    #99 Ryan “The really fascinating thing about your meme is why you’d trust unregulated private power over elected public power.”

    Ah the magic mantra that makes all it all go down smooth, “but…but…but democracy”

    Even if you could get your “right” people in charge, they could not make good decisions, because they cannot collect the knowledge needed. Yes, CANNOT collect the knowledge.

    Partly because people are too diverse (you like diversity don’t you?), partly because people cannot accurately express their preferences in words, partly because preferences are constantly changing, partly because preferences interact, and probably other reasons that escape me right now.

    Your religious faith in 50%+1 cannot overcome reality.

    Your fear of “unregulated private power” is strange in a blog that documents so regularly the danger of the concentrated, organized, and violent power of your “elected” bureaucrats, officials, and enforcers.

  122. #122 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    Leon Wolfeson: @109 – Given the number of religious and ethnic-based conflicts, I am just rolling my eyes.

    Hey CyniCAL,
    Respectfully, I think Leon got you on that one. And yes, I know that nation-states take advantage of religious and tribal differences, but these differences pre-date the modern nation-state, and led to a hell of a lot of blood shed before states developed.

    When there is no court of last resort, no police officers to enforce widely recognized common laws (murder, rape, larceny, burglary, trespass, etc) and no official militia to counter invasion or large scale acts of terrorism, it WILL BE every man (or tribe, or neighborhood) for himself (or for the tribe, or the ‘hood). When you cannot just “call the cops” or force someone to go to court (via summons), then you are living in a system in which escalation of violence may be MORE NECESSARY than the current mess we live in. I do not argue for state intrusion into intimate areas of our lives (wars on drugs and vice, seat belt laws, etc.), but I cannot support putting the law solely in each sovereign individuals’ hands.

    CyniCAL, contrary to your complaint earlier in this thread, I have always heard more than “blah blah blah” when you have discussed your anarchist views. I have learned a great deal from anarchists here and on a couple of other blogs. I have also done more research on anarchist theory than most people ever will. The reason many well-informed people (I hope I can include myself in this category) ultimately reject anarchism is that the theory, when studied closely, is totally full of holes. I fully support some aspects of anarchist theory (mutual aid, making more aspects of society voluntary, etc). I understand the motives people have for looking at ways to live without the state. Still, I cannot endorse anarchism as a system we should implement, so to speak. The most I would ever do, I think, would be to call myself a “philisophical anarchist” (like Nock did, if I remember correctly).

    Ultimately, Mr. Hobbes was more or less correct, I’m afraid.

  123. #123 |  Ryan | 

    @zeb

    “Businesses are regulated.”

    Yes and the current jobs rhetoric coming from the right is that they must be deregulated or our fellow Americans can expect massive unemployment to persist.

    You as a free marketeer should know that any costs the govt is forcing business to absorb with regulation still exist. Those externalities will just be ignored and then transferred to the general public or the govt itself in time.

    And yes I know, “But but.. business just passed those costs along”. Right. Thats called the TRUE price of goods and services.

    And the whole arguement of the right ignores reality which is that companies are at historically high profitablity so regulation is hardly an impediment to job creation. In fact, there is simply no reason for companies that are making huge profits (while paying 6 decade low effective tax rates) to make jobs at all. Thus the need for govt intervention, like building game changing energy infrastructure, forcing down health care cost structures, ect.

    “And they also have to provide something that people are willing to pay for, or they quickly cease to exist.”

    Or they have to capture govt and prevent alternative products from coming on market for as long as possible to avoid real competition (ala Big Oil). I mean the point of competition is to eliminate competition (monopoly). But smart strategically minded capitalists will settle for duopoly, tripoly, etc to avoid pesky govt intervention. Really, this is where you guys fall down. Your ideologically blinded to how business actually functions.

    “This idea that corporations can do whatever they want and are not accountable to people at large is ridiculous.”

    See above comment re: ideologically blinded.

    “If you don’t like Walmart, don’t shop there.”

    Ohh the old “love it or leave it: redux” canard. You guys crack me up. I simply pointed out Wal-Mart as an examply of fabulous private power that you don’t have any control over yet seem to be fine with while mistrusting govt which you do have control over, my man. Didn’t say I hate them.

    “We don’t get that choice with the government, not matter how hard we vote. When Walmart can force you to shop on their stores at gunpoint, you will have a point.”

    Strawman.

    A) You can leave America if you choose to. Not that I think you should, but there are no walls holding you in. So you do have options.

    B) You’re “govt is essentially cohersive” meme applies to every form of govt. (Anarchy being the absense of govt) So you shiiting on you “I’m not an anarchist” cred.

    C) Just because private corporations are more subtle about how they control your life, you’d have to be a fool or an imbecile to not recognize that they do and that the ONLY check on that power is govt. Your “love it or leave the checkout line” meme aside, if political boycott worked it would be happening far more often.

  124. #124 |  buermann | 

    We’ve all overlooked the other giant government program the poor take disproportionate advantage of: they should pay more taxes to cover the expense of their mass incarceration.

    :P

  125. #125 |  CyniCAl | 

    Thanks Helmut, always good to hear from you. The reason anarchy fails in the human world is because of the omnipresence of death and, to a much lesser extent, the scarcity of resources. Only when death is eliminated from human existence, then humans may be fearless enough to peacefully co-exist and cooperate. Until then, and perhaps forever, you and Mr. Hobbes are correct, but that won’t change my mind a bit about the direction we SHOULD be headed. In a world organized with violence, libertarians of all stripes may be the only thing standing in the way of the total state (where ironically peace may reign but at the expense of all individual freedom, desirable?).

    I appreciate you mentioning Nock, he is one of my favorite philosophers, right there with Mencken. And Carlin. Thanks for pointing out what should always be obvious, always lurking beneath these discussions — that no one has a monopoly on truth when it comes to opinions.

  126. #126 |  JS | 

    Helmut “When there is no court of last resort, no police officers to enforce widely recognized common laws (murder, rape, larceny, burglary, trespass, etc) and no official militia to counter invasion or large scale acts of terrorism, it WILL BE every man (or tribe, or neighborhood) for himself (or for the tribe, or the ‘hood). When you cannot just “call the cops” or force someone to go to court (via summons), then you are living in a system in which escalation of violence may be MORE NECESSARY than the current mess we live in.”

    This is always an interesting question to me. I grew up in a ship channel. Literally I grew up working on commercial fishing boats that work mostly in a ship channel. There is a rule among the fishermen that you have to give the other boats working in the channel their mile. In other words ever boat keeps a mile apart. If someone cuts you off and gets in front of you and is closer than a mile he is stealing your catch because he is dragging his net where you would be dragging. This is an unofficial rule and there is absolutely no enforcement mechanism at all other than group peer pressure. In other words no cop or game warden can do anything to anyone who cuts off your mile, because of course its not illegal. But you know what? NOBODY ever breaks this rule and if someone accidently drifts over onto your mile the whole group lets him know about it. If someone did it that would be end of their fishing career at least there.

    To me this is interesting because its an actual example of how people can function keeping a consented to rule without any outside or government enforcement. In commerical fishing the unwritten rules are much much more rigidly adhered to than any written official goverenment law.

  127. #127 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @126 – An example of an industry where cheating on catch sizes and causing habitat destruction through short-term thinking is rife. Great example ><

  128. #128 |  JS | 

    Leon I’ve done a good bit of research on this and have friends at the Natioanl Marine Fisheries Service that provided me with a pretty good education on it. I never mentioned what kind of fishing we did or where so you probably shouldn’t assume you know anything about habitat destruction (in a ship channel that is regularly dredged by the corps of engineers) or cheating about catch sizes since I never mentioned anything about that either.

    That aside I merely mentioned it as an intersting example of how people can govern themselves in the absense of official government.

  129. #129 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    CyniCAL,
    You are very welcome and likewise. You are a principled anarchist, but your anarchism is tempered by reality. You do not discuss anarchism like many anarchists who have spent their lives in a class room or library honing their glorious theories All of us must question our ideas and put them to the test. This is a lot like questioning systems of authority and domination, a specialty of true anarchists. Thanks as always for the challenge.

  130. #130 |  John David Galt | 

    Michael Pack writes at #13: Making FICA taxes progressive would turn both programs into open wealth transfers from the rich to older folk no matter their wealth.

    It’s worse than that. Both Social Security and Medicare are huge transfers from the poor to the rich. This is true for several reasons: the tax payments are capped; each person’s benefits are calculated as a multiple of the amount earned in his 40 highest-paid quarters; and of course, the poor start working earlier, retire later, and die younger. All told, a rich person’s “ROI” from Social Security works out to be about double a poor person’s. (David Friedman pointed this out first in “The Machinery of Freedom.”)

  131. #131 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    JS: I for one appreciated your example of private, unofficial law. Unlike Leon, I didn’t see it as a reason to get sanctimonious.

    See, I find that when I just listen to examples of voluntary arrangements (ie. “anarchy in action”) without immediately focusing on the fact that I don’t endorse anarchism, I learn a lot. If more people did this, then perhaps we could better determine how to stuff the state in the rather small box it rightly belongs in.

  132. #132 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    Sanctimonious? It’s just a terrible example, without further information, given the sort of stock-depletion which the fishing industry pulls on a regular basis.

    And yes, it’s entirely appropriate for there to be fishing quotas for a limited resource. Indeed, politicians should have nothing to do with it, it should be in the hands of the scientists who determine viable populations… (The politicians keep on “compromising”, i.e. accepting stock depletion)

  133. #133 |  JS | 

    Leon “And yes, it’s entirely appropriate for there to be fishing quotas for a limited resource. Indeed, politicians should have nothing to do with it, it should be in the hands of the scientists who determine viable populations… (The politicians keep on “compromising”, i.e. accepting stock depletion)”

    Leon what the hell are you talking about? The industry is regulated as far as quotas go to keep a sustainable harvest. Nobody’s talking about that at all. I’m talking about how far fishermen voluntarily keep their nets apart from each other in order to ensure that no one gets into another guys’ catch. This has nothing to do with stock depletion which doesn’t happen in this fishery. You may not be aware but there is very little commerical fishing in America anymore and where I am there are about 7% of historical levels of fishermen. Over 90% of seafood in America comes fro menvironmentally distratrous farms in Southeast Asia and Central America and was treated with a cancer causing chemical (chloremphenocol) and that it was dumped on the US market after Japan, Canada and the EU rejected it because of those chemicals. Anyway that has NOTHING to do with what I was talking about.

  134. #134 |  JS | 

    Thanks Helmut. Another one is whenever a traffic light is broken and before the cops come out I notice that people naturally take turns and handle it themselves. I think that would continue if they never came out and fixed it. I don’t know about anarchy but I tend to think people can take care of themselves in the absens e of officialdom a lot better than we sometimes assume.

  135. #135 |  Anon | 

    Interesting idea, but it’s really still just rearranging the deck chairs, just in a different way.

    We all are SUPPOSED to benefit equally from government. So we should all pay equally. The only way to do that is per-person fixed-fee. Everyone pays the same; parents pay for children (a family of 4 uses 4 times the government services that a single person does; yet said family pays substantially less than the single person given the same total gross income). Make it legal and without penalty to pay some portion (up to all of it) of someone else’s tax bill (so if grandma needs help, or your college kids need help, you can help them without anyone being penalized).

    Only until EVERYONE pays will everyone give a damn about government spending.

  136. #136 |  Anon | 

    Re: JS @ 134.

    I disagree.

    I would have to say that of all the places I’ve worked (10 states in the eastern half of the country), the Detroit suburbs are the place where the drivers are the most polite (hard to believe, but if you need to get out of a parking lot in packed traffic, they’ll let you out). But on those occasions where I saw down traffic lights, which by the traffic ordinances is supposed to be treated as an all-way stop, even there the street that gets the intersection covered first just keeps flowing non-stop, preventing the cross traffic from getting through, until the police show up to direct traffic. I don’t know where you’ve seen such charitable behavior, but what I’ve noticed is this behavior is universal.

  137. #137 |  JS | 

    Yea Anon I would have thought it’d probably be different depending on the place. Or even maybe the time of day and how busy.

  138. #138 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @133 – Yes, and if you’d provided those details originally…

    But still, it’s an exception to most industry practices (and I’d want to see the catch and stock figures, too, before I’d be willing to entirely say I agreed).

    @135 – Community Charge (the “Poll Tax”). Look it up.

  139. #139 |  JS | 

    But that’s just it Leon, without stats and stock figueres you just assumed that overfishing occurs. I get that all the time and I guess that’s something we have to live with. The public has terrible misconceptions about commerical fishing. And I know you’re usually always a clear thinker because I’ve been on here long enough to have read many of your posts.

  140. #140 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @139 – Yes, because it’s true for the vast, vast majority of fish stocks.

    Commercial fishing has destroyed itself in many areas, and is busy destroying most of the remaining stocks of fish. I admittedly don’t know the full situation in US waters, but it’s a very contentious topic on this side of the Atlantic.

    (I’m currently working with someone who spends two days a week helping to model fish stocks on a little project…)

  141. #141 |  BSK | 

    JS-

    “If someone did it that would be end of their fishing career at least there.” But how does that happen? What mechanism is in place to end their fishing career? Are they intimidated? Their nets sabotaged? Are they blockaded? If any of those are the mechanism, then they are having their rights violated when they never violated the rights of another.

  142. #142 |  JS | 

    BSK Well if a guy did that then everytime he put his net in the water someone would drag in front of him, taking his catch or the catch that would have come into his net. Therefore when he picked his net up he would not catch very much and would go broke trying to fish around a bunch of guys he pissed off.

    That’s one way, the other way would probably be that some guys met him at the dock and strongly suggested he follow the rules and they might even beat him up if he refused. The thin is, everybody knows this and I’ve never seen anyone defy the rest of them. And I’m in Texas, we have a lot of guys who are bg and bad and can’t find work on land because they were in prison, yet this rule is alwyas followed. I’m not saying peer pressure alone would work at all levels of society or everywhere I’m just sharing how we do it without any official rules or mode of enforcement.

  143. #143 |  TC | 

    Sorry it’s late, I’m tired already, can’t focus did not read most of the responses so if this is a dup, well consider it just another vote for one that can understand simple.

    Such is the reason the entire country needs to be on a consumer tax basis. If yo purchase shit,then you pay taxes. If you don’t purchase shit, well then you don’t pay taxes.

    I think the program is called the “fair tax” system. Like any massive changes would present some initial challenges, but would smooth out over the years.

  144. #144 |  CyniCAl | 

    One of my favorite writers John Hasnas wrote an essay, The Obviousness of Anarchy, which supports JS’ anecdotes.

    http://faculty.msb.edu/hasnasj/GTWebSite/Obvious.pdf

    Truth is, though we live in an authoritarian society, at the individual level most if not damn near all human interactions are anarchic.

  145. #145 |  Ryan | 

    Cyn. To claim that capitalism and the US govt, as they exist in reality, are two seperate systems is nonsense. They are one system and the issues that most Americans dislike our govt for are precisely because the govt has become a captured tool of capital. Anyone who doesn’t understand that multinationals have an interest in capturing or destroying ALL sovereign power, don’t understand modern political economy.

  146. #146 |  CyniCAl | 

    Please show me where I claimed that capitalism and USG are two separate systems.

    Point of fact, the State is always an organization of the owners of society to the detriment of everyone else. That is one of the many problems I have with the State. I don’t support a return to the Constitution or any other minarchist nonsense, nor do I argue which government programs are worth keeping or not.

    As for “destroying all sovereign power,” the direction is clearly toward CONSOLIDATING all sovereign power in one global government owned by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families.

  147. #147 |  Tom | 

    I guess I’m really late to this discussion. What I’m trying to understand is what is fair about me paying 50% of my income, while someone else is paying only 35%, another is only paying 5% and yet another is paying 0%?

    I could see if we all paid 25% although that still means people with higher incomes pay more money. Actual fairness would be if all 4 of us paid $12,000 not some varying number or percentage based on our income.

  148. #148 |  JS | 

    Hey CyniCal is this kind of what you’re talking about?:

    http://www.antiwar.com/blog/2011/08/22/dear-antiwar-progressives-we-are-with-you/

  149. #149 |  CyniCAl | 

    I’m completely unsurprised that my ideas converge with Antiwar.com’s, JS.

  150. #150 |  JS | 

    yea I thought of you when I read this line,

    “We live under a massive, overarching system built to favor gigantic connected corporations over ordinary people. This is NOT a free market, it is a heavily commanded one. It is one that purposely undermines the plans of ordinary citizens in favor of the plans of the few lucky enough to have the ear of the politburo. It’s called “fiscal policy,” and it is that for which “liberal” “economist” Paul Krugman gets paid to propagandize. Sadly, progressives unwittingly agitate for MORE of this evil system, thinking they will ever hold the reins. They will not.”

  151. #151 |  CyniCAl | 

    Reminds me of 1984. There’s no hope from the proles, and the ruling class and those that aspire to rule are forever locked in combat.

  152. #152 |  Taxation and Skin — The League of Ordinary Gentlemen | 

    [...] point (following on from Radley Balko’s article) about having skin in the game is an important factor in how people react to government [...]

  153. #153 |  Mick Savage | 

    means test both programs?
    who the f-ing blankety blank has means tested my taxes for the last f-ing 42 years that i’ve paid into?
    what a blankety blank non-solution!

    how about means testing the war profiteers, military and politicians?

    jeeeebus

  154. #154 |  Marcus | 

    How about a flat property tax. A yearly per acre fee based on the fed budget and non gov owned acreage.

  155. #155 |  Poor people don’t call the shots — The League of Ordinary Gentlemen | 

    [...] an interesting back-and-forth going on between Charles Davis and Radley Balko (with E.D. also offering a few cents of his own) over whether or not it’s a wise idea to link [...]

Leave a Reply