The Politics of Atheism III

Business & the Market

In matters of economic organization, as in other areas, atheists should be guided by the evidence. One thing history has shown is that state-controlled economies simply do not work. The Soviet Union, the largest experiment in communism in human history, ultimately collapsed under the weight of its own failed economic structure, and most of the remaining communist countries are either in a state of economic tailspin themselves or are becoming increasingly capitalistic to survive.

On the other hand, unrestrained capitalism has its own flaws. Chief among these is the problem of externalities, where businesses have an incentive to export as much as possible of the pollution and other costs of their operation to society at large, instead of bearing those costs themselves. There are also potential problems of anti-competitive behavior, large-scale fraud and worker mistreatment, all of which are in evidence around the world today. These wrongs are too serious to put our faith in the market and hope that it will correct them on its own. I therefore recommend that atheists support regulations including progressive minimum-wage laws, strict financial reporting to prevent another Enron-style fraud, guarantees of employees’ right to unionize, and bans on predatory pricing.

Although commerce should occur as freely as possible, without unnecessarily burdensome regulation, we should advocate necessary oversight because we value the free flow of commerce. A well-regulated market, one where people can put trust in business deals and know that they are paying the true cost of their activities and buying from a company that treats its employees ethically, is far more conducive to successful capitalism than a laissez-faire, “anything goes” economy.

As one example of this principle, atheists should advocate closing the loophole that allows “dietary supplements” to evade testing and regulation. Any product, service or therapy claimed to have medical benefits (including vaguely-worded statements such as “boosts the immune system”) should have to support those claims with evidence in the form of properly conducted, double-blind clinical trials.

On the other hand, except in extreme cases, there is no legitimate reason for the government to interfere in the choice of an informed consumer. For this reason, I believe atheists should support the legalization of marijuana, and possibly other recreational drugs as well. Not only is there a strong argument from individual liberty for letting responsible adults choose for themselves what chemicals to take into their bodies (an argument whose force is already accepted in the case of alcohol and tobacco), but the evidence again shows that the alternative is completely infeasible. After several decades, we are now in a good position to evaluate the results of the “war on drugs”, and they are as follows: billions of dollars in expenditures, the flourishing of violent criminal gangs, the costly and unjust imprisonment of thousands of nonviolent offenders, and ironically, no decrease whatsoever in the actual availability of illegal drugs.

Much like America’s experiment with alcohol prohibition, the war on drugs has been a colossal failure, and we should recognize it as such. Without downplaying the health risks of drug use, we should grant mature adults the right to choose for themselves. Creating legitimate businesses to sell these substances will provide the economy (and the government, via taxes) a huge revenue boost, will allow for regulation and quality control to protect the health of users as much as possible, will encourage true addicts to seek medical help by destigmatizing drug use, and will choke off the lifeblood of the violent and dangerous gangs that currently profit by supplying them.

As per the theory of universal utilitarianism, the purpose of all our endeavors should be to maximize human happiness, and the economy should be no exception. However, situations where a minority is getting rich at the expense of everyone else do not fulfill that directive. For this reason I also recommend that atheists support progressive taxation. The wealthy have earned their wealth only because of our stable society and well-regulated market, and it is not unfair to ask them to give something back to the society that gave them so much opportunity; and no one needs to own billions of dollars in assets in a world where millions of people are still poor and hungry. (Of course, this assumes that money collected through taxes is being used wisely for that purpose. There is no reason to advocate progressive taxation of business in a corrupt or militaristic society.)

Finally, leading into the next point, I wrote in Part I of this series that atheists should not abide totalitarianism in any of its manifestations. This goes for business no less than for government, and means that atheists should immediately divest from and boycott any corporation that assists totalitarian states worldwide to control or censor their people. One of the most egregious offenders in this area is Yahoo, which has turned over information to the Chinese government that resulted in the imprisonment of pro-democracy journalists. This behavior is outrageous and unacceptable, and should not be condoned by the people of any democratic state. Assisting dictators to punish human-rights advocates is far too high a price to pay for doing business.

Foreign Relations

The area of foreign relations presents atheists with a delicate tradeoff. As I have said, atheists should abhor totalitarianism of every kind, and increasing freedom worldwide is without a doubt a noble goal. On the other hand, as the disastrous Iraq war has shown, invading a country to overthrow tyranny usually ends very badly. It is a contradiction in terms to force democracy on a people from outside. If a democratic revolution has already begun in a country and fighters on the side of freedom ask for help, then the United States and other powerful nations should by all means intervene. Likewise, if human-rights violations are taking place on a massive scale (such as the 1990s’ ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia, or the ongoing genocide in Darfur), then the world should intervene on purely humanitarian grounds. But invading a stable state on our own initiative to rebuild it in our own image almost always ends in failure. For this reason, atheists should always oppose preemptive war for the purpose of nation-building.

This does not, however, mean that we should allow tyranny to flourish unmolested. On the contrary, the international community should exert all possible economic and political pressure to isolate and pacify rogue states (and in this I include both terrorist nations such as North Korea and non-aggressive, but totalitarian, countries such as Turkmenistan and its bizarre national cult of personality). In these cases we should support imposing trade sanctions, banning sales of arms and technology, and in the case of belligerent nations, sending in international monitors supported by the promise of military force to punish noncooperation.

The other side of this coin is contributing to an ethic of international cooperation, which will promote peace worldwide and allow greater pressure to be brought to bear on rogue nations. To this end, the United States should commit to immediately ratifying international treaties such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Ottawa Treaty to ban anti-personnel landmines, and the Kyoto Accords mentioned earlier. Most of these treaties have been ratified by the vast majority of nations; for some, the U.S. is the sole holdout aside from recognized totalitarian states and those that are in a state of chaos and currently unable to ratify any treaty. This refusal is unconscionable considering the United States’ superpower status.

Miscellaneous Controversial Issues

There is one major political issue that I have not yet discussed, and that is abortion. Although a full version of my position would be too long for this post (and may be the topic of a future posting), I strongly believe that atheists should support the legality of abortion, at least in the early stages of pregnancy. We atheists do not believe in the soul; and without that religious assumption, there is simply no reason to believe that a new human being exists from the moment of conception, before anything like a brain or a nervous system develops. Abortion should be safe, legal and rare, and we should exert all our effort to oppose theocratic efforts to deny women the right to control their own bodies.

Other posts in this series:

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    Being partially socialist is much like being partially pregnant. You can’t half-control the economy, and expect it to stay just half-controlled. You can’t give the power of ridiculous and unfair taxation to the government and expect them to use it fairly, instead of just punishing success (which is what progressive taxation; a flat tax ALREADY makes them pay an amount equivalent to their income). The founders long realized that giving beuacrats power and expecting them not to use it is just idiotic; they always use power we permit. You are advocating that we permit authoritarian control, but expect the government not to use it. That will never work. Government’s only purpose is to protect people from other people, and itself, and nothing more.

    Now, yes, the government SHOULD enforce contracts. That alone would help eliminate most business crimes. When a business says it’ll do something, and it doesn’t, the government should swiftly and uncompromisingly enforce the terms of the contract. Without that guarantee, contracts are nothing more than peices of paper that represent what MIGHT happen.

    For foreign policies; we here in the US would be nothing short of infuriated were we to turn around and find Korean troops on our land. Thus, it is nothing short of hypocritical and immoral to ever consider sending our troops onto their land, unless they are attacking us or they’ve declared war. We can certainly put pressure, we have that right, because it’s on our end of things, but we can’t attack, we can’t try and force them to do things through threats of force, etc. That’s just aggression. Now, I have no support for some cruel things, but would anyone here have prefered if Britian invaded when we had slaves? Countries can think what they like, but invading one another is wrong, period.

    Sorry for the US bend on this, I know there are readers from other countries. But, every country should focus on one thing; ensuring every man’s freedom within the confines of their own country. That’s freedom of life, liberty, and property. Every country that does that is successful, and the more than support it the more success they have. If countries do this, it will provide real incentive for change in the third-world.

  • Rockingham

    Capitalism is fine, but steps must be taken to ensure that at no time are the interests of corporations put before the interests of individual humans or their communities.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    If we have capitalism and the government enforces legal contracts (which are, by definition, laws), then that will never happen, because any gain a corporation gets will be due to individual humans and their communities supporting it.

  • http://dominicself.co.uk Dominic Self

    “Being partially socialist is much like being partially pregnant.”

    I’m sorry, but I really take issue with this. What you might term ‘socialist’ practices can function perfectly well within a market economy. You might disagree that health and education should be provided by the state, fair enough, but you can’t pretend that every developed country which disagrees (and there are plenty – almost all of Europe, for example) is verging on Marxist dictatorships. And there really is no difference between this and the state providing policing and justice services, or maybe there should be alternative policing providers run by different companies?

    I believe the state has a very important role to play as a player in the marketplace, especially when faced with natural monpolies (public trasnport, for example) as it is democratically accountable in a way corporations are not.

    As for ‘punishing success’ – that success would not exist without a stable and safe country to ‘succeed’ in, not to mention a market of people who are fed, educated and wealthy enough to buy whatever you are selling them.

    I’m delighted to see that you won’t be invading Europe to demand we change this arrangement though ;-)

  • BlackWizardMagus

    I’m sorry you take issue with that, but that’s where you are heading. My comment was not supposed to be taken to mean that you are Marxist, or you’re not, although that’s somewhat true, but it’s also more like how a pregnancy goes from being almost impossible to tell to quite obvious; massive changes. Europe and the US, although we are a little behind, are moving towards Marxism. I mean, hell, the graduated income tax was espoused by Marx as a way to punish the bur-however that’s spelled and to reward the prolitariet (I can’t spell, sorry). Marx was in huge support for revolution, that we all know, but he ALSO laid out ways to achieve his goal WITHOUT revolution, and that was to do it bit by bit. To slowly erode property rights, to increase taxes, to make more and more a state issue, to altogetehr move in the direction of removing personal accountability and responsibility, and transfer it to the government. And that’s exactly what’s happening. Makin education public, making healthcare public, making businesses public, making debt public, making everything public, aka, government is eroding the ability of a person to do what they please. How can you have liberty, for example, if you are taxed and regulated so heavily that you have no choice but to send your kid to the nearby, terrible public school?

    Of course, I’m no anarchist; governments need to exist. But they need to exist to secure to each man what is theirs, and nothing more. The rest are just details of the best way to go about that; like bicameral legislature and such. If I can never have a guarantee that what I own is mine, I have no basis for any freedom. When the government owns and runs everything, and your rights are merely priveleges that can be suspended for whatever reason, you are a serf. It wasn’t that long ago, for example, that France refused to give you any government assisstance if your name wasn’t a Roman Catholic one. It used it’s power and money that it took from the people to control the people. Basically, when you tell the government they can regulate, own, and control, they WILL.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    Also, at least in the US, socialism is a proven failure anyway. One of the main goals of socialism is to reduce the income gap, for example, yet, ever since we started FDR’s socialist programs, the gap gets bigger and bigger and bigger, and the more programs we add, the more we have a change. The debt they cause is sinking our currencies and causing damaging inflation, yet no one is actually better off! We have more and more free health care, yet no one is really getting healthier from it. My ex-fiance was born and raised in France, and she was amazed by hospitals here; you could go in and get seen for a problem right now, and get cured in a week or two. She was used to France where the wonderful socialized medicine was slow, hardly effective, and of such bad quality that people she knew rarely even bothered to go to a doctor’s office. The US, with it’s “unfair” medicine system, compared to Europe, has alot MORE doctor visits. We have MORE capability to stay healthy, and that is due to market; we can afford to fire bad doctors, we can afford to pay for good ones, we can afford to pay for enough doctors that we can get in, and there aren’t millions of people not paying clogging the system. It also encourage doctors to improve; in France, she told me, they all get paid no matter what, so they didn’t care.

    Or SS: retirees are hardly better off with it than without. For example, my grandfather’s retirement from GM worked like thus; he would get X amount per month, with GM covering the difference between his SS and X. In other words, GM got to shift like 40% of it’s burden to the tax payer! It didn’t help my grandfather anyway, he would get the same no matter what, but it hurt the US government. Our retirees are still horribly poor and are still often driven to get jobs past retirement. You can look around and see that most things that are socialized and state run just suck. AMTRACK (I think that’s the name) is our governmen-run railroad; it is a blackhole of funds, because it never turns a profit, and has something like a 10% on time rating. Strangely, AMTRACK’s sister corporation CONRAIL was allowed to go back to a corporation, and almost immediately switched from being a blackhole to being a successful company. The worst railroad here is the government’s.

    That’s just what happens when you regulate. Beuarcrats have no accountability (barely) and have no incentive to fix things, it costs money to the tax payers, and they can even be bribed. Congressmen over them are already competing for special interests and by telling them that they have more influence, it means there are more companies trying to buy them off. Regulation is what spurs corruption. There wouldn’t BE oil-owned congressmen if Congress never affected the oil industry. Ultimately, this control just generates waste and pretty much never works. It sounds good, but paying people to do a mediocre job the same as the awesome workers is not a good idea, and letting fat-cats who do nothing except spend others money TAKE money from the treasury for that “job” is just a waste. (BTW, don’t take the above comment as anti-union. That’s a different issue).

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Also, at least in the US, socialism is a proven failure anyway. One of the main goals of socialism is to reduce the income gap, for example, yet, ever since we started FDR’s socialist programs, the gap gets bigger and bigger and bigger, and the more programs we add, the more we have a change. The debt they cause is sinking our currencies and causing damaging inflation, yet no one is actually better off!

    This is a pretty obvious post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy, don’t you think? What reason is there to believe that the rich-poor divide is growing because of social programs, as opposed to any other reason? For example, the close to $300 billion we’ve already flushed down the toilet for the Iraq war (and the hundreds of billions more we’ve borrowed from Asian banks to cover that debt), or the way our economy is utterly dependent on foreign oil that is now approaching $75 a barrel, are doubtless major contributors to the current weakness of the dollar.

    I would also point out that it is incorrect to claim that these social programs all create debt. Social Security, for example, is currently taking in more than it spends, and even if absolutely nothing is changed, that will remain true until at least 2018 and the program will have sufficient funds to pay full benefits until almost 2050. The page I linked to there has some sensible suggestions that could keep it solvent virtually indefinitely. Medicare is more problematic, but see below for that.

    My ex-fiance was born and raised in France, and she was amazed by hospitals here; you could go in and get seen for a problem right now, and get cured in a week or two. She was used to France where the wonderful socialized medicine was slow, hardly effective, and of such bad quality that people she knew rarely even bothered to go to a doctor’s office. The US, with it’s “unfair” medicine system, compared to Europe, has alot MORE doctor visits.

    On the other hand, the U.S. also has an enormous number of people – almost 50 million by some estimates – who are not insured. The result is that most of these people are forced to go without regular medical care, meaning that they only seek emergency help when they have an urgent medical problem. Not only does this cost far more money than preventative treatment would have, most of it ends up devolving on taxpayers anyway, since people who can’t afford insurance certainly can’t afford huge one-time medical bills. If these people were given access to low-cost, government-offered insurance, at least they could help bear some of those costs. The European systems are not without their faults, but the U.S. system is far from perfect. Surely it’s not impossible to create a system that combines the best attributes of both.

    AMTRACK (I think that’s the name) is our governmen-run railroad; it is a blackhole of funds, because it never turns a profit, and has something like a 10% on time rating. Strangely, AMTRACK’s sister corporation CONRAIL was allowed to go back to a corporation, and almost immediately switched from being a blackhole to being a successful company.

    It’s true that Amtrak has been losing significant amounts of money, and that is a situation that should be fixed. On the other hand, there are many nominally private industries that are reliant on government subsidies – the airlines, for one. There’s no inherent reason why a government-run corporation must be less efficient than a privately owned one; the managers of either can still be fired for incompetence. The Post Office, for example, has operated without taxpayer support for over 30 years, save for congressional compensation for services it is legally obliged to provide for free or at a discount, such as military mail.

    Regulation is what spurs corruption. There wouldn’t BE oil-owned congressmen if Congress never affected the oil industry.

    I find that hard to believe. For one thing, even if there were no restrictions on the use of oil, the industry would still be lobbying for permission to drill on federal and state-owned land, such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

  • http://worthlesswell.blogspot.com/ Unbeliever

    First, and as usual, I have to agree with BWM. These fiscal policies are nothing more than socialism-lite. No one makes you get a job at a specific company. No one makes you buy a product. These voluntary activities do not give anyone the right to use the power of the state to make the deal better for them. If my prospective employer doesn’t want to give me vacation, then I don’t have to take the job. If someone is charging more than I want to pay for something, I don’t have to buy it. That is the basis of the free market. Notice the word “free” in there.

    I agree with Adam about how corporations are allowed to pollute without paying the costs. I would have no problem charging businesses based on how much CO2, for example, they put into the atmosphere. This is reasonable because the air belongs to all of us.

    I dislike minimum wage laws. Let the employer decide how much the position is worth. A high minimum wage forces first-time employees out of the market in favor of more experienced workers. Look at France’s policies on first-time workers. Because you can’t easily fire them, they are rarely hired. Wages should also be subject to supply and demand.

    BWM is right that simply enforcing contracts would solve many of the problems pointed out in the article. If I choose to work for a sweatshop, then who are you to tell me that I can’t? Don’t try and save me from myself. But if my employer doesn’t give me the benefits promised via a contract, then that is a problem, and it is right for the government to intervene.

    I also agree with requiring testing for dieatary suppliments since there is the possibility for fraud. But the FDA should only test and report, never regulate or proscribe.

    The overall flavor of the market section was one where it is assumed that success must be the result of wrong behavior. We must punish those who have a lot of money. You should not be allowed to have a lot of money while others are poor. This seems to contradict the beginning of the article that mentions the fall of communism in the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was built on Marxism, with the concept of “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” This seems to be the intent under the name universal utilitarianism. As BWM said in a previous post, the only thing that should be guaranteed is opportunity through the protection of your rights. Nothing more. Not a minimum wage. Not a job. Not health care. BWT, I recently wrote about this supposed “right to take” on my blog at Right to Take.

    I, too, think that companies that mistreat their workers or facilitate human rights abuses should be boycotted. That is a legitimate function of a free market.

    I feel that when it comes to foriegn relations, I am about to make myself a very small minority. I agree completely with the war in Iraq. I agree with it because Saddam was a threat to the US because of his contacts with Al Queda (which have been proven, the 9/11 commision’s report notwithstanding) and his clear desire to build WMDs. Remember, he had already used WMDs on his own people. Does anyone really think that he wouldn’t gladly furnish them to someone prepared to use them on the US, his hated enemy?

    I agree that trying to impose democracy on those who don’t want it is doomed to failure, but is that really the case here? I would submit that the high voter turn-out in all elections thus far would tell us that the people of Iraq want democracy.

    The article states, “In these cases we should support imposing trade sanctions, banning sales of arms and technology, and in the case of belligerent nations, sending in international monitors supported by the promise of military force to punish noncooperation.” We did all these things to Saddam. He continued to grow fat and happy while his people suffered. Sanctions don’t work because they can’t reach the target of the sanctions. Banning arms doesn’t work because there are always ways around it. And forget international monitors. The UN is a monumental waste of time. It is an inept, corrupt organization that is primarily used by other nations as a check on the power of the US. It should be disbanded.

    As for the invasion of Iraq being a failure, let’s see how it fairs to an unbaised appraisal. The media only reports the bad. How many schools have been built in Iraq? How many hospitals? How many new, Iraqi-owned businesses? And how many people have been raped, tortued, or murdered by the Iraqi government? I’m guessing none of these questions will get answered on CNN.

    Is the struggle to bring freedom to the Iraqis going to be bloodless? No, of course not. But, then, if memory serves, neither was our own fight for freedom. Innocent Iraqis are killed almost everyday by those who want to thwart freedom. And yet, knowing this, Iraqis show up at the polls anyway. They want freedom and continue to try to live their lives as they see fit. Should we just tell them it is not worth the lives lost. That their freedom costs too much. Yeah, let me know how they take that.

    As for some if these treaties, I must admit I am not fully versed in what they require. However, my guess is that they create new “rights” out of whole cloth. Like a right to health care or employment or government-guaranteed happiness. The Kyoto Treaty hurts the US while giving free rein to major polluters like India and China. I want someone to explain to me the wisdom in this. Some international treaties have a secondary purpose of controlling the power and infuence of the US. Don’t think that the EU has forgotten that their entire combined GDP is just equal to that of the US.

    At the end of the day, the only purpose of government is to protect the rights os it’s citizens. Anything else is tyranny. Using the power of state to do good things may have noble intentions, but isn’t that exactly the reasons given by those who want a theocracy? They have their opinions of what is best for everyone, and want to use the power of government to enforce these ideas. Instead, why not let everyone decide for themselves? Let maximum freedom be the goal. Protect people from others but not from their own decisions. I would suggest that everyone has an inalienable right to completely screw their lives up.

  • http://worthlesswell.blogspot.com/ Unbeliever

    After reading some more comments, I think it boils down to this: Adam wants life to be fair. While that is a laudable goal, it is still very subjective. And, usually you can’t be fair to one withour first being unfair to another. Is it fair that someone is rich while someone else is poor? No, not really. But is in turn fair to steal from the rich to give it to the poor?

    What I am interested in is life being just. That we all must abide by the same rules, and that we live with whatever happens, unfair or not. That my success cannot be taken away to make up for your failure or misfortune.

    As I’ve posted before: If I take a $100 out of my wallet and give it to a homeless man, it is charity. If I take a $100 from your wallet and give it to him, it is theft. And it is theft when the government does it, too.

    Let people voluntarily work to make life fair. Allow government only the power to make life just.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    Well, that SS claim is a shock; just a year or two ago, there WAS no money in the SS fund. I’ll assume the AARP is correct and leave it at that.

    Yes, it is just that fallacy, I know; however, fallacies are all we have. We DO know that the average GDP growth during the 1800′s was 9%, while it’s been much less since FDR, and spending has been up since FDR, and so have taxes, and the income divide has increased, etc. If capitalism made the income divide, it should be DECREASING as we move away from it. All the data we have on the US shows that social programs have failed. And the dollar’s failure is entirely due to the fact that it’s inherently worthless. We have no sound money supply.

    Health care; preventative care fails. In Europe, poor people STILL don’t go to hospitals, and furthermore, even middle class people avoid it, for preventative care. By giving it to everyone, it’s so clogged up and of such poor quality that the effect is lost. And one time surgery is much cheaper than free medicine and constant visits, because the one time surgery isn’t going to happen to everyone, just in a small percentage of cases. Furthermore, I just don’t condone coercion.

    Subsidies; yeah, and look what happens with subsidies. The Post Office has ran great, that’s good. But, other things haven’t. The airlines made a ton of money after being deregulated (largely). You CAN’T fire managers for incompetence though, that’s the point. It’s very hard because no one cares. When a business is set up like Amtrak where every failure is covered by the taxpayers, you have to be extremely bad to get fired. Government workers have so much red tape surrounding their jobs, there’s no point to try and fire them. It takes months to do it. And if the whole agency is given a blank check (and it is, because Congress can’t babysit 24 hours a day), they blow money. Accountability is what makes businesses work. That doesn’t mean every business will FAIL, but they generally work much worse, WOULD fail if they were totally free, and take a ton of tax payer dollars.

    Then there’s the space industry, but I’ll not get into that.

    About the oil industry; but I said that. If Congress had NO power that affected oil industry, like violating the Constitution and buying land, there wouldn’t be a problem. No government should be able to buy up FORTY PERCENT of a country, yet ours has. That’s ridiculous. It should be able to obtain land for USE; military facilities and government buildings. That’s it. If the land was privately owned and Congress’s only limit to oil was that it couldn’t belch out too much smoke or dump waste into the water supply, crimes so obvious it’d be impossible to buy the Congressmen off because that person would be voted out immediately, the oil industry would keep to themselves.

    I have to argue that any morality system or political system that regards legal stealing as okay needs to be entirely rejected. Alot of white collar crimes are just that (or were that); legal stealing, where they TECHNICALLY did things permissable. I am sure no one here likes that. Yet, to turn around and then tell the poor people that they can make a law allowing them to steal is entirely hypocritical and reprehensible. Taking money because a person is contractually bound to to pay for things like the police that protect HIM and the military that protects HIM and the representative who works for HIM is fine. Taking his money to give to someone else is stealing, plain and simple. Trying to justify it or rationalize it or legalize it is just smoke and mirrors. I make 100 dollars, let’s say. I should have to pay the government for my share of things; MY share of bodily protecion, MY share of the government bill, and everything else I have used. I didn’t use that park. I didn’t use that food stamp that lady over there has. I shouldn’t have to pay for it. That’s coercion, and any government advocating coercion is simply a degree of totalitarian. Unless I’m a danger to others, I shouldn’t be affected besides my share of the bill. I don’t even support income taxes; I’d abolish them too, but that’s for another time.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    BTW, I have to go with Unbeliever on the idea of world government; it’s bad. It doesn’t work. All those third world dictatorships just want our money and power limited. China and India and the larger countries just want to steal our economy. Even the western nations want us held down and limited. Yeah, we are the largest polluter; as such, we completely dominate them in GDP and they are angry about it. TOO BAD. It’s not their right to decide.

    The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others.–Thomas Jefferson

  • http://dominicself.co.uk Dominic Self

    “Is it fair that someone is rich while someone else is poor? No, not really. But is in turn fair to steal from the rich to give it to the poor?”

    Yes.

    If the ‘theft’ is done via taxation, at reasonable, via a democrtically elected government, for the purposes of wealth redistribution, then absolutely. All property is theft, after all ;-)

    Let’s put it like this. I’m still at school. Around me I see some people who apply themselves, and some who don’t. I do have ambition, and yes, I do feel some satisfaction in hopefully having a bigger house nice TV more money in the future that the people who refuse to work. But the idea that my hospital treatment should be faster, or that my kids should go to a different sort of school, conflicts with my basic belief in the value of human life and oppourtunity.

    And quite apart from that – hard work is only one of many factors that determine success, many quite beyond an individual’s control. Genetic ability? Parent’s wealth? Family circumstances growing up? Pure luck?

    My idea of freedom includes the freedom to know that whatever happens, everyone has basic human rights and should be treated as an equal human being in some respects. (And yes, I don’t recognise your freedom to work in a sweatshop, sorry!) I am not an individualist – I believe in social justice as well. In fact, the Labour party sums it up pretty well :)

    Incidentally, while the liberals and libertarians may be poles apart, I don’t think either of us can claim to have ‘atheist’ views in terms of politics. Also, as said already, it’s heartening to see the civil and respectful tone everyone is taking. This is the real atheist trait, in my opinion.

    P.S. BlackWizardMagus, despite what may be reported, I’ve actually had generally good experiences on the NHS and never used private medicine, which only a small minority use.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    I have a longer reply in the making, but one comment:

    That’s coercion, and any government advocating coercion is simply a degree of totalitarian.

    But libertarian governments, even as you describe them, advocate coercion as well. Requiring people to keep to the terms of agreements they have entered into, and punishing those who refuse, is still coercion. If no coercion exists at all – if the government does not have a monopoly on the legitimate use of force – then there is no state, only anarchy.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    That is not coercion, because it is protection. Coercion is to force someone to do something because you want to, whether they like it or not. Enforcing a contract is doing exactly what they gave you the right to do. It can’t be against your will if you willfully gave them the right.

    DS; isn’t that because you still have unequal health services in the UK? Isn’t that unjust anyway?

    Still, the basics to me are clear; the only just governments protect rights, advocate freedom, and support equality under law. Socialist governments grant priveleges and have no rights, advocate coercion, and support inequlity.

    And taxation is not a fair answer to the stealing charge; it’s stealing. Tyranny of the majority is still tyranny. Taxation to that effect isn’t even moral anyway; a government is instituted by men to do what men need; protect themselves and secure their rights. A government can never, morally, do what a person can not. Until you tell me that I have the right to come to your house, eat your food, and take your wallet, you have no right to tell the government that they can do the same to me. Creating a middle man that ups the cost is WORSE, no better. You may as well say that it’s illegal for me to murder, but fair for me to hire an assassin.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    I’m also curious about something; I’ve gone on about taxes, but I’m not being completely clear. Everyone here DOES know that the only reason socialism, as a whole, has been able to float is because of debt, right? I’ll let Dominic let us know what the UK’s debt is, I have no idea, but the reason we have managed to be socialist in the US is because of debt. Endless debt. Crushing debt. Debt is not an endless cycle, the US can’t sink forever. Socialism stifles innovation and costs money that doesn’t exist; the reason the US money supply has increased so dramatically is because of the borrowing we have done for guns and butter (don’t let Reagan fool you; for one thing, his debt is different than the others, but for another, the democratic congress didn’t just give him everything he wanted; oh no, they got their own work done dollar for dollar). I wish I had the statistics on me, it’s in one of my packed books, but the single biggest bill of the US is interest on the federal debt. Just interest (well, the defense might have just passed it now, with the war). That money doesn’t produce anything. It doesn’t feed anyone. It doesn’t help anyone. It doesn’t do a damn thing except make some bankers rich. And it’s growing. Why? Because entitlements make up the vast majority of our budget. Yeah, that’s not money securing rights or defending people from threats against them (actually, the US government now often IS the threat), but to feed people. While accruing debt we all have to pay. Eventually, it’ll be too much. Interest will totally take over our budget. Paying down the debt is impossible until we shave off the excessive bills many of you are supportive of.

    Also, this borrowing kills the dollar, and every other currency. This is something little known, but when the government borrows money, it makes money. It doesn’t take 100 billion dollars in some massive vault, it just writes that it now has 100 billion dollars from the Fed. That’s what inflation is. It kills us in trade, it takes wealth from every person (and is the most unfair tax because ti attacks, first and foremost, those who save and try to be smart). Again, we can’t go on like that forever. Instability in the market is due to this debt and the money supply’s fluctuating too. All in all, the costs of socialism are higher than what I’ve mentioned thus far, and are also INHERENTLY LIMITED. Just like the SU could only last so long before a disasterous collapse, so can the rest of us. We have alot longer, but it’s limited. So if it’s “right”, then how come it’s “impossible”? We need to get out of the realm of unicorn giggles and back into what will actually work. Capitalism is hard. It can hurt. But it WORKS.

  • eruonna

    Still, the basics to me are clear; the only just governments protect rights, advocate freedom, and support equality under law.

    Everyone wants governments that do these things, and most governments claim to do them. The problem is, everyone has a different idea what they mean, so they are merely emotional triggers. (How can you possible be opposed to freedom?) You claim that socialist governments grant no rights when what you mean is that they grant a different set of rights than you would. I could very well claim that people have a right to a certain minimum standard of living, and then point out that under libertarianism, you have no rights except the right to starve to death.

    It seems to me that the basic problem with libertarianism is the assumption that people will always have other options. If your job doesn’t pay as much as you would like, quit and get a new job. Or educate yourself so you will be qualified for a higher paying job. These kinds of things fail both theoretically and practically.

    Theoretically, we can construct scenarios your option can be legally removed under libertarianism. For example, if someone buys all the land around your house, you can’t leave without trespassing. If they refuse you passage or charge a toll that you can’t afford, you’re stuck. And you can’t reasonably be expected to own all the land between your house and anywhere you might need to go.

    On the practical side, consider the people left in New Orleans as Katrina was bearing down. Some were incapable of evacuating, as the abandoned sick and elderly. Others simply had nowhere to go and no way to get there. Unless you want to argue that these people got what they deserved for not amassing the resources needed to flee, you ought to make some provision for them. (You could argue that they deserved it, but, in that case, we would probably never agree about anything. And I don’t think it is unreasonable to claim that no one deserves such.)

    All the freedom in the world is meaningless without practical options. In my opinion, if the government wants to secure freedom, it should also secure the options needed to actually exercise that freedom.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    That is not coercion, because it is protection. Coercion is to force someone to do something because you want to, whether they like it or not. Enforcing a contract is doing exactly what they gave you the right to do.

    And could one not argue that, by willingly living in a socialist state and obeying its laws, you are giving that state the right to tax you? After all, no one is being forced to live in the U.S. or in Europe; as conservatives seemingly never tire of saying to liberals, if you don’t like it here, you’re free to leave. How is choosing to remain any different from choosing to enter into a contract where you willingly agree to give a certain percentage of your income to fund social programs?

  • http://worthlesswell.blogspot.com/ Unbeliever

    As Dominic Self wrote:

    If the ‘theft’ is done via taxation, at reasonable, via a democrtically elected government, for the purposes of wealth redistribution, then absolutely. All property is theft, after all ;-)

    Spoken like a true socialist.

    Allowing others to vote on how much they will steal from me doesn’t sound very just. And that is the problem. When you give people the ability to take with impunity, there is no way to enforce reasonableness on them. They will just continue to take more and more.

    I own property. How did I steal it? I am paying far more than the value of my home through a mortgage. I used the money that I earned to buy things. Where is the theft?

    It appears that you’re opinion is that everthing belongs to the community, and that we all are only allowed to use it by the state. Can anyone say communism?

    I once asked my dad why we was a republican. He said that he used to be a democrat, but once he made enough money to have nice things, he became a republican because he didn’t want the state to take them away. In other words, he grew up. He realized that a liberal fiscal policy helps those haven’t earned it and punishes those who have.

    BTW, I have admire you for actually admitting that your goal is wealth redistribution. Most liberals are too ashamed to say it.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Theoretically, we can construct scenarios your option can be legally removed under libertarianism. For example, if someone buys all the land around your house, you can’t leave without trespassing. If they refuse you passage or charge a toll that you can’t afford, you’re stuck. And you can’t reasonably be expected to own all the land between your house and anywhere you might need to go.

    I can think of another such scenario. Imagine you work for a large company that provides all the basic needs of its workers. This company pays its workers in money it coins and issues itself (something the Libertarian Party supports) which is accepted nowhere else. It trains its workers in private schools (again, something the Libertarian Party supports) whose degrees are not recognized anywhere else. It is an at-will employer that refuses to recognize worker unions (natch). And it houses its workers in private housing which, as the property owner, it reserves the right to exercise full control over. Let’s say you’ve been working for this company all your life; your job, your house, your education, your savings, all through them.

    Now let’s say this company decides to change its rules, let’s say by making its employees work 112 hours a week and cutting their salary by half. What can you do? If you’re fired, you suddenly have nothing: no savings (which means no access to medical care, no way to get training for a new job, no way to buy food), no transferable education, and nowhere to live. Since this is a libertarian state, there is no social safety net, and no one is obligated to give you any kind of assistance. You can’t even sleep on the ground outside, since after all, there is only private property in a libertarian state, and any property owner can legally refuse you entry. You are, in essence and in practice, a slave to this company. For all libertarian claims about “freedom”, the only freedom you actually have in this scenario is the freedom to either do as you’re told or starve. That is no choice I want any part of, and that is why I support a liberal state with things like centralized coining of money, public schools, and assistance to the needy. That way, even if your current employer terminates you, you at least have a chance of finding something new. In this case, living in a liberal rather than a libertarian state increases, not decreases, your freedom.

  • http://worthlesswell.blogspot.com/ Unbeliever

    eruonna,

    You are advocating a right to take. You have a right to life, but you don’t have a right to take my kidney, even if you would die without it. You have a right to travel from state to state, but you can’t take my car for your trip.

    Your example about someone buying up all the land around you is a good one. However, it fails beause it ignores all of your property rights. I have an absolute right to use my property, and you do, too. I cannot keep you from it, and the laws regarding easements are well established.

    I, too, felt for the people who suffered in New Orleans during and after Katrina. I donated money for relief efforts. But, I have made a conscious decision not to live in area that suffers from hurricanes. Why should I be forced to pay (i.e. be punished) for other’s poorer choices. Many of the people most affected by the hurricane were those who have been made dependent on the government by our social programs. They waited for the government to save them, when most could have saved themselves. I’m not saying that they deserved what happened. I’m saying that their life choices made it inevitable. Far too many people have worked themselves out of poverty. It can be done.

    Your suggestions are idealistic. I doubt they would survive a homeless man raiding your fridge at three in the morning. You may want him to be helped, but you want to help him on your terms. I, also, want to help him, but on my terms, not the state’s.

  • http://worthlesswell.blogspot.com/ Unbeliever

    Ebonmuse said,

    And could one not argue that, by willingly living in a socialist state and obeying its laws, you are giving that state the right to tax you?

    So if someone continues to live in a totalitarian state, totalitarianism is okay? The theocracy in Iran is okay if its citizens can leave? Please!

    It is wrong to take what doesn’t belong to you. My son understood this concept when he was three. Why do liberals forget it? It is okay to steal as long as more people are happy? The state can take and take so long as a majority need and need? Where does it end? This is the slippery slope to socialism and communism.

  • Oz

    The problem is with the left’s conception of rights. Traditionally rights have exclusively dealt with actions: rights to live as one chooses, say what one wants, worship (or not) as one wants, defend oneself, etc. The modern liberal view of rights has expanded (or moved, depending on the liberal) to the sphere of things: a right to medicine, food, income, education, and the like. The problems with this new definition of a right are twofold: practical and moral. A right to things is untenable because it cannot be universalized. Say the rich just get tired of financing all the promised rights and decide to join the ranks of the poor. All of a sudden we have things that don’t exist promised to everyone, and the system collapses. This was, of course, the plot of “Atlas Shrugged” (what plot there was, anyway). More importantly, this conception is morally wrong because it is coercive. Upholding a right to freedom of speech requires no offensive action, only defensive. Enforcing a right to food, on the other hand, would require the initiation of force the first time a “have” doesn’t feel like contributing.

  • http://worthlesswell.blogspot.com/ Unbeliever

    I’m not a member of the libertarian party for several reasons. And I agree with you about coining money. I don’t think that we should outlaw other forms of currency, but I doubt that they would succeed against the dollar.

    As for your example, I have this to say. Your hypothetical guy is an idiot. Why did he set himself up like this?

    Let me give you another hypothetical. A man decides to work as a hitman for the mob. He takes his money and spends it on drugs. He starts stealing to support his habit. Does he deserve the same sympathy as your fellow? He, too, made terrible life choices. At what point do people have to sleep in the beds that they’ve made for themselves? Or do we just keep buying them new beds?

    Freedom means nothing if it means that you can’t completely mess your life up. And when you do, you DO NOT have a right to take from me to fix it.

    Socialism means that personal responsibility ceases to exist. Those of us who make good life decisions are punished for the ones who don’t. Oh, and feel free to keep screwing your life up because those of us who are responsible will always be ready to catch you. That’s just utter bullshit!

    BTW, no one here is obligated to provide assistance to those in need, and yet we give billions to charity every year…voluntarily.

    I saw a man begging on the street corner today. When can I expect your check for $100 dollars so that I can give it to him? Or do you actually want to decide for yourself where you money goes?

    Well so do I.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    Whoa, lotsa stuff now;
    eruonna; no, I do not claim that socialism is lack of freedom because of they guarantee different freedoms, but because they don’t guarantee a single freedom at all, and they admit it by word or action! Socialism is based off of privileges; no intrinsic rights but rights CURRENTLY being granted BY THE GOVERNMENT. That is not the definition of “Freedom”.
    “Nothing is ours, which another may deprive us of.” –Thomas Jefferson to Maria Cosway, 1786. ME 5:440
    The concept of “options” is a failed one, actually, while libertarianism works. First off, the idea of not having roads is not libertarian; people attempt to apply a misunderstanding of limited government with such examples. The originally libertarian US government is specifically given the right to post roads. But secondly, anyway, options is an infinite thing. What is an “option”? For whom? There are so many ways to define that. Furthermore, government can only make options by denying others. For example; if you tax that neighborhood to death, you can give an engineer a job. Why is he unemployed? Because there ARE no engineer jobs! No one has a right to “an option” at the expense of others! That is not only not the function of government, it is what the government is supposed to LIMIT.

    Adam, that’s because you are forced to. A government, if just, secures the rights to it’s people, and doesn’t pass them off. That’s like the states that tried to give money to blacks to study in other states. One born and raised in the US has partaken in it’s expenses; you have been protected by laws and force. You have to pay for that, because you use it.

    Adam as well; well, the Libertarian Party is…stupid. I don’t pretend to associate with them, I take their name because they don’t know what the hell it means. But, for your example; oh, so if I sign a contract with that company and take thousands of their dollars, I should be allowed to shove off and ignore them? That’s theft outright! That’s saying consumers have no obligation t pay their debts! That “freedom” is still freedom however, because it’s freedom from government. That is the requirement. A government is insituted to protect the base rights of people from others; not from themselves. That same logic you use says the following; the government should be able to tell me what I eat, how much I eat, when I eat, to make sure I don’t get fat. Wow, I feel so “free” now!

    About Katrina (forgot it earlier); what’s the point? You want to bust in my door, have Moose and Rocco take my wallet, and give it to Nagin. Well, frankly, NO. Of course you probably would say that you wouldn’t use that method, but you would use it or worse. You’d have Moose and Rocco come evict me and take my house instead, no? We call that “mugging” where I’m from. Now, Unbeliever and me gave money to NO, so what have we done wrong? Not only have we met every obligation we have to them morally (aka, none), we’ve gone out of our way to give them charity! I’m broke, alright? My car hardly works and I only have a few other things not obtained second-hand. I’m not affluent. So when it’s implied (and this is general, not to anyone in particular) that I’m greedy because I only gave a dollar here, a buck fifty there of what little money I have, instead of selling my 15 year old TV for a couple bucks to add to the stash, that’s just plain wrong. Saying that I’m not being moral (which is the thrust of the argument; we’re all polite, and that’s good, but that is the base message) by not helping you go door to door and TAKE money out each person’s wallet or purse is just crime. Tell me, what exactly is the difference between this philosophy and Lenin’s? Really? I mean, sure, he denied free speech, but what good is free speech anyway when you are homeless? Lenin believed he should have the right to take money as he wishes, make things whatever price he wanted, control things for the people. And so do you! Socialism is just communism. Fact of the matter is, no one here is that smart on a grand scale. Tell me if I’m wrong, but none of you can run 300 million lives in the US, no? Trying to dictate who does what and what’s fair is arrogant. And who knows; the next guy might be arrogant AND cruel, but thanks to setting up the state so that the “smart” leaders can make sure the “dumb” populace have wjatever they feel they should have, you are setting it up for a tyrant.

    I just don’t understand. Everyone of us wants to help others, but the libertarians are arguing that we give of ourselves and the liberals are arguing that we give of others. I don’t get it. Would any of you stand tall and say that, yes, if I robbed the rich guy and gave it away, that would be JUST? That would be undeniably moral? That he has no right to his money? IF we have no guarantee of our own property, what do we have? The right to argue with the other hobos? The Robin Hood syndrome is terrible. First off, it’s impossible; there’s just not enough in existence. Secondly, it’s arbitrary; at what point have we reached “minimal rights”? How much money spent in various ways is “minimum”? Health care? How good of health care? What about a house? Food? Clothing? Blankets? Beds? Computers, so people are free to access information and type out resumes, which provides more job options? Ultimately, we arrive at the realization that the median income family IS this percieved “minimal”. Third and finally, it’s self-defeating; the more we hurt the benefits of honest work, the less people put in. What’s the point? Used to be, working double shifts meant double pay. Yeah, but now with the graduated taxes and the increased property tax on the bigger house and the fewer tax write-offs and what not, you only get a small percentage more. So why bother? Furthermore, why save? Safety net is supposed to help people who have issues, but in just encourages recklessness. Why save for retirement if we are going to have an SS system that covers you? Blow it all! Tour the world the year before you retire! Why work if you are lower or working class? Unless you are making a fair clip of 60000 or more, screw it, just live off of the great safety net! And as more people get on the safety net, up goes taxes and inflation, which just encourages (and forces) more joiners. Eventually, you have some rich people who, having bought up ALL the property and means of production and everything else, are in complete control of everything. Then the poor would just wholesale steal every dime and waste it. We all know that a child never learns the value of a dollar if they are simply given it; they have to earn it, yet here we are contradicting ourselves!

    I’ve talked to much. Here’s my ending;
    Communism is idiocy. They want to divide up the property. Suppose they did it — it requires brains to keep money as well as make it. In a precious little while the money would be back in the former owner’s hands and the communist would be poor again.
    - Mark Twain, a Biography

  • Oz

    Adam-

    Your hypothetical libertarian world might be iternally consistent, but it isn’t realistic. The only way your job training would be worthless outside the company is if the training were so specific that there could be no carryover knowledge. Even if that were the case, job experience counts for a lot, too. Case in point:

    I am currently in training to be a naval nuclear officer. I am learning many things specific to nuclear power. The course is a year long all together, and though it is very rigorous, I get no degrees from it (though, to be fair, two universities offer graduate credit for it). One might think that I would be trapped in the Navy because of this unaccredited schooling. But nuclear officers leave the Navy all the time for $120K positions. (Nuclear enlisted often find $60K jobs, too.) My point is that companies do value experience. They can teach you the specifics about their particular widget, but they can’t teach you what you picked up in 5 years as a manager/operator/etc.

    As far as I know, the organization that accredits schools is private anyway, so there’s no reason company trade schools would not be accredited.

    Also, I do have to fault you for misstating the LP’s plank on money. You rightly condemn the idea of useless company scrip, but it is a strawman. The LP seems to favor using gold or gold certificates – contracts entitling the bearer to a fixed amount of gold. All they want is for the people holding that gold to be private, vice public.

  • lpetrich

    Seems to me that the libertarian view of government is much like the Marxist view of capitalists — that they are exploiters of the working classes.

    And I can’t believe that they are serious in their belief that all one’s misfortunes are one’s fault — except, of course, for theirs.

    They are completely free to build floating cities in international waters and declare them to be sovereign nations. Which makes me wonder what they’d do about someone who falls overboard — given the attitudes that some of the express, would they say that anyone who falls overboard only fell overboard because they did something wrong, and that they ought to accept the consequences of their actions, including being eaten by sharks? And if so, would they accept such a fate for themselves if that happened to them?

    Failing that, they can go to some place where they don’t have to pay taxes, like Kuwait or the United Arab Emirates. To use one of their arguments, if they are too lazy to move to such places, then do they have any right to complain about having to pay taxes? Considering that Dubai in the UAE has a largely-expatriate population, it can’t be that difficult to move there.

    Also, libertarian arguments about taxation can be turned against military and police and court functions. If you are too lazy to protect yourself, then what right do you have to damand that the government steal from others to finance your protection?

  • http://dominicself.co.uk Dominic Self

    “I own property. How did I steal it? I am paying far more than the value of my home through a mortgage. I used the money that I earned to buy things. Where is the theft?”

    Well ultimately, at some point in history, someone will have just ‘taken’ the land. Or if you want to go more recent, probably from some Native American ;-)

    Well I say ‘all property is theft’ I’m not seriously suggesting that we don’t have private property, or that you don’t have rights over it now. It’s just something to bear in mind that everything exists because of some historical accident, and not always honourable ones.

  • eruonna

    I think I may not have been clear enough in my point about Katrina and New Orleans. I was referring not to clean up after the storm but to the evacuation that happened before. The point is that it was handled in an eminently libertarian manner: the government said, “Storm coming, y’all might want to move to higher ground,” and left people to accomplish this by their own means. The inevitable result was that a lot of people were left behind through no fault of their own.

    BWM: You have your own definitions of rights and freedom. A socialist would likely have different definitions. If there is no overlap between these definitions, you could claim that socialism has no rights or freedoms, but it would be because you have defined the rights and freedoms of socialism as something other than rights or freedom. With the right definition, everyone can support freedom and accuse their opponents of failing to support it.

    This is why I think that it is more important to look at the practical results of system of government rather than comparing idealized philosophies. For example, allowing everyone to earn a fair wage as determined by the free market is all well and good, but if the market forces most people to exchange tremendous amounts of labor just to live at the subsistence level, then it is not a very good system. If you prefer an example slanted the other way: it’s fine to guarantee a minimum standard of living, but if most people are prevented from rising above that level, they will still be miserable.

    That is why I think liberal democracy and mostly-free market capitalism with careful economic interventions and appropriate social programs is the best form of government known. Any improvements are likely to come from tweaking the parameters of this system, not by tearing it down and building something entirely new. In particular, libertarian ideas have been tried and found wanting, viz. the pre-New Deal US or post-Communist Russia.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    So if someone continues to live in a totalitarian state, totalitarianism is okay? The theocracy in Iran is okay if its citizens can leave? Please!

    That seems quite reasonable to me. What’s your objection? I’m not saying that totalitarianism is morally acceptable – I’m saying that if a person freely chooses to live in a given state (totalitarian or otherwise), and does not attempt to resist the government, then they are in effect consenting to the policies of that state. If a totalitarian state prevents its citizens from leaving, for example as the Soviet Union did with the Iron Curtain, that is another matter altogether.

    As for your example, I have this to say. Your hypothetical guy is an idiot. Why did he set himself up like this?

    What if he was born and raised there?

    Your hypothetical libertarian world might be iternally consistent, but it isn’t realistic. The only way your job training would be worthless outside the company is if the training were so specific that there could be no carryover knowledge.

    Okay, granted. We can even forget about that part; it’s not terribly important to my example. My point remains that, without the protections generally afforded by a liberal-type state, then a person can easily get into a situation that is in practice indistinguishable from slavery – their theoretical freedom notwithstanding. As I said, freedom is meaningless if your only choices are to do as you’re told or else starve.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    The longer post:

    If someone is charging more than I want to pay for something, I don’t have to buy it. That is the basis of the free market. Notice the word “free” in there.

    That is a good idea in theory; but see how it works in practice. Let’s say I have some disease that is inevitably fatal if left untreated, and there is only one company that makes a drug that can save me. Let’s say that I go to that company, and they inform me that in return for saving my life, they expect me to pay an amount equal to my entire net worth. To obtain this drug, I would have to sign over my house, my car, all my belongings, and my annual salary for the rest of my life to them. (There are already cases, admittedly not as extreme as the example I just made up, where pharmaceutical companies are explicitly justifying raising drug prices not because the cost of production demands it, but because sick people need them to live and have no choice but to pay.) Would you still be against predatory-pricing laws in that instance? After all, if I don’t want to pay for that drug, I can just die, right?

    I dislike minimum wage laws. Let the employer decide how much the position is worth… If I choose to work for a sweatshop, then who are you to tell me that I can’t?

    You would have a point if people freely chose to work for sweatshops, but that is not the case. Let’s be realistic: no one works in a sweatshop because they want to. (Take a not uncommon example: What if you’re a subsistence farmer in a Third World nation and your crop fails, and you are forced to work in a sweatshop because it’s the only job around and you need money to feed yourself?) Economic necessity can easily produce circumstances that are indistinguishable from coercion in all important aspects. That is why I maintain liberalism actually increases a person’s freedom, because it gives them the options and the ability to make genuinely meaningful choices. Minimum-wage laws and social assistance programs are one part of this. Libertarians place a high priority on personal freedom, and that is a laudable goal, but how can you even begin to take control of your own destiny if you can’t find a job that pays you a wage sufficient for the basic necessities of life?

    The overall flavor of the market section was one where it is assumed that success must be the result of wrong behavior. We must punish those who have a lot of money. You should not be allowed to have a lot of money while others are poor.

    I don’t recall making any statement to the effect that success is inevitably the result of misbehavior or that it should be punished. If you disagree, feel free to provide a quote. What I did say, and what I will stand by, is that, first, it is selfish and immoral to enjoy extreme luxury while others lack even the basic needs of life; and second, that people who are wealthy were only able to accumulate that wealth because of our prosperous society and the efforts and cooperation of others, and so they have a duty to give something back to the society that made it possible for them to enjoy their success.

    I agree completely with the war in Iraq. I agree with it because Saddam was a threat to the US because of his contacts with Al Queda (which have been proven, the 9/11 commision’s report notwithstanding)…

    What is your evidence for this?

    …and his clear desire to build WMDs. Remember, he had already used WMDs on his own people. Does anyone really think that he wouldn’t gladly furnish them to someone prepared to use them on the US, his hated enemy?

    Desire is not the same as ability, and when last I checked, we did not invade nations for the crime of hating us. As hard as it is for some people to believe, the UN sanctions and weapons inspections worked. Regardless of his desire to create weapons of mass destruction, Saddam simply did not have the technical capability to do so; he was contained and was no threat to either his neighbors or America. (If he had WMDs, why wouldn’t he have used them on the American invaders?)

    I agree that trying to impose democracy on those who don’t want it is doomed to failure, but is that really the case here? I would submit that the high voter turn-out in all elections thus far would tell us that the people of Iraq want democracy.

    Anyone can turn out to dip their fingers into a jar of purple ink. The real issue is whether the various interest groups within Iraq are willing to engage in the sort of compromise that is the essence of democracy and that creates a viable state. I submit that, so far, that willingness has been conspicuously lacking.

    As for the invasion of Iraq being a failure, let’s see how it fairs to an unbaised appraisal. The media only reports the bad. How many schools have been built in Iraq? How many hospitals? How many new, Iraqi-owned businesses? And how many people have been raped, tortued, or murdered by the Iraqi government? I’m guessing none of these questions will get answered on CNN.

    Forgive me if this sounds flippant, but when dozens of people are being kidnapped, tortured, shot, blown up and decapitated in Iraq every single day, perhaps we should not praise ourselves too highly for putting a new coat of paint on an elementary school. When the violence is quelled, when armed sectarian militias no longer openly rule the streets, when prominent terrorists do not move freely in the country, when Iraq has a stable government that does not have to be propped up by overwhelming American military power, then perhaps we can consider the smaller triumphs to be genuine successes.

    If we want to talk about all the good our invasion has done, I recommend we start by discussing basic utilities, which still have not been repaired almost three years after this war. Even in Baghdad, the heart of American presence in Iraq, Iraqi families are limited to a few hours of electricity per day, if that; water is often shut off for days at a time; and in one of the world’s largest oil-producing countries, the price of gasoline has skyrocketed and lines to refill a car’s gas tank can be ten hours long or more. If you want to talk about progress, let’s start by getting the Iraqis back up to an ordinary standard of civilized living, like the one they had before the war.

    Is the struggle to bring freedom to the Iraqis going to be bloodless? No, of course not. But, then, if memory serves, neither was our own fight for freedom. Innocent Iraqis are killed almost everyday by those who want to thwart freedom. And yet, knowing this, Iraqis show up at the polls anyway. They want freedom and continue to try to live their lives as they see fit. Should we just tell them it is not worth the lives lost. That their freedom costs too much. Yeah, let me know how they take that.

    I am not saying that freedom for Iraq costs too much, but rather that it is not our duty to provide it if the Iraqis do not rise up and demand it themselves. Weren’t you the one who was just arguing against a “right to take”? In fact, you said just below that:

    At the end of the day, the only purpose of government is to protect the rights os it’s citizens.

    When last I checked, the Iraqis were not American citizens. By your reasoning, it therefore seems that we have no business interfering in their affairs.

    Using the power of state to do good things may have noble intentions, but isn’t that exactly the reasons given by those who want a theocracy? They have their opinions of what is best for everyone, and want to use the power of government to enforce these ideas.

    Yes, but there’s an important difference: the people who want theocracy are wrong. Their beliefs are false and their goals will not produce the most happiness for everyone. Just because one group whose goals are bad thinks they are doing what is best for everyone, it does not follow that every group who thinks the same also has bad goals. (And for that matter, how are libertarians different? Do they not also want to enforce their opinions on what is best for everyone through government? The whole point of politics is people competing to promote their ideas about the best vision for society. There is nothing intrinsically bad about that.)

    Instead, why not let everyone decide for themselves? Let maximum freedom be the goal.

    Freedom is not such an easily defined thing as you may think. As I have argued, it is a liberal, not a libertarian, state that actually provides maximum freedom – if by that you mean the maximum number of meaningful choices open to the individual, and I can’t see what else you would mean by that.

  • http://worthlesswell.blogspot.com/ Unbeliever

    Adam,

    Let me try and respond to your arguments in the order you presented them.

    First, life-saving drugs. Is it fair for a drug company to raise prices just because someone will die without it? No, of course not. I would not work for such a company. But do we only allow the ownership of property when it it used fairly? And who gets to define fair in each situation? If I think it’s unfair that you have a big screen tv while I have an old black-and-white set, can I take your TV? Or can I take the money necessary to even us out?

    Socialism is the desire not to see equal opportunity, but equal outcomes. If I am rich and you are poor, then there must be problem, right? Maybe I worked my ass off and made good decisions while you blew your money on booze, drugs, and lottery tickets. What then?

    I’m not saying that everyone in a difficult situation got there becase they did something wrong, but taking from one to give to another is stealing no matter how good the intentions are.

    As for sweatshops, yes, people voluntarily walk in and ask for employment. We can say that that they have no choice, but isn’ life just a series of choices, often difficult? I can work at a job I hate or I can starve. These are two unpleasent choices, but they are still choices. If I am in a terrible accident through no fault of my own, and lose both kidneys, I may have to choose between painful and difficult dialysis or death. But my only two difficult choices would not justify my taking one of your kidneys against your will. If my house blows away in a tornado, I cannot force my way into your house just because I have no where to stay.

    Voluntary charity is our society’s safety net. Forced donations by the government is tyranny.

    And you are completely wrong that “people who are wealthy were only able to accumulate that wealth because of our prosperous society and the efforts and cooperation of others.” Like most liberals, you seem to have forgotten that hard work and smart decisions are the primary cause of wealth. Poor people stay poor because they don’t try to improve their lives and have made bad decisions. If you are struggling to pay your rent and you have 5 kids, do the math. You made a bad decision. If you dropped out of high school and now make minimum wage, again, do the math. Far too many people have gone from rags to riches. It can be done, but only if you are willing to put forth the effort. If you don’t want to, then you cannot take my money to make up for your lack of ambition.

    Ties between Saddam and Al Queda: There were some recent news articles about documents found relating to ties between Saddam and the terrorist group, but I haven’t been able to track one down. Here is an older article, but it still details that there was a connection.

    I agree that desire is not the same as ability, but one will often lead to the other. We didn’t invade Iraq because Saddam hated us, we did so because he was a threat to us. He had a weapons program and ties to terrorists. Why wait until he does something that results in the deaths of Americans?

    I have to say, that your flippant attitude about the elections in Iraq (“Anyone can turn out to dip their fingers into a jar of purple ink”) is insulting to those who risked their lives to vote. People were murdered for going to the polls. Can you really say that they don’t want democracy when they are risking their lives for it? Can they all get together and agree on a government? We shall see. But they deserve the chance.

    Under Saddam, people were routinely rounded up and tortured, raped, and murdered. Why? Because Saddam wanted it. Today, people are still suffering, but they are doing so in the fight for freedom. How can you not see the obvious difference between these two? If today’s media were around during our own revolutionary war, I wonder how similar it would sound. I doubt it could have succeeded with today’s media.

    Yes, the only purpose of government is to protect it’s citizens. And our givernment invaded Iraq to protect us from the threat of Saddam, his WMD programs, and his ties to terrorism. But an Iraq that is freed from Saddam but not helped to find democracy is still a threat. That is why Iraq must be allowed to become a free nation.

    You state, “Yes, but there’s an important difference: the people who want theocracy are wrong. Their beliefs are false and their goals will not produce the most happiness for everyone..” And, yet I could say the same thing about you. You want to impose your ideas of right and wrong on others. It is wrong for someone to be poor, so we must take that guy’s money to fix it. I’m saying, let everyone decide for themselves. If you want to help, do so. If you don’t, then no one will force it upon you. Why is this concept of freedom so terrible?

    You also say, “Freedom is not such an easily defined thing as you may think.” Of course it is easily defined. Freedom is being able to do what you want. Now there must be limits on freedom, such as you can’t kill or harm people unnecessarily and you can’t take what isn’t yours. But you don’t want freedom of action, you want equality of outcomes. According to you someone isn’t free if someone has something while they have nothing. Wrong! That person has the freedom to go out and get what they want. And a state that guarantees equality under the law, but not equality of outcomes, will foster those opportunities. Voluntary charity will help those who are incapable of helping themselves. Everyone else fends for themselves. We all have the equal chance to succeed to fail, based on our efforts.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    Whoa, I’m…really behind. I’ll check back in case anyone was just dying to hear my opinion on something, but I don’t really have the time tonight to give a LONG response. Sorry, I forget no one here knows me like my old internet haunt does; my life tends to go from too much free time to too busy really quick, so I feel bad about taking off, sorry. I’ll try and give a summary of my views real quick to finish off; everyone one of us is a person. An individual. We all have rights. No one, NO ONE, not even God (bad joke intended), has a right to deny those rights. Those rights are the right to have a life without threat from others, the right to be free to do what I wish (my own binding agreements notwithstanding), and that I have a right to call things I have earned my own. A government is THEN made, after this has been seen, to secure those rights; a government that is just does nothing more than the EXACT same things I do; defend my self, my rights, my family, and my belongings from infringement of others without my consent. The only thing else is does is collect payment for services rendered; in as such, government is the first business of a society. That’s it. When some individuals begin thinking they are better than others, that they have a right to control other’s fate, we have either theocrats of liberals; neither is better than the other. Once the rights of an individual are trivialized, no one is safe; the winner is simply who controls the money or who can gather the most public support, and quickly, the situation withers. If we allow this to happen, then we are at the tail end of our country’s existence. I’ll end with a quote of Alexander Taylor describing Athens; but no one can tell it’s not the USA right now.

    “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasure. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s great civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency, from dependency back to bondage.”
    *Thanks to Unbeliever; his blog led me to a page with this quote on it, one I have read before but not seen for a long time*

  • lpetrich

    Let’s translate sweatshops into terms that our resident libertarians can understand a little bit better. I imagine that they would hate working as a government bureaucrat or a government regulator or some other such position. So let’s say that the only job that they could find was a position in a government bureaucracy. Would they gladly accept it and then defend government bureaucracies as providers of employment?

    Although some rich people do get rich without much contribution from others, like misers and big-selling authors, others depend on the labors of others to get rich, like business leaders. Where would they be without their employees? Especially those that work “hard” but don’t get much money from their labors.

    There are also rich people who inherit their wealth — they live off of a big handout from their parents.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    I only have one thing to say to that; quit or unionize. Yes, I’m a libertarian, but I AM pro-union, as long as government doesn’t give them special priveleges. If you aren’t valuable enough, then good bye. That rich person never stole your mind out of your head, you failed to use it. It’s not my job to make sure someone who can’t contribute to society is fed.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    First, life-saving drugs. Is it fair for a drug company to raise prices just because someone will die without it? No, of course not. I would not work for such a company.

    Okay, I’m glad to hear that. But then what do you do? In the hypothetical scenario I described, if people were dying because they could not afford the exorbitant price charged by a company for life-saving drugs, would you stand by and tut-tut that company but chalk the outcome up to the price we pay for a free market? Are you saying that a company’s right to charge whatever it wants for its products trumps the individual’s right to life itself? I think that is a seriously misguided set of priorities, if so.

    If I think it’s unfair that you have a big screen tv while I have an old black-and-white set, can I take your TV? Or can I take the money necessary to even us out?

    Of course not. No one has the right to own a big-screen TV. But as I have stated before, people do have the right to medical care, to a place to live, and the other basic necessities of human life, and I stand by that.

    Socialism is the desire not to see equal opportunity, but equal outcomes.

    I do not desire equal outcomes. As I have said, wealth honestly earned is a good incentive to work hard and succeed. But I do believe there are some things that are too important to be left to the vagaries of the market. That the free market is good at fostering innovation and increasing efficiency and productivity, there can be no doubt. That we can trust it with our lives and our freedom – well, suffice it to say I’m considerably more skeptical of that.

    I’m not saying that everyone in a difficult situation got there becase they did something wrong, but taking from one to give to another is stealing no matter how good the intentions are.

    I must say, I do not agree with that premise. I deny that redistribution of wealth, if it occurs in a democratic society with the consent of the majority, is stealing, for the same reason that I deny that force used by police officers to subdue criminals constitutes assault. Again, this does not mean I believe that all people retain their property only at the sufferance of the state; for example, as I have said, I strongly oppose the use of eminent domain to transfer land from one private party to another. There is a middle path between the extremes of communism and libertarianism, and in my view it consists of ensuring all people access to the basic needs of life, and no more, and letting them work to earn whatever extra luxuries they desire for themselves.

    As for sweatshops, yes, people voluntarily walk in and ask for employment. We can say that that they have no choice, but isn’ life just a series of choices, often difficult? …If I am in a terrible accident through no fault of my own, and lose both kidneys, I may have to choose between painful and difficult dialysis or death.

    Yes, but that is a situation that no person brought about. Of course we do not expect natural phenomena to understand our desire for fairness, but what bearing does that have on the way we treat others? Tornadoes are not intelligent agents capable of moral reasoning; it would be foolish to expect them to act fairly. But sweatshop owners do have that capability, and it is not wrong to expect – or, if necessary, to demand – that they use it.

    Poor people stay poor because they don’t try to improve their lives and have made bad decisions. If you are struggling to pay your rent and you have 5 kids, do the math. You made a bad decision. If you dropped out of high school and now make minimum wage, again, do the math. Far too many people have gone from rags to riches. It can be done, but only if you are willing to put forth the effort.

    I’m sorry to be blunt, but this is a wildly oversimplified view. Only in Horatio Alger novels is becoming successful as easy as you suggest. For one thing, poverty begets poverty, and for people who live in an area that is depressed in general, it can be virtually impossible to escape.

    Let’s say you live in such an area and are willing to exert whatever effort is necessary. How can you get an education if all the funding is being drained from your local public school to pay for vouchers to subsidize wealthy people sending their children to expensive private schools? (Voucher programs are the worst of both worlds in that respect – they take away much-needed resources from the public schools and harm people who depend on them, while at the same time still do not provide enough so that poor people who actually want to send their children to private school could afford it.) Even if you do graduate, coming from an underfunded and failing school, being admitted to college is an uphill battle, and virtually no high-paying, skilled jobs are available to anyone with just a high school diploma. How can you improve your lot in life if there is no requirement that jobs pay a living wage so that you can purchase the necessities and still accumulate savings? How can you hope to do better if you are unable to pay for health insurance and an illness or injury forces you to deplete whatever savings you do have?

    People can escape poverty and break the cycle, but it hardly ever happens by individual effort alone. It takes help, and it takes people working together. I cannot accept arguments that we leave this all up to the generosity of private parties and hope it works out for the best.

    Now then, on Iraq…

    There were some recent news articles about documents found relating to ties between Saddam and the terrorist group, but I haven’t been able to track one down. Here is an older article, but it still details that there was a connection.

    I have to say, you don’t think this connection might be a little thin if it’s based solely on an eight-year-old document discussing the possibility of setting up a meeting? (Let us not forget that similar documents offered in the past, such as the infamous yellowcake one, turned out to be clumsy forgeries.) There are countries with far more direct ties to bin Laden and al-Qaeda – Saudi Arabia and the UAE, to name two – that we never even considered attacking.

    Now, Bin Laden did have ties with and material support from Afghanistan and the Taliban, which is why I supported that war and still do. But this mind-bogglingly expensive and wasteful Iraq blunder has drained so much of our effort and manpower that Afghanistan has devolved back into an anarchy of squabbling warlords where terrorists roam freely, the drug trade flourishes and the Taliban are regrouping. We overcommitted ourselves, stretched our resources too thin, and are in danger of failing both missions because of this.

    I agree that desire is not the same as ability, but one will often lead to the other. We didn’t invade Iraq because Saddam hated us, we did so because he was a threat to us. He had a weapons program and ties to terrorists. Why wait until he does something that results in the deaths of Americans?

    Because there was no reason to believe he had any serious ability to do so. Again, prior to the war Iraq was not a threat, had no weapons of mass destruction, and there were many people saying so. (Scott Ritter, for one. Note the publication date of that article.) But their counsel, which in retrospect turned out to be absolutely correct, was ignored in the mad dash to war. In a tragic irony, Iraq is now becoming exactly what we had feared originally – a threat to America – as our invasion becomes a worldwide symbol of American arrogance and militarism, and a rallying call to jihad among the vast pool of angry, disaffected Muslims around the planet. Instead of winning their hearts and minds, we have squandered that opportunity, and in so doing have put ourselves in more danger than we ever were from a single tinpot dictator with delusions of grandeur.
    (And don’t you think worrying about “something that results in the deaths of Americans” is a little insulting? What about the 2,000+ Americans that have died there as a direct result of our invasion?)

    Under Saddam, people were routinely rounded up and tortured, raped, and murdered. Why? Because Saddam wanted it. Today, people are still suffering, but they are doing so in the fight for freedom. How can you not see the obvious difference between these two?

    Again, I do not mean to be glib, but are you saying that people being blown up, tortured, abducted and murdered is more acceptable if it is not happening as a matter of official government policy?

    Make no mistake, I am not defending Saddam. He was a cruel, murderous tyrant who committed war crimes against his own people. But I am saying that it is not axiomatic that conditions have improved in Iraq just because he is gone. If anything, Iraq is even more lawless, more violent, and more chaotic than it was. And to make things even worse, there is now a real possibility that the new Iraq will become a fanatical religious theocracy based on sharia law, or worse, a failed state consumed by sectarian and tribal civil war. Either way, it may well become a breeding ground for terrorism, something it was not before.

    As a sign of how bad things are becoming, here is a story about a growing trend of Iraqis changing their names so as not to reflect a particular religious affiliation. People are changing their names out of fear. Does that betoken a stable and free society? Is that a hopeful sign of progress?

  • EnigmaOfSteel

    I have responded to some arguments in the first of the “Politics of Atheism” threads, if anyone wants to have a go. Thought I would mention it here since that thread has slipped off the page. Sorry for the delay, I have been putting in a lot of hours working for the non-person entity I contract with;)

    Looking at the three politics threads, I see an issue that is problematic, involving certain rights arguments. I touched upon this issue in politics thread one, but the same problem exists in all three threads. I contend that many of the scenarios involving rights put forward in these discussion have been inconsistent in application. One example is the often mentioned issue of real property rights, with the claim that a person has the right to do whatever he/she wants with a property, as long as another person’s rights are not infringed on. It is somehow forgotten that the very appropriation of a property infringes on the rights of others to use that property.

    Consider for example that Unbeliever never contracted with me before he appropriated the piece of land on which he lives. As Unbeliever previously stated “There are only voluntary contracts between people. A contract which you are forced to abide by but never agreed to isn’t a contract.” So how can Unbeliever’s infringement of my rights, not to mention the rights of others on this board, and even kids and future generations who have not contracted with him, be addressed? Compensation for the rights infringement would be one way. Compensation could be in the form of regulation or taxation. Note that a consistent application of rights also debunks the claim that tax and regulation are equal to theft.

    Also by full acknowledgement of rights, one can avoid some of the more reprehensible scenarios put forward in these threads due to inconsistent rights application. Issue of land use, starving certain people etc, can be addressed with a rights argument – although there are also other arguments against these. The point is if one is to make a person rights argument, I would suggest applying these rights to real people, and then applying them consistently.

  • Philip Thomas

    Hmm, big argument which I am not in the mood to go into right now. As usual, I am focusing on the “Miscellaneous other issues” or wherever you care to hide the abortion problem.

    Problem, because viable foetuses with brains are being aborted, day in, day out.
    And this should stop. And people who believe that it should stop should say that it should stop. As I think these include Adam, I would suggest that his pargraph on abortion, laudable though the sentiments expressed in it are, lacks balance.

  • http://www.gibsonian.blogspot.com Ian B Gibson

    I once asked my dad why we was a republican. He said that he used to be a democrat, but once he made enough money to have nice things, he became a republican because he didn’t want the state to take them away. In other words, he grew up. He realized that a liberal fiscal policy helps those haven’t earned it and punishes those who have.

    So presumably, since libertarians want everyone to earn what they have, they should be against the inheritance of wealth? In fact, they should favour 100% inheritance tax, to be consistant with this principle. How do they justify Paris Hilton, for instance (or the US President, for that matter)?

  • Shawn Smith

    Ian, of course I can’t speak for all libertarians, but in my case, I would favor a Cost-of-Burial inheritance tax. And then only if the government was the one that owned the land and / or actually performed the service. What someone wants done with the money they have earned is their choice, and if they want to leave it all to their relatives, build a big bonfire, create a charitable foundation, fund a group like the National Science Foundation or the Discovery Institute, or just be buried in it like the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, that’s their business, and I should not have the right to force them at gunpoint to use their wealth the way I see fit. I do have a right to talk to them, to try to convince them that they should not destroy their wealth by burning it, being buried with it, or giving it to the Discovery Institute, but in the end, it is their choice. Also, the government is well known for squandering the money it gets, and most of the time, people who actually have to answer to other people will do a much better job at putting the wealth to good use.

    I don’t know Paris Hilton, so I can’t legitimately pass judgement on her one way or another. From what little I have seen of her, in my opinion, she is a skanky, anorexic, unattractive, stupid whore, who needs to get a real job actually producing a valuable product that helps people. Granted, that is only my opinion, which counts for less than jack squat in this country. Fortunately we don’t have the same libel laws here in the U.S. as I have heard about in England, so what I just wrote shouldn’t get me into any trouble.

    As far as George W. Bush is concerned, I don’t believe the inheritance tax would apply to him, as George H. W. Bush is still alive, unless you’ve heard something I haven’t.

    Is the deck stacked against those people who start off with no capital? Yes, of course it is. But we do try to avoid using the power of the government to make it even harder for people to change their station. I know almost nothing of British Society today, but I have read that there is much more concern with class there, and the “Upper Class” in Britain will still look down on successful people if they don’t have the right pedigree. I.e., they won’t ever get invited to all the right parties, meet all the right people to further help others, etc. I hope that statement is wrong, because it seems like such a waste of human potential.

    I would prefer that people earn what they have, simply because it forces them to understand that the best way to create and obtain wealth is by helping others, instead of filling out the right forms of some bureaucracy that couldn’t care less if you’re alive or dead, generous or selfish, helpful or harmful. People who get their money through the government never really see the people whose money they are confiscating, and therefore feel no obligation to value said money.


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