Common Sense to Anybody But Rothbardian Libertarians

“[T]he public power is entrusted to [princes] that they may be the guardians of justice…. [W]hatever is taken by violence of this kind is not the spoils of robbery, since it is not contrary to justice.” –St. Thomas Aquinas, Bomb-Throwing Alinskyite Communist

It is mysterious to me how words like “redistribution of wealth” have taken on the same stench as “running puppies through meat grinders”. Virtually all the state has ever done is take some of your money and redistribute it for some common good. That’s called “taxation”. There can, of course, be unjust redistribution of wealth, as when that state grabs your money and uses it to bail out some rich crony who has decided he is too big to fail after he mismanaged his affairs, or when the state spends it on bridges to nowhere or hammers for $4000 a pop. But mere redistribution is not thereby shown to be an evil. It’s simply what the state does.

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  • Dave G.

    I’m no economist, but I get the feeling that when the phrase ‘redistribution of wealth is used’, there is the assumption of a specific meaning. Just like the word gay is used today. There is no reason the word gay *has* to be used the way it is today, but it’s used that way no matter how I’d like to use it some other way. Same with redistribution of wealth. No reason it can’t mean something harmless or obvious, but nowadays it doesn’t, and tends to be used by both sides to mean a particular form of social and economic system that is either being rejected, or being advocated.

    • The Deuce

      Exactly. “Redistribution of wealth” has a particular definition beyond simply taxing your money and using it for something. It refers to taking people’s money and spending it not on specific items that serve the public good, but rather redistributing for the purposes of trying to create the “correct” distribution of wealth among the population as defined by socialist social engineers. Implicit in the idea is the denial that private property even exists, and the affirmation of the idea that the state owns all wealth and has legitimate authority to dictate the “right” levels of wealth for all groups regardless of people’s freely chosen trade.

      Saying that Aquinas is in favor of “redistribution of wealth” is a bit like saying that he’s in favor of “abortion” because he thought it was okay to “abort” an unjust war.

      • captcrisis

        “Redistribution of wealth” also occurs upward, which is how Republicans prefer it (cutting taxes on rich people who already get a lot of stuff for free and who can more easily move wealth around to escape the tax collector). Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to occur to people.

        • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

          Rich people know all the dodges and they will always find a loophole, so we shouldn’t even try.

          • The Deuce

            More to the point, politically-connected rich people who contribute nothing but graft to society will always find a way to make sure they are the recipients of wealth redistributed away from productive rich people who actually do contribute to society, and by extension all those they contribute to.

        • The Deuce

          ***which is how Republicans prefer it***

          That’s how politicians, bureaucrats, and corporate welfare queens *in general* prefer it. The “taxes on rich people” inevitably end up in the hands of even richer and less productive people, who bend and twist the law to make sure it comes their way, and use those taxes to squeeze out potential competitors and stay on top through graft (that’s why a guy like Warren Buffett agitates for higher taxes on “rich” people who don’t have even a small fraction of his wealth, all while cheating on his own taxes and getting away with it).

          Incidentally, I just ran across a nice article on this very thing, so I’ll post it here for anyone interested: http://thefederalist.com/2014/05/18/the-jobber-barons/

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Since when is cutting someone’s taxes the same as giving him someone else’s money? You are allowing him to keep some of his own money, the very opposite of redistribution. Unless you start with the axiom that all money belongs to the State in the first place…

          • Matt Talbot

            Capitalism concentrates wealth upward on the income scale, to the point of self-destruction (after economic collapse when no one has any money to buy anything except a few people at the very top.)

            Taxing the rich and using the money to the benefit of everyone else is a necessary corrective to this structural feature of capitalism.

            • Ye Olde Statistician

              Well, that’s what Marx said, but he wasn’t an empirical kind of guy. It takes a government deciding he is ‘too big to fail’ (aka, big donor) to prevent the creative destruction from laying such fortunes low. Monopolies have a way of cracking as long as government regulations do not prevent the entry of new competitors into the market. Remember when everyone was worried that Howard Johnson had a lock on the blue-collar restaurant? Or that IBM would control all the world’s computers?

              • Matt Talbot

                But empirical experience bears out that what I describe is structural to capitalism – and way more people than marxists (which, for the record, I’m not) have pointed this out.

                Environments with low taxes and regulation tend to lurch between credit-fueled booms and debt-worsened busts. The time in this country’s history when taxes were highest and regulations were most vigorous were the time that had with the greatest gains in wealth by the broadest swath of the population in our history.

                • Elaine S.

                  “The time in this country’s history when taxes were highest and regulations were most vigorous were the time that had with the greatest gains in wealth by the broadest swath of the population in our history.”

                  If you’re referring to the post-World War II economic/industrial boom (which in turn led to the Baby Boom), bear in mind that the United States didn’t have a lot of serious competition at the time — Japan and Europe were in ruins, and Asia and Latin America hadn’t yet developed to the point where they could seriously challenge us. Outsourcing or moving overseas was not yet an option for most employers faced with rising taxes and labor costs. Today, like it or not, it is.

                • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

                  The boom/bust cycle is a nasty tendency, and one that is worsened because government generally prevents currency competition.

            • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

              This was a marxist prediction of the 1800s. It failed to come true.

          • chezami

            Or, if the Church is right, all excess belongs to the poor, not to the state or the rich man:

            2446 St. John Chrysostom vigorously recalls this: “Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs.”239 “The demands of justice must be satisfied first of all; that which is already due in justice is not to be offered as a gift of charity”:240

            When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.241

            • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

              The strongest fighters in the US today to “enable the poor to share in our goods” are the libertarians. The barriers to do so are generally ones of government overreach and excess regulation. Anti-peddling laws, licensure requirements that prevent the poor from working, time and place rules that prevent shade tree mechanics from plying their trade, these are all things that the state does, not mustache twirling rich libertarians.

          • captcrisis

            Cutting the marginal rate has the effect of taking money from lesser earners and putting it into the hands of the rich, who when all shakes out now pay a lesser rate than the middle class. It also explodes the deficit (this happened both times it’s been done, under Reagan and under Bush II) so it redistributes the wealth from our children to today’s rich people.

            • Ye Olde Statistician

              How does it take my money if you are allowed to keep more of yours? Paying a lesser rate is only possible when income is sheltered, not when rates are jiggered. It is also largely an urban legend. Consult the Statistical Abstracts and plot the Federal Receipts and Federal Outlays and you will observe that the deficit began ballooning in the 1970s during the Great Inflation, when the Reform Act took away the president’s de facto line-item veto. Federal Receipts went flat for two years in the early 1980s because of the cyclic recession. (Spending of course did not go flat.) But this was before the tax cuts went into effect. BTW, keep in mind that JFK also slashed income tax rates.

          • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

            Redistribution of wealth upwards happens in crony capitalism. But it’s not direct redistribution usually. Instead it’s done with insider contracts, rigged rules, and uneven legal enforcement. Getting the mechanism wrong doesn’t mean that the phenomenon doesn’t happen.

      • Marthe Lépine

        Of course, for a Catholic, it should be “implicit” that God owns everything and that, as His stewards, we should recognize that a more just distribution of the goods of the earth is a worthy goal.

        • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

          It should also be implicit that it is God’s yardstick that should be followed, not man’s when it comes to the justice of distribution. I do not judge you because you haven’t said your yardstick but every government has.

          If there is one of them that follows the parable of the talents, I don’t know it. All government redistribution is unjust as governments today are doing so. It is least unjust where it feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, and fulfills the beatitudes. Taking money from a wealthy person who should be doing these things, skimming a percent off the top for administration, and then doing these things is not completely just. More good would be done if the wealthy were to just do these actions directly and more justice.

  • kirthigdon

    It’s not like crony capitalism bailouts are the rare exception. And let’s not forget financing of a gigantic police and surveillance state as well as countless unjust wars throughout the ages which kill innocents by the millions and tens of millions. Not to mention the redistributed wealth which finances the murderous abortionists and family planners and the spreading of porno-culture propaganda throughout the world. Compulsory redistribution of wealth for the common good is what the state is supposed to do. Compulsory redistribution of wealth for the benefit of the rulers and their friends and their criminal enterprises is what the state actually does.

    Kirt Higdon

    • Dave G.

      Tens of millions in unjust wars? Which ones?

      • kirthigdon

        WWII alone, in origin, execution, or both was an unjust war on the part of all major participants and it killed tens of millions of innocent civilians. While the majority of these went to the account of the Axis, probably at least ten million could be attributed to the US and its allies, including the USSR. The US killed about a million civilians by bombing, Britain killed a couple of million by bombing and by starving Bengalis to provide food for Britain, China killed a million or more Chinese by flooding vast areas to stop the Japanese advance. And WWII is only one of many examples throughout history.

        Kirt Higdon

        • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

          Wars are unjust on the part of the aggressors. Those aggressed upon who respond are not conducting an unjust war.

          • kirthigdon

            They are unjust if their response is to kill civilians. That’s true even if it is only enemy civilians who are killed and doubly true if they kill their own civilians either because they suspect them of enemy sympathies or because they are just in the way of achieving war objectives. This was done on the allied side by the USSR, Britain, and China.

            Kirt Higdon

            • Dave G.

              But that’s the point. Does the justness of a war become negated because part of it is unjust? I doubt if that’s the case that there ever has been, or could be, a just war.

        • Dave G.

          A war can be just even if not all actions within it are just and good. Same with anything.

      • http://HowToBecomeAChristianAnarchist.com Kevin Craig
      • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

        If you define the Cultural Revolution as a war, and the local communists did, that would certainly count. The destruction of the Kulaks by Lenin and Stalin would be another one. The war against the capitalist running dogs had millions of casualties. The war against those whose blood is impure killed millions in the Axis.

        If I had a quibble, it is with the hyperbole that tens of millions were killed throughout the ages as human population was too low for much of that time to sustain that level of killing. Not enough people to reach with my killing system to hit the million mark is very faint praise.

  • Andy, Bad Person

    It is mysterious to me how words like “redistribution of wealth” have
    taken on the same stench as “running puppies through meat grinders”.

    It isn’t mysterious to me. Obama used that phrase that one time and so it has taken on ritual impurity. I’m not saying it’s sound logic, but that’s why it is so maligned.

    • HornOrSilk

      Was maligned before Obama, however.

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    “Redistribution of wealth” has become a red flag simply because politics is now a team sport, bereft of all logic. It’s like when the hippies used to call everyone “fascist.” If you misuse a term often enough, before long you’ve robbed it of any meaning.
    .
    And by the way, the $4,000 hammers are a smokescreen so that the guvmnint can deflect $3,975 to building the secret underground bases for our lizard overlords. Those genetically engineered super crickets are expensive to breed after all.

    • Andy

      but are the crickets good for fishing – there is money in fishing

  • Andy

    “Redistribution of wealth has taken on the same stench as running puppies through meat grinders” because we now worship mammon – and mammon is a jealous god – mammon requires that you believe what is yours is yours by the “sweat” of your brow and that no one has a right to what is yours. Mammon also requires blind allegiance to this belief so that any term or other belief becomes at best suspect but most likely an enemy, to be stamped out.

  • kirthigdon

    I’m Augustinian rather than Thomistic in my political philosophy. Augustine saw that earthly political power was just organized crime and quoted the story of the pirate, who, when rebuked by Alexander the Great for his depradations, answered that he was only doing on a small scale what Alexander was doing on a near universal scale. Augustine saw the necessity of maintaining peace in a fallen world, but also pointed out that the real citizenship of a Christian is in the heavenly city. As I see it, here in the evil empire, I’m just a resident alien and not a very legal one at that.

    Kirt Higdon

    • Del Sydebothom

      A government certainly can be a kind of Mafia. Indeed, I think that is invariably the case when it comes to nation states. Still, if the common good through a series of travesties becomes dependent on a Mafia, it becomes our sad duty to cooperate with it. Principle of double effect, wut wut.

      As for political power as such, though, I think that is simply built into the the nature of humanity. It is simply an outgrowth of the network of authority within a kinline.

      • James Wyss

        Del, two wrongs don’t make a right. I would argue it is immoral to support wrongdoing in any way, especially if it violates the seventh and tenth commandments.

        • Del Sydebothom

          Aye. We are not to support wrongdoing. We may, however, give guarded support to organizations which do both good and evil if the good is what we will and not the evil. Were this not the case, it would be immoral for us to remain citizens of nation states.

          When a crime syndicate (such as the United States) is the chief organizing power in a region, in such a way that the common good depends on that syndicate, we are left having to submit to its dictates. If we do not, we harm the common good. It goes without saying that this cannot extend to actual cooperation with evil.

          • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

            So long as the support is roughly proportional to the good that they do, I would endorse this. The support we give at present is, I believe, disproportionate. It is disproportionate for two reasons, a conservative reluctance to start the upheavals necessary to fix the problem as well as a lack of knowledge as to the level of evil being done because government has grown so large and our tools to oversee it have remained so stunted.

      • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

        In a system where you have formal responsibility to oversee and overturn the government when necessary (which is true for the vast majority of the planet today) you cannot in good conscience merely to cooperate with it. You have an obligation, exercise it through your vote and your petition power.

    • http://yardsaleofthemind.wordpress.com/ Joseph Moore

      Both Aristotle and Thomas teach that government and the civilization it makes possible are a positive good, and of course SS Peter and Paul as well as Christ Himself tell us we need to respect government’s claims on us – and the government at the time was the Roman Empire, so we’ve still got a ways to go in most areas before we can claim we’re being asked to put up with more that the Apostles and Our Lord put up with.

      Yet, the modern nation-state is pretty certainly not what Aristotle and Thomas had in mind. Aristotle seems to have had an idealized Athens in mind, and Thomas lived in a world where local organizations, such as universities, guilds and monasteries, enjoyed a kind of sovereignty in their areas that, the last few centuries of history seems to show, are despised and feared by the nation-state. The tendency is not just to redistribute wealth from the poor to the rich, it is even more to redistribute it from those not totally dependent on the state to those who are. Here we mean not the poor (who are nearly always and everywhere instramentalized by the nation-state) but those who depend on state paychecks of one form or another for their livelihood.

      A Catholic, it seems to me, should be concerned 1st, that he is using the blessings he has received in the service of the Lord and the poor, and 2nd, that the efforts to serve the poor in his name do in fact do so. Being prudently suspicious of government claims to redistribute wealth for the benefit of the poor does not seem particularly thick-headed or cruel hearted to me. But if I am suspicious in this way, it doubles my personal obligation to make sure I’m not hiding behind it in order to hang onto my own wealth.

      • kirthigdon

        When it comes to the relationship of a subject to his rulers, “put up with” is indeed most often the most appropriate term. And it is because of the example of Our Lord that I sympathize with anarchism of the Dorothy Day variety, but not the Tim McVeigh variety. But putting up with unjust government is not always required as Aquinas pointed out. And Saint Ambrose, mentor of Saint Augustine humbled the Caesar Theodosius by compelling him to repent and do humiliating public penance for ordering the slaughter of thousands of sports fans at Thessalonika. I’ve encountered many Catholics who advocate rendering to Caesar, but totally pick and choose which laws of God and the Church they will obey. They know well that God is merciful and Caesar is not.
        Kirt Higdon

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Perhaps if Alexander had stayed home and simply governed Macedonia, the comparison would have been less apt.

  • Del Sydebothom

    What of Khoisan tribesmen? I’d expect the Angelic Doctor’s statement here would take a great deal of explaining before it would even be comprehensible to one of them. And who could call them “Rotherbardian Libertarians”?

  • Dean

    I was under the impession that the reason those hammers were so expensive was the documentation required for their use. My understanding is that titamium will migrate to other metals and change their properties. Not so important in the motor pool, vital in nuclear reactors. So suddenly everything about this hammer has to be tracked, down to where the wood on it was grown. Gets expensive fast.

    Been awhile since I was told this.
    Let the buyer beware.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      The “hammers” were expensive for two reasons. In some cases, they had to be special made for exotic conditions, as was the case of the coffee-maker intended for use in high-altitude jet transports. But more often because accounting rules required that the general overhead be redistributed across all line items: so the hammer picked up a percentage of the salaries of the agency director, the staff counsel, the QC inspectors, etc. Basically, anything not specifically line-itemized had to be amortized across all the categories. Suppose that you had to take the cost of maintaining your home and charge a proportion to your groceries? That banana would get ‘expensive,’ fast.

  • http://yardsaleofthemind.wordpress.com/ Joseph Moore

    Isn’t it just like Mark to slam a whole group of people who no doubt have perfectly legitimate, perhaps even holy, reasons to run puppies through the meat grinder?

  • Elmwood

    Bridge to nowhere is exactly what the GOP wants built in Anchorage using public monies to fund private gain, just like in the oil industry up here. The GOP are so corrupt in Alaska, even Sarah Palin called them corrupt bastards.

    • James Wyss

      What does that have to do with libertarian philosophy?

      • Elmwood

        The GOP (at least in Alaska) do rely on libertarian ideas on taxation or gay marriage which our elected officials will cherry pick from time to time.

        • James Wyss

          The GOP does NOT rely on libertarian ideas regarding taxes because all taxes would have been abolished the first time the GOP had a majority in any government. The same is true about gay marriage; all laws about marriage would be abolished if the GOP really was libertarian.

          • Elmwood

            “I support traditional marriage. Two-thirds of the legislature can put this issue before the people at any general election. They have several options, including keeping the Constitution as is or even the Libertarian approach of getting government out of the business of defining marriage at all…..our national government has no role in defining or in administering marriage.

            Lt. Gov. Meade Treadwell: GOP Catholic running for U.S. Senate.

            • James Wyss

              Well, then, I would say that’s a good thing. Let the Church define marriage the way it ought, and if someone disagrees, well, at least we’re not collectively forcing them to through the state’s coercive powers.

  • Cypressclimber

    It isn’t “mysterious” at all. We simply pay attention to what government actually does.

    I’m not denying government is a necessary institution, and it has authority to collect taxes and to do what needs to be done.

    But to say you can’t figure out why anyone would think government is organized theft? Then you aren’t paying attention to what goes on.

  • anna lisa

    Mark, haven’t you ever been the victim of a grave injustice on the part of the government? For an extended period of time, I was nearly a single mother of eight, while my husband worked from 7 to 7. We were so stressed out. We lived in 1600 square feet (had two in college) and had a set of stairs that should have made the house condemned until they were fixed. I used to carry laundry and toddlers up and down those stairs. When I was pregnant, I couldn’t see my feet. We got to the point where we took no family vacations (unless they were a gift), took all of the kids out of their Catholic schools, fired the girl who cleaned every other week and eliminated all music, dance and cultural enrichment lessons for our children. We had zero left over for his 401k. Sometimes I had to put groceries on our credit cards.
    *We were being taxed in the highest bracket*.
    When the start up my husband worked for sold, we didn’t receive anywhere near what we thought our stock options were worth. The government confiscated 50% of that money, (I think it was $150 k in one fell swoop) and we used the rest to pay off past debts, some college tuition, and to fix our decrepit house. That’s when the financial melt down hit. The hedge fund that bought the company my husband slaved for let half of the employees go. The CFO refused to honor the severance pay in the terms of the sale of the company, because HR from the original company had failed to print them in the employee manual. The collapse in real estate made our home hundreds of thousands of dollars underwater, and the financial services industry for which my husband worked over a decade, bled out a half a million jobs. So my husband lost his job, we lost our home, and we had to take our son out of his private Catholic college, (which behaved in quite a mercenary manner btw, sending us to a collection agency)
    We worked so, so hard, and we didn’t even have a cushion because the government systematically *robbed* my family.
    It is *not* right to rob Peter to pay Paul.
    I’ll say it again Mark!
    Ir is NOT right to rob Peter’s family of necessities to pay for the necessities of Paul’s family.
    The game has been rigged by the winners to stay the winners. The middle class is being erased.
    If I can’t protect my family from the government thuggery that it has already been a victim of, how can I trust it with things even more precious?
    The nanny state reaches ever further, and with ever more invasive aggression.
    .
    I can be disgusted by Ayn Rand, Rothbard, and trickle down Reaganomics and STILL find wisdom in some libertarian precepts.

    • chezami

      I am very sorry for the wrongs you have suffered and, of course, protest them. Paul was the victim of an even bigger wrong, since he was beheaded by Nero and Jesus was the victim of the most wrong at the hands of two government, Roman and Judaean. But he still paid his taxes and Paul still said that the state was instituted by God and had the right to levy taxes.

      • anna lisa

        I believe in paying taxes for the building up of society. I don’t believe in our current system that systematically destabilizes middle class families. And no–I don’t expect justice in this life, but I believe in pressing on for what is right and just.

      • anna lisa

        Thank you Mark.

    • James Wyss

      Libertarians do not approve of “trickle-down Reganomics,” and in fact view them with the same disdain as as the current economic policy.

      • HornOrSilk

        ????? Show me. What economic theory do they support?

        • James Wyss

          Most libertarians believe in Austrian economic theory, which emphasizes individual action over group action as the primary economic driver, free markets without coercive interference, and political individualism. Reaganomics was mostly a failure because while it touted policies that sounded similar to Austrian theory recommendations, the actual policies, implementation, and results were anything but.

          • HornOrSilk

            But that doesn’t make it non trickle-down; so you have said they disagree with Reagan because it’s implementations were not Austrian, but tell me, how they don’t believe in trickle-down economic theory. You have set the free for all without regulations, which is justified by trickle down theories.

            • James Wyss

              No, deregulation is not justified by so called trickle down theories. It is justified by non-aggression.

              • HornOrSilk

                By supporting the aggression of the rich. Nice. And I’ve heard many libertarians say “this will make jobs” and the like. Sorry, just pure delusion, ignoring that when you take away the money which is meant to be distributed for general use, that kills many of the poor.

                Basically “non-aggression” by libertarians is a falsehood, because they support all kinds of aggression due to LACK of action.

                • James Wyss

                  I’m not sure what you’re talking about? Aggression by “the rich?” How exactly are “the rich” aggressive?

                  • HornOrSilk

                    Yes, I know you don’t know; they are using their wealth to force themselves and their will on others. They are also subverting the universal destination of goods, which again, leads to the poor being hurt by the rich’s use of money as a weapon.

                    • Sally Wilkins

                      They don’t justify it by “trickle-down” theory because they don’t actually care how (or whether) there is any benefit to those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. If the result is to “decrease the surplus population,” well that’s just the natural order of things.

                    • HornOrSilk

                      Some don’t, but others do believe that government is blocking the rich from giving us jobs and fair wages.

                    • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

                      There is real legislation that can be pointed to that blocks economic activity. It is government that is preventing the Keystone pipeline from getting built right now. It is government that is preventing certain african farmers from selling their bananas in the EU because they are insufficiently curved. It is government that makes you go around a collect a stool sample from every investor in Greece before they can open an e-pharmacy.

                      It is undeniable that government blocks jobs and reduces labor demand. It is undeniable that a reduction in labor demand depresses wages.

                      Yet you deny it anyway.

                    • HornOrSilk

                      The Keystone Pipeline? You got to be kidding me. That is one of the most stupid plans ever. And yes, the government needs to block some jobs. I am for the government blocking jobs which are destructive to society: I mean, government blocks the assassination business, so jobs are “stopped.” Your ideology is unbalanced. But it always has been. I will continue now to neglect your inane comments, because the prelest involved with them, is Satanic.

                    • Marthe Lépine

                      Just a minute! I often disagree with TM, but he his far from being dishonest. A little narrow-minded, maybe, maybe not. But his opinions are sincere, although sometimes I wonder if he only sees things only in the way he wants to see them. But certainly not satanic. That is worse than name-calling.

                    • HornOrSilk

                      When the love of money is at the root of his position, then, as the love of money is at the root of all evil, I think Satanic is a proper declaration of the ideology. I didn’t call him Satanic, just the ideology and the ideas being discussed, which I believe is legitimate to call them out for what they are, because they want us (like all libertarian capitalists) to focus on economic materialism. This narrow view, however, counters the wealth of Christian teaching on the human person; it is Satanic and destructive, every bit as atheism, because it follows the same poison as atheism.

                      I mean, look at what he said above. Can anyone with a straight face really say there is no way money can be used as a weapon against others, to force them to actions they do not want to do (nor should do)? That it’s only “persuading” someone when it is economic force involved? Seriously? I don’t think he can be so incapable as to realize how money can be used as a weapon, so that those with it, can and do have their will on those who do not. I mean, it’s easy to see how this is the case with prostitution.

                    • HornOrSilk

                      Also, you note how he says the “policies” I advocate (does he list them) are “blasphemy.” Seriously, I would recommend looking closely at what he says, because there is something sinister with it all, especially when he says someone advocating the teaching of the church on wealth is blaspheming.

                    • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

                      I didn’t peg you as being in favor of raising oil prices and increasing pollution.

                      Live and learn.

                    • HornOrSilk

                      What another dishonest reply. So it is either “in favor of raising oil prices and increasing pollution” or accept the Keystone Pipeline? Really? Again, this is why I am through with you, with your false dichotomies, and dishonest treatment of what people are opposed to things (Keystone Pipeline, really, all those opposed it really want more pollution!?!!!?!?!)

                    • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

                      They are currently digging up stuff in the Dakotas and Canada that will be the material to be transported via Keystone. Have you for one second considered what happens to it today? It goes into rail tanker, a more expensive transport system. The consumer ultimately pays for that in higher prices. Rail tankers vs pipeline transport have a well established comparative pollution consequence. Rail tanker transport is comparatively unsafe and leads to more spills than pipeline transport.

                      These facts are uncontroversial. Nobody claims that rail tankers are cheaper than pipeline. Nobody claims that rail tankers are cleaner than pipeline. If I am wrong, find me a source and give me a link. I will apologize.

                      What the people who oppose it are doing is trying to choke off all exits for the material so that it cannot profitably make it to market in any way, shape, or form. This campaign is dishonest and known mostly through leaked internal documents. The same people are against Keystone, against the western pipeline route to the Pacific, and are also against rail transport. They are not principled opponents. They do have a lot of ignorant rubes as footsoldiers though.

                    • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

                      The result is a historically unprecedented increase in the ecological global carrying capacity of the human species. It is the policies that HornOrSilk is advocating that are more strongly associated with “decrease the surplus population” except in his variant it’s usually labeled “God’s will” instead of “the natural order of things”. When that is said, it is a blasphemy.

                    • James Wyss

                      That doesn’t make sense. Economic activity is naturally mutually beneficial. Money cannot be a weapon unless it is combined with actual weapons and this is only accomplished through government support.

                    • HornOrSilk

                      Money is a weapon because it is needed, and provides power to the one who has over the one who has not. It is the way to get goods and services, but if you have no money, those with it, will use that as an opportunity. And they do. To ignore how money is actually used for force, with the threat of death to those who have no money, it is quite clear, the whole libertarian position presented by you is based upon a lie.

                    • James Wyss

                      That’s ridiculous. Money is nothing more than a medium of exchange and is a final payment for goods and services. In other words, it is a substitute for actually trading physical goods or services. It is not a weapon and cannot be used for force.

                      Your assumption that money is force is based on a faulty assumption that the total number of goods and services is finite and that economics is a zero sum game. This is incorrect.

                    • HornOrSilk

                      It accumulates and gets hoarded. That is power. That is what wealth is. And that power is used to give those who have money power over others. To deny this is dishonesty at best.

                    • James Wyss

                      You are neglecting how people can grow their own wealth independent of those that accumulate or hoard it.

                    • Marthe Lépine

                      Yea, I’ve seen that written before. I remember the economist that claimed that anyone can become a millionaire by starting their own e-business, or something like that. As if everybody had the skills (and the start-up capital) to be entrepreneurs…

                    • James Wyss

                      People can grow their wealth through saving, investing, and marketing their resources. Everyone is an entrepreneur.

                    • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

                      Please go to startupweekend.org. It’s a 54 hour exercise in teaching people how to be entrepreneurs. Please read The Lean Startup. I strongly suspect that you do not know what an entrepreneur does.

                    • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

                      In the vast number of cases, you are wrong. It is not getting hoarded. It is very hard to be charitable with you at present as you appear to be either completely ignorant of how our economic system works or lying.

                      Can you even define what a hoard is? Do you include financial instruments such as stocks, bonds, bank accounts as an element of hoarding? It is these things that the wealthy put most of their wealth into and they are not properly defined as hoarding.

                    • Marthe Lépine

                      And how about tax havens used to avoid paying even legitimate taxes? Who can afford them apart from the rich?

                    • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

                      It depends on the tax haven which is a catch all term for a wide variety of situations, some moral, others not.

                      I fear for my goods that they might be stolen. I send the bulk of my money to a bank. Have I behaved morally? How does the moral calculus change if the bank is in another political jurisdiction? How does it change if I think the thief is in political office?

                      These tax havens flower when taxes are high. They are set up because the locals skim off a goodly percent for administration. It’s cheaper to bank locally and generally it’s more secure because you can keep a closer eye on your wealth.

                      While I concede that there may be pathological cases, legitimate taxation does not generally trigger capital flight to tax havens. It takes a multiple of that tax level to trigger the behavior to any significant extent.

                    • Marthe Lépine

                      If money is “really” just a medium of exchange, why is it that many of the rich consider it a good idea to hoard it? Maybe one of the things what HornOrSilk means is that those who hoard it do the hoarding because it gives them power over the less affluent, for example by making available or witholding jobs that pay a just wage. As I see it, there is nothing wrong with being rich, but the rich have a job to do, that of providing opportunities for other people to work and earn a livelihood, and when the rich won’t do their job because it does not bring them enough additional money, their hoarding of money becomes problematic.

                    • James Wyss

                      People keep saying money gets hoarded but I don’t see that happening. Remember what I said earlier about economics not being a zero-sum game? It’s really hard to hoard something that can be grown and multiplied.

                      I believe what you are referring to is the tendency of large businesses, corporations, and other economic ventures to use government force to deny others access to markets. That is not a libertarian idea and it is not capitalism.

                    • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

                      Money can be hoarded. The current US government action, Operation Chokepoint, is designed to provoke hoarding by denying bank accounts and other financial tools to legal economic actors who are politically disfavored.

                    • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

                      Do you have a larder? Why? A larder and a bank account serve the same purpose. And both have been considered evil by the state. Neither, per se, are considered evil by God. We are talking about per se good or bad, aren’t we? If we’re not, the discussion is much too vague.

                    • Marthe Lépine

                      Actually, no, I don’t have a larder, and my bank account is usually empty except for the few days when I get paid for a little work or receive pension cheques through direct deposit, but these are often not even sufficient for basic expenditures.

                    • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

                      If you never buy more than you need for that day’s food, you’re in a very small minority. It’s an expensive way to live. It does make some of our disagreements more comprehensible though if you aren’t going through the ordinary time smoothing activities of daily life.

                    • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

                      Can you differentiate between using wealth to force your will on others and persuasion? Or are you against persuasion?

                    • HornOrSilk

                      Said the armed soldier with a gun. “I’m just trying to persuade you with this gun.” Seriously, when we look at the way workers of the Gilded Age and Depression Age migrant workers experienced the world, money certainly was used to squash the lives of the poor and keep them imprisoned. Heck, all you have to do to realize the reality of the world is to look at “Mr Wonderful” and how he acknowledges the rich will always squash the bugs.

                    • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

                      I’m going to assume that you’re talking about private security using violence to repress the poor. No libertarian supports that, just as no libertarians support the poor using violence to repress the rich. The amount of this sort of violence is rather low in the 1st world and where it does exist, libertarians are on the side of the angels. Tarring people with beliefs they do not actually hold is wrong.

                • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

                  Deregulation does not support aggression of the rich unless you have a very odd definition of what aggression of the rich means.

            • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

              Austrian economics is generally in the capitalist class and attempts to guard against malinvestment and fake money booms that whipsaw into destructive boom/bust cycles. It guards against irrational booms while its major competitor, keynesianism, agrees about the boom/bust problem but guards against the busts.

    • Willard

      Wow this post sums up nearly everything wrong with the modern American capitalist state and how far we’ve fallen since the time when the top tax rate on oligarchs was 91 percent. We don’t need less of a nanny state we need more of a nanny state. How is a Catholic supposed to fulfill his fatherly duties when his employer is forcing him to work so much to the point that the wife considers herself an almost-single mother?

    • Matt Talbot

      It sounds like you’ve suffered quite a bit in the last few years – it’s been tough on everyone – but something in your description of your circumstances doesn’t quite make sense.

      The top tax bracket this year, 39.9%, begins on that portion of income over $457,601. While raising 8 children is a challenge in most circumstances, doing so on (at a minimum) almost a third of a million dollars a year in after-tax income ought to be easier than you describe.

      I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is one of the most expensive real estate markets in the United States. That income would qualify you for a mortgage of over $4 million – which, even in this hideously expensive area, will get you quite a lot of house – not just well over 1600 square feet, but well up into swimming-pool-and-tennis-court territory. .

      College tuition for 2 kids is – assuming the most expensive option – around 50k to 80k a year: in other words, roughly two months of gross income, assuming you are barely into the top bracket.

      Cashing out your IPO shares should not have incurred a 50% tax hit, unless you have a criminally incompetent financial advisor.

      Is it possible there is some additional factors in your situation that you haven’t mentioned?

      • anna lisa

        Hi Matt, we lived in Mill Valley, which you must be familiar with–in a million-dollar-glorified-shack. My husband’s income was in the low six figures. I must be wrong about the tax bracket. Yes, there are other details which are beside the point. And yes, I’m pretty sure that they took at least close to half of the spoils from our stocks. (lol, our brother-in-law, the CEO cleared around 45 million after taxes–live and learn.)
        You might say that we should have chosen to live in a cheaper housing market, but we tried that first and ended up in bad school districts, and hours of commute time. We moved a little closer in, but then had to go to extremely expensive Catholic schools, –that was also financially breaking us. Our choice to live closer to my husband’s work, and a good school district was one we were pushed to.
        My point is that we should have had the right to more of our income to do right by our children and family.
        Incidentally, my husband is considering another job in San Francisco with a 50k increase in salary. Shouldn’t that make me happy? It makes my guts churn because we’ll be back in a ridiculously high housing market and a similar financial pressure cooker that I’m all too familiar with.

        • Matt Talbot

          You might say that we should have chosen to live in a cheaper housing
          market, but we tried that first and ended up in bad school districts,
          and hours of commute time.

          Walnut creek is a half-hour commute from the city, with excellent public schools and housing that is both reasonably priced (well, relatively reasonable, given the insane Bay Area real estate market) and of excellent quality, plus plenty of shopping, great restaurants, and so on.

          I’m not hearing much in your story that points toward excessive government taxation, and more about “in a ridiculously high housing market and a similar financial pressure cooker.”

          That said, it has occurred to me more than once that one of the things that makes Manhattan so much more expensive than Cleveland, or the San Francisco Bay Area so much more expensive than Indianapolis — in other words, something that partly explains the size of that premium —
          is our income tax structure.

          One of the objections to higher marginal tax rates I hear from lots of folks, on both the left and the right, is that “a generous salary that will buy a house and car for a family of four in Cleveland, Ohio will barely feed a single person living in a studio apartment in NYC.”

          But why is that true? Why is New York that much more expensive than Cleveland? As I already acknowledged, it is always going to be more expensive — but why is the gap so big?

          As I’ve mentioned before in this column, for roughly 35 years after World War II (including under Republican President Eisenhower) income tax rates were much, much more progressive than they are now. The top marginal rate (paid on the highest proportion of rich people’s income)
          hovered between 91.5 and 94 percent during Ike’s presidency, and rarely dropped lower than 70 percent until Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980.

          Even considering deductions and tax shelters, it was not worth it for executives to pay themselves obscene salaries and bonuses since taxes would eat up a huge amount of the excess.

          This contributed to what economist Paul Krugman and others have called “The Great Compression”: Wages were “compressed,” meaning there was a far smaller gap separating the country’s fattest and leanest paychecks than there had been before the Great Depression, and a far
          smaller gap than there is now. It is worth mentioning that there was no special exemption for residents of the New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles areas.

          A consequence was that places like New York were not as expensive relative to the rest of the country as they are now. Taxes ate up so much of richer peoples’ incomes that you couldn’t sell two-bedroom apartments in NYC for the 2014 equivalent of $2 million — the market wouldn’t bear it. After taxes, not enough people were clearing enough to
          pay for such extravagances.

          Lots of attention has been paid to the gap between the pay of CEOs and their lowest-paid employees; less to none has been paid to the gap between rich states, or regions within states, and poor ones. The gap is extremely socially corrosive.

          Also worth mentioning: higher taxes can pay for lots of socially beneficial things. My mother went to UC Berkeley in the 1950s to get her teaching credential, and her education – tuition, fees, books, all of it – was paid for by the tax payer. In return, the tax payers got a high school Spanish teacher. There is a glaring need for vocational training for people without college degrees, to allow them to make a decent living and raise their children.

          I’m convinced that if the United States is to survive as a unified political entity, then we all need to be willing to make sacrifices, and substantial ones, to ensure that America becomes a more just and equitable nation as time goes on. Unions need to be strengthened, the minimum wage needs to be raised, and the tax system needs to become far more progressive than it is now. And the government needs to use those extra tax revenues to provide opportunity to the bottom of the income scale.

          • anna lisa

            Matt, I just checked Trulia, and the prices in Walnut Creek are just a bit under Mill Valley prices, where we almost never went on the freeway and could walk to all three schools, church, and markets. My husband worked in downtown Mill Valley. No BART, no Ferry, no bus, no $250 dollar parking. There were many consecutive days when I never touched my gas guzzling 8 seater. I cooked from scratch, almost never bought take out, and made my kids their lunches.. My sister-in-law gave me her hand me downs. I couldn’t afford preschool. I was so, so frugal.
            I’m not sure if our marriage would have withstood that extra one hour round trip in commute, had my husband worked in the city, and we lived in Walnut Creek. Those were tough times. You have no. idea.
            I don’t know what it’s going to take to fix the system. You make good points. But those points didn’t help the way we suffered when we were taxed from our *need* not our excess. Something needs fixing, and it isn’t the nanny state.

          • anna lisa

            One quick last thought, as I’ve thought about it many a time: I heartily agree with giving until it hurts from your want,not your excess as Mother Teresa taught. I believe that society should bear the burdens of the *truly* poor. That’s why we always supported good charities even in the worst of economic times and while being taxed ridiculously.

      • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

        Actually there are a number of filing statuses and when the 39.6 bracket kicks in changes depending on status. The worst seems to be married filing separately where the 39.6% rate kicks in at $250,001. I’m reasonably sure that there is very little about the tax code that is simple and/or just.

    • Guest

      We’re pretty much the same. 7 kids, low 6 figures, and pay out the WAZOO in taxes (property, income, federal). Every April we send out a check. 35% I believe we’re at, but after getting taken by the state too, it’s far more. And my husband is another that is basically gone working.

      Meanwhile we’re just trying to make ends meet.

      SO sick of it.

      • anna lisa

        I’m so sorry Briana, I feel your pain. Things got pretty bad for us, but God worked in strange and beautiful ways. I remember actually laughing after we sold the last of our furniture on Craigslist rather than continue paying for storage. I used the money from the sale of our bed to sign my third child up for college. I sort of threw up my hands and said “Okay God, now we have nothing, we’re good and poor!” He answered me back through the lips of a priest in confession, who said, “no, you’re not, you’re rich in *people*. People last forever, things and houses don’t.”
        .
        What worries me the most about a nanny state has far more to do with freedom, and what is *right*, than the extortion of money from families like ours. If the state can make a family pay for illicit goods and services for others (HHS mandate), it can also force a family to obtain a license to have a child and be denied if the parents are deemed unworthy. This is the ugly reality of what happens when people are reduced to price tags, and voting blocks, and who exchanged their freedom for the false comfort of being taken care of by the state. I wouldn’t doubt it if our children will be subjected to this. God help us.

      • Elmwood

        I can’t stand it, just trying to make ends meet at: $499,999/year, you know–low six figure salary–barely enough to take the fam skiing in Aspen.

        Combine that with our exclusive Holy Than Thou private catholic education for our big family, we barely had enough money to reupholster my private jet.

        It’s ridiculous I tell you, we’re barely getting by. I know how it is for people Bangladesh. Makers and takers–can’t rob Pete to pay Paul–Romney had it right.

        • Benjamin2.0

          The sum of the assumptions you’ve piled onto this account prove without question that you’re a singleminded ideologue. The way you merely presumed that the guest had many personal slaves in her home, when the charitable thing would be to assume she opposed slavery until proven otherwise, is in keeping with your fierce, unwavering Democratic loyalties.

          Love,
          The self-deputized logic police

          • Andy

            My concern is that many people who live in the same atmosphere and complain about taxes are the first to suggest that those who are poor must learn to budget better, learn to prioritize expenditures, and learn to live with less. This is not to say that anna lisa believes this, but it is the common refrain heard amongst those who decry taxes and claim that redistribution of wealth is the greatest crime economic sin that can occur.

            • Benjamin2.0

              I am nothing if not an opponent of opposing things somebody says for the sake of the wrongness of something he didn’t.

              • Andy

                I apologize I clicked on the wrong person – I thought I was responding to anna lisa – not to you – attribute ti to lack of coffee and the continual aftermath of flooding in our area.

    • Debbie S

      Oh my gosh. You struggled in your HOME in a nice and safe area and had to use credit cards to put FOOD on your table, had to forgo family VACATIONS. eliminated all cultural and other ENRICHMENTS for your children, had to put your children in public schools so they could obtain an EDUCATION, had to lay off your PAID HELP and could not put money into your RETIREMENT ACCOUNT.

      • anna lisa

        Reading comprehension bro. No home, no vacation, no help for a mother of 8, no preschool, no extra curricular enrichment.
        I suppose that in your mind, my husband’s 60 hour work week belonged to bad attitudes like yours.

  • Willard

    Question for the libertarians. If the state requires a poor person to go to an eye “doctor” for an eyeglass “prescription”, is that redistribution of wealth?

    • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

      It may or may not be depending on statements of fact that you did not include in the situation. It’s not even established that the situation is just given the limited facts at hand.

      Paging Harrison Bergeron…

  • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

    Mark, redistribution is an attractive nuisance at best. The number of cases where justice is actually served is so far outweighed by the number of cases where it has not that practical reasons demand we minimize the harm we do by redistribution.

    Aquinas was a wise man but he lived in a time with a great less sophisticated grasp of information theory. Given that, it’s quite possible for him to be wrong simply because he was born a few centuries too early to understand the problems with what he was advocating. He couldn’t have the theoretical grounding. It hadn’t been written yet.

    Redistribution of wealth has a stench because its foremost advocates in the 20th century have a corpse pile associated with them that is 100,000,000 deep. That many corpses do tend to stink up the place.

    The proportion of redistributed government money that ends up in the hands of worthy recipients is depressingly low.

  • Jonk

    So, it really is “When do we get to use violence to take peoples’ stuff?” over “When must we use violence?” Good to know.


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