Common Sense to Anybody But Rothbardian Libertarians

Common Sense to Anybody But Rothbardian Libertarians May 19, 2014

“[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.

        • 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:

        • 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.

                  • Matt Talbot

                    Being the only surviving industrial power at the end of WWII definitely helped.

                    That said: Germany has higher taxes than the United States, a much more comprehensive welfare state, more government involvement in the economy…and is the world’s second largest exporter and far less wealth inequality than the United States.

                    Did you ever wonder why Germany seems to be the go-to place for high-quality goods of every sort — cars, clocks, precision instruments, electronics, cameras and other optical equipment, and so on? A big reason is that the German government has decided that it wants an
                    economy that produces those things, and has taken specific actions to achieve that goal.

                    Germany’s method of creating wealth is straightforward:

                    1. They make it a national priority to produce a highly educated workforce. And “education” doesn’t necessarily mean college — while the German higher education system is excellent, they place a far greater emphasis on vocational training. Most of the people who actually build
                    BMW cars in Germany’s factories do not need a college education to do so, but they do need familiarity with precision, computerized machinery,pretty deep training in various material-handling skills, and so on.

                    2. Germany takes that highly educated work force and has it design and manufacture sophisticated, precision things for high wages.

                    3. It then exports those sophisticated, precision things at a high price and re-invests that money back into item 1.

                    Germany is the second biggest exporter in the world despite having slightly less than a third of America’s population and about 7 percent of the largest exporter, China. The Germans realize they cannot beat either China or India based on cost. America can’t either: We could destroy all the remaining unions, get rid of the minimum wage and eliminate all social benefits and taxation and we would still lose jobs to low-wage nations. Germany avoided going down America’s road toward middle class ruin by investing public resources in training their people and in research.

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

                  • Matt Talbot

                    TMLutas – the primary cause of boom-and-bust cycles is insufficiently restrained capitalism.

                    The cycle runs like this: Since capital does not want to pay workers more wages (more technically, it is not in their short-term economic interest to increase the labor share of income) the only way they can generate an increase in economic activity is by extending credit to working people, who then spend that loaned money on stuff. This is the “boom” phase.

                    Eventually, the credit cards are maxed out, and the debts come due. So people stop spending and begin paying off their debts.

                    When they stop spending, businesses lay people off because there is not a demand for their products. Many of those laid-off people are debtors, who now can’t pay their debts, resulting in losses for creditors, which means that they need to lessen their level of risk, which means less credit available, leading to more contraction, layoffs, and people who can’t pay their debts. This is the “bust” phase. If that biust phase is severe enough, you have a financial crisis as confidence in the entire system begins to erode, and then economic collapse. 1929, in other words.

                    Now, the way out of that cycle is to increase labor’s share of income – through things like minimum wage increases, support for unions, and so on.

                    • It is only sort of true that capital wants to pay the lowest rate possible for labor. You have too much abstraction there. Recruiters call people every day and offer them more money to join a different company. Your generalization simply doesn’t hold true when you zoom in a bit to see what is actually happening. This is pretty common with Keynesian analysis. Is that what you’re doing?

                      You can increase economic activity by increasing the number of people, inventing new things for people to make and do, as well as the credit boom that you are talking about. The Austrians are really unhappy with that credit boom as it introduces falsehoods into the system and makes the bust inevitable.

                      1929 was a stock panic, much like a number of other stock panics. Unlike past panics, the government turned activist and undertook a number of measures that we now know deepened and lengthened that the crisis until we got the Great Depression.

                      Increasing the share of national income captured by labor in an economy rife with malinvestment does nothing to cure the inevitable correction. It’s rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It’s the houses built but not used, the cars built that rust away, the unneeded services of the ditch digger who makes holes and then fills them. All that creates distortions in the system that eventually cannot be sustained. That we have more ditch diggers making unneeded holes and fewer fully automated factories churning out unneeded cars fundamentally does not matter.

                    • Matt Talbot

                      1929 was a stock panic, much like a number of other stock panics. Unlike
                      past panics, the government turned activist and undertook a number of
                      measures that we now know deepened and lengthened that the crisis until
                      we got the Great Depression.

                      Nonsense. The great depression got worse every year until 1933, when FDR replaced Hoover and The New Deal replaced the “Let’s Just Wait For It To Get Better and Sorry About All The Starving People” Deal that had been offered by Hoover and the Republicans.

                    • “Let’s Just Wait For It To Get Better and Sorry About All The Starving People” was not actually what happened. This is a matter of historical fact. From Hoover’s Britannica article, “When President Coolidge decided not to run for another term in 1928, Hoover received the Republican presidential nomination, despite the objections of conservatives opposed to his departure from the party’s traditional laissez-faire philosophy. ” Later, “President Hoover parted ways with those leaders of the Republican Party—including Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon—who believed there was nothing for the government to do but wait for the next phase of the business cycle. Hoover took prompt action. He called business leaders to the White House to urge them not to lay off workers or cut wages. He urged state and local governments to join private charities in caring for Americans made destitute by the Depression. He asked Congress to appropriate money for public-works projects to expand government employment. In 1931 he backed creation of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC, established 1932), a large-scale lending institution intended to help banks and industries and thereby promote a general recovery.”

                      There is a great deal of myth surrounding a do nothing Hoover that never existed. This does not withstand serious historical scrutiny. Hoover screwed up by intervening, turning the crisis worse and FDR doubled down on the mistaken policies and introduced a few of his own. Both presidents lengthened and deepened the crisis.

                    • falstaff77

                      “There is a great deal of myth surrounding a do nothing Hoover that never existed.”

                      Yes, though one would think the myth would fall at every encounter of iconic reminders like the *Hoover Dam*, for which that President ordered initial construction.

                    • Matt Talbot

                      Rising incomes (as long as the increase in incomes does not exceed the growth of productivity) generate sustainable economic growth. Stagnant wages mean a stagnant economy.

                      It’s the houses built but not used, the cars built that rust away, the unneeded services of the ditch digger who makes holes and then fills them. All that creates distortions in the system that eventually cannot be sustained. That we have more ditch diggers making unneeded holes and
                      fewer fully automated factories churning out unneeded cars fundamentally does not matter.

                      Well, ok – but the problem you’re describing is fundamentally a lack of final demand in the economy.

                      Look: My preferred approach would be some revival of the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration. Given the parlous state of the nation’s infrastructure — bridges, dams, canals, water mains and so on — and the
                      large number of idle workers, it seems obvious that hiring those idle workers to fix all those broken and decaying things would be great for everyone. Workers would get jobs, their paychecks would be spent and add demand to the economy, and the rest of us wouldn’t have to be so
                      nervous while crossing some rusty old bridge that seems to be held together with nothing more than glue, string and hope.

                      Digging holes for no reason is silly: putting an underutilized workforce to work repairing the bridges and other essential infrastructure that are vital to future economic progress is perfectly sensible and necessary.

                    • Stagnant wages do not necessarily mean a stagnant economy. Until you absorb the slack in the labor pool, wages do not rise. In fact, they should not rise because it increases the time that the last cyclically unemployed person remains idle.

                      Fundamentally, I expect that you believe that the government spending multiplier effect is greater than one. This might be an implicit belief. I’m not sure you think in those terms. I believe that the government spending multiplier effect is less than one. If the multiplier effect were more than one, a larger government role would be perfectly justified. It is difficult to reconcile that with the pretty self evident observed reality that communism doesn’t work. If the government multiplier is always greater than one, then communism should work, which it doesn’t.

                      Certain items of economic activity do not have functioning private solutions. In those areas, creating a low efficiency solution via government is acceptable, even laudable depending on the necessity of that particular economic activity. But when a private solution does arise, the government needs to bow out because over time it will be outpaced in efficiency and effectiveness and, for the good of society, an orderly handover should occur.

                      There is no such thing as a free floating lack of final demand. Demand, as it expresses itself in an economy, is only real in relation to a certain price. Free BMWs for everyone who shows up will radically increase the demand for BMWs. Slap a million dollar luxury tax on all BMWs and watch demand collapse instantly.

                      Good Catholics can disagree on what the government multiplier is. It’s not a theological issue. What that disagreement does is radically enlarge or shrink what legitimate means in the phrase legitimate redistribution.

                      Legitimate redistribution is, indeed avoiding the silly stuff and intervening to make sure that we do not have second or third class citizens who are unjustly excluded from economic life and the material blessings the world offers.

                      A US conservative approach would look at Hernando de Soto and his work on the frozen capital of the poor and seek to unfreeze it. He would seek to remove licensing restrictions that exclude the poor from certain forms of work. He would make sure that land was not fenced off and removed from private production as so much of the US West is locked up. He would make sure that income poverty traps would not lead to a poor person ever having less money because they worked harder and got a raise. He would look to ensure that the illegal businesses of the poor are legalized and brought into the light of day.

                      None of this is work that Pope Francis would be against. It would have an effect on the economics of exclusion and reduce its occurrence and effect. The effect of this work would, at least as I understand Pope Francis’ terms, be redistributive in the way he means it. To pull off successfully it would require the sort of personal involvement that Paul Ryan is being jeered at by the left for suggesting.

                      It would look utterly different from a reformed WPA. It would be better.

                    • Matt Talbot

                      I expect that you believe that the government spending multiplier effect is greater than one.

                      Not always, but in certain situations – the “zero lower bound” – it is well over 1. Prof. Paul Krugman is helpful here:

                      There’s overwhelming evidence that in
                      an economy against the zero lower bound government
                      spending has a large, positive multiplier, so the goods
                      the government buys don’t come at the expense of other
                      consumption or investment; and there’s a reasonable
                      argument to the effect that even in purely fiscal terms
                      spending more than pays for itself.

                      There is no such thing as a free floating lack of final demand.

                      Not sure what you mean by free floating, but lack of aggregate demand is an empirical fact: That’s what recessions and depressions are.

                      Classical economics says producers cut prices until the market clears, but in real life if everyone does that, it further depresses demand as people hold out for an even lower price, necessitating further price cuts, and pretty soon you have high unemployment and spiraling price deflation: The Great Depression.

                      But look: The extremes are: 1. The government doing absolutely nothing (see the desolate philosophy and wooden writing of Ayn Rand); and 2. The government doing absolutely everything (see long, boring speeches delivered by Leonid Brezhnev in the 1970s-era Soviet Union).

                      The great, big, wide, diverse land between these two extremes has lots and lots and lots of stuff in it that is not
                      “communism” or “socialism,” and that is both morally legitimate and has been empirically proven to be helpful.

                    • By free floating demand, I mean a meaningful demand without a supply curve in sight.

                      As for Krugman, your link’s proposition depends on the dubious idea that “the government maintains a stable debt-to-GDP ratio”. You might as well give a junkie unsupervised access to large pools of money.

                      The government spends money on things that both expand and contract economic activity. Austerity, as it is commonly understood, generally is taken to exclusively mean reducing government expenditures that expand economic activity. Nobody conceives of revoking the expenditures used to stop drivers from picking up fares on the street as an austerity measure. They should. It is the only kind of austerity that makes any sense, but not one that keynesians are particularly well suited to examine as they seem addicted to looking at the world in the framework of an undifferentiated “G” where both types of expenditures are equivalent in economic effect. They are not.

                      Ayn Rand is important in that she grappled with trying to find philosophical support for capitalism per se instead of just looking at it as a red headed step child that is occasionally convenient. She was an atheist, which is unfortunate. But her atheism is largely irrelevant to her economics, which is generally austrian. Why not go to the austrians she was cribbing notes from? The economics is just as relevant and there’s no extraneous issues to get in the way.

                      Personally, I live in the great wide land between the two extremes, just like you do. But that doesn’t mean that the two poles are equally disreputable. As you approach the Brezhnevian pole, things tend to get worse. There is a wide expanse of policy territory where the economy is not operating on a sustainable basis. You have to maintain it via terror or the electorate pulls out of that option when the money runs out. See eurosocialism vs soviet socialism for an example.

                      At the other pole there is a fairly narrow zone of “we can’t possibly do without that” because nobody else has successfully managed it and, over the space of decades, the zone is shrinking as people, often in desperation, actually try to do without it and find out to most people’s surprise that it works just fine and often better than the previous dispensation. The private financing and operation of highways is a pretty famous example. Private air traffic control is another example.

                      You talk about producers and seem to implicitly accept that their number is static or near static. New entrants into markets and the creation of new markets is something that Keynes did not adequately explore and of increasing relevance as the information revolution and digital goods becomes a real thing.

                • falstaff77

                  “The time in this country’s history …. and regulations were most vigorous “

                  One can argue about the need for regulation, but not its current extent relative to the past. To do so is to indicate ignorance of actual business operations. There is no prior time in US history when federal/state/local regulations and their enforcers were remotely as burdensome as today. Pointing to the odd roll-back of a regulation here or there is to ignore the legion that take its place elsewhere.

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

            • falstaff77

              “Taxing the rich and using the money to the benefit of everyone else…”

              But of course the money is not taken from the rich for benefit of everyone else, it is taken primarily for the benefit of the political class which concentrates power among the takers who produce nothing, as opposed to the rich, rapacious or not, who largely do produce.

              These proposals inevitably assume some innocent body of actors that will execute the taxes, and are somehow immune from human incentives, straight from the City of God.

          • 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

            • 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.

          • 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.

            • Ye Olde Statistician

              “Crony capitalism” is not “capitalism.” To get the results you decry, you need a government to intervene.

              • You seem to be making a hard distinction between capitalism and government action. Unless you’re an anarchist, no capitalist system is absent of all government action. Is it your contention that capitalism is inherently an anarchist arrangement? That’s not usually a position that is held by capitalism’s friends.

                • Ye Olde Statistician

                  Capitalism is the care and nurturing of capital. (That’s why, when capitalism fell, it was brought down by consumerism, not by socialism.) If capital is put to work in a venture that fails, that venture is to be let fail so that the capital may be liberated for more productive uses. However, governments have long discovered that they could hold enterprises up for extortion by their power to favor a competitor, etc.

                  • Capitalism fell? When did that happen?

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      In the past half-century, at least in the West. Consumerism runs rampant.

                    • Consumerism is not a capitalist subchoice? Since when?

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      Capitalism is the care, husbanding, and growing of capital. Consumerism is the squandering of same; the very opposite of frugality and husbandmanship. As all men know, the greatest enemy of capitalism is the capitalist. He will seek at any opportunity for the coercive power of the State to intervene in the markets — in his favor and against his competitors.

                      Of course, from some points of view, capitalism is simply “business and industry,” since no business venture can be established if it is not capitalized. In much the same way ecology can be called “foodism” and physics “energy-ism.”

                      cf. also John Lukacs, The Passing of the Modern Age.


                    • If you can’t define capitalism properly, then there’s no point. Go read a dictionary.

                    • Ye Olde Statistician

                      Capitalism. The term dates from only 1854, so it is a late addition to Western thought. Capitalism means “condition of having capital,” from capital + -ism. The specific meaning of “a political/economic system which encourages capitalists” is recorded only from 1872.

                      “having capital.” The term capital appears in medieval Latin as the adjective capitalis (from caput, head) to designate the principal sum of a money loan. (in contrast to the “usury” or fee for the use of the money). This
                      usage was common by the 13th century and may have begun as early as 1100 A.D., in the chartered towns. A capitalist is then one who holds the principal of the loan.

                      Capitalism as an economic system is one in which “investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations.” For example, when private or corporate individuals [such as union pension funds] may buy and hold stock in a venture. This is spoiled to the extent that government intervenes in some measure to regulate who may do so and in what manner and how the capital is to be handled, etc.

                    • Sorry, but I’ve just about hit my limit on people making stuff up on this thread. I just did a quick survey of a number of dictionaries and none of them had your definition but all of them did talk about private ownership of the means of production which is what I and most people understand capitalism to be.

      • 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.

        • 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

        • 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.

              • kirthigdon

                Yes, jus in bello can negate jus ad bellum. As the late Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn was fond of pointing out, the other side started it is not going to cut it before the judgment of God as a just reason for every sort of bestial behavior. Do you think that self-defense in the case of personal aggression justifies going after the aggressor’s wife and kids – or putting your own wife and kids in the way to protect yourself? You can’t even justly mistreat or kill enemy soldiers once they surrender. I recall as a small child in the years immediately after WWII hearing some of my father’s friends boast of killing German and Japanese prisoners. I knew even then it was wrong and my Dad, who was opposed to the war, but served nonetheless without seeing combat, was deeply embarrassed that such things should be said in front of me.
                Kirt Higdon

                • Dave G.

                  Then there has never been a just war because it’s highly unlikely that any side could field a force of sinless combatants. Which then calls into question the Church’s teachings on the subject. And for that matter the Church itself given its historic stance and even involvement in such conflicts.

                  BTW I grew up around WWII vets as well and don’t recall one boasting about such things. One witnessed first hand atrocities committed by the Japanese and refused his whole life to buy made in Japan. But that was about it. Perhaps experience is the lens through which such teachings are understood. Also fwiw. Killing prisoners in WWII was a punishable offense.

                  • kirthigdon

                    Under very limited circumstances there could be wars that fit all the criteria for a just war – the battle of Lepanto, for example. (Naval warfare, as long as it’s not directed against civilian shipping, has a big advantage over land warfare in possibly being just.) And yes, the Church has waged many unjust wars, just as it has practiced torture and slavery. The Church (that’s us BTW) often fails to live up to the teachings of Christ which it proclaims. Peter Kreeft points out that the most just war in history was fought in the garden of Gethsemane, but Christ stopped it after one sword stroke and healed the wounded enemy.

                    Kirt Higdon

                    • Dave G.

                      If we’re looking at individual battles, then that’s a whole different kettle of fish. Fact is, the Church’s teaching has always been straight forward: killing is never good, but alas, we live in a fallen world where men will be wicked and evil, and so to protect the innocent, certain concessions must be made. Including war. There have to be criteria of course. But even if they are not all met throughout by each and every player, that doesn’t mean the war was unjust, or even that one side might actually have been on the side of the good.

                      Sure, pointing to Christ is a grand example, and anyone who wants to die for the faith, by all means. Like a fellow I used to know once quipped: what would Jesus do? Die for the sins of humanity, that’s what.

                      And yes, there have always been some who rejected all war and combat, and more power to them. Some have paid dearly for their stance, others have benefited by reaping the rewards of others’ sacrifices. But it’s a fine position to have, it just isn’t the position of the Church. And of course just war doesn’t mean all participants from leaders to privates must be verily without sin or it becomes unjust. At that point, not only has the Church been guilty of nothing but supporting unjust wars, but it is also guilty of peddling something that is clearly unreal. And that never makes the Church look good in a cynical age.

                      Like the Death Penalty, the Church always made way for those who refused to pick up sword or gun, and that’s great. But until we’re called to sell everything we own and give all of our possessions to the poor, I’m fine with other similar concessions, like the real possibility of actual just wars, no matter how flawed the participants or mistaken some of the strategies.

            • You’re doing a bit of linguistic sleight of hand. Perhaps it is my fault for not including the technical latin terms. I was speaking of jus ad bellum and you are riposting that they can violate norms of jus in bello. You are technically correct and I concede your point if you agree that this does not affect the jus ad bellum analysis I was actually engaged in.

        • Dave G.

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

      • 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.

          • 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.

            • Del Sydebothom

              Such upheavals, I think, would do more harm than good. The United States would respond with even more draconian measures. The United States, like all imperialistic endeavors, will someday fail with or without outside help. In the meantime, all we need to do is be good. I think, too, we ought to pray for those in the future who will live through that collapse; the last time an empire of comparable magnitude fell, many hardships followed.

              • Such upheavals are a daily occurrence. Some are successful, others not so much. Some are good, others evil. It is the warp and weft of the fabric of our society in the US, this high tolerance for and almost encouragement of controlled tumults and upheavals.

                I think you imagine me a revolutionary with a knife between my teeth and machine gun bandoliers across my chest. That would be a comical misunderstanding of what I’m about.

                To be good is not the same as passivity. It is acting prudently and forthrightly in the face of evil. Sometimes the sheer scope of the evil facing you forces you to play a part and imitate passivity. This is not such a time.

                I would dispute one fact with you. You have not demonstrate, and perhaps in your social set you need not demonstrate, that the USA is an empire. That is not the case with me. The USA is an enormously powerful republic but by any reasonable definition it is not an empire. May she never devolve into an empire.

                • Del Sydebothom

                  By “empire” I mean “overrike”. The U.S. is a (broad sense) republican overrike. I hesitate even to call it a “nation state”. It is more of a “nations state”, considering how many nations–viz., how many kinlines with discrete cultures–live under its jurisdiction. Its realm has reached its current size by gobbling up unimaginably massive swaths land. At nearly 4 million square *miles*, it dwarfs even the old Roman Empire. The governing body in Washington DC actually rules a land nearly 4,800 miles distant–Hawaii! It claims jurisdiction over people who have never even *been* to Washington DC, much less sworn any oath of fealty to its representatives. This is imperial behavior.

                  To my mind, any nation state is an irredeemable abortion of morality. My mind might be wrong, of course, and my opinion of someone is not lessened if they happen to disagree. Natural folk-steering, I think, is an organic “stretching out” of the customs and authority intrinsic to familial bonds. Nation states, in contrast, are artificial structures, dependent on written laws that need not even be publicly read aloud before they become binding.

                  • I really don’t understand your term “overrike” and google is no help, a link to a definition please. Until I get one, everything we discuss from my part is provisional. I’m guessing.

                    By your definition Belgium is a nations state. Switzerland is a nations state. Your definition calls a polity an empire because of its territorial scope. This is very far from the accustomed definition which defines it by behavior. You don’t get to pick such a far definition of what an empire is and benefit from the social shortcuts that make empire a bad word. It’s cheating.

                    The only serious behavioral component is that people haven’t even visited the capital. A lot of people, even today when transport is cheap, never stray more than 150 miles from their birthplace.

                    You write like a proto-monarchist, perhaps even a monarchist because republics that fit within the size limitations you want to shoehorn them into are unstable and poor governance choices. Read Federalist #10 for the classic explanation why. That puts you as anti-American in the sense of against the project that started in 1776. This is a tired and very old argument and aside from your novel linguistic gymnastics so far you’re repeating discredited arguments that lost their force in the 19th century.

                    • Del Sydebothom

                      An overrike is a body which rules over other rikes. In the case of the United States, the number of underrikes is 50, for now.

                      The birth to which 1776 bore witness was not that of a nation, nor even of a true political fellowship. No, the U.S. is a vast trade band, governed by a republican empire planted near the far eastern reaches of North America. Folksteering is meant to make a man true-hearted and keen-minded. It is the secular side of man’s duty to become a better servant of God. The United States neither now nor then had any interest in treating this as a goal. In this it joins all those princes who, in the words of the psalmist, rise up against the Lord and against His Christ.

                      This is especially clear in your Federalist #10. In it, Madison elevates the government to a quasi-ecclesiastical status, and would relegate the Church to the status of one of his “factions”. The United States, then, manages somehow to be both the chief foe of
                      America and its chief benefactor. The latter, of course, is its primary means of coercion, which taken together with its great military renders it invulnerable to all but its own sins. There is no realistic way to dissolve the United States. Even if there was, I think we ought never try; the harm that would follow would dwarf any good that might come of it. Allow it to run out of juice.

                      Ideally, a human society should, I think, live along with the rhythms of the territory they find themselves in. Kinlines would move as the earth and its seasons suggests such movement to them. Drawing their livelihood from the world immediately around them, they ought to be lead by prayer, and formed by the lore that has come down to us from the Apostles. Some might would have a headman at the helm–a monarchy of sorts. Others might not. As long as the High Monarch–Heaven’s Christ, heir of Adam and of David–is duly recognized, there is no harm in different groups of families arranging their fellowships differently.

                    • The political usage, in english at least, seems to have died out in the 1800s and was a rarity even then. Since it’s also currently used as a dodgy way to denote the difficulty oriental languages have with the ‘L’ sound, you’ll forgive me if I don’t use the term much as I don’t generally use niggardly these days to denote a cheapskate.

                      You are also not quite accurate as to the relationship between the federal and state governments. We may live to see an Article V convention called solely by the states. That is not a privilege generally available to subsidiary governments.

                      This is a much more serious problem because your entire construction depends on understanding what the US is and it’s pretty clear that you don’t.

                      A faction is a grouping rule and in politics describes observed behavior, not any sort of ranking system as you seem to be saying. The point of Federalist #10 is to outline a novel concept, dynamic stability in republics, and how enlarging republics to multiply factions renders republics more stable, a counterintuitive insight for the 1700s which generally limited republics as incapable of ruling large territories. After two centuries, it’s clear that this opinion of the time against large republics was mistaken.

                      The universal character of the Church approaches the same truth and long before Madison. Unity and variety both exist within her.

                      The type of life you describe would be rather poor and include much higher death rates and vulnerability to local conditions. I decline to endorse the necessary increase of mortality that such a system implies.

                    • Del Sydebothom

                      Since I think I’ve addressed your other points already, I’ll focus in on a couple of statements.

                      “After two centuries, it’s clear that this opinion of the time against large republics was mistaken.”

                      This one I had to read more than once. 200 years? Men have been living in fellowship with one another for something on the order of 1 1/2 million years. A way of life which has existed for something on the order of 0.014% of the time men have made their way here has not been around long enough to prove itself.

                      “The type of life you describe would be rather poor and include much higher death rates and vulnerability to local conditions.”

                      It isn’t “rather poor”. There are dangers, to be sure, and most of the day must be spent at work, but here in Appalachia it is a merry way of life. I’ve done it for 6 months before. I hope to be so favorably circumstanced as to be able to do it again, though with my wife and children this time. It made me svelte before. Now that I am a family man, there are definite advantages to being svelte.

                    • Are you paying attention to what I’m actually writing? I have my doubts.

                      The smart money in Europe was saying that the US wouldn’t last 20 years without breaking up in acrimonious secession and civil war and a new constitution at the end of it if there was a single country at all. The sort of timescales you’re talking about weren’t up for discussion and weren’t what Madison was trying to address.

                      The only thing, right now, today, that is keeping 60% of the population of Egypt from starving is the sort of global logistical networks that only develop when you are not relying on local resources. There are a number of other countries in the same boat, locally produced calories being entirely inadequate to support the population.

                      We developed logistical networks because without them we regularly starved and had big refugee flows fleeing areas that had inadequate food or water. We tried this sort of localized living before and we hated it. There were too many starving because of it.

                    • Del Sydebothom

                      “Are you paying attention to what I’m actually writing?”


                      “I have my doubts.”

                      My apologies.

                      “The smart money in Europe was saying that the US wouldn’t last 20 years without breaking up in acrimonious secession and civil war and a new constitution at the end of it if there was a single country at all. The sort of timescales you’re talking about weren’t up for discussion and weren’t what Madison was trying to address.”

                      Europe had already devolved into nation statism when Europeans were making such predictions. While their arguments may have some overlap with mine, they would not be exactly the same. The United States is to be classed with the sundry European nation states which arose in the late 1600s. Sovereignty is differently arranged, but that is the only major difference.

                      Madison was a man of the Enlightenment, sympathetic to freemasonry if not a member himself, and therefore a foe to the family of God. Perhaps he was still, in the end, saved. Nonetheless, in his ideas and actions, he was a friend to the hell-fiends who work ever to draw men off the right course.

                      Still, the constitution which he defended may nevertheless “work” for a while yet, in the way the Mafia “worked” for a while. That does not make it morally good. It may be possible for a true Catholic republic to exist. If it did, it would not take the form of the United States.

                      “The only thing, right now, today, that is keeping 60% of the population of Egypt from starving is the sort of global logistical networks that only develop when you are not relying on local resources. There are a number of other countries in the same boat, locally produced calories being entirely inadequate to support the population.”

                      This makes me think of the !Kung. Their ancestral way of life worked for tens of thousands of years. Of late, though, competition from agriculturalists, together with territorial restrictions placed upon them by the Botswanan and Namibian governments have made it increasingly difficult for them to keep their fathers’ ways. Interestingly, agriculture may even increase the preponderance of famine (cf.

                      Regardless, the Egyptians are not, by and large, foragers. There may indeed be good arguments against the way of life of which I am, I suppose, a spokesman. Pointing to difficulties present in a post-agricultural society is not among them.

                    • You sent a link. That’s good. The link is unbelievably wrong headed. That’s not so good. One major difference between agriculturalists and hunter gatherers is that agriculturalists improve their environment and hunter gatherers don’t. They just move on to the next patch of ground. The study controlled for a major differentiator between the two groups, perhaps the major one. That’s appallingly poor study design.

                      Hunter gatherer society has a maximum carrying level orders of magnitude lower than agricultural and later societies. This is very well established. Every time that agriculture breaks down, population crashes due to starvation soon follow.

                      The Egyptians forage right now. There just isn’t enough to forage to make a dent in the lack of calories. Foraging is perfectly acceptable as a moral construct but you have to take on the moral consequences of changing over which is clearly foreseeable, preventable mass human starvation. You have to look people in the eye and sign up for their children dying

                    • Del Sydebothom

                      “One major difference between agriculturalists and hunter gatherers is that agriculturalists improve their environment and hunter gatherers don’t. ”

                      I would phrase it differently. Agriculturalists (and industrialists) adapt their environment to them. Hunter-Gatherers adapt themselves to their environment.

                      “Hunter gatherer society has a maximum carrying level orders of magnitude lower than agricultural and later societies. This is very well established. Every time that agriculture breaks down, population crashes due to starvation soon follow.”

                      You seem to arguing the very point I was making earlier; agriculture leads to population crashes. I would add to this the greater incidence of fatal diseases in agricultural society (though, happily, we are enjoying a rare springtime of successful disease control right now)

                      “The Egyptians forage right now.”

                      Not in any meaningful sense. The Harifians, so far as I know, were the last full scale hunter-gatherers who were free to use what the land had to offer without restriction. If the homeless in my own town were to try to supplement their calories with wild foods, it would not make them hunter-gatherers; they’d have to avoid farmland and park land, which accounts for most of the open ground. Still, they would be more successful here than if they tried the same thing in Egypt; there’s much more wild food available.

                      “Foraging is perfectly acceptable as a moral construct but you have to take on the moral consequences of changing over which is clearly foreseeable, preventable mass human starvation. You have to look people in the eye and sign up for their children dying”

                      If I was advocating forcing such a way of life on people, you’d be right. As a matter of fact, my conviction that we need to cooperate with the system as it now stands stems largely from not wanting to see people dying. I know the system will eventually fail, which because of globalization is likely to result in the majority of the world’s popular dying.

                      I don’t want that to happen, any more than I want, say, the Yellowstone Caldera to blow. Neither are preventable in the end. As terrible as this is, the death rate, in absolute terms, will remain what it always has been, and always will be: 100%.

                    • Every species including man is subject to population crashes. The style of living is irrelevant. It is only through careful management and foresight that we can reduce the number of these crashes and, hopefully, never have another one again.

                      The natural order of this fallen world is a rise in numbers until resource demands exceed carrying capacity, shortly to be followed by a population crash.

                      No hunter/gather society has ever had a lifetime go by without a population crash but we’ve had agricultural and industrial societies pull it off. Again, this is the sort of thing that is pretty well documented as famine and dealing with same ranks right up there with war as a popular subject of history.

                      Maintaining that record demands that we critically examine these civilizational systems and improve them faster than an expanding population puts more demand on them. We’re doing a pretty good job of that overall but there’s a lot of room for improvement and some scary areas where we seem to be regressing.

                      Your “conviction that we need to cooperate with the system as it now stands” is a call to complacency. This is not helpful. It is a catholic version of the muslim inshallah culture, something that is a great stumbling block for the muslims.

                      *Edit:* I’m probably being a bit unfair as there might have been a hunter/gather band that lucked out as long as a lifetime. Their record remains decidedly inferior and the spirit of the point remains.

                    • Madison did not have access to time travel and he is not addressing your concerns, but the concerns of his time and answering the challenges to ratifying the new constitution.

                      The point of the United States was and largely remains to offer a refuge from persecution and a neutral meeting grounds for ideas to battle it out. If you do not see the value of such a place, I feel sad for you.

                    • Since rike is as socially hazardous as niggardly and just as unnecessary to use, I think I’ll pass. I will also pass on folksteering for the more commonly used government. Are you intentionally trying to obscure your meaning or are you an anti-latin pedant? see the only meaningful entry for it in Google near the end where the term is used:

                      You fundamentally misunderstand the dual sovereignty system in the US, without which it is simply not possible to grasp the country. Your grasp of Federalist #10 is also weak. Madison was trying to answer objections to the Constitution, as were all the Federalist papers. He was not writing a philosophical treatise on the importance of God.

                      We hold the theoretical threat of dissolving the country over the politicians’ heads in order that they have some reluctance to impose tyranny. It’s a shadow dance that does not trouble anyone but the players. When things go out of kilter, the reaction takes a few small moves to turn the theoretical dissolution real and, in a fit of the vapors, the political class generally backs down and goes a different path. Arguing that we should just sit and take it, removes a very real restraint against the bad behavior of the political class. Don’t imagine that the US would be as benign a place if it were removed.

                      Your ideal system is a recipe for a large human population die off. I find such an occurrence monstrous.

                    • Del Sydebothom

                      “Since rike is as socially hazardous as niggardly and just as unnecessary to use, I think I’ll pass.”

                      Alright. Although, I’d even save “niggardly”, as it remains one of the gifts our elders have passed on to us from their word-hoard. Maybe we ought not use it, but we ought still to keep it; the social circumstances which make it “hazardous” to use are unlikely to exist forever, and I would not want to be found an unthankful custodian of what has been handed down to me.

                      “I will also pass on folksteering for the more commonly used government. Are you intentionally trying to obscure your meaning or are you an anti-latin pedant? ”

                      Goodness, are those the only two options? No. “Government”, as far as it goes, is a rather obscure word itself, insofar as the means by which it comes by its meaning is not clear, even in Latin. It is a Greek word, after all. “Folksteering”, in contrast, is straightforward. Why it means what it means has nothing of the quality of a mystery.

                      But anti-Latin? No; I am an avid student of Latin. While I acknowledge that I’d rather have said “eager learner”, it occurred to me that the Latinish words would help show my inner earnest. Nevertheless, when I see in my forefathers’–forgive me–gafolgyld of speech a way to say something less abstractly, I will go for it.

                      “You fundamentally misunderstand the dual sovereignty system in the US, without which it is simply not possible to grasp the country. Your grasp of Federalist #10 is also weak. Madison was trying to answer objections to the Constitution, as were all the Federalist papers. He was not writing a philosophical treatise on the importance of God.”

                      Not on purpose, as far as I know. Nonetheless, his Washingtonian association’s constitution does, to my eyes, look like an attempt to diminish the importance of God. Madison, in his paper, never suggests that true liberty, wrought by grace, is able to free man from the wantonness that leads to factionalism. His answer is political, and in classing–inadvertently or not–the Church as a faction, he subordinates her to the interests of the state. Or, the “aggregate interests of the community”, if you will, with no mention of whether these interests are true to the nature of man and his “Imago Dei”.

                      No, factionalism is a wickedness to uproot, not an inconvenience work around.

                      “We hold the theoretical threat of dissolving the country over the politicians’ heads in order that they have some reluctance to impose tyranny. It’s a shadow dance that does not trouble anyone but the players. When things go out of kilter, the reaction takes a few small moves to turn the theoretical dissolution real and, in a fit of the vapors, the political class generally backs down and goes a different path. Arguing that we should just sit and take it, removes a very real restraint against the bad behavior of the political class. Don’t imagine that the US would be as benign a place if it were removed.”

                      Maybe. I’m glad to hear you arguing that position, even if I don’t hold it; as I said, I might be wrong. As it stands, though, I think you overestimate the long-term sway of such “reactions”, and underestimate the capacity of the state to placate people.

                      “Your ideal system is a recipe for a large human population die off. I find such an occurrence monstrous.”

                      I’d like to start by enthusiastically praising the one good effect of statism; it has, for the most part, shown an ability to modify the times and circumstances of people’s deaths in a way that is genuinely beneficial. Specifically, most are able to live long enough to have children of their own. Whether this translates into a lower death rate or not depends on what one means. The death rate in state societies is 100%, as it is in every other kind of society. Whether we have fewer people dying now at any given time (as compared, say, to pre-agricultural societies) is a question I can’t answer. There were fewer people then, and more now, since the exact timing of a person’s death is usually later. There are probably different ways to look at the question.

                      However, it looks quite unlikely to me that any state will be able to demonstrate the kind of long-term stability of, say, the Akie people. States are too resource hungry, and tend to consume faster than natural goods can be replenished. There is a resemblance to the act of living off credit completely, or nearly completely. Theirs is an acquisitiveness that tends towards infinity. Since creation is not infinite, such a tendency is contrary to reason, and is therefore bound to fail eventually. Once it does, the death rate will, I’d expect, reach horrific levels. I only hope I’m not alive to see it.

                    • Del Sydebothom

                      Regardless, the wounds states inflict on men’s souls are, in my opinion, of too great a severity for even a significantly longer average lifespan to make reparation for.

                    • I wish you the best on your efforts to communicate. You’re not doing a very good job with me at present.

                    • falstaff77

                      “There is no realistic way to dissolve the United States.”

                      Amendment 28: This constitution is hereby dissolved.

                      2/3 vote national convention of 2/3 of the states


                      2/3 vote Senate and House

                    • Del Sydebothom

                      As I said; there is no *realistic* way.

      • 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.

        • Del Sydebothom

          “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)…”

          I would dispute that. How, realistically, would one loosen the United States’ hold on the territories it controls? Any successful attempt to do so, even if peaceful, would be immensely harmful to countless people. That point in moot, though; no attempt, peaceful or not, could possibly be successful. No, the Washingtonian Empire must be allowed to play itself out.

          • Formally, the Queen runs the UK. She is head of state and picks out the ministers of her government. That’s not quite the reality of the power arrangement there. In the same sense the people have a formal responsibility to oversee and overturn the government. Given that the people are fairly well armed, there’s a slightly higher chance of success than the Queen but only slightly.

            • Del Sydebothom

              There is no way to be “fairly well armed” when one is comparing one’s capacities of self-defense to bombs, missiles, drones, and tanks. The comparison is something on the order of a blind three year old girl against a 250 pound boxer.

              • I suspect that you don’t do much military analysis or talk to many military people with counter-insurgency experience. If you get the power ratio down below 10:1, insurgents win. Insurgents also do not take to the field to directly fight their nation’s very impressive military until quite late into the process.

                Also, the US military is likely one of the world’s least likely domestic repressive forces out there. Part of what is driving record arms sales right now is the left’s monkeying with long disused safeguards deep within the military that would make it easier for them to turn the military into a repressive force. Undoing those safeguards is one of those shadow battles that goes on in the US so that we don’t actually ever have to take to the field and fight a real civil war.

              • falstaff77

                If the like of amo count is the metric, then the three year old made a heck of showing in the American revolution, Afghanistan, Iraq before the surge, and Vietnam.

                • Del Sydebothom

                  Could you clarify what you mean?

                  • falstaff77

                    Above you suggest it is impossible for a relatively ill-equipped insurrection (blind three year old) to resist the power of a modern military (250 pound boxer). History has many examples demonstrating effective, even successful insurrections are not at all impossible.

                    • Del Sydebothom

                      I figured you were trying to say something like that, but I wanted to make sure. Yes, you are correct; if the 250 pound boxer backs down because he doesn’t have the will to throw his punches, even the blind three year old can win. I’m not convinced this applies to a force with drones it can arm with nuclear missiles, but I concede your point.

                    • falstaff77

                      “if the 250 pound boxer backs down because he doesn’t have the will to throw his punches, even the blind three year old can win. I’m not convinced this applies to a force with drones it can arm with nuclear missiles, but I concede your point.”

                      I’ll stay with this a bit longer because I think it is a not uncommon view: ‘the US has the like of nuclear missiles therefore referencing handguns as a form of defense against tyrannical government is ridiculous.’ Insurrections are in part about will, but not all. In the insurrection, the boxer often can’t see the opposition. There are no safe corners at the bell. There are textbooks full of reasons why asymmetric warfare is difficult.

                      And the idea that the federal government could effectively use any kind of weapon of mass destruction on its own territory against an insurrection is the ridiculous notion. The idea that the US military would support any kind of mass destruction against the American people, without defection in the ranks, is ridiculous.

    • 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

      • falstaff77

        “Both Aristotle and Thomas teach that government and the civilization it makes possible are a positive good,”

        Not “are”, but *can* be a positive good.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

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

    • HornOrSilk

      BTW, that is not Augustine’s view. Here is a good description of it:

      “Within this framework of political and legal systems, the state is a
      divinely ordained punishment for fallen man, with its armies, its power
      to command, coerce, punish, and even put to death, as well as its
      institutions such as slavery and private property. God shapes the
      ultimate ends of man’s existence through it. The state simultaneously
      serves the divine purposes of chastening the wicked and refining the
      righteous. Also simultaneously, the state constitutes a sort of remedy
      for the effects of the Fall, in that it serves to maintain such modicum
      of peace and order as it is possible for fallen man to enjoy in the
      present world.”

      You are NOT Augustinian. You confuse the City of God (I don’t know if you have ever read it), but the point is not a rejection of earthly authority. Augustine is very strong on divine authority behind earth authority and that the people in authority have power to coerce. That it is not the “city of God” does not make it non-authoritative. Yet, the key, what was important, was for the state to enforce JUSTICE. Social justice. You know, what libertarians deny? More from the source:

      “No earthly state can claim to possess true justice, but only some relative justice by which one state is more just than another. Likewise, the legitimacy of any earthly political regime can be understood only in relative terms: The emperor and the pirate have equally legitimate domains if they are equally just.”

      That should show how you misunderstand Augustine’s point of the pirate. He’s not saying the state is just robbers, far from it, he is saying those in authority, as they promote justice (again), have relative authority based upon that justice. Not its lack. The fact that libertarians deny social justice deny Augustine:

      “In this regard, the institution of the state marks a relative return to order from the chaos of the Fall. Rulers have the right to establish any law that does not conflict with the law of God. Citizens have the duty to obey their political leaders regardless of whether the leader is wicked or righteous. There is no right of civil disobedience.”

      Seriously, stop saying you are Augustinian, because you go away from his view. Aquinas is Augustinian in this case.

      • kirthigdon

        Actually, I re-read City of God just a couple of months ago, so I was getting Augustine’s views first hand and not just a “description” of it. Augustine’s view that the state is a punishment for original sin is one that I hold, as did Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, a Catholic writer who was a classic European style liberal and monarchist. The deeply reactionary French monarchist Joseph de Maistre, whose insights I value, held the same view.

        Nor do I reject earthly authority. I know very well they have the power to coerce. They have the swords, as Saint Paul pointed out, or in contemporary times, the guns, the drones, the nuclear weapons. I have only the physical strength God has given me and a few lessons in unarmed combat. I’m not about to take them on and if the time ever comes when they forbid even my criticism, I’ll most likely obey – the more coward I.

        But to say there is no right of civil disobedience is not just anti-libertarian but against the long standing position of the Church which recognizes the sanctity and heroic virtue of countless martyrs murdered by the civil authorities becaused they chose to obey God rather than man.

        Kirt Higdon

        • HornOrSilk

          City of God is not Augustine’s ONLY source of political theory. You need to read, for example, his works on the Donatist. But even if you re-read it, it is quite clear (having worked with Augustine in many of his texts), you are ignoring Augustine’s view of political authority, making it all out that he thinks it is all basically thugs taking control of things. That is not his point, which is quite clear when he puts God into it, and shows that it is about making a just order in society.

          As for de Maistre, once again, he is anything but libertarian, and not this anti-state justice idea, but very much goes the full spectrum with it with his idea of the executioner. I like de Maistre, myself, up to a point, but there are excesses in his thought which are dangerous.

          Oh, and Augustine, again, is very much against the authority of the individual for self-defense. Remember that, very anti-libertarian view; he thinks only government authorities have the right to force. It is the reverse of what libertarians suggest, which again, when they try to make him a libertarian saint, they totally disregard his view.

          I agree there can be, and is, a role for civil disobedience — an unjust law is no law, for example. However, when talking about oneself as Augustinian, just taking one snippet out of context, ignoring the rest, is like saying you are an Obama follower because you agree the United States exists.

        • James Wyss

          What you’re saying sounds good, but I have only one question. Are theft, murder, coercion, and extortion wrong all the time or are they right, good, and moral when someone has the distinction of working for “the state?”

          • kirthigdon

            I’d say they are wrong all the time, but as a practical matter I yield to thieves, murderers, coercers, and extortionists I am incapable of resisting. Perhaps you meant to address your question to HornOrSilk. He is the one who seems to be claiming that violence, killing, coercion, etc. are things you “get to do” as long as you work for the state.

            Kirt Higdon

  • 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.

  • 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.

                    • 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.

                    • James Wyss

                      I have a question for you. Are immoral things wrong all the time or just some of the time?

                    • 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!?!!!?!?!)

                    • 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.

                    • 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.

                    • Please go to 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.

                    • 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?

                    • 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.

                    • 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.

                    • 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.

                    • 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.

                    • 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.

                    • 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.

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

            • 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.

      • 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.

          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.

                • Benjamin2.0

                  Ah, coffee. Say no more.

          • Elmwood

            35% tax bracket is on income above $400,000/year. I think it’s silly when people complain about paying too much in taxes when they make this much money, especially when they are Catholic. (the median salary is about $51,000–8X less)

    • 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.

        • Debbie S

          Reading comprehension? Maybe you should read what I wrote. Were you really homeless? Your couldn’t afford paid help? Do you think that every mother with 8 has such help? Shall we ask those in 3rd world countries? I am not going to play ‘the whose life is worse game’ because even if I was to share my life details I know that there are people in this world and in this country (and in California) who are much worse off than I. Oh by the way it’s not bro. I am a woman whose husband has worked out of town for weeks on end with longer than 60 hour work weeks.
          No matter what I consider myself blessed.

          • anna lisa

            Rheeannon, Why do you feel the need to question the incredible stress my family went through? Your sarcasm is laced with malice. You lead me to believe that some Christians think they are Christians but are fooling themselves,–the internet is rife with that–people who get off on hate. I’d laugh if I wasn’t so disgusted. There are people being murdered all over the world right now, but people suffer, right where they are in their particular set of circumstances. A Christian has empathy for both. Did anyone suffer more than Jesus? Does this mean that no Christian in the world who has suffered since, has the right to express that they suffered, or allow themselves to have grief? Does this mean that they don’t feel blessed? I wouldn’t trade my beautiful family or even one of my little ones for the greatest fortune on this earth. But two of my teenagers are suffering grief and stress because they miss their home and schools. Should I tell them to suck it up and stop being sissies because they aren’t steely towers of virtue like yourself? I’m waiting for a call back from a counselor for one them right now.
            Does this mean that because the cross exists we should never put the tax structure of this country under a magnifying glass to discuss more equitable solutions for families like mine?

            • Debbie S

              Yes the tax structure and government spending should be investigated. Tax shelters and breaks should be also. I am sorry your family is stressed and has suffered. My prayers are with you and yours. Yes, even though you read malice in my words (:
              Definition of malice (n)
              Bing Dictionary
              [ málliss ]

              wish to do harm: the intention or desire to cause harm or pain to somebody
              intent to do harm: the intention to commit an unlawful and unjustifiable act that will result in harm to another)
              I am only trying to open your eyes to the plight of others and to point out how much you have. I am not tower of virtue (if I am writing with malice how can I be virtuous?)
              Would you like to discuss equitable situations for families that have far less than you? My son is incredibly stressed right now trying to figure out how we will all pay for his college education (Cal State system – tuition, room & board, books and supplies – estimated at 20K a year) We have no savings and we are considered middle income – family of four with a 5 figure salary. He doesn’t qualify for Cal Grants – our income is too high. He may qualify for the middle income state scholarship – if there is enough money in the state coffers. He has attended a community college to keep costs down for 2 years. Any suggestions?
              My daughter’s best friend lives in a 2 bedroom apartment with her 4 siblings and mother. Her mother is an intelligent woman, but English skills are lacking. She has difficulty obtaining a job because of her limited English and difficulty keeping her job because of the demands of motherhood. The father lives in another area and provides some support but he has other financial obligations. My daughter’s best friend is a talented artist and receives high grades in her classes, but wonders if she will be able to attend college to pursue a graphic arts degree due to a variety of reasons.
              Just what is equitable?

              • anna lisa

                Well, some of my kids have dusted themselves off better than others. My oldest graduated cum laude, and then quit law school after one year. He says “I don’t wanna be a corporate drone like Dad either.” He works for a tech company and aspires to a life of couch surfing. My daughter had a very high GPA, and was awarded the diversity scholarship at her art school. She works about 25 hours a week. After grants, her debt load is about 5k per year. She gets As, works very hard in design and has a promising career ahead of her.One of my sons goes to Humboldt. He is studying business and programming–A student also. He works for Fed Ex and does some catering jobs at a restaurant. He’s financially on his own now, but we bail him out in various ways. My fourth child doesn’t have the hope and drive of his older sister, and brother. He has resigned himself to mediating his pain by video gaming and two years of despondency at community college. He feels very defeated about what happened to his Dad and thinks getting a job is a waste of time when video gaming is far more rewarding.
                The public primary schools here are excellent, but HS is really ghetto, and most of the kids have very little motivation. Lots of gangs. (no parents at home so the gangs become their families) It’s pretty depressing. Most of the kids can’t even pass the GED.
                Just what is equitable?
                Some random thoughts…That the middle class is protected. That public assistance is for the truly poor and not a way of life for those in the underground economy. That people not be forced to the edge by paying such a huge percentage of their income. That the government not spend our hard earned money so wantonly, that the Fed doesn’t play games with money, housing and interest rates…That hedge funds not be able to buy up vast amounts of single family homes…
                Where to begin? There are too many things. The biggest war upon the family is financial. That’s why I never listen to conservative radio or TV, because I don’t want to feel like we’re getting had all the time.
                Thank you for saying you’ll pray for us. Ill do the same at mass this evening for your family and all families that find themselves overworked and over taxed.

  • 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?

    • 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…

  • 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.

    • Matt Talbot

      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.

      Well, no: redistribution was practiced by way more governments than communist ones, and those governments did not have towering piles of corpses.

      There is this habit on the right to conflate *any* redistribution with communism, which is kind of like saying that having a police force is the same as having a Gestapo.

      • When I say foremost, I mean foremost. I don’t mean only. I don’t even mean that they’re the only ones who killed doing it. Read up on MEFO bills and the other redistribution shenanigans of the Third Reich in the 1930s for an under-examined episode in the annals of redistribution.

        Dame Thatcher got it right. Eventually you run out of other people’s money. At that point, you have two roads going forward. You can cut back on the redistribution or you can start building those corpse piles. Commendably, the eurosocialists seem to be picking the more humane first option by and large, Sweden is a great example of that phenomenon.

  • 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.

  • Lon M

    The full Aquinas quote doesn’t quite support redistribution: “As regards princes, the public power is entrusted to them that they may be the guardians of justice; hence it is unlawful for them to use violence or coercion save within the bounds of justice – either by fighting against the enemy, or against the citizens by punishing evildoers: and whatever is taken by violence of this kind is not the spoils of robbery, since it is not contrary to justice. On the other hand, to take other people’s property violently and against justice , in the exercise of public authority, is to act unlawfully and to be guilty of robbery; and whoever does so is bound to restitution.” _The Political Ideas of St, Thomas Aquinas_, page 140. S.Th. II-II Q 66 Art. 8

    • My apologies to St Thomas Aquinas. I didn’t consider the possibility that Mark Shea was peddling a distorted quote. I had a higher opinion of Mark. I see I need to check his ellipses in future.

    • HornOrSilk

      That doesn’t reject redistribution, because redistribution is restoration of lost justice.

      • Redistribution may be a restoration of lost justice or it may just be a political payoff for voter loyalty. There is nothing inherent to redistribution that implies that it must be just.

        Aquinas is clearly saying that certain kinds of redistribution, like court imposed fines in response to a tort, are not unjust. Libertarians agree with that, even the Rothbard crowd. But Mark is saying that the Rothbard style libertarians don’t agree with it and he manages to make that position plausible by dropping out some key words with ellipses. That’s a misuse of language and an abuse of Aquinas.

  • Ye Olde Statistician

    Try the Online Etymological Dictionary and its associated standard dictionary. Keep in mind, too, that cultural features are always more complex than a sentence or two in an argumentum ab dictionaria. In particular, capitalism is four dimensional. It has a time. It takes more than private ownership — a machinist is likely to own his own tools, and even a common laborer is likely to own his own body. But we live in a world in which such “ownership” is hemmed in with rules and regulations, which is why the whole notion is problematical. I refer you again to Lukacs’ book on the passing of the modern age. The old time capitalists of the Gilded Age would regard most of their Late Modern epigones with contempt.

    • Etymology may very well have interesting things to say about the origins of words. However, to prefer the etymological dictionary to all the standard dictionaries and just about every economics text out there is an exercise in hiding meaning.

      Perhaps you might go back to the etymological dictionary and click on the blue link. It goes to and a perfectly servicable basic definition of capitalism. I include it below

      cap·i·tal·ism [kap-i-tl-iz-uhm] – noun

      an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, especially as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        Oddly enough, I did click that link and incorporated it into my answer. I only caution against reliance of a dictionary for a full understanding an an historical phenomenon. A complete understanding must address both “private” and “ownership.” If your mortgage is not paid off, so you actually own your house? What if covenants and zoning laws restrict what you can do with “your” property? Is a publicly traded corporation “private” or “public”?

        • The difference between us is that I am discussing economics and you are discussing history, and apparently not economic history but etymological history.

          Since this is a thread on economics, I hope you understand my frustration.

  • Benjamin2.0

    I wish I could make this reply travel backward in time. One should only question TOF’s use of a term with great fear and trembling, and with centuries of preparation.

    Let’s see if a burst of chronotons can get this post to travel back three days. I haven’t read further than this, but I know where this will inevitably go barring a miracle of Star Trek science.

    • The term capitalism was a label applied by its enemies and adopted as generally useful no matter its origins. It was not, and has never been used in the modern age in economics as anything other than the private ownership of the means of production.

      The care, husbanding and growth of capital is more properly termed stewardship.