Sunday, July 14, 2013

Taxes And Subsidies: A Guest Post by Bubba

MA's note:  I have always found Bubba's comments to be so good as to leave me wondering why he does not have his own blog.  For whatever reasons prohibit his decision to do so, I have agreed to allow him the opportunity to post here when he is so compelled.  Copying and pasting from his email wasn't allowing his links to work, so I simply typed out everything (adding one link as indicated in paragraph two) as if I was posting myself.  What follows is from Bubba:

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In a recent conversation about another subject entirely, Dan Trabue mentioned the question of what qualifies as a "fair" or "right" level of taxation.

It appears he was referencing a long dormant conversation elsewhere, and I've asked Marshall to let me provide a guest post here to continue the conversation.  (MA's note:  Dan may have been referencing this more recent conversation, on the same subject.)

Dan wrote, "I do not believe there is such a thing as a morally and rationally 'right' tax rate, at least at the upper end.  I think obviously, it would be wrong to tax people so much that they can't afford to live so, for instance, at the lower end of the pay scale, a family with very meager income - say $10,000 - probably should not be taxed much or any because all their income is simply being used to survive.

"But a 'right' tax rate for a person making $400,000/year? $1 million?  I do not believe there exists a 'right' rate, God has not told us and logic does not dictate to us one right rate, so I can't give what doesn't exist."

The only clear line that Dan draws is at taxing people "so much that they can't afford to live", but I wonder, would it be okay to tax even that remaining amount, if the government provides a subsidy that covers living expenses?

Suppose that the minimum cost of living in a given area is $50,000 for a family of four -- two adults, two children -- an amount that's just above what's listed for the Bronx, at a "living wage calculator" maintained by an urban planning professor at MIT.

Dan writes that it would be wrong to tax a Bronx family of four so much that they would end up with less than $50,000 a year, but what if the government provided that amount as a subsidy?

To Dan and those who would agree with him, I ask, would you have any moral objections if the government taxed all four-member families in the Bronx at 100 PERCENT if the government turned around and subsidized all these families with a guaranteed income of $50,000 a year?

What could those moral objections possibly be?

120 comments:

John B (SiftingReality.com) said...

The problem with Dan's standards is they are flexible depending on which side of the argument he decides to take on a given day. For example, he says 'living wage' or references 'what they need to pay their bills', but he doesnt initially tell you what they are morally allowed to have for bills.

The poor, in his mind, are allowed to smoke cigarettes, play the lottery, drink alcohol, have cell phones, etc. All luxuries when you're on a tight fixed uncertain income. So for these people they are allowed to have these luxuries and we're supposed to foot their bills because they need to live.

But 'the rich' are a bit too extravagant owing cars and boats and large homes. These people need to pay their bills too.

I just had a conversation with him where he said the rich can afford a larger tax so it's ok. Then when I said it's wrong to say 'youve got too much extra money, we're taking it to give to others' he said I mischaracterized him.

So we need to get all the definitions straight before going anywhere else with him.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

To be "FAIR," everyone would have to pay the same percentage of their income. Just because someone makes more money, that doesn't make it fair to make them pay a higher percentage of that money.

For people like Dan, all they want is class warfare. After all, it isn't "fair" that some people have more wealth than others.

Bubba said...

I agree with both of you -- John, the problem of double standards becomes particularly clear when it comes to the burden of proof. Nothing less than an explicit affirmation of the inerrancy of each of the Bible's 66 books would do to prove the inerrantists' case, but Dan's side can rely on an argument from sheer silence.

Here, I think I'm asking a question that Dan ought to be able to answer, easily: does he have any moral objections to a 100 percent tax rate, if the taxpayer's necessary living expenses are covered?

He could use an arbitrarily large or vague definition of "necessary," but assuming that the subsidy meets a standard he would endorse, on what possible basis could he oppose such a regime of taxes and subsidies?

Feodor said...

"Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.

Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’

But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’

And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house — for I have five brothers— in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Dan Trabue said...

Glenn confuses "fair" with "equal percentage," but that's another question.

Off the top of my head...

If a society of whatever size agreed that they wanted to work, earn as much money as they might, have the gov't tax it at 100% and then provide a living wage to everyone, there is nothing inherently immoral in that. People can agree to do whatever they want.

I, for one, do not think such an arrangement is wise or advisable, but I don't know why it should be considered immoral, in and of itself.

If one was living in a nation that was capitalist in nature and decided by popular vote/representative gov't to go communist in the manner described, and some people did not wish to engage in that experiment, and they were free to leave, I still see nothing inherently immoral in the nation deciding to do this.

What would be objectively, definitively immoral in such an arrangement? I can think of nothing off the top of my head, other than the inadvisability of the notion. But inadvisable is not the same as immoral.

Why do you ask?

Dan Trabue said...

Glenn...

For people like Dan, all they want is class warfare. After all, it isn't "fair" that some people have more wealth than others

Just to deal with another off topic comment: Of course, this is not my position, nor is it anything I've ever said or promoted (that's how you can tell it's not my position), nor do I believe it.

1. I don't want class warfare, I want to seek the kingdom of God.

2. I don't believe that it's not fair that some people have more than others.

Now, you want class warfare, perhaps Glenn should take up his complaints with James, or Jesus, or Mary, the mother of Jesus (going from memory here)...

The rich God has torn down, but God has exalted the poor...

Is it not the rich who exploit you? Did God not choose the poor to receive the kingdom of God...?

Blessed are YOU WHO ARE POOR... but WOE to YOU WHO ARE RICH...


If Glenn was as graceless towards Jesus and the apostles as he is towards some of us today, he'd almost certainly be accusing them of class warfare for saying such things...

/end off topic rebuttal

Dan Trabue said...

Of course, it goes without saying that John B also misunderstands and misstates my views.

To save time, let's just presume that each time a Marshall or a John or a Glenn or a Bubba says, "Dan (or the Left) believes X..." that it's fairly safe to presume reality is that Dan almost certainly does not believe X.

Thanks.

Bubba said...

Dan, I appreciate your answer.

I wonder what exactly you think is "inadvisable" about that arrangement, and since you write that "inadvisable is not the same as immoral," I do wonder why you don't evidently believe that prudence is morally obligatory.

The reason I asked that question was because the arrangment I suggested is Marxist -- it's a riff on "From each according to his means, to each according to his needs."

You seem to agree, as you describe the arrangement as "go[ing] communist."

You see no moral objections to communism, at least if it's chosen democratically and dissidents are free to leave.

In a conversation about fair tax rates, that point's not irrelevant: people would (and I think SHOULD) draw a different conclusion about your position that no tax rate is inherently unfair if they knew that you have no moral objections to Marxism.

I see that, when you started your blog eight years ago, you introduced yourself by saying, among other things, that you "have communist leanings."

If that hasn't changed, perhaps you shouldn't coy about your beliefs; to do so may be useful in giving the impression that you're just another voice within the mainstream of American political thought, but that impression would be misleading.

--

It doesn't seem to me that I misunderstood your position. As always, you are welcome to correct my misunderstandings.

Indeed, I would say that your near-constant refrain of "you misconstrue my writing" is less persausive without a clear explanation of what it is you really believe.

--

And I appreciate how seriously you take the teachings of Christ and His Apostles on wealth and poverty. Would that you did the same with their clear teachings on the authority of Scripture, the saving results of Christ's death, and the reason God made us male and female.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Dan,
I do not confuse the terms. Why is it NOT fair for everyone to pay the same? Because the rich are evil? You have demonstrated the desire for class warfare with all your demands that rich people pay more.

The rest of your diatribe had nothing to do with the topic - just more misapplication of Scripture.

Feo, as usual, also misapplies Scripture to the topic. False teachers just can't do that enough.

Craig said...

Bubba,

According to Dan's earlier comment if you were to say "I am a pacifist, have communist leanings,...", it would be safe to presume he is NOT a pacifist with communist leanings.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

And don't forget that communism is all about class warfare!

Dan Trabue said...

Craig, when you quote me exactly, that is when you all tend to correctly summarize my views. When you go on to say, "...and when Dan SAYS that, he means..." - THAT is when you almost without fail misunderstand and misrepresent my views.

Bubba, there is communism and there is Communism. I do not believe in Marxist Communism as a viable approach to doing an economy or gov't. Clearly, though, Jesus and the early church lived in a communal arrangement, as have many anabaptists and others through the years. Thus, I have "communist" leanings, not "Marxist Communist" leanings.

Understand the difference?

If you look up communism in Merriam Webster, you see TWO sets of definitions, only one of which refers to Marxist Communism.

I'm one who leans towards the first definition.

All the believers were together and had everything in common...

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had...


...you know, of the sort described in the Bible. And, as we see it most prominently in the NT, we see echoes of it in OT rules for the nation of Israel, which created a set of Sabbath and Jubilee rules for the nation so that "there need be no poor people among you..."

Dan Trabue said...

Bubba...

You see no moral objections to communism, at least if it's chosen democratically and dissidents are free to leave.

Yes, I see nothing inherently immoral about people choosing to live as the Amish live, or choosing to live as the early church lived, or as Israel was called to live.

Do you? If so, what specifically is objectively immoral about a people choosing to live out such an arrangement?

I'm answering your questions, I hope you'll return the favor.

Bubba...

I wonder what exactly you think is "inadvisable" about that arrangement, and since you write that "inadvisable is not the same as immoral," I do wonder why you don't evidently believe that prudence is morally obligatory.

Reasons why people working, being taxed at 100% and then getting a living wage from the gov't is less than workable/ideal:

1. I don't like an overly intrusive approach to gov't.

2. I don't think the gov't tends to be the most efficient at finding solutions and workable arrangements.

3. I think gov't has a tendency towards bureaucracy creep - to creating more and more unnecessary and less-than-helpful rules, even in the pursuit of a good ideal.

4. I think local solutions tend to be the best solutions. The more local, the more ideal, as a rule (with many exceptions, but still, not the rule). Thus, a federal-level plan to tax 100% and provide a living wage, is not a good idea. We see that at a smaller scale (think the early church, think the Amish, Hutterites, Mennonites, etc), that this idea tends to work pretty well, but not at a larger scale.

5. For better and worse, many of us fallen human beings are motivated by making more and more money and, losing that option would be demoralizing and demotivating for some people.

6. Simple and communal living probably works best as a spiritual discipline, rather than a gov't program. Chosen and embraced, not voted in.

7. I do not believe in legislating our each and every spiritual discipline, but rather, think that laws ought to tend to be towards preventing overt harm (murder, rape, theft), while other disciplines/rules that are more of a personal and social (and not overtly directly harmful - things like sexual practices, how we spend our money, how or whether we worship, etc) ought not be legislated.

For starters. Do you disagree?

Dan Trabue said...

Glenn...

Why is it NOT fair for everyone to pay the same? Because the rich are evil? You have demonstrated the desire for class warfare with all your demands that rich people pay more.

? Bubba, Marshall, this is your post: Should I respond to these sorts of off topic false charges and goofy mouthshit or let you tell Glenn to stop making false and unsupported statements?

10% of $10,000 is not the same as 10% of $100,000 because a family can't really hardly live on $9,000/year whereas a family CAN live on $90,000/year.

Rationally speaking, it is reasonable to say that we should not tax the poorest - at least at some level - because they simply can't afford it and taxing people who can't afford it leads to starvation and that would be immoral.

Is there any RATIONAL reason to say that taxing a millionaire at 30% or 40% or even 50% is, in and of itself, immoral? Anything other than, "But, I DON'T LIKE IT!"?

And of course I have not demonstrated a desire for class war. You know how we all can know that? Because, IF I had "demonstrated it," then all you have to do is point to the line or lines where I demonstrated it. You can not do this, therefore, it is a demonstrably false statement.

Will you apologize for this demonstrable falsehood or have you no sense of shame, sir?

Marshall Art said...

Unlike you, Dan, who now seems to demand comments formed by the strictest of limitations set by you, I prefer to let most visitors comment as they see fit, allowing them to make their point intelligently, cram their own feet into their own mouths or something in between. Those who oppose or find fault can then either ignore or rebuke as best they can.

As to Glenn's charges, they are an example of another difference in how I run my blog. I do not require anyone to seek clarifications in any particular manner, such as "do you mean when you say"...I am not personally mortified that someone, say, Alan or Geoffrey at your blog, would insist I mean something I do not, and am perfectly capable of countering (or at least attempting to counter) their accusations without wetting myself.

As to false charges, Glenn's opinion that you are a proponent of class warfare is not necessarily irrational, especially in light of your recent comment indicating you believe their is some moral problem with the desire to provide for one's self and one's family the most enjoyable and comfortable life possible. Such comments at the very least hint at class warfare in my opinion. Support for progressive tax policy does as well.

The problem I have with your tax views is that you approach the situation from a point in the middle, rather than at the beginning. By this I mean that when a person enters the workforce, an income tax assessed at whatever flat rate is the law is not oppressive since the person knows up front how much he will take home and should be budgeting his life accordingly. But again, here, we see your twisted perspective manifest as you regard the poor as having been victimized by outside forces beyond their control and thus are deserving of having their tax responsibilities lifted. All the while, we see, and it has been shown in discussions like this one, that the poor have so much given to them that equates to an income of a middle class family.

Gotta go...

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

your recent comment indicating you believe their is some moral problem with the desire to provide for one's self and one's family the most enjoyable and comfortable life possible.

? I am unsure what comment you are speaking of. There is no moral problem with a desire to provide for one's family, even an enjoyable and comfortable life. I suspect you might be speaking of not merely an enjoyable and comfortable life, but one that is ostentatious and extravagant. But even there, I'm not sure that I've said that this is morally wrong. There certainly is the great potential for that to be morally wrong (as Jesus indicates with his warnings about how wealth can be a trap and how we are not to store up for ourselves treasures here on earth), but I don't know that I've said it's definitively wrong.

My suspicion is that, once again, you all have read my actual words, interpreted it to mean something beyond what I actually mean and have a problem with what you mistakenly THINK I mean, rather than what I actually said.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

The problem I have with your tax views is that you approach the situation from a point in the middle, rather than at the beginning.

I'm saying that, IF a tax is more than a family can afford, then that tax is probably not just, and that we can have objective, measurable reasons for thinking thusly.

Consider this, Marshall: there's a family of four that makes $5,000/year and they live in the cheapest apartment available, are frugal with their money, don't smoke, don't eat out, don't drink... there simply is not enough money to do anything other than try to survive, and even then, that's not enough. They get by with some help from family and church assistance.

The reason they only make $5000 is because they have disabilities that limit their money-making opportunities.

Now, consider that the tax rate for these people is 50%. Can you NOT agree that this would be an objectively wrong, immoral tax rate and it is so because they simply can not afford to pay that?

That is my point. That, at least at the bottom end of things, we can say that there can be too much tax charged IF it is a tax beyond what people can pay and still live.

You seem to be taking the opposite view that you started with - that tax rates are not necessarily immoral, no matter what they are!

Are you actually arguing that, no, taxing 50% is not immoral or wrong in that case? Then at what point IS a tax rate wrong (if ever) to you and on what basis?

Dan Trabue said...

I guess what is not making sense to me is your lack of rationale for being opposed to a given tax rate.

I'm saying that there IS a tax rate that is morally wrong and it is a tax rate that people can't afford to pay and still survive. If you're making $50,000 and you're taxed at 95% rate, that is morally wrong for the reason that a family can't pay that and still have money to survive. It's at least one rational (if somewhat vague and difficult to measure) for why a tax rate can be too much to be morally correct.

Further, I'm noting that this reality (that paying more than you can afford is a measuring line for morality) is why it's fair and moral to tax at different rates... what determines its fairness is not the equality of it all, but the ability to rationally be able to pay it.

A 10% tax rate (for instance) for those making $10,000 a year and a 40% tax rate for those making $1,000,000 a year is fair (but not equal) because of the measure of "can they afford it?" If they can EQUALLY afford it, then it is not, in and of itself, immoral and unfair, at least in that regards.

You all, on the other hand, seem to want to say that a flat 10% tax rate for everyone is just and moral, as long as everyone is paying the same rate, but a 30% or 40% rate is immoral... but why? Is the entire measure of morality for you all whether or not all the people are paying the same rate? If so, on what rational basis do you believe that? If so, then a 90% tax rate is fair and moral because it's equal... but I don't think you all think that. So, on what rational basis are you all drawing a line as to moral or not?

Bubba said...

Dan, you'll notice that I didn't accuse you of having Marxist leanings: I merely quoted your own assertion about having small-c communist leanings.

You have repeatedly asserted not to see anything immoral with a government regime of taxes and subsidies that is based on the Marxist principle of "from each/to each."

For that reason, I think it's fair to say that, while you may have only small-c communist leanings, you do not reject Marxist, big-C Communism as immoral.

I do not believe I have misinterpreted you on this point.

--

You write:

"Yes, I see nothing inherently immoral about people choosing to live as the Amish live, or choosing to live as the early church lived, or as Israel was called to live.

"Do you? If so, what specifically is objectively immoral about a people choosing to live out such an arrangement?
" [emphasis in original]

First of all, I think you miscontrue Scripture. Whether it was a command or a promise (translations disagree), the picture of "no poor among you" in Deuteronomy 15:4 simply does not imply a mechanism of shared property. And Acts 2:44-45 and 4:34-35 MUST be read in light of Acts 5:4; the early church shared all things, but they did so voluntarily, as Peter clearly taught that, before claiming to have given it to the church, Ananias' property was still in his own possession and at his own disposal. (Cf. the Apostle Paul, 2 Cor 9:7.)

But my problem isn't with "people choosing to live out such an arrangement" of shared resources.

My problem is with implementing that choice through the mechanisms of the state.

That ought to be clear, both from the title of my guest post (which I composed and asked Marshall to use) and from its content. All of my original questions focused on taxes and subsidies; NONE OF THEM implied that I believe the hypothetical Brooklyn family would be in the moral wrong for giving away all their income in excess of what they needed to survive.

Your question ought to be this: what do I find immoral about sharing resources through taxes and subsidies?

Ask that, and I'll answer it.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Trabue,

You seem to be unable to communicate without being foul and crude. Typical of people as ignorant as you are.

I don't have time to search through the hundreds of posts you have commented on, all demonstrating you are a proponent of class warfare, but right here you just did. You think just because someone has more money, then they should pay a higher percentage of it in taxes. THAT is class warfare. It is animosity towards those with more money and demanding that they give more of it away. Never mind that they worked harder to get that money. Fair is everyone paying an equal share, and if 10% is the share one pays, then 10% is the share another pays. God seemed to think so in the O.T. when everyone regardless of their income paid the same 10%. Oh, I'm sorry, you probably have your own interpretation of that too.

GO away little man.

Bubba said...

Glenn,

I myself don't have a high opinion of Dan Trabue, but I think this particular conversation could be enlightening.

I'd rather that he not leave this particular discussion, and my preference is that he and I focus on these issues regarding redistributive taxation without denouncing each other.

I honestly think his words are usually damning enough on their own.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I'd like to also point out that federal income tax is just a portion of the many taxes people pay. If EVERYONE had to pay 10% of their income, there would be more revenue available to the government than is currently available due to all the ways people can avoid paying anything at all - like the close to 50% of Americans who pay NO federal income tax.

Then there is the state income tax, property tax (and I believe no one should have a vote in regards to property tax unless they are paying it!), sales tax, federal and state gasoline tax at the pump, all the additional taxes and fees collected through utilities and phones, etc. By the time one is done with taxes, virtually half of their pay is gone! And yet Trabue doesn't seem to have a problem with some people having to pay 50% of their income in federal tax!

Why should ANYONE pay more than 30% of their income into any income tax? What is the incentive to work when you have to give half of it away to the government?

And Trabue does his usual twisting of Scripture by abusing it to claim that the early Christians lived in a communist society. That has been denounced by too many scholars for me to bother explaining it to someone who has demonstrated for all the years I've read him on the numerous blogs that he is unteachable.

Bubba said...

Dan, speaking only for myself, my bewilderment comes from comments such as these.

"Rationally speaking, it is reasonable to say that we should not tax the poorest - at least at some level - because they simply can't afford it and taxing people who can't afford it leads to starvation and that would be immoral."

"I'm saying that there IS a tax rate that is morally wrong and it is a tax rate that people can't afford to pay and still survive."

I agree that those sort of tax rates are immoral, but why can't you draw the line on tax rates that are slightly lower than that? Why do you instead fixate on the fact that no one can draw the line with precision to X decimal places?

Although you see the immorality of onerous tax burdens that deprive the citizen of his life, you apparently do NOT see the immorality of onerous tax burdens that deprive him of his liberty.

Is that right negotiable, the right to enjoy the fruit of one's own labor? Does that right become optional the moment one's property is no longer strictly necessary for survival?

Jim said...

Glenn said: I believe no one should have a vote in regards to property tax unless they are paying it!

Are you suggesting that people who rent are not paying landlords' property taxes?

And yet Trabue doesn't seem to have a problem with some people having to pay 50% of their income in federal tax!

Nobody, NOBODY pays 50% of their income in federal taxes.

Why should ANYONE pay more than 30% of their income into any income tax?

Care to provide an example of ANYONE who actually pays 30% of their income in income taxes?

What is the incentive to work when you have to give half of it away to the government?

Gee, I don't know. Why don't you ask the people who built the great economy of the 1950s and early 1960s when top marginal rates were anywhere from 70% to over 90%?

Are you suggesting that a Wall Street hedge fund manager would simply stop working and give up the last half a billion dollars of net income because the other have billion was paid in taxes? Would you? (Even if such a thing was anywhere near the real effective tax rate?)

Jim said...

you apparently do NOT see the immorality of onerous tax burdens that deprive him of his liberty.

Would you care to provide a few examples of this deprivation?

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Jim,
Since you have proven to be unteachable, I will not enter a discussion with you.

Jim said...

In other words you cannot answer the questions I have posed to you. They weren't questions of morality, so you can't look to the Bible for your response. In this case, facts would be required.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

You can make all the assumptions about me as you desire, Jim, but you are wrong every time. You are not worth my time for discussion - good day.

Dan Trabue said...

Bubba...

you'll notice that I didn't accuse you of having Marxist leanings: I merely quoted your own assertion about having small-c communist leanings.

You'll notice I didn't accuse you of accusing me of having Marxist leanings. I merely clarified that yes, I have small-c communist leanings and differentiated that from Marxist Communism.

Bubba...

You have repeatedly asserted not to see anything immoral with a government regime of taxes and subsidies that is based on the Marxist principle of "from each/to each."

For that reason, I think it's fair to say that, while you may have only small-c communist leanings, you do not reject Marxist, big-C Communism as immoral.


I do not reject the notion of striving to assure enough for all, but that does not equate to agreeing with Marxism. In fact, Marxism has much - at least in practice - that I DO reject as immoral or, at least, as unwise and ill-advised. So, however it seems to you, you are mistaken if that is your conclusion.

Bubba...

My problem is with implementing that choice through the mechanisms of the state.

Me, too. That is exactly part of the problem of Marxist Communism, in my estimation. So?

I'm not at all clear what your point is.

Now, I repeat my questions to you all, as they are as-yet unanswered...

You all, on the other hand, seem to want to say that a flat 10% tax rate for everyone is just and moral, as long as everyone is paying the same rate, but a 30% or 40% rate is immoral... but why?

Is the entire measure of morality for you all whether or not all the people are paying the same rate?

If so, on what rational basis do you believe that? If so, then a 90% tax rate is fair and moral because it's equal... but I don't think you all think that.

So, on what rational basis are you all drawing a line as to moral or not?

Dan Trabue said...

Glenn...

You seem to be unable to communicate without being foul and crude.

? I am sorry if, when you spew Mouth Shit from your head and I point out, "Hey Glenn, You're spewing Mouth Shit..." that you find that "foul and crude." Perhaps, if you'd cease spewing mouth shit, people wouldn't be inclined to point it out?

Bubba...

I agree that those sort of tax rates are immoral, but why can't you draw the line on tax rates that are slightly lower than that? Why do you instead fixate on the fact that no one can draw the line with precision to X decimal places?

What specifically makes 31% immoral, but 29% not immoral? At what point is a tax rate "depriving people of liberty.." and on what basis do you hold that hunch?

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Trabue,
Thanks for proving my point about your abject ignorance, let alone stupidity.

Marshall Art said...

OK KIDS! Only I have the authority or right to be rude, crude and socially unacceptable on this blog. Dan, who has come to delete for far lesser offenses should be a bit more discriminating (if a lefty ever can be) regarding word choices. So when here, as Bill and Ted would say, "Be excellent to each other." I know it's hard for some, but if it ain't directed at me, bite it off. Snark, the double entendre, and clever insults are allowed by my approval exclusively, and those must be accompanied by some explanation for why it is appropriate. That's why Parkie gets deleted so often. He sucks at it.

Jim said...

"your abject ignorance" equals "I am unable to answer your question."

Jim, but you are wrong every time.

No. I'm not.

"You are not worth my time for discussion" equals "I am unable to answer your question."

Bubba said...

Dan, I'm less interested in discussing the specifics of tax rates to two decimal places than in the general principles of what moral limits constrain the goals and activities of government.

Why is that? It's because I believe a proper understanding of the right relationship between the individual and the state informs detailed discussions on tax policies; there's no point haggling over tax rates if there's no prior consensus on the limits of good government.

You now write:

"I do not reject the notion of striving to assure enough for all, but that does not equate to agreeing with Marxism. In fact, Marxism has much - at least in practice - that I DO reject as immoral or, at least, as unwise and ill-advised. So, however it seems to you, you are mistaken if that is your conclusion."

Okay, so why can't you definitively denounce as OBVIOUSLY immoral a tax regime that results in the individual having nothing more than what is minimally needed to survive?

Why in the world did you REPEATEDLY affirm that you see nothing immoral in an essentially Marxist tax system?

In your first comment here, you denied the immorality of such a system NO LESS THAN FOUR TIMES.

[quote-emphasis in original]

If a society of whatever size agreed that they wanted to work, earn as much money as they might, have the gov't tax it at 100% and then provide a living wage to everyone, there is nothing inherently immoral in that. People can agree to do whatever they want.

I, for one, do not think such an arrangement is wise or advisable, but I don't know why it should be considered immoral, in and of itself.

If one was living in a nation that was capitalist in nature and decided by popular vote/representative gov't to go communist in the manner described, and some people did not wish to engage in that experiment, and they were free to leave, I still see nothing inherently immoral in the nation deciding to do this.

What would be objectively, definitively immoral in such an arrangement? I can think of nothing off the top of my head, other than the inadvisability of the notion. But inadvisable is not the same as immoral.


[end quote]

Do you really wonder, then, that I conclude that you don't think such an arrangement is immoral, when you repeatedly write that you don't think such an arrangement is immoral?

And I'll say again, that I'm more interested in this question than in detailed tax rates.

I'll say again, that I'm willing to answer the question, what do I find immoral about sharing resources through taxes and subsidies?

Are you REALLY not interested in that question?

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Jim really reinterprets everything the way he reinterprets the Bible. Liberals!

Bubba said...

Correction: emphasis ADDED in that quote block, it wasn't in the original.

--

Dan, to tackle your fixation on specific rates a bit further, I must ask you something.

You've repeatedly written that a tax rate is immoral if it results in a person's having less than he needs to survive. I think it's safe to assume that most of us here agree that such a tax rate is immoral, but we don't stop there.

We also believe that tax rates are immoral if they unduly encroaches on a person's right to liberty and not just his right to life.

Why exactly is that position rational ONLY if we can discern the line between moral and immoral tax rates to two decimal places?

You've repeatedly declared that it's immoral to tax beyond what a person needs to survive. OKAY, WHAT'S THE AMOUNT A PERSON NEEDS TO SURVIVE?

"Rationally speaking, it is reasonable to say that we should not tax the poorest - at least at some level - because they simply can't afford it and taxing people who can't afford it leads to starvation and that would be immoral."

What exact amount do people need to avoid starvation, to the nearest $100?

"I'm saying that, IF a tax is more than a family can afford, then that tax is probably not just, and that we can have objective, measurable reasons for thinking thusly."

Where is the line at which a family can no longer afford additional taxes, to the nearest $100?

"That is my point. That, at least at the bottom end of things, we can say that there can be too much tax charged IF it is a tax beyond what people can pay and still live."

How much does a person need after taxes, to still live?

"If you're making $50,000 and you're taxed at 95% rate, that is morally wrong for the reason that a family can't pay that and still have money to survive. It's at least one rational (if somewhat vague and difficult to measure) for why a tax rate can be too much to be morally correct."

How much money does one need to survive?

HERE YOU ADMIT that this magic number is "somewhat vague and difficult to measure."

Well, then, should we FOLLOW YOUR EXAMPLE and insinuate that your position is irrational because you can't go into details?

Or can we not discuss the principles that transcend those details and skip the juvenile point-scoring about specific percentages?

--

Me, I'd rather focus on the underlying principles.

Why do I think that it's inherently immoral to tax some large (albeit unspecified) amount of a person's wealth even if he has enough to live? Why can you not say the same?

THOSE are the important questions, not the details about when precisely a tax becomes a threat to life or liberty.

Marshall Art said...

Dan,

"I suspect you might be speaking of not merely an enjoyable and comfortable life, but one that is ostentatious and extravagant."

Who gets to decide this? You? Based on your constant preaching of "simple living", a hat is ostentatious. Whatever line you feel is crossed into this realm of "ostentatious and extravagant" is an infringement upon the liberties of another to decide for himself what constitutes more than enough. This is the problem and why accusations of class warfare are reasonable, if not entirely appropriate.

It seems to me that the discussion has diverted from "fair" to "moral". Fair is everyone paying the same percentage. Whatever that percentage is, when it is applied to everyone, regardless of race, creed, gender, ethnicity or income level, we have fairness.

It is not helpful to bring up extreme situations, particularly since in this country there are few, if any, who cannot get assistance from a variety of sources, public and private, so that to excuse them from their obligation as a citizen is unnecessary. It would be helpful if everyone in the nation got used to the idea that for every dollar they earn, 10% (for example) goes to the federal government. If everyone thought about their income in this way first, before they think of anything else, they could plan and build their lives around that remainder that the gov't doesn't take. Sure, they'd have to think about state income tax as well, if they live in a state that has one. And they'd have to think in terms of taxes on purchases, just like anyone else would, before they go shopping. Where's the problem here?

However, the poor in this country are eligible for assistance of some kind, and so many of them are taking advantage. But at some point they need to be a part of giving to the country and paying one's taxes is a basic and simple way to do it, especially considering they are likely having taxes withheld every check anyway, and "recouping" come April.

It is also easy and wrongheaded to think in terms of obligations that our gov't creates when they shouldn't be spending beyond its income any more than any of us should. But spend and borrow it does and what is the common solution? To take from the producers. This is crap. We need everyone to pay for the debts created on behalf of everyone, as the gov't learns to spend less than it takes in. When everyone has to pay, everyone feels more compelled to pay attention to the spending the gov't is doing.

That's all I got for now, as I am low on time.

Dan Trabue said...

Bubba...

HERE YOU ADMIT that this magic number is "somewhat vague and difficult to measure."

Well, then, should we FOLLOW YOUR EXAMPLE and insinuate that your position is irrational because you can't go into details?


The point is, Bubba, I'm NOT the one who says that there is an immoral tax rate beyond the notion of "taxing so much they can't survive." My point is that there is NOT one specific rate that is immoral, it depends upon the circumstances. You all, on the other hand, seem to insist that, regardless of circumstances, there DOES exist a rate that is "too much..." and some here have suggested that it's 15% or 25% or whatever, but they have in mind that there is a rate that is too much.

I'm saying that it depends upon the circumstances and that we don't have an objective clear-cut guide that tells us in each and every circumstance, "Yes, that is objectively immoral." THAT is my point.

It's a rational and sane position to take and I can't believe you all can't agree with me on that point.

Bubba...

Why do I think that it's inherently immoral to tax some large (albeit unspecified) amount of a person's wealth even if he has enough to live? Why can you not say the same?

Because I know of no way to establish with authority such an unspecified number. What IS the "wrong" amount? Why is it wrong?

Look, I believe in a nation's right to self-determination - as long as basic human rights are not taken away from others (ie, as long as harm is not done). IF a nation collectively determines that the way they'd like to manage their economy is to do as you described in your post, then as long as no harm is done and people who don't agree with the set up have the right to leave, then I do not know on what basis I would call that arrangement immoral or wrong. I can think something is a bad idea without thinking it's morally wrong.

On what basis would I consider that particular arrangement morally wrong?

Do I think it's wrong for a gov't - apart from the will of the people - to impose such an arrangement? Sure, because there is the harm - it's imposed, not chosen by the People and thus, a loss of liberty.

BUT, if a nation decides to do such and those who disagree have every opportunity to leave, then it's not an imposition, it's the will of the people. You can agree and stay (no harm) or you can disagree and leave (inconvenient and sad as heck, but no harm).

Do you think it's wrong for a nation to be self-determining as it relates to how they manage their economy, as long as no harm is done?

Dan Trabue said...

My point in all of this, when the topic came up, was NOT to defend socialism (you can tell that by the way I never said that), my point was simply that there is not one rate that we can point to and say, THAT rate is objectively too much. That is all.

Is there ANY reason that we can point to a rate or even a range of rates (15-25% is okay, but anything MORE than 25% is objectively morally wrong - or if not 25%, then certainly 30%) and say it is demonstrably, objectively evil? If so, then demonstrate it objectively. If not, then we are in agreement.

I don't see as I'm saying anything spectacularly unusual here. If you can't objectively demonstrate that a rate is wrong, then how am I to agree with you?

Dan Trabue said...

A bit more, here and there.

Bubba said...

I'm less interested in discussing the specifics of tax rates to two decimal places than in the general principles of what moral limits constrain the goals and activities of government.

The principles I support?

1. gov't of, by and for the people;

2. gov't that does no harm;

3. gov't that protects against harm (to a reasonable degree - reasonable: laws and actions against rape and theft; unreasonable - laws to protect us from our own stupidity such as over eating...)

4. gov't that provides a mechanism for taking care of common needs (ie, taxation of some sort to pay for our roads, for regulations, fair weights and measures, police, fire dept, etc)

Something like that. Nothing unusual. The problem/issue we're discussing here is the "mechanism for taking care of our common needs..."

We all agree (I believe) that gov't has a right and obligation to raise money (through taxation or some other scheme) to pay for these common needs.

We all agree that gov't COULD tax too much (if, for instance, it taxed to the point of depriving life or incurring oppression, a la the Sheriff of Nottingham).

The problem is, it seems to me, that we have no objective measure of saying "This much is okay but no more... anything beyond this much is immoral and wrong."

Can we agree on that much? That is not unreasonable and it is, I believe, demonstrable insofar as it goes.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall, in his defense of Glenn's objective falsehoods...

Dan, who has come to delete for far lesser offenses should be a bit more discriminating (if a lefty ever can be) regarding word choices.

So what I'm hearing here, then, is that entirely hamfisted and unclever slander and falsehoods are okay, but calling slanders and falsehoods "shit" is not okay? Got you.

Glenn, have you stopped wearing your mother's underwear yet? How about molesting those poor dogs? You really shouldn't do such crude things, man. If you're sex life is that pathetic, make changes in your life or something, but try to straighten up, little fella.

(Note: The entire lack of specific cursewords in that claim... I suppose I'm gold, now...)

Is it worthwhile pointing out the problem of being offended by mere cursewords, but finding blatant falsehoods and unbiblical slander to be not at all vulgar or offensive?

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

Who gets to decide this? You? Based on your constant preaching of "simple living", a hat is ostentatious. Whatever line you feel is crossed into this realm of "ostentatious and extravagant" is an infringement upon the liberties of another to decide for himself what constitutes more than enough...

I will point you to what I actually said in order to answer your question with the words I have already posted...

I suspect you might be speaking of not merely an enjoyable and comfortable life, but one that is ostentatious and extravagant.

BUT EVEN THERE, I'm not sure that I've said that this is morally wrong. There certainly is the great potential for that to be morally wrong (as Jesus indicates with his warnings about how wealth can be a trap and how we are not to store up for ourselves treasures here on earth), but I don't know that I've said it's definitively wrong.


In case you're missing it, the answer is NO, not me. You. Me. Each of us decides for ourselves, hopefully to some reasonable measure and within a framework of a spiritual disciple or ethical reasoning.

You can tell that I'm not suggesting that I should decide what is extravagant for everyone else BY THE WAY I'VE NEVER SAID IT.

Really fellas, is it that hard to measure what I've said by, you know, what I've said rather than inane and ridiculous suggestions of what I have NOT said?

Marshall...

This is the problem and why accusations of class warfare are reasonable, if not entirely appropriate.

What SPECIFICALLY is "the problem?"

What specifically makes you think that I believe in class warfare? That I quote people like the apostle James who said, "Is it not the rich who oppress you?" or Mary, the Mother of Jesus, who said, "You have lifted up the poor but tore down the wealthy and powerful..." or Jesus, who said, "Woe to you who are wealthy..."? I quote them because I believe the Bible and take it seriously and use it to help guide my thinking.

That I raise such ideas does not mean that I believe in class warfare, any more than I believe that those quotes (far more inflammatory than anything I've ever said) indicate that Jesus and his followers believe in class warfare.

Or is it that I believe that some lifestyles can be ostentatious to the point of being problematic? Do you not believe this, too?

You do recall why Sodom was destroyed, yes?

"Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy."

Does that mean that the prophet Ezekiel was a class warfarist? Or is he simply pointing out the problems that often are associated with extravagant wealth (or here, even simply "wealth," extravagant or not)?

Do you think that one can not point out the problems associated with the trappings of wealth? If so, then do you have a problem when the biblical writers do so? If not them, then why other people?

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

Whatever that percentage is, when it is applied to everyone, regardless of race, creed, gender, ethnicity or income level, we have fairness.

Well, that's your opinion. Other people disagree. That is EQUALITY of RATE, but whether or not equality of rate = fairness, THAT is the question being raised.

We use extreme examples to establish the right thinking as we approach problems. IF we can agree that taxing the disabled person who earns $5000/year at 10% is not fair - simply because that is more than they can reasonably afford and still live - then we have established a principle: There are SOME rates that can be too much and NOT be fair, even if the rate is equal to what other people pay.

That is the principle I'm proclaiming as entirely reasonable and commonsense and observable to most people in the US, at least (it's why we have a progressive tax scheme rather than a flat tax - most of us recognize the inherent unfairness of equal rates).

DO you agree that it would not be fair to tax such a person at that rate, even if it WAS what everyone else was paying?

Bubba said...

Indeed, Dan, you're not defending socialism, you're just making an assumption that permits socialism -- namely, the assumption that property rights are negotiable.

You write that a completely confiscatory tax rate is wrong if it's not democratically chosen because "it's imposed, not chosen by the People and thus, a loss of liberty."

You see the loss of liberty that comes through undemocratic processes, but NOT the loss of liberty that comes through confiscatory taxation per se.

As long as such taxes are imposed democratically and dissident minorities are free to leave, no problem! You don't think any harm is done.

"Look, I believe in a nation's right to self-determination - as long as basic human rights are not taken away from others (ie, as long as harm is not done). IF a nation collectively determines that the way they'd like to manage their economy is to do as you described in your post, then as long as no harm is done and people who don't agree with the set up have the right to leave, then I do not know on what basis I would call that arrangement immoral or wrong. I can think something is a bad idea without thinking it's morally wrong."

Apparently you do not include property rights in the category of "basic human rights."

You appeal to the will of the people, but if the people are unanimous in giving to the state all that they produce, then the regime of taxation is superfluous.

If they're not unanimous, then the regime IS oppressive to that minority of people who dare to have other plans with the fruit of their own labor.

To prevent that minority from emigrating would exacerbate the oppression, but allowing them to leave doesn't suddenly make the tax regime moral.

--

You write, "We all agree (I believe) that gov't has a right and obligation to raise money (through taxation or some other scheme) to pay for these common needs."

(Never mind that half of what the federal government spends -- and more than what is spent on defense -- goes to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, programs which don't qualify in your limited list of "common needs.")

I notice what you don't write, that we all agree that the individual has the right to the fruit of his own labor.

I think a reasonable position is to acknowledge both rights, to recognize that they're in tension with each other and that -- therefore -- neither right is an absolute right that can be exercised to the complete exclusion of the other.

A more rational position would be something like this: "Though I do believe we cannot draw a precise line at when taxation becomes immoral, a regime of total taxation is obviously immoral, even if people's essential needs are provided through welfare, even if the regime was chosen democratically, and even if dissenters are permitted to emigrate."

But you don't take that position, evidently because you do not see property rights as basic human rights that the government MUST be careful not to hamper unnecessarily through onerous taxation.

Bubba said...

Dan writes, "most of us recognize the inherent unfairness of equal rates."

Yes, such a terrible unfair concept: equality before the law.

Thomas Sowell has written:

"If there is ever a contest to pick which word has done the most damage to people's thinking, and to actions to carry out that thinking, my nomination would be the word 'fair.' It is a word thrown around by far more people than have ever bothered to even try to define it."

Would Dan be willing and able to provide a definition of fairness that makes it clear why equality before the law doesn't qualify?

I'm guessing it has something to do with equality of outcome: the disparate impact of a flat income tax is the only appeal he's making to the concept of fairness, but the logic of disparate impacts leads to tyranny in short order.

And the ultimate lunacy of equality of outcomes isn't unimportant. After all, we use extreme examples to establish the right thinking as we approach problems.

Asking everyone to pay the same amount, either in absolute terms or in relative terms, IS INDEED FAIR by any rational standard.

What it isn't is charitable: it's not always charitable or merciful to require the poor to pay the same level of taxes.

But it takes clear thinking to see that what's fair and what's "nice" isn't always the same, just as it takes clear thinking to see that the moral role of the government is very strictly limited and shares very little in common with the roles of the church and the family.

--

Obviously, the cost of such clear thinking is too high: the weapon of "fairness" and "social justice" is just too powerful to set down.

After all, there are obvious limits to the amount of charity that the state ought to show, indeed, there are limits to the amount that the state can afford to show. One can argue that quite effectively that mercy is a matter for the private sector, the church and the charity.

But if wealth redistribution is a matter of fairness rather than charity, why, there's no limit to the ratcheting effect of confiscating wealth from those who can afford to pay in order to subsidize others.

Dan Trabue said...

Bubba...

A more rational position would be something like this: "Though I do believe we cannot draw a precise line at when taxation becomes immoral, a regime of total taxation is obviously immoral, even if people's essential needs are provided through welfare, even if the regime was chosen democratically, and even if dissenters are permitted to emigrate."

You may be right. But why? Why is it "obviously immoral..." IF it is the will of the people and no one is obliged to stay and participate in the experiment?

Why specifically?

Because people have an inate and obvious right to property (if they can pull it together to purchase/accumulate property), even in a country that is trying to manage needs and economy in another way?

Maybe so. I don't know that to be the case, but maybe you could make the case.

A question, though: Do you suspect that the laws against continual ownership of land in ancient Israel were, perforce, immoral because they violate this obvious 9to you) liberty to own stuff without restrictions?

In your example, is it not the case that people had the right to own their own stuff - the state did not control their means of production, only taxed people 100% of what they made and then, in return, provided back a living wage of some sort and THAT stuff was there's, as well? Does your scenario indicate that they did not have the liberty to own and control their own lives and goods, only that there was a taxation rate of 100% on what income they produced, a portion of which was returned to them and which was theirs to keep, right? In that arrangement, have they lost the liberty to own stuff? It does not appear to be so.

So again, the question I'm stuck with is, "WHY?" Why is it immoral? On what do you base this? I need more information before I could agree or disagree with your premise.

Dan Trabue said...

Bubba...

you're not defending socialism, you're just making an assumption that permits socialism -- namely, the assumption that property rights are negotiable.

You write that a completely confiscatory tax rate is wrong if it's not democratically chosen because "it's imposed, not chosen by the People and thus, a loss of liberty."


1. I have not defended the notion that property rights are negotiable. Maybe they are, maybe they are not, I have not staked a position in that question.

2. I have not defended a confiscatory tax rate. I would need a definition of "confiscatory tax rate" before I could stake out a position. I've seen at least one definition that has it as a means to punish the rich and I've seen another definition as simply a high flat tax rate. Maybe I'd agree, maybe not, but we'd need to define some terms.

I hope you see my point. You're taking my words and expanding them to include topics and notions that I have not staked out a position upon. You're extrapolating my words from what I have said and do mean to what I have not said and may not mean.

Just as a point of clarification.

You asked about a very specific situation: People setting up a 100% tax scheme in which a portion that is at least a living wage is returned to them and is then there's to manage. I've said that I do not see that arrangement to be wise, but I don't see why that specific arrangement is perforce immoral.

I've asked you, "On what basis is it immoral?" That's what I'm waiting to consider.

Bubba...

I notice what you don't write, that we all agree that the individual has the right to the fruit of his own labor.

Well, as a Christian, I do not believe all that we have is ours to do with as we please. I believe everything belongs to God. That is not an unorthodox Christian belief and I'd be willing to bet that you agree with me, at least on some level.

Now, as a citizen, I do NOT believe that, since everything belongs to God, that we ought to give it all to the state for them to decide how to use it. I do NOT believe that the state can best decide how God wants us to use everything. I do NOT want to enforce by law a religious scheme for spending money based on what some subset of the citizenry adjudges to be morally right and pleasing to God. I believe that, while flawed, the best way to handle expenditures is at the personal (and ideally, personal, aided by input and support from a local faith community) level.

But no, I do not believe that the individual has the "right" to the fruit of his labor. Do you? Or do you agree with me that it's all God's and, perhaps the best (albeit flawed) choice is to allow the individual the right to manage that "fruit of labor" which does not belong to him, but God and, in another sense, the world (ie, the idea that this land I live on does not belong to me, but to all of our descendents and I'm just a temporary caretaker...)?

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Trabue,

You almost always resort to ad hominem attacks. You virtually always claim slander and falsehoods no matter how much it is demonstrated that it is truth. You always play the victim while spewing your liberal false teachings.

Now, you say it is slander and a falsehood, and filth from my mouth (except it comes from my fingers on a keyboard demonstrating how YOU make false charges), to say you promote class warfare.

Interesting to claim that is untrue, when you continue to demonstrate on THIS comment string that you are indeed promoting class warfare. YOU determine that anyone making more money than YOU deem acceptable should therefore be forced to pay a higher percentage of their income just because they can afford it - with YOU of course being the determiner that they can afford it.

You claim that you lean towards communism which is based on class warfare. You have demonstrated on many, many blog comment strings your abject liberal ideology which continually includes the denigration of the "rich". And yet you call it "mouthshit" and slander and falsehoods when you are called to task for your promotion of class warfare.

Your refusal to accept correction on ANY matter ever discussed on any blog demonstrates that discussions with you are fruitless and are nothing more than arguing with a fool. Hence, I'm no longer discussing your victimhood and claims of being wronged on this string.

Dan Trabue said...

Bubba...

Would Dan be willing and able to provide a definition of fairness that makes it clear why equality before the law doesn't qualify?

It is entirely EQUAL to say to a blind student and a sighted student: Here is a test written down on paper. Take this test and you will either pass or fail this class. There will be no talking. If you talk to others or others to you, you will fail.

Setting up a test like that would be entirely equal. It would be ridiculously unfair, but it WOULD be equal.

Do you see the problem of trying to equate fairness with a harsh equality?

In this sense, I lean towards defining as Merriam Webster does here:

marked by impartiality and honesty : free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism

It is ENTIRELY EQUAL to treat the sighted and blind student exactly the same with a written test that the blind person could not see, but the results would be prejudiced, as they didn't allow the test to fairly measure what the blind student knew and show favoritism towards the sighted student, thus it would be obviously and ridiculously UNfair.

Is it not reasonable in the extreme, to recognize the sometimes significant difference between equal and fair?

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Oh, and I can't stand the way TRABUE abuses scripture to claim Jesus and James, et al, were for class warfare. ARGH!!! and he wonders why he his labeled a false teacher, with absolutely no clue as to what Scripture actually says! Only cultists practice eisegesis to the degree Trabue practices it.

Is this slander or falsehoods, etc? My proof for my charges can be found here:

http://wolfsheep2.wordpress.com/2012/08/25/false-teacher-profile-updated/

Dan Trabue said...

Glenn, sufficient to say that anyone who molests puppies such as you do is not able to reason their way out of paper sack and, as a result, your interpretations of my words are entirely false and demonstrably wrong.

Thou shalt not bear false witness. Those who slander are not part of the Kingdom of God.

Get a dry pair of panties, stop molesting dogs and go away, little brother.

(And, because the irony and object lesson will be lost on you all, I'll point it out:

Yes, I just made some false claims. Obviously and demonstrably false.

The difference between Glenn's falsehoods and slander and my pointed hyperbole and mocking is that Glenn apparently believes what he's saying - no matter how false it is - whereas I am mocking Glenn with the point of showing him the error of his ways... that, indeed, it is wrong to spread false witness and make false accusations. Seriously, Glenn, stop it. If you can't say something True, then say nothing at all. Or at least, purchase yourself a sense of humor and be funny, if false.)

Dan Trabue said...

Now, Glenn, as much as Bubba also has a problem understanding my words, here today, I believe he is sincerely engaging in a respectful adult conversation. So, go away, take your repeated false charges and slander and gossip (adding gossip, since you've linked to a place that is gossiping falsely about me), and let the adults have a conversation.

Suffice to say that EVERY TIME you have said, "Dan says..." or "Dan believes..." you have ENTIRELY misunderstood my actual position.

And, between us, reasonably, WHO KNOWS best what MY position is - me or you?

Come on.

You, sir, are mistaken and spreading false claims, whether you can see it or not. I'll try to let this be the last time I point that out.

Dan Trabue said...

Okay, sorry Bubba, others, I don't know why, but I can't let this idiocy go. Glenn said...

I can't stand the way TRABUE abuses scripture to claim Jesus and James, et al, were for class warfare.

LOOK AT MY WORDS. I have NEVER, NOT ONE TIME, EVER made the "claim" that Jesus, James, et al werer for class warfare.

If I MADE the claim, then you could quote the claim. Instead, I claimed THE EXACT OPPOSITE. Seriously Glenn, man to man, do you not understand my words or are you deliberately spreading falsehoods?

Here is my EXACT quote about Jesus, James, etc:

That I raise such ideas DOES NOT MEAN that I believe in class warfare, any more than I believe that those quotes (far more inflammatory than anything I've ever said) indicate that Jesus and his followers believe in class warfare.

Emphasis added to point out that what I CLAIMED was that I do NOT believe that those quotes are about class warfare.

Do you truly not understand my actual words, Glenn? Take a breath, take a look at what I wrote and just be reasonable, man. Let's assume you got all excited and emotional in the heat of your disagreement and you got carried away and made a simple mistake. No problem. Correct the mistake and move on.

Dan Trabue said...

One more for now. Back on topic, Bubba said...

I'm guessing it has something to do with equality of outcome: the disparate impact of a flat income tax is the only appeal he's making to the concept of fairness, but the logic of disparate impacts leads to tyranny in short order.

And the ultimate lunacy of equality of outcomes isn't unimportant.


I'm not looking for equality of outcomes, just to be clear. But FAIRNESS of outcomes. IF a blind student and a sighted student took the same class and both know approximately the same data/info;

and THEN a test was needed to pass the test;

and THEN the teacher gave a test that treated them exactly equally (writing answers to questions written on a sheet of paper);

THEN the results would be unfair because it would have been a prejudiced (towards the sighted and against the blind) test that failed to fairly measure what was known.

Oftentimes, equality is a good measure of fairness. Equal opportunities, equal treatment, etc. BUT, not always. Sometimes an equality can be harshly used and become an unfair equality. We want fairness of opportunity managed in a reasonable way.

I can't seriously believe that you would disagree with this notion, at least as far as I'm laying it out. Equality is patently NOT always the same as Fairness.

You agree, don't you?

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

For those who might be misunderstanding, let me clarify.

Dan's use of those passages is because he claims that they reflect what he teaches, and then he says they are not promoting class warfare, ergo neither is he. Yet as has been demonstrated, Trabue does indeed promote class warfare and, therefore, if he says the passages teach what he teaches then he is de facto saying they teach class warfare all the while claiming he doesn't believe they do!

Cognitive dissonance I believe is what they call it.

Dan Trabue said...

Yes, when I say X, it obviously means that I MEAN "Not X" and when I correct you, "No, I mean X, not 'not x'," then that obviously is confirmation that you, indeed, know better what I think than I do.

That is rational and not a falsehood, obviously.

[rolls eyes]

ON topic, another example/illustration about fairness vs equality.

If an employer had two employees doing the same job, one who had worked for 25 years for the company and one who just started, and that longtime employee made $25,000/year and received 5 weeks vacation... would you then say that, "IN THE NAME OF EQUALITY, we MUST pay the new employee the same rate and give him the same benefits!"

OR, do you recognize that the circumstances are different and, thus, in the name of fairness, we should NOT treat them equally.

Or, in another sense, we SHOULD treat them equally. The longtime employee made much less when he started. When the new employee has worked as long as the older one, he will likewise receive more with more time. That is equal (in that sense) AND fair.

Similarly, the family making $10,000 WILL be treated equally, if and when they start making $1,000,000/year, they will be taxed at a rate EQUAL to the other millionaires. But in the name of FAIRNESS, we ought not treat different SITUATIONS as if they were equal.

Does that not make a million bucks worth of sense? If not, how not? Specifically?

Bubba said...

Dan, in discussing a system where 100% of an economy's income is taxed and individuals are then given a subsistence subsidy, I think it's entirely reasonable to describe the tax as "confiscatory." Why not? EVERYTHING is taxed under that system, EVERYTHING is initially confiscated, and so if that system isn't confiscatory, nothing is.

You object to my using that term to describe a system that you do not see as immoral.

" I have not defended a confiscatory tax rate. I would need a definition of 'confiscatory tax rate' before I could stake out a position. I've seen at least one definition that has it as a means to punish the rich and I've seen another definition as simply a high flat tax rate. Maybe I'd agree, maybe not, but we'd need to define some terms.

"I hope you see my point. You're taking my words and expanding them to include topics and notions that I have not staked out a position upon. You're extrapolating my words from what I have said and do mean to what I have not said and may not mean.
"

Well, you've done at least as much in the comment immediately prior.

"Do you suspect that the laws against continual ownership of land in ancient Israel were, perforce, immoral because they violate this obvious 9to you) liberty to own stuff without restrictions?"

Did I ever explicitly assert a right to property "without restrictions"? No, I did not.

Quite the contrary, in discussing the state's duty to collect revenue and the individual's right to property, I wrote:

"I think a reasonable position is to acknowledge both rights, to recognize that they're in tension with each other and that -- therefore -- neither right is an absolute right that can be exercised to the complete exclusion of the other."

I assert that we have the right to property.

You demean that assertion as the right to "own stuff" and even create a strawman of my position by referring to it as a right to "own stuff without restriction."

You're not as careful with my words to the same degree that you demand I take care with yours.

--

You say, "I do not believe that the individual has the 'right' to the fruit of his labor."

Why not? The same God who prohibits bearing false witness ALSO prohibits theft and even coveting that which belongs to your neighbor.

If nothing belongs to your neighbor -- only to God and (somehow) the world -- what's the point in commanding us not to do what is impossible to do?

Why bring up the jubilee laws of ancient Israel without noting that individuals were allowed to keep the wealth they produced on the land that they essentially leased? Or noting that they could have (and ought to have) reckoned on the number of years remaining before the next Jubilee in negotiating rental prices?

Why bring up Deuteronomy 15:4's promise or command of having no poor among ancient Israel and ignore the Old Testament's salutary picture of every man sitting under his own fig tree (1 Kings 4:25, Micah 4:4)?

A comprehensive review of Scripture doesn't support the picture you're trying to paint.

Dan Trabue said...

I don't know why I'd go down this way, but just to ACTUALLY demonstrate what supporting an argument looks like...

Glenn...

Yet as has been demonstrated, Trabue does indeed promote class warfare

Glenn, I don't believe you know what that word means. Where SPECIFICALLY have you demonstrated that I promote class warfare?

Do you have even ONE instance of me doing what you call "promoting class warfare..."? If so, what specifically is it?

IF you can't demonstrate it and provide it (as with Jim), then you can't support the claim. It is, therefore, objectively and demonstrably an unsupported claim.

IF I know what I believe (and I do, by all accounts, know what I believe) and I'm telling you that I do not believe in class warfare, then it is demonstrably a FALSE and wholly unsupported claim.

But I'll give you a chance to act like a rational adult, Glenn, and ask you a question: What SPECIFICALLY do you even mean by "class warfare..."? IF you mean merely the recognition that wealth has some trappings associated with it, then YES, I believe in THAT (but I don't believe that is correctly called "class warfare..."). But if you mean something else (like warring between economic classes, or the automatic presumption that if you are in one class, then you are evil or something, then no, I objectively do not believe that.

And you don't have to rely upon my word for it, I can demonstrate it reasonably.

I am, I believe, in the upper 10% of people in the world in 2013, thus, I am wealthy by national and historic standards. Do you think I hate myself because I am wealthy? Have I ever given any indication of self-loathing? No, of course I don't hate "the wealthy," of which I'm a part.

Anyway you look at your claim, it observably falls apart, Glenn. Can you speak in specifics rather than vague unsupported claims?

If you can't do anything than make vague and unsupported and by all evidence, false, claims, on what bases would we treat you like a rational adult?

Bubba said...

Indeed, Dan, ultimately everything belongs to God -- everyBODY belongs to God, too, which is why He has the right to end the life of His own creation at His discretion, even through human agency.

But the eigth and tenth commandments -- those that surround the one you quote oh-so-often -- are meaningless without a concept of individual property rights.

Made in His image, we too can own property, and while our rights are certainly not unlimited, we do enjoy a significant amount of freedom in deciding how to dispose of our property.

It is morally reprehensible for the government to seize all that we produce, reducing us from responsible, property-holding adults to the wards and livestock of the state. It's slightly better for the government to do this as a result of a democratic decision, but it's still immoral.

On the one hand, I cannot imagine how you can't genuinely see this, considering that "managing all the wealth produced by a nation" cannot conceivably fall under the "common needs" you mention as the raison d'etre of the state: roads, regulations, fair weights and measures, police, fire dept, etc.

On the other hand, I don't see how I could convince anyone of the immorality of such an "experiment" of total taxation if he does not first acknowledge that we have property rights after all.

On the question of whether we have an obvious and innate right to property, you say, "I don't know that to be the case, but maybe you could make the case."

And again:

"I have not defended the notion that property rights are negotiable. Maybe they are, maybe they are not, I have not staked a position in that question."

What is your position on the right to property? As best as I can tell, you deny such a right, and you certainly deny the right to one's wages -- writing, "no, I do not believe that the individual has the 'right' to the fruit of his labor."

In order to argue for the immorality of a total tax, I must first argue for the right to own property?

I think it would be a waste of time to try, but it's enough to know your disdain for private property rights isn't merely implicit.

Dan Trabue said...

Bubba...

EVERYTHING is taxed under that system, EVERYTHING is initially confiscated, and so if that system isn't confiscatory, nothing is.

Taxation is not confiscation.

Which is why I ask: what definition of the term "confiscatory taxation" are you using?

I mean, ALL taxation is "taken" from people - whether that's 10% or 100%. But I would not call taxation in general confiscatory. So, how are you defining that term, so that we may know what we're speaking of?

Dan Trabue said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan Trabue said...

Bubba...

Did I ever explicitly assert a right to property "without restrictions"? No, I did not.

Okay, so we agree, then, that our "ownership" of stuff is not limitless. We can reasonably pay taxes, we can reasonably be indebted, we can reasonably have restrictions and limitations on what we own.

Is that a fair summation and place of agreement?

Bubba said...

Do you agree that we nevertheless have property rights, including the specific right to the fruit of one's own labor?

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Trabue,
I don't have time to search all the posts of all your comments where you have displayed your ideology over the years. You want to deny it the same way you want to deny that you are a false teacher in the Christian realm, no matter how many times it has been proven against you. You are in self-denial.

You want those with more wealth to be taxed at a much higher rate than those who have little wealth. That is an assault on people just because they are wealthier than you. You continually stigmatize the rich by citing out of context Bible passages. Anyone who preaches against the rich (in your opinion) the way you do is indeed practicing class warfare.

End of discussion.

Dan Trabue said...

Bubba...

It is morally reprehensible for the government to seize all that we produce, reducing us from responsible, property-holding adults to the wards and livestock of the state. It's slightly better for the government to do this as a result of a democratic decision, but it's still immoral.

Again, maybe you're right. But rather than just stating the claim and having me accept it based on blind faith in your judgment, I'm asking "WHY?" On what basis is that immoral?

* With the caveat that we're still speaking about the original scenario you spoke of. You seem to be changing it from a system of taxation and payback to a totalitarian system of treating people like livestock. Originally, you were speaking of a taxation - not a "seizing" but a 100% taxation, from which, people receive a living wage... what specifically is immoral about that? In that scenario, people presumably still have property rights in general, the stuff they own (after cycling it through the state) is THEIRS and they own it, the state can't take it or tell them what to do with it.

If you're going to change the scenario, let me know and we'll discuss the NEW scenario. I'm speaking to the original question you asked me.

What SPECIFICALLY is immoral about that, demonstrably and objectively?

And again, let me be clear: Maybe you're right and I just haven't thought it through enough. I'm just asking you to support the claim, not just expect that I accept it because you've said so.

Bubba said...

Dan, I haven't once deviated from the original scenario. I've alluded to the scenario as treating people like livestock because that's what I believe it amounts to.

I'm willing to answer why I think the scenario is immoral, but the answer is linked to the question, what do I find immoral about sharing resources through taxes and subsidies?

You haven't seemed interested in that question.

And I want to be a little more sure of the sort of person to whom I'm trying to give an explanation: does he deny the right to property and wages, or not?

Dan Trabue said...

Bubba...

Do you agree that we nevertheless have property rights, including the specific right to the fruit of one's own labor?

We citizens have property rights, yes, the right to what we produce. With limits, but yes, we have those rights.

The limits would include:

1. We don't have the right to all our stuff and not make payments for them.

2. We don't have the right to all our stuff and not maintain at least some of it within reason. For instance, we don't have the "right" to KEEP our house if we allow it to be used for drug dealing or allow it to become a public nuisance or otherwise dangerous.

3. We don't have a right to our stuff to the point that we can refuse to pay reasonable taxes on it. We can't say, "It's my stuff and you can't tax me on what I own!"

We have established that we have property rights, at least in this nation, and I think that is a good thing, but with limitations.

That's from a citizen point of view. From a Christian point of view, I believe all we have belongs to God and, thus, it is NOT "our" property.

I believe we are agreeing on at least this much:

1. Ultimately, no, we don't have "property rights" because ultimately, everything belongs to God.

2. But on a smaller, more temporal scale, yes, we DO have property rights - at least in this nation - and this is a good thing.

3. That our property rights are not limitless.

Yes? Now what?

And I hope you'll get to the definitions and examples of Fair Vs Equal. I have to think we'll agree there, too.

Dan Trabue said...

Bubba...

I'm willing to answer why I think the scenario is immoral, but the answer is linked to the question, what do I find immoral about sharing resources through taxes and subsidies?

...and this is why I'm asking for clarifications and definitions. I don't think that you truly believe that it is objectively immoral to "share resources" through taxation. I'm relatively sure you agree that it's okay to tax to pay for the shared resources of roads, of fire departments, of garbage trucks and city dumps.

But by all means, answer that question.

Bubba said...

Dan, in addition to writing that ultimately everything belongs to God, I also write, "Made in His image, we too can own property."

You now conclude that we agree on THE EXACT OPPOSITE CLAIM, "Ultimately, no, we don't have 'property rights' because ultimately, everything belongs to God."

You say we have property rights "at least in this nation," as if it's a relativistic and subjective thing, but I've pointed to Scripture that precedes our nation by about three millennia.

That prohibition of bearing false witness that you invoke so frequently? Look at the very next verse down.

"You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's." - Ex 20:17

This verse makes no sense if, ultimately, nothing really is "your neighbor's."

Dan Trabue said...

This conversation seems like you're looking for a fight, rather than trying to find where we agree and disagree.

Let me put it this way. I AGREE WITH YOU, when YOU said, "Ultimately, everything belongs to God..."

Are you now backing away from that claim or do you still agree with it?

I suppose you're claiming that there is a sense in which we at least temporarily "own" things that are ultimately God's. If so, then I agree with that.

Dan Trabue said...

Bubba...

"You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's." - Ex 20:17

This verse makes no sense if, ultimately, nothing really is "your neighbor's."


Says who? If a person is married to someone, they don't OWN that person, but you can certainly covet that person or that relationship.

They certainly don't morally "own" that slave that is mentioned there.

If a person is a caregiver for a property, one can certainly covet their position. If someone has a nice house, you can certainly covet it, whether they own it or not.

But here's what I'm saying: We can and do "own" some things, at least in a temporal sense, even though from a Christian or even a spiritual view, no one truly "owns" anything, we're just temporary caretakers.

Again, I don't think I'm saying anything spectacularly weird or unorthodox, from a Christian point of view.

Insofar as a state is concerned, we can and should be able to own and determine our property, within limitations. That much is reasonable to me.

Bubba said...

"I suppose you're claiming that there is a sense in which we at least temporarily 'own' things that are ultimately God's."

You "suppose"! What a brave conclusion, since I wrote, "Made in His image, we too can own property."

You originally presumed that we agree that A) God owns everything, and therefore B) we own nothing.

You now want to agree that A) God owns everything, but B) we can own things as well.

Considering this entire discussion hinges on the question of property rights, it's not spoiling for a fight to reject the first attempt at consensus and insist on the second.

--

And, for what it's worth, I think it's clear from the scenario I outlined and the fact that I was addressing the early church's behavior as documented in Acts, that I don't merely mean public-works projects like bridges and roads.

Hell, the question itself mentions what the taxes are being used for: not roads, but **SUBSIDIES**.

It should have been clear that I meant "sharing" in a redistributive sense.

I'm making that explicit now: the interesting question is, what do I find immoral about redistributing resources through taxes and subsidies?

Stand by, and I'll begin to answer that question.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Watching some of Trabue’s statements I can’t help but point out the following:

1. We don't have the right to all our stuff and not make payments for them.

All the stuff I have I payed for in order to have them. I also paid sales tax when I purchased them. The only tax I continue to pay on MY “stuff” is property tax on my house.

2. We don't have the right to all our stuff and not maintain at least some of it within reason. For instance, we don't have the "right" to KEEP our house if we allow it to be used for drug dealing or allow it to become a public nuisance or otherwise dangerous.

And who makes the determination as to whether we are maintaining it properly?

3. We don't have a right to our stuff to the point that we can refuse to pay reasonable taxes on it. We can't say, "It's my stuff and you can't tax me on what I own!"

Oh? And who makes that determination? We already PAID the reasonable taxes on our stuff when we initially purchased it. Why should we continue to pay taxes just for owning it? I have a couple thousand books in my personal library - should I pay tax on them after my purchase? I have a computer, printer, etc which I purchased three years ago - should I continue to pay tax on them? My cars are 5 and 6 years old - should I continue to pay tax on them? My furniture was purchased many years ago - should I continue to pay tax on it? What about my bagpipes which I’ve had for 30 years - should I have to pay tax on them again?

Sorry, but I can INDEED say “It’s my stuff and you can’t tax me on what I own

Bubba said...

What do I find immoral about redistributing resources through taxes and subsidies?

To be clear, my problem is with the means, not the end -- or rather, using these particular means to advance this particular end.

They both have their place.

Sharing one's resources is both commanded and commended: we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, and why not? It's better to give than to receive.

Paying taxes is commanded -- "render unto Caesar" -- because the state is an instrument of God's justice.

But, like dark chocolate and lobster, it may well be that these are two great tastes that DON'T taste great together, and I believe the combination is just as incongruous.

Why? A few reasons spring to mind:

1) The inefficiencies to which Dan already pointed cannot be discounted; prudence IS a moral duty, and we ought not to conduct a social "experiment" that has resulted, in various forms from the Pilgrims to the Maoists, in famine and often MUCH worse.

If it's wrong to tax everything because of the immediate effect that the taxpayer cannot afford to pay it and live, it's SIMILARLY wrong to tax so much that the economy crashes; in either case, the result may have been unintended but entirely predictable, and bread shortages are at least as devastating as having people who can't afford bread after taxes.

(In the latter case, at least charities can fill in the gap.)

2) It is very likely a category error to look to the state for charity -- or, in Dan's case, to conflate mercy/charity with justice/fairness.

Charity is the domain of the church and the family, not the state who (Romans teaches us) is the agent, not of God's grace, but of His wrath.

(Even in God's theocracy of ancient Israel, funds didn't flow through a centralized government treasury to be distributed to the poor; the rich gave directly to the poor, and the rich left the gleanings of the field for the poor to harvest on their own.)

The government isn't the family, and so it's immoral to extrapolate how a family behaves to how the state ought to behave.

Dan asks what's wrong "about a people choosing to live out" an Amish lifestyle? Nothing, if they do so as a free society and not through the government; the private sector and the public sector are not interchangeable.

Just as I believe it's wrong to apply to the state the personal prohibition against retaliation (doing so would lead to literal anarchy), it's wrong to contract the duty of charity out to the state.

It's a misunderstanding of what the state's purpose is, and I think it's revealing that Dan points to building bridges and criminalizing theft as the purpose of government: in presenting the most innocuous version of the state, he does not assert the duty of a welfare system.

3) It's a matter of balance. I believe the purpose of the state is to ensure personal liberty. That liberty is curtailed through laws to keep one person from infringing on the rights of others, and it's further curtailed through taxation to fund the mechansisms of law enforcement.

But a system where all income is taxed and one is given a stipend to live on shrivels the concept of liberty to almost nothing: no matter how hard you work and how productive you are, you'll only have that stipend to use.

At that point, the means of taxation have undermined the ends of individual liberty.

[continued]

Bubba said...

[cont]

I think the most conclusive reason why the tax regime described above is immoral is rooted in the simple fact about taxes.

TAXES ARE COERCIVE.

One can make an argument that it is moral to coerce people to pay for truly public goods like law enforcement, infrastructure, and defense.

But there is no argument that it is moral to coerce people to pay for other people's material welfare. That arrangement is just slavery in a thousand different guises.

I think this is the key insight because Dan has written so much to undermine the basic understanding of taxation as coercive.

"Do I think it's wrong for a gov't - apart from the will of the people - to impose such an arrangement? Sure, because there is the harm - it's imposed, not chosen by the People and thus, a loss of liberty.

"BUT, if a nation decides to do such and those who disagree have every opportunity to leave, then it's not an imposition, it's the will of the people. You can agree and stay (no harm) or you can disagree and leave (inconvenient and sad as heck, but no harm).
"

By treating individuals as a collective, indistinguishable mass, you can deny the coercive power of taxation brought about through democratic means.

See, it's just "the People" deciding to tax themselves -- all quite voluntarily, doncha know. And if those who disagreed have the freedom to emigrate, they're not being coerced to do anything they don't want to do.

The People taxing the People, and allowing individuals to leave makes the tax entirely voluntary -- practically a donation!

But we know that's a perverse way to look at things.

The People could have just as easily made the source of government revenue truly voluntary -- making the subsidy's fund a kind of benevolence fund, much the way a government-run fire station will organize a Toys for Tots drive.

But in the scenario outlined above, that's not what the People did.

By authorizing the state to tax individuals, the People is empowering the police to confiscate property from individuals under threat of violence or imprisonment, with emigration being the only recourse.

The democratic decision doesn't make the act of tax collection any less coercive.

The escape hatch of emigration doesn't make the act of tax collection any less coercive.

Those two facts would still hold true in the scenario of taxing SOLELY to fund truly public goods like law enforcement, and I wouldn't deny the coercive power of taxation: I would justify it by the resulting public benefits.

But since the private benefits cannot justify the coercion of taxes, Dan has to deny that taxes are coercive.

That simply doesn't stand under scrutiny.

Dan Trabue said...

One thing at a time, then...

TAXES ARE COERCIVE.

1. No, they are not. They are REQUIRED, but REQUIRED does not equal COERCIVE.

Consider: You move into a neighborhood and that neighborhood association has rules:

No pets,
no farm animals,
you have to pay a fee for common needs (grounds keeping, garbage pickup, etc)

Now, you can move in there and say, "Hey, this is coercive and, thus, immoral and I won't abide by these rules! Wah!" But the cold hard fact is, those are just the rules for living in that community. They are required, but not coercive. You are free to leave if you don't like the rules.

Or, if you think the rules are reasonable and even a fee is reasonable, but you think the fee should be $100/year, not $200... that does not make the $200 fee "coercive" nor does it make the whole deal immoral. You're there by choice, you're free to leave. You're also free to stay and try to convince everyone else that the fee should be $100. But it's still not coercive.

Taxes are like that. They are required, but not coercive. I FREELY pay my taxes - even though there are a good number of them I don't agree with or some expenditures I don't agree with.

In an ideal utopia, maybe people could each pay ONLY for that which they agree with, but societies don't work that way. They just don't. I would be just as opposed to a society trying to establish itself on a "pay for what you want" basis as I am a "earn what you want, we'll tax 100% of it and pay you a stipend..." and on the same grounds: I don't think they're workable solutions. I wouldn't call either objectively immoral, just bad ideas.

Taxes are definitively and demonstrably not coercive, in and of themselves, just the price of living in a society.

2. Prove it.

That is, even if you THINK taxes are coercive, that's just your opinion. You have no evidence to conclusively "prove" your hunch is right. You're welcome to that opinion and you can gripe each time you pay taxes and feel oppressed all you want. You can whine and cry and say "itsunfair!"

Doesn't make it so, but you're free to do so.

On what basis should we accept your hunch as the One Right Opinion?

I may come back to this... I'm forgetting something, but I'll stop there for now.

Dan Trabue said...

Oh, I remember:

3. If taxation is coercive and thus, immoral, then ANY taxation is coercive and your argument would be against taxation in general, not your proposed arrangement.

Am I mistaken on that? If so, where specifically?

Dan Trabue said...

You ARE getting back around to the Fair VS Equal question, aren't you?

As to this...

If it's wrong to tax everything because of the immediate effect that the taxpayer cannot afford to pay it and live, it's SIMILARLY wrong to tax so much that the economy crashes; in either case, the result may have been unintended but entirely predictable

You actually might be on to something, there. IF one can demonstrate rationally and authoritatively that, "If you proceed with this 100% tax plan, you WILL result in causing real harm and oppression...," then yes, I would say that such a plan then would be immoral. IF one could authoritatively make that case.

However, I really think you'd have to have some actual specific plan in place to be able to authoritatively make that case.

That you might GUESS "Ya know, if you do that, you're gonna have bad results" (and that's what MY guess would be) does not equal authoritatively demonstrating it. I, for one, can NOT authoritatively demonstrate that this idea would perforce result in harm and for that reason, I can not say authoritatively that it would thus be immoral.

Is that unreasonable to you? That you are "sure" such an arrangement would result in harm does not mean that everyone would find your argument convincing. As you proposed it, I think anybody would just be guessing as to possible harm and thus, not able to demonstrate it authoritatively and, thus, not be able to authoritatively call it immoral.

Dan Trabue said...

Finally, to your other main point, you said...

It is very likely a category error to look to the state for charity -- or, in Dan's case, to conflate mercy/charity with justice/fairness.

1. You are conflating your hunch about what Dan thinks with reality, just to clarify.

You've presented no case that I am confusing charity with justice. I don't believe you are correct. Where SPECIFICALLY have I confused justice with charity or vice versa?

2. That I think it is prudent to have programs in place to assist the poor, does not mean that I'm supporting "gov't charity" for charity's sake. I think it is prudent to have programs in place (in general, at the local and larger levels) because I think they are prudent for society's sake, not for the "poor ones'" sake.

I support, for instance, programs that educate and rehabilitate prisoners. Why? Because, with such programs, ex-convicts will, when they get out, be more likely to continue in their criminal ways. This COSTS society real dollars. As I've often pointed out, study after study shows that $1 invested in prisoner education results in $2 in taxpayer savings.

Thus, BECAUSE it is prudent, I support programs to rehabilitate and employ prisoners and ex-cons. I don't do so because it's "sweet" to "give charity" to the "poor prisoners," but because it would be stupid (fiscally irresponsible, societally unwise) not to do so.

I support educational efforts for our children NOT because of charitable impulses but because it is unwise NOT to do so.

In either case, I am fully supportive of private efforts (my wife makes a living providing support for "the least of these" through private efforts and I recognize the great good that can be done by local non-profits - of COURSE I support such efforts)... private efforts to meet these sorts of needs, but when private efforts fail, gov't (ie, we the people) has a responsibility to take action for our common good and, well, to not be stupid citizens.

So, where specifically am I conflating charity with justice? Or were you mistaken?

Dan Trabue said...

Putting together the two concepts, Bubba said...

Those two facts would still hold true in the scenario of taxing SOLELY to fund truly public goods like law enforcement, and I wouldn't deny the coercive power of taxation: I would justify it by the resulting public benefits.

But since the private benefits cannot justify the coercion of taxes


Who says that the private benefits can't justify what you consider (baselessly?) "coercion..."?

Again, you might CALL it charity, but prisoner rehab programs (which I don't consider charity) have demonstrated that, for every dollar paid, to save two dollars (that's a generalization, but generally, the idea is what studies find). Thus, EVEN IF you consider taxation "coercive, but acceptable if the 'private benefits' are worth it...," well, the private benefits are worth it - the benefits outweigh the costs.

I guess maybe you should add "private benefits" to the list of terms you should define, as I'm not entirely sure what you mean.

Now, I use the prisoner rehab example, just because that's an easy example. But I tend to think that is true for many if not most or all the sort of programs we might disagree about. Education IS expensive, but how expensive is it to NOT have widespread education? for instance. In that case, I don't know that there's any way to prove it, but I suspect it's true and I think most citizens agree and that's why we have public funding for education.

Bubba said...

Obviously, Dan, since I write that I would describe taxation as coercive even when used -- JUSTIFIABLY -- to fund truly public goods, I *DO* believe that all taxation is coercive, but I don't equate "coercive" with "immoral."

Obviously, taxation is coercive. You admit that it's "required," and it's required under the threat of violence: the government has a near monopoly on the legal use of violence, and when it requires people to do things (as in pay taxes) or not to do things (as in commit murder or theft), it uses the threat of violence AND IS THEREFORE COERCIVE.

Sometimes the coercion is clearly justifiable, as in the prohibition of murder or the requirement to pay taxes to fund law courts. Sometimes, it's less than clearly justifiable.

But things like tax laws are clearly coercive. I know you well enough to know that I couldn't present definitive, demonstrative, or authoritative proof to meet your unreasonable standards, but I'm not interested in trying.

I don't think one can reasonably argue against the plain observation that taxes are coercive.

--

Now, about your conflating justice and mercy, I think it's enough to note your claim that equality under the law is insufficient for things to be fair. I think you're calling for society to be charitable in how it treats the poor, but you're couching your argument with a fallacious appeal to fairness.

I've certainly argued this position more than you've argued that my position is nothing more than a "hunch," but as usual, you have no problem slinging that word around without even attempting to justify it.

--

Are there government programs that could provide non-public goods -- strictly speaking, goods that are rivalrous in their consumption and excludable in their distribution -- that produce secondary effects that benefit society as a whole, to such a degree that the benefits are worth the expenditures? Things like penal rehabilitation and (the increasingly similar) public education?

MAYBE, maybe not, but that would generally be an argument worth having, in that it would justify taxation by appealing to the benefits TO THE TAXPAYERS.

But even the possibility of persuasive arguments for that sort of "investment" could not conceivably justify a regime so comprehensive that income is taxed at 100 percent.

I'll conclude tonight by explaining why not.

You claim:

"In that scenario, people presumably still have property rights in general, the stuff they own (after cycling it through the state) is THEIRS and they own it, the state can't take it or tell them what to do with it."

Essentially, people can still do whatever they want with the property they're given through government subsidies, right?

WRONG.

In one scenario, there's one thing you can't do with your property: USE IT TO IMPROVE YOUR LOT IN LIFE.

Invest in yourself with an education, or buy some equipment to improve your farm's yield, and it just won't matter: the state will still confiscate all the wealth you produce and give you the same "allowance" as before.

Your efforts to become a more productive member of society increases the government treasury, but it doesn't add a dime to your own wealth.

You consider that situation, and you see nothing inherently immoral in it; in doing so, you display a seriously flawed sense of morality.

Marshall Art said...

"1. We don't have the right to all our stuff and not make payments for them."

I know of no provider of goods that considers his product to be the property of anyone else until it is completely paid for. If I have not finished making payment on my house or car, they do not belong to me. Thus, until they are paid for, they are not "my stuff".

"2. We don't have the right to all our stuff and not maintain at least some of it within reason. For instance, we don't have the "right" to KEEP our house if we allow it to be used for drug dealing or allow it to become a public nuisance or otherwise dangerous."

This is another desperate case of using an extreme hypothetical to justify a bad premise. It is not honorable to bring up criminal activity and try to pretend it is a legitimate argument against the idea of private property rights.

"3. We don't have a right to our stuff to the point that we can refuse to pay reasonable taxes on it. We can't say, "It's my stuff and you can't tax me on what I own!""

This is similar to #2. Tax evasion is a crime. Property taxes owed do not diminish the fact that I own the property and it belongs to me.

The whole idea of bringing up God and his sovereignty over all while discussing property rights is mere distraction and irrelevant to the discussion.

Dan Trabue said...

Bubba...

Obviously, Dan, since I write that I would describe taxation as coercive even when used -- JUSTIFIABLY -- to fund truly public goods, I *DO* believe that all taxation is coercive, but I don't equate "coercive" with "immoral."

Okay, so then, doesn't that undo your argument that this arrangement is obviously immoral? I thought your argument was, "Taxing at 100% is wrong because taxation is immoral, therefore, this is immoral..."

IF taxation = coercive and coercive does NOT equal immoral, then you can't argue that this arrangement is immoral because it's taxation.

So really, the "coercive" argument doesn't factor into this discussion, does it? Given your testimony?

I suppose your argument is, "AT SOME POINT... taxation (coercive or not) becomes immoral NOT because it's coercive, but because it's too much... Therefore, 20% taxation is not necessarily immoral, but 90 or 100% taxation IS..."

But then, WHY? What defines that line from immoral to moral?

Setting that aside and returning to coercive, I still maintain you're way off because our Republic is a Social Compact - it is an agreement like the neighborhood agreement example I offered. Yes, it is required (and yes, if you don't comply with the requirements of your agreement, then there will be consequences), but it is a freely entered into agreement. If you don't like the agreement, you are free to leave. It is not coercive, at least in that sense. It just isn't.

Would you also call the neighborhood agreement "coercive..."?

Still wondering: You asked me a question about Fairness vs Equal and I spent some time answering the question with what I think is an exceedingly clear and obvious answer. Shall I think that you have to agree with me because I've made it clear how obvious my position is?

Jim said...

You admit that it's "required," and it's required under the threat of violence

Threat of violence? The only threat of violence is that of someone who violently resists the legal process.

namely, the assumption that property rights are negotiable.

Legally, property rights ARE negotiable. Do you own the air above your house? Do you own the right to make nuclear weapons on your property? Plant cotton? Sell refrigerators? Play loud music 24/7?

Dan Trabue said...

True that, Jim. It is not wrong or especially "violent" to have a process that holds people accountable to our rules. Is it rightly considered a threat of "coercive violence" to expect people to not rape, to not steal and to pay their bills - including tax bills? I guess you could look at it that way, but I don't think that's the best way to consider it.

Having rules that you expect people to hold to is not immoral in and of itself and that extends to tax expectations.

Marshall...

This is another desperate case of using an extreme hypothetical to justify a bad premise.

I'd have to ask you what exactly you think my premise is, Marshall. Your words indicate that you are failing to understand my premise in the first place.

Dan Trabue said...

Bubba...

Invest in yourself with an education, or buy some equipment to improve your farm's yield, and it just won't matter: the state will still confiscate all the wealth you produce and give you the same "allowance" as before.

To further dismantle your notions, let me address this.

You asked if a people decided to tax themselves at 100% - to pay for their collective needs and to get a stipend for their individual needs - must be considered immoral.

I answered, I don't think so - not immoral. Wrong, a bad idea, misguided, doomed to failure... yes, probably all of that. But immoral? On what basis would we think it's immoral?

Some ideas are just bad ideas. Some bad ideas extend beyond just unwise to immoral.

It's usually considered a bad idea to invest in a failing company. Doesn't make it immoral, though. It's a bad idea to smoke, most would agree, but that doesn't make it overtly immoral.

On the other hand, it's a bad idea to smoke heavily around asthmatics AND it's immoral. Why? Because of the harm to the innocent bystanders that can reasonably be expected.

The question that would have to be answered here in your scenario (it seems to me) to make your case is, "Why is it a bad idea AND immoral, as well - can we reasonably expect harm to come to innocent bystanders?

As I've noted already, with the little information provided, I don't know that I can answer that authoritatively.

Given your scenario above, the group has agreed to work and make whatever they make (presumably, some might make $10,000/yr and some $100,000/year). That X amount is then taxed in toto. The gov't then provides a stipend that is based on a living wage - enough so that they can afford a home, food, living expenses, medical expenses, etc... everything that one needs in order to live/survive.

Now, there are all sorts of questions as to what this might look like. Is the medical care free - 100% paid for out of that 100% taxation? ...if so, then the family does not need to set aside cash for medical expenses.

Presumably the living wage allows for plenty of money for food - good food, as that is a necessity to survive and thrive. But are they providing that, or merely enough to make and maintain a bare bones mush and reasonably clean water - enough to survive but not thrive? Well, that would make a difference.

Same for housing - is the stipend truly enough to be able to afford safe, competent housing? Or only enough to afford a tent?

But assuming the best of the scenario that you are presenting - food, housing, medical expenses, etc - then the scenario itself does not appear to be presenting a case where harm can reasonably be expected and I can't think of a reason to say that morally speaking, a people could not choose to try to live that way if they so chose. My objection would be more practical - I doubt that the arrangement WOULD work, at least for very long.

But a people can choose to care for their common needs in a variety of ways, it seems to me, without crossing a moral line. MUST we raise money from an income tax and that is the ONE and ONLY "moral way" OR could it come from a sales tax, as we had in this country initially? I think, morally speaking, a people could decide either way. I can see some big potential practical problems in the sales tax approach, but then, there are potential (real) problem with the income tax approach.

I'm saying that I don't know that WE can know objectively that one way is/will be morally Right and one is/will be morally Wrong. It depends largely on how things proceed.

It would be my not too amazing guess that ANY and ALL human systems of paying the bills collectively and individually WILL have some problems associated with it. Right now, we have people who can not pay for their health care and that is a harm issue - one that comes with expenses for us all. Does that mean that I think our system is morally wrong?

No, just human and flawed, as might be expected.

Marshall Art said...

"I'd have to ask you what exactly you think my premise is, Marshall."

The premise that we don't in reality own anything, because it all belongs to God. The premise that our property rights are limited. Even to concede that such might be true, there is still the question of whether it was ever intended that those rights should be limited. I would posit that this is not the case, but only the current reality due to bad government and twisted understanding of people such as yourself.

Dan Trabue said...

Very good, you DO understand my point.

Do you disagree, then, that ultimately, everything belongs to God, or do you agree with my actual point?

Do you disagree that there reasonably ought to be limits on what we might call our property ("our property" in relationship to the state, anyway)? Do you think people ought to be free to dump waste on property just because it's their property? That they should not have to pay property taxes, just because it's their property?

Or do you agree with me?

I don't think I'm saying anything especially unusual here. At least for Christians, we recognize that ultimately everything belongs to God, NOT US...

(IF something belongs entirely to someone else, then it can't belong to a second person... how is that possible? Or do you think that, "Well, technically, it all belongs to God, but not really..."?)

...and that we can reasonably expect limitations on what we own if we live in a world that consists of anyone besides ourselves. Otherwise, you end up with sort of a school-grade level egocentricity of thinking the world revolves around me and my wishes... and I don't think you believe in that sort of childish and shallow materialism.

What specifically is weird or objectionable about these simple, basic, clear claims?

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

Even to concede that such might be true, there is still the question of whether it was ever intended that those rights should be limited.

I can't believe you'd really be so shallow and self-centered as to actually think this, Marshall.

Do you REALLY think that an individual's "right" to dump toxic waste on "their" ground should be limitless?

Do you REALLY think that an individual should be able to play music on "their" property as loud as they want - even if it keeps neighbors awake or breaks their windows?

Do you REALLY think that an individual should be able to build a shoddily-constructed tower on "their" property even if it poses a danger to their neighbors?

Do you REALLY think there should be NO limits on what a person can do on their property? I doubt that is true, unless you're some kind of whacko anarchist with no concern for a just and rational society. I may have my disagreements with you, Marshall, but I don't think you're whacko. Tell me it ain't true.

I will note that, when God was coaching Israel, GOD imposed limits on how Israel used their land and quite often reminded them that it's NOT their land to do as they please.

I don't guess you think that shouldn't be taken literally...?

Marshall Art said...

What I'm saying, Dan, is that your references to what is ours vs what is God's is entirely irrelevant to the discussion. It's a distraction and not conducive to honorable debate. What's more, to the atheist who might join in, it's far worse than that.

As to limits on property ownership, one must keep in mind that "property" comes in many forms. Some of those forms, such as land/housing, comes with guidelines that are in place before the purchase, such as zoning and village codes, that determine what is or is not legal or permissible within a community. This does not mitigate the concept of property rights one iota. If there is some place in the nation where one could stake a claim, acquire full control and ownership of the land without encountering these pre-existing limitations, then one would indeed have absolute liberty to do absolutely anything including dumping toxic waste, playing loud music and other such things that you want to believe came after a purchase of land and were then inflicted upon a hapless homeowner.

As to other limits, there are other law that come into play that would have an effect on what a person might choose to do on his own property. Murder, for example, would still lead to an arrest and sentencing. But this would be true regardless of where the murder took place, on one's property or anywhere else.

You also seem to be suggesting the idea that there is little distinction between liberty and anarchy. I don't see them as synonymous at all. The founders believed that angels need no government as would then be able to maintain a just and rational society. The better the character of citizen, the more liberty can be truly enjoyed.

But we aren't angels so we must have government and laws and police to enforce them. But none of this is to infringe upon our liberty. People of good character would not be doing any of the things you have listed, so again, you once more employ the use of the most extreme examples to shore up your argument and premise.

I think, and Bubba can correct me if I'm wrong, but the only property relevant to this discussion is our income, or "the fruits of our labors". I would also suggest that what belongs to God is also irrelevant for the purposes of this discussion since He cannot be taxed.

Marshall Art said...

As to fairness vs equal, I don't think you stated your position properly...

"I'm not looking for equality of outcomes, just to be clear. But FAIRNESS of outcomes."

What exactly would be the difference here? The former suggests identical outcomes, but the latter means, what? Would not fairness be subjective in that an outcome might be deemed fair by one and unfair by another?

More importantly, what business would it be of yours, as hypothetical craftsman of legislation, to guarantee outcomes in the first place? The gov't will tie itself in knots over such an undertaking. Outcomes cannot be guaranteed.

Using your blind kid example, equal opportunity provides the education he and the sighted kid get. It provides the testing, one test for the blind guy and the same test in a different format for the sighted kid. That's equal opportunity and fair as well.

Outcome, however, is up to the kids taking the test. What's more, they could have equal test scores yet fail to have equal outcomes because of the goal of the education and testing cannot be had by the blind kid anyway (here's an extreme for you---pilot license).

So I'm confused about your concern for fairness of outcomes, unless you're suggesting that the blind kid failing in his attempt at becoming a pilot is fair, which I believe it would be.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

your references to what is ours vs what is God's is entirely irrelevant to the discussion.

Bubba asked me a question - If I believe in human property rights. MY answer to that question, as a Christian, is that I believe that ultimately, God owns everything.

It was a direct answer to a direct question. Direct answers to questions ARE relevant to the conversation, are they not? Would you prefer I did not answer truthfully the question that Bubba asked me? How is that helpful to the conversation?

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

Some of those forms, such as land/housing, comes with guidelines that are in place before the purchase, such as zoning and village codes, that determine what is or is not legal or permissible within a community. This does not mitigate the concept of property rights one iota.

Indeed, it places LIMITATIONS on the concept of property rights, which was MY POINT. And it appears that you agree, YES, there ARE legitimate limitations on property rights. My right to do what I want on and with my property is, indeed limited, rationally and rightfully so.

Do you disagree with this? You appear to be saying, "Dan you are correct, there ARE limitations on property rights..."

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

What exactly would be the difference here? The former suggests identical outcomes, but the latter means, what? Would not fairness be subjective in that an outcome might be deemed fair by one and unfair by another?

The fairness of having a fair opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge, in the case of the students.

So, you DO agree with me, don't you, that there is a significant difference between fairness and equality, and that to be fair, we can't always be exactly equal?

At least in my examples I offered, I have to believe that you agree with me.

Dan Trabue said...

And the illustrations are important, of course, because they help make the principle clear:

We should generally strive to treat people EQUALLY and FAIRLY, but we need to keep in mind that CIRCUMSTANCES MATTER. Sometimes, we must treat people differently in order to be fair, treating them equally (at least sometimes) when their circumstances are different, would be unfair.

I believe that you HAVE to agree with this principle because I'm sure you agree that the student situation and the employee situation models why treating them exactly equally would be unfair.

Circumstances matter.

Now, we may still disagree with the specifics on how to tax people and whether or not it's fair to tax people in different circumstances at the same rate, but at least the principle, I believe you agree with and can that it's not unreasonable, based on that principle, for most of us to hold the position that equal rates can be unfair... even if you ultimately think it's fair.

I guess to make sense to me, you'd have to explain WHY it's fair to tax the poor at an equal rate as the rich, when the poor are in different circumstances?

If that is fair, then why is it not fair to pay the 25 year employee the same as the new employee?

That is the hole in your logic that I think most Americans find troubling with the concept of flat taxes. Saying "We MUST treat them equally" doesn't make sense when (if) reasonable people agree that the principle established above is quite clear.

Marshall Art said...

"Would you prefer I did not answer truthfully the question that Bubba asked me?"

Disingenuous responses are not truthful. They are, in this case, distracting and off point. I dare you to try to support a notion that Bubba's question had anything to do with your religious beliefs on the question of property rights. No honorable person could or would pretend he was referring to anything more than civil law and Constitutional understanding. To bring up God's sovereignty in a discussion of property rights is a self-serving ploy typical of your less than honest style of debate. It is not helpful to any discussion to play this game. You constantly speak of asking clarifying questions, while here you again seek to muddy the discussion with irrelevant comments.

"Indeed, it places LIMITATIONS on the concept of property rights, which was MY POINT."

But it doesn't do a think to speak to the righteousness or morality of doing so. If one believes in property rights, the right of sovereignty over one's property, then any zoning law or civil code is debatable. In the meantime, we must negotiate based on standing laws and codes and this understanding does not serve a position that does not respect property rights in discussions such as this one.

To put it another way, I am constantly inundated with references to laws on the books in discussions of whether such laws are just or moral. You do it here.

"The fairness of having a fair opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge, in the case of the students."

Now you're talking about opportunity again, when you stated your concern was with outcomes. Which is it? They are not the same. Once again, in the testing example, the opportunity to demonstrate one's grasp of the information is what is at stake. Giving a blind guy the same format for testing as the sighted guy is not an equal opportunity at all, nor is it fair. This example does not serve a defense of progressive taxation. It has no resemblance or parallel.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall, you're being nuts...

They are, in this case, distracting and off point...

Bubba created this post to get an understanding specifically of MY positions.

Marshall...

I dare you to try to support a notion that Bubba's question had anything to do with your religious beliefs on the question of property rights.

I accept that dare:

Bubba then, at a later point in this post, directed THIS line of thinking my way...

I notice what you don't write, that we all agree that the individual has the right to the fruit of his own labor.

Since Bubba was asking me (indirectly) to explain why I did not affirm the notion of property rights, I responded...

Well, as a Christian, I do not believe all that we have is ours to do with as we please. I believe everything belongs to God.

That is MY position about property, ownership and "enjoying the fruit of our labor..." Since Bubba is trying to understand my specific positions on these lines of thought, how is that off topic or disingenuous? It IS my position and Bubba's asking me to clarify my position.

You seem to be chasing down a crazy red herring there, Marshall.

If Bubba doesn't WANT my opinion, he can choose not to ask/seek clarification.

If he wants me to limit my opinions to those APART from what I think in regards to God, well, my views are pretty closely tied to what I think about God, but I can try - as indeed, I did later in the conversation.

You seem to be chasing gnats, Marshall.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

If one believes in property rights, the right of sovereignty over one's property, then any zoning law or civil code is debatable.

I don't understand your whole line of thinking here. I was merely stating the reality that I do not believe in unlimited property rights, but noting, rather, that our property rights have limits.

Do you disagree with that? I don't think you do. IF not, then what are you fussing about?

Marshall...

Now you're talking about opportunity again, when you stated your concern was with outcomes. Which is it? They are not the same. Once again, in the testing example, the opportunity to demonstrate one's grasp of the information is what is at stake.

And again, I don't know what you're speaking of. I was merely making the rather obvious point that the PRINCIPLE we're discussing is whether we strive for pure and straightforward EQUALITY - treating everyone the same, REGARDLESS of circumstances OR if we recognize that circumstances matter. I say, CLEARLY we all agree that the latter is true. Circumstances matter.

We may strive for treating people equally generally speaking, but not flatly across the board. Why not? Because CIRCUMSTANCES can make a difference.

Put another way: IF strict and literal equality is what we set as our goal, then we WILL have unfairness and, of the two, fairness matters more than equality and they are not one in the same.

You DO agree in that principle, right?

Can you just answer a question being asked of you rather than chasing down a bunch of distractions? If, once you've agreed (or chosen to disagree) with this obvious principle, then if you want clarifications about another topic (equal opportunity or equal outcomes) we can go down that road, but let's take one thing at a time, shall we?

For what it's worth, NO ONE wants stupidly equal outcomes. NO ONE IN THE WORLD wants the blind guy to have the "right" to drive a car or a plane because it would be an outcome equal to a sighted person. NO ONE wants to say an incompetent person should be able to get a doctor's license just to be equal.

You seem to be creating a strawman so that you can bat that down rather than just addressing the principle in question - and it's an obviously right principle, one which you can't reasonably disagree with, so why not just make that clear?

Bubba said...

Work is gearing up to be extremely busy for the foreseeable future, so my commenting will probably be very, very sporadic.

If I don't get a chance to say this again before the conversation dies entirely, I appreciate Marshall's allowing this guest post, and I appreciate Dan's willingness to reply.

That said...

Dan, I don't think you can point to anything I've written that would justify the conclusion that I believe that all taxation is prima facie immoral: it is the strawmanning that we see too frequently from the current administration, to act as if opposition to an overlarge government is equivalent to a kind of anarchism.

And since my last comment included criticism of your vague notions of fairness, no, you may not assume that I agree with you on the topic: in the absence of a VERY clear definition of "fairness" that would prevent the sort of lunacy that was satirized in "Harrison Bergeron," I am very, very loathe to entertain the idea that equality under the law is unfair.

I'm quite willing to concede that it is difficult to discern precisely when an increasing tax rate moves from moral to immoral, but that's beside the point that the scenario I outlined is clearly immoral.

Dan, you act as if you equate "harmful" and "immoral," at least you do so in this discussion. That equivalency isn't biblical.

- At least half of the Ten Commandments are concerned with thoughts and activities that do not cause obvious harm.

- Christ Himself didn't rescind the prohibition of things that aren't clearly harmful; instead, the Sermon on the Mount repeatedly focuses on issues that have nothing to do with whether harm to innocent bystanders can reasonably be expected.

In the scenario I outlined, men are well cared for by Leviathan, but they're no longer treated as men: the right and the responsibility to care for yourself -- and the dignity that comes with it -- have been revoked, the sovereignty of the People trumping the sovereignty of the individual. Rousseau would be proud.

I believe that it takes a deficient sense of morality not to reject such a scenario, not merely as imprudent, but as monstrous.

We may have to agree to disagree on that: it appears I understand your position but reject it as obviously immoral.

Dan Trabue said...

Bubba...

I appreciate Dan's willingness to reply.

You're welcome. Thank you for keeping it mostly pretty polite on your part.

Bubba...

I don't think you can point to anything I've written that would justify the conclusion that I believe that all taxation is prima facie immoral

Never said you did. In fact, I believe I said quite clearly, "I'm relatively sure you agree that it's okay to tax to pay for the shared resources..."

Clear enough? So, any concerns that I might be strawmanning you would be incorrect. Clear enough?

Bubba...

since my last comment included criticism of your vague notions of fairness, no, you may not assume that I agree with you on the topic

Then don't vaguely say, "No, you're wrong..." Be specific. Where SPECIFICALLY am I mistaken?

Do you believe that in order to be fair, we MUST pay the new employee an amount EQUAL to the long-time employee?

Bubba, I've spent a good bit of time answering your questions, repeatedly, in some cases. I expect the same respect when I ask YOU questions.

DO YOU THINK IT IS UNFAIR TO PAY A NEW EMPLOYEE AN AMOUNT THAT IS NOT EQUAL TO A LONG-TIME EMPLOYEE?

OR, do you AGREE with me that, in order to be fair (at least at times), we must NOT treat people equally? That circumstances matter?

That is the only reasonable answer I can think that someone might come up with and I can't believe you'd actually disagree with the principle I'm advancing. Yes, you might disagree on when and how to best apply the principle, but I doubt you disagree with it.

Be clear and answer my direct question directly, please.

Dan Trabue said...

Bubba...

you act as if you equate "harmful" and "immoral," at least you do so in this discussion. That equivalency isn't biblical.

I DO believe that to inflict harm on innocent people is generally immoral (and here, I'm not talking about efforts to save someone, as in a medical emergency when you operate - causing pain - on someone to save them... I'm speaking of unwanted harm to others). Further, I DO think that concept is biblical.

Do you really disagree?

I think perhaps what you're trying to say is that Immoral is not limited to that which causes harm (or can reasonably be expected to cause harm).

If that is what you're saying, I would agree. I think, for instance, that it's good and moral (and, inversely, immoral or wrong not) to observe the Sabbath rest and, while there are indirect and not-easily detected harms associated with that, there is no direct harm that comes from that bit of immorality. Still, I think it is immoral.

But holding religious beliefs about things that may be harmful, I think those would fall into a category of That Which Ought Not Be Legislated.

For the most part, we can reasonably expect a human gov't to outlaw, criminalize and/or otherwise regulate behavior that might or does cause unwanted harm to others. We ought not try to legislate our religious beliefs where there is no such harm.

I find drawing such a line to be biblical and rational. Do you disagree? Do you think we ought to legislate our every little religious view about what is and isn't moral? That we ought to legislate Sabbath Rests and Giving to the Poor?

I rather doubt you do, so I suspect you agree with me. But, if not, then tell me where I am mistaken and be specific. And answer the questions directly, that would help.

Bubba...

the right and the responsibility to care for yourself -- and the dignity that comes with it -- have been revoked

No, it hasn't. The People, in your scenario, decided to take care of themselves collectively. JUST AS the people have decided to take care of the garbage, fire, police and other needs collectively - without revoking the dignity and responsibility of caring for one's self. Again, I don't find it a wise approach, but I have seen no argument from you yet as to why it MUST be considered immoral, other than a vague appeal to property rights.

Do you think it is wrong for a People to decide to collectively pay for garbage, fire and police? I know you don't, you've said so... so, where does that line exist where it BECOMES immoral and why?

You have to have some specific answers if you want to make your case. And maybe you can... I could be convinced (seeing as how I'm opposed to it generally, anyway, I'm not taking the other side, I just don't think you've made a case and I don't know how to make the case).

I just have to have SOME REASONS as to what SPECIFICALLY makes it immoral and why. Do you have any?

Finally, Bubba, while I appreciate the mostly respectful dialog, if you can't or won't answer my questions - after I've spent much time answering yours, then you are demonstrating a lack of respect and basic decency (not to mention an appalling inability to defend your positions and deal with holes in them) and I will conclude that you don't really want to converse and, as such, will no longer be welcome at my blog.

No offense, I just don't have time to wade through so many questions with thoughtful answers and not get the same respect in return.

I understand work keeping you busy and if you're getting to it still, that's fine. But you've had plenty of time to chase down other false trails. It would make more sense to me to answer the questions as they come, before bringing up other topics/tangents.

Marshall Art said...

Dan,

"Bubba created this post to get an understanding specifically of MY positions."

Yes. On the law and tax policy. Not on unrelated issues regarding God's ultimate ownership of all things.

The sinful part here is your using this concept of God's sovereignty to imply justification for infringing upon property rights. Then in your last comment, you make noise about legislating every little religious view. You can't have it both ways. But if you wish to include the Lord, keep in mind the founders considered our rights endowed by God, so any limitations on those rights, particularly by the gov't, would be out of bounds.

Put another way, that everything belongs to God has nothing to do with how we govern ourselves on earth, especially in a nation where different beliefs in religion are tolerated. We enact our laws based on the principle that we do indeed have sovereignty over our own property. At least that was the intention.

I would also reiterate my objection to your examples as, in the case of property, the type of property being discussed here is income. So, talking about dumping toxic waste in the backyard is a goofy example.

What's more, such an example does not have any bearing on property rights as one is liable for harm caused to others, even if that harm is a result of actions perpetrated on private property. You conflate two (or more) disparate principles as one.

"DO YOU THINK IT IS UNFAIR TO PAY A NEW EMPLOYEE AN AMOUNT THAT IS NOT EQUAL TO A LONG-TIME EMPLOYEE?"

I think it is fair for a given employee to be paid what was the agreed amount at the point of hire, regardless of what the employer pays anyone else. He could pay a new guy the same, less or even more than 30 year veteran. What business does either employee have worrying about what the other guy gets?

Gotta go...

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

The sinful part here is your using this concept of God's sovereignty to imply justification for infringing upon property rights.

Sinful? Bubba asked a question. I answered it according to my belief system. Since WHEN is honestly answering a question a sin?

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

I think it is fair for a given employee to be paid what was the agreed amount at the point of hire, regardless of what the employer pays anyone else. He could pay a new guy the same, less or even more than 30 year veteran.

And I, for one, would not work at a place where two people, working the same job got the same money and it didn't matter if you stayed there 30 years, you'd still be getting paid an entry wage. Why wouldn't I? As a matter of fairness and justice. I'm not saying, in that case anyway, that it ought to be illegal, but it's still not right.

But you're missing or skipping the point. I'm talking about the PRINCIPLE.

With the blind student then, it's okay to give him the same (written) test that you give a sighted student?

I'm asking about the PRINCIPLE, Marshall. That, being: Circumstances matter. We strive to treat everyone equally, but IF we stick to a strict and stupidly "equal" policy, then sometimes, we will be ending up treating people UNFAIRLY.

Do you agree with that principle or not? Do circumstances matter when it comes to fairness?

Maybe this is the problem. Maybe you all TRULY believe in a stupidly equal system REGARDLESS of circumstances and that being stupidly equal really is fair, regardless of how ridiculous such a notion is.

(And to be clear, by "stupidly equal," I'm not referring to your intellect, but rather a system that relies UNTHINKINGLY upon equality, regardless of circumstances).

Jim said...

What's more, such an example does not have any bearing on property rights as one is liable for harm caused to others, even if that harm is a result of actions perpetrated on private property.

You might want to take a class on property rights and liability before you make ignorant claims like that.

Marshall Art said...

You are more than welcome to school me on such rights, Jim. You'd best have good links. But it seems to me that there is likely a matter of compensation for costs related to one's criminal activity that would justify the confiscation of property. In other words, crimes committed in one's home does not guarantee the loss of that home as legal punishment. Property rights and liability for harm caused to others on one's property are separate issues. I await your legitimate citation that proves me wrong.

Marshall Art said...

Dan,

I see by my emails you were fully ready to bust my chops for something I didn't do. Where's the grace?

But your disdain for the thought of equal pay despite differing lengths of service is...unfortunate. What is unfair about someone working for 30 years at the same wage if that is a part of the terms of employment to which he agreed when he took the position? What's more, who are you to dictate what is fair when the two parties came to that agreement together?

But since you are a Christian, tell me what you think of this:

“But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?'..."

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

I see by my emails you were fully ready to bust my chops for something I didn't do. Where's the grace?

You didn't answer my question and I was going to call you on it, asking you to answer the question. But since you half-answered it (dealing with one example, but not with the actual point), I decided just to ask you to answer the question that I was actually asking.

The grace was in removing the initial comment which, while technically correct, I decided was too harsh and gave you the benefit of the doubt that you just misunderstood, rather than deliberately dodged the question.

Clear?

And I'll note that you still are not answering the actual question asked.

Bubba said...

Certainly, Dan, details and circumstances matter in determining what's fair, but a free society can afford to a have a wide variety of opinions of what's fair IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR.

Do you have a concept of fairness as it ought to be applied in the public sector, a clear and coherent that wouldn't lead to government-run cures that are worse than the ills they seek to remedy? "Equality under the law" seems to have no real rivals.

--

Of course I believe the concept of immorality includes innumerable harmful acts: I just don't believe that an act must be obviously harmful in order to be immoral.

Why would I? The same Ten Commandments that prohibit theft and murder ALSO prohibit seemingly harmless acts like idolatry and coveting, and Christ's teachings are similarly comprehensive.

You mention the category of "That Which Ought Not Be Legislated."

"For the most part, we can reasonably expect a human gov't to outlaw, criminalize and/or otherwise regulate behavior that might or does cause unwanted harm to others. We ought not try to legislate our religious beliefs where there is no such harm.

I find drawing such a line to be biblical and rational. Do you disagree? Do you think we ought to legislate our every little religious view about what is and isn't moral? That we ought to legislate Sabbath Rests and Giving to the Poor?
"

Certainly not: I don't disagree with you at all on this point. While we can (and should) legislate some moral principles, it would be immoral to try to legislate everything.

But I wasn't the one who wrote, "I see nothing inherently immoral about people choosing to live as the Amish live, or choosing to live as the early church lived, or as Israel was called to live" -- and did so in the context of a situation WHERE THIS CHOICE WAS TO BE LEGISLATED THROUGH A REGIME OF TOTAL TAXATION AND SUBSISTENCE-LEVEL SUBSIDIES.

Are you actually saying that, while you see nothing immoral with that scenario, you believe I'm trying to overlegislate morality by denouncing the scenario as obviously wicked?

Marshall Art said...

Dan,

I answered your question exactly. Funny. You seem to believe that your answers have been accurate responses to questions asked of you. I'm damn sure mine was as well.

AS to the "principle", your examples fail to fully illustrate your "principle". The wage examples fails because what is fair is what is negotiated between employee and employer regardless of the terms upon which the employer settled with any other employee. The testing example fails because equal opportunity is in each kid, blind and sighted, being tested. If the blind kid gets the test in the same format as the sighted kid, he simply isn't being tested because he can't see it. Such a scenario wouldn't even occur in the real world.

As to taxation, for everyone to be responsible for contributing the same percentage is the only fair scenario. Whatever the wage, the earner knows up front what he gets to take home. Tax policy simply cannot concern itself with the plight of any given taxpayer. Everyone has their issues and I contend that everyone must still be contributors if the debt our legislators lay upon us is ours to pay down. If it is "ours", it is for all of us to handle.

An alternative to this would be that those who do not pay taxes do not vote until such time as their earnings rise to whatever level people like you decide is the point at which they could join the rest of us in being taxed.

You want to talk about "fair" and "just", but you can't do that without ignoring what you then are compelling other to do, which is, paying more in order to cover those you let off the hook. Now, those doing the paying aren't worthy of considerations of "fairness". They just are forced to pay more.

Dan Trabue said...

Okay, trying to sort out what you all are saying... Bubba...

Certainly, Dan, details and circumstances matter in determining what's fair, but a free society can afford to a have a wide variety of opinions of what's fair IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR.

So, we appear to agree with AT LEAST the principle: Circumstances matter. Treating people EQUALLY may sometimes result in treating people UNFAIRLY, is that right? You agree with that principle?

I'm not sure why the distinction between private and public sector, though. IF it is UNFAIR to treat two people in different circumstances EQUALLY, then you think we STILL ought to maintain a strict equality when it comes to public policy, EVEN IF it has unfair results?

If that is your position, I disagree. That would seem to be an irrational and immoral position to take.

Again, let's look at the students - let's say they are PUBLIC school students - taking a test. Do you think that, because schools are part of the public sector that the blind student should be treated EQUALLY to the sighted student, given the same written test that he can't possibly even take, much less pass?

I don't think you do, but you tell me.

Bubba...

Do you have a concept of fairness as it ought to be applied in the public sector, a clear and coherent that wouldn't lead to government-run cures that are worse than the ills they seek to remedy?

Reasonable ones? Like "You don't take the family making $10,000 a year at the same rate as the family making $1 million a year, because their circumstances are significantly different and we agree on the principle: Circumstances matter - treating people exactly equally (regardless of circumstances) can result in unfairness, and we ought not legislate unfairness."

Do I have a formula for that? No, but I believe the principle stands on its own, we just have to use our own flawed reasoning to take some best guesses. What is the alternative? A strict equality that results in known injustice/unfairness? That seems neither rational nor moral to me.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

You want to talk about "fair" and "just", but you can't do that without ignoring what you then are compelling other to do, which is, paying more in order to cover those you let off the hook.

But reasonable people can agree that treating someone exactly equal, IF it results in unfairness and injustice, is wrong and we ought not do that.

Do you agree with the principle, as it relates to public policy?

Marshall Art said...

Dan,

First of all, you continue to view this testing of the blind kid analogy as a valid and clever. It is neither. Regardless of whether or not the school is public or private, you are not treating the blind and sighted kids equally by giving them both written tests that the blind kid can't see. You are, in effect, not giving the blind kid the test at all. If you are trying to make testing analogous to taxing of income, then you must have a person with no income to parallel the kid with no vision.

But more to the point, there is no unfairness or injustice in taxing everyone at the same rate. None that you have demonstrated. Indeed, YOU are creating the unfairness and injustice by first saying the national debt is the responsibility of all of us, and then shifting the responsibility of some onto everyone else.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

Regardless of whether or not the school is public or private, you are not treating the blind and sighted kids equally by giving them both written tests that the blind kid can't see. You are, in effect, not giving the blind kid the test at all.

? I'm not sure you're understanding the definition of "equal."

Actually, Marshall, IF you give a sighted kid and a blind student BOTH a test with questions written down on paper, YOU ARE TREATING THEM EXACTLY EQUALLY.

That you RECOGNIZE that to offer a blind kid the same test is "no test at all" merely means that you recognize and AGREE WITH the principle I have noted: Circumstances matter. IF, in that situation, circumstances didn't matter, you could give the kids EQUALLY the same written test. But the circumstances DO matter, you DO have to treat the blind student differently to be fair.

Just because you say "nuh uh" and then basically agree with me that to give a blind student a written test is no test at all (because his circumstances are different) is not any proof that circumstances don't matter and that, sometimes, in order to be fair, you HAVE to treat people differently (ie, NOT equally).

So, despite your claim, you DO agree with me. The question then is, WHY is the analogy not a good one?

IF the blind student's circumstances matter and you MUST give him unequal but fair treatment in order to be fair is a valid argument, how is that argument different than "the poor person who can't afford the same tax rate must be treated differently in order to be fair..."?

You all appear to be agreeing with the principle I've laid out then trying to find some reason why the concept doesn't matter when it comes to taxing the poor at different rates, despite the principle.

IF you're going to do that, you'll have to explain what the difference is so we can ignore the reasonable Circumstances Matter principle.

Marshall Art said...

My problem, once again Dan, is that by giving a blind kid a test he can't see, you're not really giving him a test at all. There's no equality whatsoever, nor fairness. The fair and equal way to test him is to do so in a manner that he actually know and answer the questions/solve the problems. Until then, you haven't treated him either equally or fairly. Giving him the same written test as a sighted kid isn't treating him equally, since testing his knowledge is the goal. Instead, you're treating him as if he was sighted. Since you're scenario presents a testing situation, an education has already been provided, or knowledge has already been acquired. Now comes the testing and you want to treat them differently than was done during the time the knowledge was acquired? How did the blind kid get to a point where it was appropriate to test him along with the sighted kids? He was treated equally and given the knowledge or education. To now test him as if he has sight is not merely unfair, it's cruel and unusual.

But again, the equal treatment is in providing the education, not in providing it as if he can see. Your analogy is not a good one because you are comparing wealth with vision. Your analogy, to be a good parallel, would require simply giving the kid the diploma without the testing required to show he's worthy. You want to give full citizenship, such as with voting rights and considerations, while absolving the less fortunate their obligation to pay their share of income tax as if you are letting them graduate without the testing required to show they have done the work.

The blind kid still has to do his part in order to acquire the diploma, but the poor you let off the hook. The blind can't see, but still has to study and be tested. But the poor has no obligation whatsoever in your mind. The blind don't get to have the sighted take the test for them, but the wealthier people are supposed to pay for the portion of the debt which is the obligation of the less wealthy. This is unfair and unjust.

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

The fair and equal way to test him is to do so in a manner that he actually know and answer the questions/solve the problems.

AND, the fair and equal way to tax the very poor is at a rate that they can afford, in a manner EQUAL to the more wealthy can afford it.

Thanks for making my point.

Marshall...

Until then, you haven't treated him either equally or fairly.

Again, I don't think you know what equal means.

Equal: Being THE SAME in quantity, size, degree, or value.

A written test with the exact same questions is EQUAL to a written test with the same questions.

By definition, giving a student a DIFFERENT test is UNEQUAL (ie, NOT TEH SAME).

Marshall Art said...

Dan,

A test is not a piece of paper with text printed upon it. A test is the questions delivered in whatever possible means or format, formulated to gauge the knowledge of the student. To give a sighted kid a test in the usual manner, while the blind kid gets braille, is to give each the same test equally. You focus on the means of delivering the questions. I on the questions themselves.

As to taxing, everyone being taxed at the same rate is to have everyone asked the same questions. The low income earners are the blind and the sighted the more wealthy. Each is asked the same question in a different format: the total amount of tax based on an equal percentage of income. That amount suits the ability of each, both sighted and blind, earners of both high income and low. The unfairness and injustice occurs when you tell the low income earner, "You no longer have to pay the tax or take the test. We'll make the rest carry your load while they also carry their own. In the meantime, avail yourselves of everything that payment is meant to secure."

Dan Trabue said...

Marshall...

The unfairness and injustice occurs when you tell the low income earner, "You no longer have to pay the tax or take the test. We'll make the rest carry your load while they also carry their own..."

Says you. I say that having the poor pay taxes AT A RATE THEY CAN AFFORD is comparable to giving the student a test in a FORMAT THAT THEY CAN TAKE.

It's sort of a different topic, but the poor ARE paying taxes and a greater percentage of their income typically goes to taxation than wealthier folk.

Regardless, giving a student THE EXACT SAME TEST in the same format IS equal. By definition.

Giving them a test in a DIFFERENT format is, by definition, unequal. It's not the EXACT SAME test.

But now, we're just going in circles. You're welcome to your opinion. I stand by the Principle: Difference matter. Sometimes, in order to treat people FAIRLY we need to treat them NOT equally.

Marshall Art said...

"Giving them a test in a DIFFERENT format is, by definition, unequal. It's not the EXACT SAME test."

The "test" is the questions to be answered by the student to determine the student's mastery of the subject matter. To give a blind kid a written test is to deprive him of the test. It is treating him unequally because he cannot access the questions meant to measure his mastery of the subject matter. To treat them equally is to provide each of them the test in a format they can "read".

It is not the least bit unfair to expect everyone to pay the same percentage of their income. Note that expecting low income people to buy their groceries also impacts them more than it does higher income people. So does clothing themselves and paying the rent. Every penny spent impacts them harder. So what? That doesn't mean they should stop eating or be fed by others, or clothed by others or housed by others. All of those are responsibilities of theirs and we don't legislate lower prices for any of that stuff in the name of "fairness". It's silly. It's also silly to do so with the responsibility of financially maintaining our country, state or town. But at least in the area of income tax, the amount is mitigated to their advantage already by being a percentage rather than a fixed amount that everyone pays. Everyone buys gas at the same price regardless of income. One can find cheaper food, clothing and housing, but the richest can buy those same items. But income taxes do not force this "unfairness" even now, as not everyone in a given bracket earns the same income. A totally flat tax would be no more unjust. It would be less so.

Bubba said...

Dan, I think it's far safer to rely on a clear principle of equality under the law than a vague appeal to using "our own flawed reasoning to take some best guesses" at creating a system that eschews equality for some nebulous version of fairness.

I would think that even if there were consensus that it's obviously immoral to tax income at 100% and provide a subsistence subsidy: how much less do I trust your judgment when you can't see the immorality of that scenario? when you frame that scenario as trying to live like the early church only to denounce MY CRITICISM of it as an attempt to legislate morality?

"What is the alternative? A strict equality that results in known injustice/unfairness? That seems neither rational nor moral to me."

Are you not aware that life isn't fair?

One of the greatest sources of unfairness in human life is the family, in at least two senses.

1) Genetics: is it fair that NFL QB's Peyton Manning and Eli Manning have genes from former NFL quarterback Archie Manning and the rest of us don't? Is it fair that most of us don't have the genes for Down Syndrome while a small minority do?

No, both situations are obviously unfair, so what do you propose to do about it? The twentieth-century solution resulted in horrors that previous generations would find unimaginable.

2) Loving care from an intact family: one of the strongest statistical predictors of whether a person will end up in prison or in poverty is whether that person came from a broken home. Kids who have involved parents tend to do better in life; kids whose parents read tend to become readers themselves.

What do you propose to address this terribly unfair situation? One can encourage marital fidelity, sure, but the only real way to ensure that there aren't gross disparities in the way children are raised is to seize them from their parents at birth and raise them in monolithic parenting centers.

After all, It Takes a Village.

You'd probably object to that sort of solution, but then you're back to accepting one of the starkest examples of known unfairness. If we can -- and indeed MUST -- tolerate the unfairness of who are parents are, why should we take great strides toward arbitrary tyranny to address lesser instances of unfairness?

--

I think you seriously need a crash course in the writings of Thomas Sowell.