March 9th, 2011

The Constitutional Right to Enslave Others


photo credit: katerkate

Statism is a political disease which permeates both major political parties, but manifests itself in concentrated form in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Those who align themselves under this banner claim to champion “fair wages, fair markets, health security, retirement security, equal justice,” speaking out for the unemployed, the discriminated, and the minority.

Stripping the conversation of this superficial and emotion-based veneer, one finds the underlying philosophy behind such statism: a belief that the government is a vehicle through which perceived societal injustices should be coercively corrected. On the rare occasion that such individuals turn their populist talking points into practical solutions, the public is treated to a display of the ignorant buffoonery that such a philosophy necessitates.

The latest example comes courtesy of Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL), a J.D. graduate from the Unviersity of Illinois College of Law two decades ago. At the convocation ceremony for the 1993 graduation of which Jackson was a part, his father encouraged the new attorneys to use “the law as an instrument for social change.”

His son was apparently paying attention. In a speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives last week, Rep. Jackson advocated a method of using the law to implement social change of staggering proportions. Focusing his remarks on the issue of unemployment, he specifically suggested that “the answer to long-term unemployment… should be in the Constitution of the United States.” He goes on to explain the specific policies he thinks should be enacted to address the problem:

We need to add to the Constitution the right to a family to have a decent home. What would that do for home construction in this nation? What would that do for millions of unemployed people?

He says we need to add to the Constitution the right to medical care. How many doctors would such a right create?

He says we need to add to the Constitution of the United States the right to a decent education for every American. How many schools would such a right build from Maine to California? How many people would be put to work building roofs and designing classrooms and providing every student with an iPod and a laptop? How many ghettos and barrios will actually be touched by such an amendment?

In fact, very little that we pass in the Congress of the United States even touches the long-term unemployed. Only thing that touches them that this Congress has access to, that can actually change their station in life, is the Constitution of the United States.

The “he” to whom Jackson refers is Franklin Roosevelt—a bleeding statist himself who championed a "second bill of rights" that would supposedly provide “security and prosperity” for all Americans. The “rights” which FDR wanted to see codified in the Constitution are as follows:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
The right of every family to a decent home;
The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
The right to a good education.

This idea predates even FDR, and did not originate in America. The 1936 Constitution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics presents, in a section titled “Fundamental Rights and Duties of Citizens”, a long list of “rights” guaranteed to each citizen. Each individual was afforded the right to “rest and leisure,” “maintenance in old age and also in case of sickness or loss of capacity to work,” and “education, including higher education, being free of charge.” Rather than “rights to be left alone”, these positive rights were (and are) “rights to be provided for, at others’ expense.”

As I stated in a previous post on the matter of these so-called “rights,” such government-mandated goods and services enslave those who are forced at gunpoint to provide them. One cannot be guaranteed a job without an employer being mandated to provide one, even if it makes no business sense. Homes cannot be provided for every family without creditors, banks, and all companies involved being sucked into a sticky web of risky loans whose impact are spread out across the entire tax base. Medical care cannot be provided to all without physically compelling doctors to render their service.

The unintended (?) consequence of securing these false “rights” is as unsurprising as it is predictable: under an oppressive burden of regulation, taxation, inflation, and the threat of coercion for failure to provide others with what they are somehow entitled to, costs will go up, quality will decline, and all of society will begin to reap the psychological and ethical effects of what slavery does to a person. Unfortunately, America has already been operating under a diluted version of this system for decades; the advocacy promoted long ago by FDR, and last week by Jackson, would fasten the shackles of government-mandated servitude on American citizens who such supposed “civil rights” advocates as Jackson claim to be fighting for.

40 Responses to “The Constitutional Right to Enslave Others”

  1. Believe All Things
    March 9, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

    Connor – I agree with all the major points above. Latter-day Saints were warned about those who exhibit A False Solicitude for the Unfortunate.

    The question is, where do you think things are going in this country? There seems to be a growing divide as more and more people become aware of progressive vs. conservative principles. Will these ideologies eventually undermine U.S. society?

  2. Charles D
    March 9, 2011 at 5:53 pm #

    It seems there are three questions raised here:

    1) What are the fundamental rights to which every person is entitled, simply by being human? Put another way, which of the rights enumerated by FDR do you believe you have?
    2) Assuming you believe you have any of those rights, what entity should be the guarantor of those rights?
    3) If you refuse to take the position that ” that the government is a vehicle through which perceived societal injustices should be … corrected”, then how do you propose that societal injustices be corrected? Or should we merely accept injustice as an inevitable part of life?

  3. Clumpy
    March 9, 2011 at 6:58 pm #

    Thankfully, right now the super-wealthy barely pay any taxes at all, proportionally speaking, due to the limited definition of “income” allowing most to be paid in stock options and other capital gains which are taxed at much lower rates. Likewise, corporations use sham headquarters in favorable nations and corrupt deals with government in many cases to pay less than a single family might, by paying taxes only on “profits”. Imagine if an individual only had to pay taxes on their “profits” after expenses, and could shunt numbers around to reduce even reported profits.

    And, I might add, 1% of the wealthy still own nearly 35% of all privately-held wealth, and the next 19% of professionals and businessmen the next 50%. Those who are barely maintaining personal solvency working at jobs designed to keep them living barely from check to check may have something to say regarding who is really toiling under oppression and coercion.

    In this time of massive inequality and graft, the only thing, then, that makes me consider myself something of a libertarian is the belief that these problems ARE, in fact, mostly government-caused. If government would get out of business entirely, removing regulations that really serve only to hurt small businesses, and removing favors or differential treatment while fixing the law to prevent tax dodging both on the individual and corporate scale, we’d see so many problems fixed, problems that really wouldn’t be fixed by adding another fruitless layer of no-doubt corrupt bureaucracy to grant new “rights” to people.

    Our system is so hopelessly corporatist and the government/business continuum so entrenched at all levels of government that it seems fruitless to focus only on the “safety net” side of the equation. The blustering between our political parties (who both mostly owe their positions to the same system) is mostly a red herring designed to prevent us from examining this fact. Were we to do so, we’d see a resurgence of true libertarianism in America (I believe mainly exemplified by Mr. Paul and even Mr. Boyack), rather than corporatists in libertarians clothing whining about how hard the wealthy have it.

  4. John C.
    March 10, 2011 at 5:58 am #

    Okay, let’s do this.

    Connor,
    I agree that there has been an expansion (in some circles) of the definition of rights over the past 100 years or so. I also find it interesting that you had to go back almost 20 years to find your example of out-of-control rights speak. Finally, I find it hypocritical that you decry the emotionalism of the opposing viewpoint while simultaneously emotionally loading your description of taxation.

    I am generally in agreement with Clumpy that the government should be more involved in breaking up corporations and checking their abuses. Having a business-friendly government has traditionally meant being corporation friendly in America. Unfortunately, this has also meant that small businesses and consumers in general are out in the cold. So, is it statism to suggest that the government should be more active in regulating corporations? What other regulatory body would you suggest?

    I appreciate that we could rely on self-regulation. I actually think that doing so would result in a world that avoided most problems (assuming that most CEOs and such are like most people, basically good). However, I worry that the tendency for the occasional bad apple to really mess up the world in an unregulated market is great enough that a general lack of regulation would be unsafe. What level of regulation is possible without approaching crippling or corrupting statism?

    And regarding the poor, I wonder if we, as a society, are willing to just let them die? If we are actually made up of basically good people, that seems unlikely. But we as individuals also can only do so much; sometimes collecting goods and services allows groups to be more effective (admittedly, only sometimes). Especially in the case of those recently made poor by some catastrophe, resources to help and to bring help close are made more effective by widespread group effort. I’m not opposed to government coordination, nor to its creation of reserves for this sort of moment. As to the persistently poor, who make consistent choices to be poor, I’m still unwilling to just let them die. If we can marshal resources as a society to give them some help, I am for it. Sure they may be committing suicide by degrees now, but maybe help will change that. It seems like a chance that we should take as a society. I doubt though that it would provide a return on investment, though. Is it statist to think that the most wretched among us should be provided with some minimal level of help? Probably (especially if you disagree). So, what do you think should be done for the most wretched? Let ‘em die?

    I also know that basically good people can be wrong regarding how they view the world. I am from the South and I am deeply skeptical that the persistent systemic racism there would have disappeared any time soon without legislative action. Certainly there are plenty of racists there still (virulent and otherwise), but an “anything goes” legislative atmosphere lets those things continue to exist publicly and grow. Basically good people can be convinced that long-held societal beliefs about race, money, religion, whatever should be defended, even when they should not. So I am not opposed to legislative action that curtails some activities and coerces others in order to combat systemic injustices in society.

    This takes us to a notion of “fair.” Clumpy, for instance, seems to believe that the wealth and power apportioned to multinational and interstate corporations is unfair (they have more access to government than the rest of us and, as a result, government listens to them more than the rest of us). A truly laissez-faire approach would argue, of course, that corporations get the access they deserve (they have the resources and they pay for the access). Sometimes perfectly fairly acquired inequities in resources create systems that are nonetheless unfair. Context changes. While it may seem appealing to promote competition when your company is young and growing, it is also appealing to consolidate and discourage competition once your company is established and generating regular large dividends for your shareholders. You may not have chosen to be born white, middle-class, and American, but you were and, as a result, you have a wealth of opportunities available to you that aren’t available to someone born in a small Philipino hovel. It’s not your fault, of course, but it does show that fair (if we understand it as equality of opportunity) isn’t a natural state. Attempts by government to level the playing field don’t have to be Harrison Bergeron-esque (and, traditionally, haven’t been). This is why, I think, more effort has gone into bringing more opportunities to the poor than has gone into ruining the lives of the rich (at least, that’s the case in the USA). My question is are there ways to level out systemic inequities that are not statist (assuming that leveling out systemic inequities is a good thing)?

  5. Charles D
    March 10, 2011 at 2:50 pm #

    I find Clumpy’s analysis good, up to a point. The huge increase in inequality in the United States over the last 30 years coupled with the decrease in upward mobility has been an inevitable result of the melding of corporations and government. If we examine the period from WWII through the late 1970′s and compare it to the last 30 years, it is clear that these inequities did not exist and that the economy was more stable and more productive. The reduction in taxation, the weakening of regulation, and the accompanying increase in corporate influence in government brought in with the Reagan revolution is the proximate cause of our rising inequality, not its cure.

    Certainly poor Americans are better off than their counterparts in the Philippine slums or in Haiti, but is that the yardstick we want to use to measure America’s greatness? While political principles are important, we need to look at the results of pursuing those principles and make sure we are not weakening our democracy, impoverishing our neighbors, or destroying our land. If an apparently good and noble principle leads to immoral and destructive results, we have to have the courage to cast it aside.

  6. Clumpy
    March 10, 2011 at 4:19 pm #

    Thanks for your thoughtful responses, John C. and Charles D.

    I really feel that the corporate/government oneness is the elephant in the room, and while mainstream politicians have to consciously ignore it for obvious reasons, libertarians have no excuse. Were they to really sink their teeth into this issue (as Dr. Paul certainly does), they’d be far more dangerous and compelling, and destroy any pretense the DNC has of being the party of populism (barring a few individuals such as Anthony Weiner, whose heart is in the right place but operates under a few assumptions I strongly oppose), or the GOP the party of liberty.

    I do define “liberty” as the ability of an individual to develop and leverage their talents and interests into beneficial spheres of society, though I would hope that much of this can be accomplished through ending corruption and corporate favoritism rather than layers and layers of entitlement spending or legislation which is indeed coercive (and, again, only benefits the already-entrenched). I may have another great political awakening ahead of me but I feel I’ve found a way to reconcile my fears of both unchecked governmental bureaucratization and private graft into a truly libertarian solution to both focusing primarily on laissez faire and impartial law enforcement.

  7. Charles D
    March 10, 2011 at 4:36 pm #

    Clumpy, I hope your framework for a truly libertarian solution is out on the internet somewhere, I’d like to read it. It seems to me that if we are to disentangle the “corporate/government oneness”, two key elements must be in place:

    1. We need a constitutional amendment that makes it clear that the rights and privileges delineated in the Constitution and its amendments apply to natural – human – persons, not to artificial legal entities (corporations). I believe that was the intent of the Founders and of the post-Civil War Congress that passed the 14th amendment, and the courts have misruled on those points.
    2. We need a clear legal understanding that money is not speech and that money as applied to both election campaigns and lobbying can and should be strictly controlled to ensure that elected officials are accountable to their constituents, not their “donors”. For example, we could restrict contributions to Congressional candidates to individuals who live within their districts and cap contributions at some reasonable number like $2000 per cycle.

    Without those two controls in place, I believe a laissez faire approach will result in a plutocracy rather than a democracy.

  8. Michael Towns
    March 10, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

    Charles, money may not be literal speech but I honestly don’t see how you can restrict its use without being a fascist. People have inalienable rights to pursue happiness and the liberty to spend as you choose is fundamental to happiness as the Framers understood it.

    A true laissez faire economy could never result in a permanent plutocracy in much the same way that a laissez faire economy prevents the formation of permanent monopolies. There is simply too much innovation and dynamism and entrepreneurship in a true free market. Ludwig von Mises demonstrated this logically and concisely in Human Action. Only government and crony capitalism feeds plutocracy and monopolies.

  9. Eric C
    March 10, 2011 at 7:47 pm #

    Once again, I am convinced that “liberals” and “economics” don’t mix. I am greatly amused by their never-ending, pie-in-the-sky promises of “healthcare for everyone”, “a house for everyone”, “college education for everyone”, etc., etc., ad nauseam.

    To say that by merely adding a Constitutional amendment we can successfully guarantee every American a home, a college education, etc. – reveals an embarrassing level of ignorance – on his part – in terms of economics. I mean, that IS the liberal mentality, is it not? “We will pass a law, mandating that the housing market recover, and it shall be so!” Where the hell (pardon my frustration) do they think the money will come from? (Oh yeah, I forgot, the liberals’ god “Keynes” commanded them to print money when they don’t have it. Debt is a good thing, right?)

    Connor, there used to be conservative commentators on your articles. What happened? Did it just become too much for them to try to reason with a liberal?

  10. Liz
    March 10, 2011 at 9:30 pm #

    “Societal injustice?” What the does that mean? Some people go to more parties than others? Some people are more popular than others, and boo-hoo it’s not fair? Society, as in social interaction, social events, injustices during those parties and gatherings? What is this nonsense?

    I’m sorry, you can edumacate but some folks are intelligence resistant. Connor hit it right on with this piece. I personally could care less if “society” is just or unjust, what I’m after is equal protection under the law. And if equal protection is lost in this quest for equally distributed popularity or whathaveyou, sumthink is weally scwewy.

  11. Liz
    March 10, 2011 at 9:33 pm #

    …by the way, if no one has caught on to this yet, historically when progressives/Marxists talk of doing things “for the poor”, they end up doing and doing for themselves. It’s a cover for the few chosen elite to acquire power and wealth for themselves – while using “the poor ” as a body shield. But you all knew that already.

  12. Clumpy
    March 10, 2011 at 11:28 pm #

    “Societal injustice?” What the does that mean? Some people go to more parties than others? Some people are more popular than others, and boo-hoo it’s not fair? Society, as in social interaction, social events, injustices during those parties and gatherings? What is this nonsense?

    Yes, that’s what it means. It isn’t a technical term or anything so highfalutin’ – it’s referring specifically to block parties and “socialism” is a philosophy of trying to attend as many such parties as possible.

    Wikipedia is hopelessly pinko but you can read more about the political philosophy of attending neighborhood parties (started by Marx, whose odorous beard kept him away from most such gatherings), here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_justice

  13. John C.
    March 11, 2011 at 5:50 am #

    Sure, Liz, because no other group aside from liberals and communists have ever done that. Certainly, no purported libertarians have ever seized power or abused it.

  14. Clumpy
    March 11, 2011 at 9:20 am #

    “Purported?” What the does that mean? Does that have something to do with porpoises? Some people have more porpoises than others, and boo-hoo it’s not fair? Purported, as in boating, spending time at Sea World, where some people find the porpoises more entertaining than others? What is this nonsense?

  15. Charles D
    March 11, 2011 at 10:12 am #

    Michael, it seems you are trusting too much in economic theory and not actually evaluating what happens in real life. We have cut taxes and regulation substantially over the last 30 years and we have more corruption of government by corporate interests, not less. You may have noticed that innovation and dynamism are fading in the U.S. corporate climate while gaming the system for a short-term profit is the preferred method of growing a large-scale business. That is a result of lower taxes and less regulation which means I can grab my profit and keep most of it so why invest in my business, particularly for the long-term?

    What Liz and others don’t seem to realize is that the natural course of capitalist economics is to enrich those who already have wealth, not to give everyone an equal opportunity to gain wealth. If we want equal protection, we need to protect against the excesses of capitalism along with protecting against the interference of government.

  16. Clumpy
    March 11, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

    I should take this opportunity to register my orientation with free-market capitalists. I really do believe that the corporate chokehold on our government, and the government’s increasing dependence upon corporate interests, is the problem, and that what we have right now isn’t a “free-market” system at all, but a primarily corporatist one.

    I agree with your final thesis – “we need to protect against the excesses of capitalism along with protecting against the interference of government”. I just don’t consider this a debate between “capitalism” and “socialism”, since I support corporate independence from government with a social safety net (neither of which are socialism), enabling competition according to something of a Smithian model. I don’t know if such an arrangement is possible (Weber’s acceptance of capitalism with a hesitance to believe in a possible Utopia is sounding sadly prescient), but it’s better than what we have now, or would have were government to bureaucratize itself further in the name of “evening” opportunities when it seems to be causing much of the problem in the first place.

    And Liz, sorry for messing around with you before. I’d just like to make my point that this conversation (and this blog) is quite a bit more subtle than the left/right political dichotomy you seem to be pushing.

  17. Jim Davis
    March 11, 2011 at 7:01 pm #

    Charles D. said:

    If an apparently good and noble principle leads to immoral and destructive results, we have to have the courage to cast it aside.

    I don’t know if you’re a religious person but this philosophy of focusing on results at the expense of means is something that Paul (from the New Testament) refuted when he was accused of teaching:

    “Let us do evil that good may come.”

    The evil refuted by many libertarians is the aggression carried on by an individual or a collective body. Taking care of the poor is important and everyone should do so. But this responsibility should not be carried out through the aggressive/coercive means of government. Charity is not charity unless it is voluntary.

    Some of you are right that there are rich people who are greedy and selfish. These are evils which should be recognized and changed:

    Wo unto you rich men, that will not give your substance to the poor, for your riches will canker your souls; and this shall be your lamentation in the day of visitation, and of judgment, and of indignation: The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and my soul is not saved! (D&C 56:16)

    But there are also poor people who suffer from greed and selfishness as well:

    Wo unto you poor men, whose hearts are not broken, whose spirits are not contrite, and whose bellies are not satisfied, and whose hands are not stayed from laying hold upon other men’s goods, whose eyes are full of greediness, and who will not labor with your own hands! (D&C 56:17)

    I hope we can all check ourselves that we are not either of these people. If we want good things for ourselves and others we should use moral methods to reach those ends. Otherwise we are buying a lie that “the ends justify the means”.

  18. Charles D
    March 12, 2011 at 8:12 am #

    Jim, I’ve heard this argument before. It rests not upon scripture but upon the idea that government should not, must not, involve itself in charitable acts toward it’s citizens. It is based on the idea that it is somehow immoral to tax citizens to feed the hungry, house the homeless, or care for the sick. If we were able to be certain that our neighbor did not go hungry or homeless or without medical care by private charity then perhaps this would be a defensible position, but the experience of the U.S. and of the many other nations with more severe problems than ours makes it clear that is not the case.

    We are left then with a simpler moral dilemma. Is it more evil for government to tax wealthy people in order to make sure that no one goes hungry, homeless or without proper medical care, or is it a greater evil to permit the suffering of my fellow citizens?

    In a democracy, the government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. If the governed, through their elected representatives, consent to be taxed to provide a social safety net for the least among their brethren, then that is, ipso facto, a “just” power of government. No individual’s rights are violated by that decision and no individual is harmed by it. If we however, refuse to provide aid to those in need through whatever method is available to us and whatever method will be most effective, then are we not to blame for the harm caused?

  19. Michael Towns
    March 12, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

    Charles D,

    Yes, it IS immoral to tax citizens to feed the hungry and house the homeless. Please allow me the opportunity to explain why.

    It is wrong for a random person, group, or entity to reach into Bill’s wallet, take money out, and give to a third party if Bill is not agreeable to it. The reason Bill lets the government do so is because the government does it by pure threat of force.

    In other words, if Bill doesn’t cough up the money, men with guns show up at his door and take him to a jail cell.

    Do you disagree with the above facts?

    I didn’t think so. It’s the reality we live in right? Don’t pay your taxes, go to jail.

    Now, since the government can only operate by threat of force (I like to call it aggression), it is immoral and wrong for them to threaten me to pay taxes. After all, it’s wrong for me to go out into the street, accost a person wearing a Rolex, and demand cash from him or I will point a gun to his head. Right? Why is it somehow virtuous for a government to do this?

    A very important principle is one that you have no doubt heard before: the ends do not justify the means. It doesn’t matter what pure and noble motives underlie the government’s aggression, it is still aggression and it is still wrong. The ends do not justify the means.

  20. Charles D
    March 12, 2011 at 5:11 pm #

    Each of us is born a citizen of the United States and we not only derive certain rights and privileges from that birth, we also have certain responsibilities including paying our taxes, registering for military service, obeying the law, etc. Without taxes there would be no United States. None of us enjoy paying taxes, and most of us disagree in some way with the choices our government makes in spending our tax money, but what exactly is the alternative?

    There are no countries where no one pays taxes, no nations of any consequence where paying taxes is optional, and certainly there is no possibility of a great nation like this one existing or prospering without taxes. Let’s not kid ourselves that taxation is theft. Unless you are prepared to live in a country without a military, or roads, or schools, then you need to be honest enough to admit that taxation is necessary.

  21. Michael Towns
    March 12, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

    Charles,

    I noticed that your response didn’t rebut my contention that the enforcement of tax payments constitutes the pure use of force.

    You know, I am prepared to live in a country with a vastly smaller military, no government schools, no federally-funded roads. Do you really understand what you’re saying when you suggest that we wouldn’t be able to live without federal taxes? Before 1916, we didn’t have an income tax and people still grew up, married, had successful jobs and raised children.

    Roads can be 100% privatized. Schools can be privatized. The notion that only government can provide these services is patently false and absurd. I’m ok with a military force, I’m not so much ok with a $200 billion a year military budget that we are financing with China and Japan’s help.

    Guess what: I’m ok with a compromise. Get rid of the income tax entirely, which is anti-liberty, and replace it with excise taxes or a modest tax on sales and services. Stop taking “Social Security” monies out of my paycheck and let ME save for MY retirement.

    Yes, taxation is theft because it’s money being taken out of my wallet against my will. At least with a sales tax I have some control over how much money I’m willing to “donate” to the politicians.

    This country was great for a long, long time before the politicians decided that raiding your monthly paycheck was good policy.

  22. Brian
    March 12, 2011 at 8:11 pm #

    “Ludwig von Mises demonstrated this logically and concisely in Human Action.” The criticism I have about (most?) Libertarian philosophy is it is rooted entirely in logic with no real-world examples. That is like doing science with only hypotheses and no repeatable tests.

  23. Clumpy
    March 12, 2011 at 11:16 pm #

    Get rid of the income tax entirely, which is anti-liberty, and replace it with excise taxes or a modest tax on sales and services.

    I understand what you’re saying here, but this part seems a little iffy. Remember, the working class is paid based on solvency (the amount needed to maintain basic living from month to month), while only the upper-middle class and upward (mostly upward) really accumulates any actual wealth as they are paid on rank. This, plus the removal of all safety nets, seems to be a recipe for a life of destitute living followed by an old age of fearful, desperate budgeting or starvation for the lower classes.

    I maintain that the wealthy owe a proportionally greater debt to the existence of government itself in protecting far greater shares of private property (and benefit greatly from their investments’ use of public services), and hence a graduated tax model (or at least a flat percentage tax on income, including capital gains and stock options) is not particularly unfair.

  24. Charles D
    March 13, 2011 at 7:45 am #

    I once read a wise blog post that said that all conservative and libertarian thought can be reduced to two words: “cheap labor”.

  25. Michael Towns
    March 13, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    “This, plus the removal of all safety nets, seems to be a recipe for a life of destitute living followed by an old age of fearful, desperate budgeting or starvation for the lower classes.”

    We are all there regardless of the government’s empty promises. When is the last time you’ve looked at the Social Security and Medicare future liabilities? Trillions in the red for the rest of this century. There isn’t enough money in the world to pay for those outlays. And if you printed the money up, soon a thousand dollars might buy you a roll of toilet tissue. There is no such thing as true security. “Safety nets” are an illusion and have always been.

    “I once read a wise blog post that said that all conservative and libertarian thought can be reduced to two words: “cheap labor”.”

    Charles: I can’t even begin to tell you how un-intellectual this statement is. Seriously? That’s your summation of libertarian thought?

    Oh and Brian, Human Action is filled to the brim with real world examples. Examples culled from centuries of government power plays as well as the author’s own experiences in Nazi Germany and Austria. I suggest you actually read the 1000 page book before sounding off. It is a breathtaking treatise of human nature and economics is primarily a study of human nature.

  26. Charles D
    March 13, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

    Michael, the end result of libertarian thought, regardless of its erudition or complexity, is cheap labor. Whether that is its stated goal is immaterial, that is its result. And, I should add, you are no doubt among those whose labor is destined to be cheap.

    You also seem to ignore the fact that government has considerable resources for increasing its revenue and a great many expenditures that are unnecessary and counter-productive. The problem is one of priorities and political will not of impracticality.

  27. Michael Towns
    March 13, 2011 at 5:03 pm #

    Charles,

    I was hoping to continue the conversation at a higher level of discourse than the typical online resort to ad hominem insults. If you just want to trade insults, please let me know.

    It is curious your fixation on “cheap labor”, especially considering that is what we now have in this country with decades of corporatist and governmental socialism. That is ultimately what statism brings to the table: labor of no value whatsoever. In a true free market economy, the value of labor fluctuates according to the needs and dictates of the market, which is the ultimate democratic vote. The choice of the consumer is what dictates price, not mere economic theory.

    No, the end result of libertarian thought is liberty. Pure liberty, for the individual, from the depredations of collectivists. It is not a pipe dream at all. We once had it in this country, and I believe we will have it again in the future.

  28. Charles D
    March 13, 2011 at 5:12 pm #

    Michael, I didn’t mean to offend, I merely meant to point out that unless you happen to be in the top 5% or so of Americans by wealth, your labor is destined to become less valuable if we pursue libertarian pipe dreams.

    We have had decades of corporatist control of the economy, which basically privatizes reward and socializes risk. The reason they get away with it is that they control government because libertarians (among others) oppose efforts to curb private money in politics or impose regulatory or anti-trust controls on corporations. When we have this kind of situation we can only resolve it when there is a force strong enough to rein in corporate excess. The only institution with that potential is government, and therein lies the problem.

    There is no such thing as the free market, it is economist’s fantasy. In an unfettered market, those who have will get more by taking it from those who have less until all the wealth is concentrated in a few hands. That is the inevitable result of what libertarian ideologues call pure liberty. In this market, the payment (not the value) of labor will inevitably decline because the money, power and information rests almost exclusively with those who employ them and their interest is cheap labor.

  29. Jim Davis
    March 15, 2011 at 1:06 am #

    Charles continues to avoid answering the question whether he thinks force/coercion is a justified method to solve our economic problems.

    I remember discussing liberty vs force with the Revolutionary Students Club (Marxists) at UVU and they were at least honest enough to admit that they believe people should be forced to be “good” and “equal” through the means of government.

    The notion that people will choose evil and should therefore be forced to do good (and that one person should not perish) dates back to before this Earth was. Going back to the principle that the ends somehow justify the means reminds me of what Elder F. Burton Howard said in his talk “Repentance“, General Conference, April 1991:

    The war in heaven was essentially about the means by which the plan of salvation would be implemented. It forever established the principle that even for the greatest of all ends, eternal life, the means are critical. It should be obvious to all thinking Latter-day Saints that the wrong means can never attain that objective.

    The danger in thinking that the end justifies the means lies in making a judgment we have no right to make. Who are we to say that the Lord will pardon wickedness done to attain a perceived “greater good.” Even if the goal is good, it would be a personal calamity to look beyond the mark and fail to repent of the wrong we do along the way.

  30. Charles D
    March 15, 2011 at 7:15 am #

    Jim, I thought I was clear, but apparently not. I do not view taxation as force or coercion, but as the debt we owe to our country. Does your bank “force” you to pay your mortgage? If so, feel free to exercise your liberty and stop paying, but you may want to buy a tent first.

    If we could rely on each and every individual to choose good, to do the right thing, then we wouldn’t need government, but that is not the case, never has been. We cannot force people to be good by enacting laws, so should we then get rid of laws, so no one will be forced to abstain from stealing or murder or rape? Should we abandon taxation and descend into anarchy? I can appreciate that you don’t like taxes, or that you disagree with the government’s priorities in spending, but if you seriously want to live in a land without taxes and government “coercion”, then perhaps a move to Somalia is in order.

  31. mormonconsecrationist
    March 15, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

    enslavement of fellow Americans or of people in impoverished countries?

    I have come to sense that among LDS it is wrong to use tax money to help impoverished Americans, because that would ‘enslave’ wealthier Americans. I happen to agree that taxes are NOT the route to helping people in poverty.

    But many of those same people find it easy to reconcile investing in companies that exploit impoverished people in other countries–

    just what I have observed.

    Seems to be following the Old Testament model, but in a somewhat twisted way–

    I no longer see myself as *us* in all of this. Personally I am not involved in ‘taking’ from taxpayers, but I also won’t exploit–

    and sometimes that means that I experience what others might consider to be relative poverty, at least according to U.S. standards–

    this is definitely one of Connor’s conundrums–

  32. Liz
    March 15, 2011 at 10:33 pm #

    Y’know what really bugs me is property tax. It’s like paying rent to the government. The only tax i’m really OK with is sales tax. Income tax bugs me a lot too. Government shouldn’t know your income and shouldn’t get a cut of it. Ideally. But i know we’re way, way past all this already. Cap ‘n Trade will max out the tax list with a breathing/farting tax. Unbelievable.

  33. Liz
    March 15, 2011 at 10:35 pm #

    Oh and about those nasty, nasty union people – now that you’ve seen the violent and vulgar natures of your public school teachers on display, I declare April 1st national “pull your kid out of public school day” in order to collapse the failed system and save our kids. Your child will be happier, and smarter. Do it for the kids.

  34. Michael Towns
    March 16, 2011 at 8:26 pm #

    “We cannot force people to be good by enacting laws, so should we then get rid of laws, so no one will be forced to abstain from stealing or murder or rape?”

    Charles, I’d like to speak briefly to this particular point. The purpose of law as it developed in the common law system of Middle Age England (which is where we obtained our legal legacy) on up to the beginning of the 20th century was not to “make people good”. It was to protect against aggressions and to protect personal property and the goods of one’s labor.

    It was only in the 20th century and the development of “positive” law or the “positivist” school that people started fantasizing about using law as a blunt weapon or tool for social or ideological change. Civil rights sort of spearheaded it, which was a positive step for ending institutional racism, but it has since morphed into anything that activists want it to be. This legal Rorschach is not how the law was conceived or viewed or studied for hundreds of years. It is a new development. I personally do not believe that the positive school of legal interpretation has a very deep philosophical foundation. Dallin H. Oaks, for example, doesn’t regard it highly and didn’t for his entire legal career.

    My purpose in going into this particular point is to illustrate the profound difference between the “liberal” (what a ridiculous word, it means the opposite nowadays of what it used to mean) view of law and the libertarian view.

    The libertarian position is not antinomian. We like law in and of itself. Laws protect me from thug Billy coming into my house and stealing my flatscreen TV. Actually my Glock 22 does that, but law gives me the tools to sue Billy for damages. Laws also protect the sanctity of my person against assaults — indeed, a host of deprivations. Laws are necessary to protect me and my property from raiders.

    Libertarians believe in laws. But we are opposed to laws that through philosophical contortion make it okay to take money out of Allen’s wallet in order to make Fred feel good about himself. That is pure aggression. It may be legal. But how can you seriously argue that it makes either Allen or Fred become “good people”?

  35. Jim Davis
    March 17, 2011 at 2:38 am #

    I do not view taxation as force or coercion, but as the debt we owe to our country.

    That line reminds me of the quote: “Rape is such a strong word. I prefer to call it surprise sex.”

    No individual’s rights are violated by that decision (to tax people for welfare programs) and no individual is harmed by it.

    How are no individual rights violated by the redistribution of wealth? Every individual’s right to own and control property is violated. If people choose not to pay they are fined or put in prison. No harm done… I guess.

    Does your bank “force” you to pay your mortgage?

    I voluntarily signed a contract for my mortgage. I did not volunteer to be taxed for public or corporate “welfare”.

    We cannot force people to be good by enacting laws, so should we then get rid of laws, so no one will be forced to abstain from stealing or murder or rape?

    Protecting ourselves from stealing, murder and rape deals with negative law- which is just because it deals with defense. The topic at hand is whether positive law should be used to aggressively force people to take care of others economically. This is not just.

    …then perhaps a move to Somalia is in order.

    I’m not advocating anarchy. But to suggest that I should leave the country because another system will better suit me is like me suggesting for you to move to Europe because a social-democracy would be more in line with your preferences.

  36. ian
    April 24, 2011 at 9:53 am #

    Laissez-faire, or leave it be, let be, leave it alone, etc.., implies no negative or positive tampering with economic activity except in jurisdictional cases where an economic player attempts to meddle in government or law. The idea that a corporation would even exist in a laissez-faire system is kind of baffling, since a corporation is a legal entity in and of itself.

  37. JJL9
    April 25, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

    Lots of long-winded nonsense here. Very little of it based on any kind of principle.

    Charles, what does “societal injustice” mean? I think individuals have rights and I think those rights are sometimes violated by other individuals. A protection against that is about the only thing that warrants the creation of a government with the power to redress those violations.

    I suppose a “societal injustice” would be one in which a government is formed for that purpose and it fails to fulfill that stated purpose.

    Any attempt by government to guarantee anyone any particular “things” is most certainly the path to societal injustice. The only thing government should attempt to guarantee is that IF and individual has produced things, THEN no other individual has the right to take them.

  38. Charles D
    April 25, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

    If you read carefully above, you will note that the term initially used was “perceived societal injustice”. No one has offered to define what constitutes injustice and in this context, I don’t know that it is necessary to do so. The question is whether people perceive the society as just and if not, what should be done about it.

    A nation with stark disparities in wealth, opportunity, and equality is one that is ripe for turmoil. People who are unable to provide for their families or get adequate medical care or who don’t have an opportunity for a better life will not sit idly by forever knowing that their children will be even worse off than they. They will demand change because of what they perceive as injustice and government has two options: suppress them forcibly or make sufficient changes in the political and economic system to change their perception. We see both scenarios playing out in the Middle East today.

    The moral question here is that we (assuming we are moral human beings) should feed the hungry, heal the sick, educate the children and otherwise correct injustices in our society. How we do that is important only in that we must choose an effective method. To reject a viable method of helping our neighbor in favor of methods that we know to be inadequate is in itself an immoral act.

  39. JJL9
    April 25, 2011 at 5:00 pm #

    Charles,

    I did give my simple definition of social injustice. If you want an example of “percieved social injustice” I’m sure you can find as many different answers as there are people who vote Democrat.

    I’m glad I don’t live in a naiton with stark disparities in wealth, opportunity, and equality. I’m glad that the people who founded this nation saw those problems in virtually every other country in the world and found the solution to those problems. Unforunately, based on distortions of the definition of what would actually constitute social injustice, America (and by America, I mean the individuals within the various institutions of the three branches of the government) has moved further and further away from the “solution” I refer to above, and in so doing has perpetrated actual social injustice. Even so, we still live in a country that affords ample opportunity for EVERYONE to be the masters of their own destiny and to provide for themselves and their families.

    I agree that as moral human beings we “should feed the hungry, heal the sick, educate the children and otherwise correct injustices in our society.” I agree that we should not reject the “viable method” of doing that, which is a return to the principles espoused in the founding of this country and in the Constitution, and that we should reject “methods that we know to be inadequate” which are the vary methods employed by those who typically use the term “social injustice.”

  40. Jim Davis
    April 25, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

    I think I’ve shared this here before but Elder F. Burton Howard debunks the false philosophy of focusing on ends (results) at the expense of means (methods) in his talk “Repentance”. An excerpt follows:

    The truth is that we are judged by the means we employ and not by the ends we may hope to obtain. It will do us little good at the last day to respond to the Great Judge, “I know I was not all I could have been, but my heart was in the right place.”

    In fact, there is danger in focusing merely on ends. To some who did, the Savior said:

    “Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them: I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (3 Ne. 14:22–23.)

    The war in heaven was essentially about the means by which the plan of salvation would be implemented. It forever established the principle that even for the greatest of all ends, eternal life, the means are critical. It should be obvious to all thinking Latter-day Saints that the wrong means can never attain that objective.

    The danger in thinking that the end justifies the means lies in making a judgment we have no right to make. Who are we to say that the Lord will pardon wickedness done to attain a perceived “greater good.” Even if the goal is good, it would be a personal calamity to look beyond the mark and fail to repent of the wrong we do along the way.

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