Doctor Cleveland's picture

    A Proposal for Our Libertarian and Objectivist Friends

    Since David's recent blog has attracted attention from some self-described Objectivists and Libertarians, let me say a few things to those new commenters.

    It's clear that you feel that all taxes are illegitimate ("stolen money"), and do not believe in any social contract (a la John Locke) by which citizens preserve the maximum freedom possible for them by delegating their personal legislative rights to a freely chosen legislative authority. In short, you don't accept taxation with representation. We can argue the point, but many of you seem quite set in your convictions.

    So, if the public services that taxes provide do not seem to be worth paying taxes, let's make a deal:

    You stop paying taxes, declare yourself a Sovereign Guest Citizen, and we, the taxpayers, will charge you whatever the market bears for the services that we fund.

    I think this is eminently fair. I believe that the public services are worth paying taxes for, and so I pay them. You do not believe that such services are worthwhile or legitimate. Don't use them.

    If you do wish to use them, however, you must pay me for them. Otherwise, you are stealing from me, plain and simple. If I pay for a road and you don't, you may not use it without my permission, and I am free to set whatever price the free market permits. And certainly, I cannot be forced to act against my own economic self-interest.

    Therefore, all roads will be toll roads for you, as all streets and alleys will be toll streets and alleys, and all sidewalks toll sidewalks. You will be charged for any and all uses of public property, in which the taxpayers have invested and which we constantly pay to maintain. (This extends, naturally, to public parks and beaches, public offices, and public courthouses.) We, as the owners, are free to set the prices. We will charge you per use, with prices for specific streets, bridges, and highways determined by overhead and market demand, or we can offer you monthly or annual subscriptions for certain areas.

    Naturally, to eliminate the free-rider problem, we must charge you for all goods and services delivered to you using taxpayer resources. These delivery tolls will be related to the number of public roads, rails, bridges and other services used to make the delivery.

    The United States Postal Service will continue to serve taxpayers at subsidized rates. Sovereign Guest Citizens may also use the Postal Service both to send and receive mail and parcels, at special SGC rates comparable to those of private delivery companies. Naturally, you may use such companies, rather than our service, for mail needs, but remember that our ownership of the national transportation infrastructure cuts our overhead considerably.

    You are more than welcome to purchase foods, drugs and medications which have been regulated and inspected by our USDA and FDA. However, we must add a reasonable surcharge for those inspection services, since we paid for them. If you do not wish to purchase federally-inspected foods or medications, you are free to buy medicines that underwent no FDA trials and foodstuffs that did not pass federal inspection. (I know where you can buy a bunch of eggs cheap.) However, the seller in such transactions may not be held liable in any court. Let the buyer beware.

    You are also welcome to purchase our clean (and often fluoridated) drinking water from our public reservoirs. Should our price structure prove unsatisfactory, you may drill a well or collect rain water.

    We are also happy to offer you our public sanitation system, which will remove the bodily wastes from the plumbing at your home and/or business. Our prices are reasonable. You may purchase your own sanitation tank elsewhere if you insist, or recycle your personal waste in any other way that does not intefere with your neighbors and their property.

    You are welcome to subscribe to our fire-protection and EMT/ambulance/resuce services. Please do not wait until an emergency to buy our services. Those who wish to purchase same-day benefits may negotiate for them during their house fire or cardiac event. We will charge such customers what they are willing to pay for our services under current market conditions.

    We are happy to offer three basic subscription levels for our police and judicial protection services. Our maximum level of subscription offers full service by our police forces, court systems, and penal facilities: the same level of service that taxpayers provide for ourselves. We regret that police services cannot provide coverage for any events before your subscription is activated. Our second level carries no police services but allows you full access to our criminal courts, at a price designed to reflect the costs of our courts and of our criminal-detention programs. Should you object to the detention of criminals or feel our costs are unreasonable, you may subscribe to our minimum protection plan at no cost. This provides neither police protection to recourse to our courts of criminal law. In order to avoid charging Sovereign Guest Citizens inappropriately, the homes and businesses of second-level and minimum subscribers will be identified with clear, legible signage, and on publicly available maps, so that you are not burdened with services for which you do not wish to pay.

    We regret that we must charge all Sovereign Guest Citizens an annual fee for national defense. We strive to provide the best military and signals-intelligence protection that money can buy, and our pricing structure reflects that excellence. Sovereign Guest Citizens who are unhappy with paying for a full National Defense Subscription may receive a 15% Minimal Risk discount by surrendering their international-travel privileges and cutting themselves off from all contact (active or passive) with non-U.S. citizens.

    We happily provide all taxpayers and future taxpayers with at least twelve years of taxpayer-funded education, and with significant educational benefits and subsidies for further study. We will happily provide the same education to non-taxpayers at market prices. Should you wish to opt out of taxpayer status after receiving our educational-benefits package, we will be happy to work out a repayment plan, adjusted for the rate of inflation, at reasonable interest rates. Moreover, our fees for the use of taxpayer-educated employees are extremely reasonable, and reflect both the length of each employee's taxpayer-financed education and that employee's overall educational achievement. We think you'll be satisfied with the workforce we educated. If you are not satisfied with a specific employee, perhaps a better-educated employee may be worth the price.

    Sovereign Guest Citizens will have all of their fundamental rights as citizens protected. You are free to speak, believe, and worship as you please, free to bear arms, and free to assemble either in private or (for reasonable usage fees) in public. None of your rights will be abrogated in any way. However, you may not vote in any election or for any officeholder who determines tax rates, taxpayer expenditures, or service pricing for Sovereign Guest Citizens. It would obviously be unjust for non-taxpayers to increase the amount that taxpayers spend, or to authoize services for which they do not pay. It is also a clear and fundamental wrong for non-taxpayers to interfere with the operations of the free market by trying to use the electoral process to reduce the prices taxpayers charge them for using taxpayer property. Therefore, Sovereign Guest Citizens may not vote in most public elections. We are considering a Constitutional amendment which would provide a third House of Congress, without fiscal authority or responsibilites, who could represent both taxpayers and non-taxpayers alike. This House of Delegates would be authorized, for example, to designate National Wildflower Month, or to issue official decrees honoring Larry Bird's contributions to American life.

    We are pleased to say, due to problems assessing a fair price, that clean air will provided to all Sovereign Guest Citizens free of cost. The major expenses of regulating and cleaning the atmosphere to keep it healthy and breathable, and of eliminating various toxic wastes from the environment, are simply the txpayer's gift to you as our neighbors. However, should you abuse this gift by actively polluting the air, groundwater, or soil, we will regrettably be forced to execute you. Of course, you will first be free to purchase a free and fair trial from our courts.



    Which is exactly what Libertarians are saying, except you miss that the services should, can and are presently often provided without coercive monopolies. The end result is that many services would also be provided for free, as well.

    Right. Services for free.

    Hard-core realism.

    I'm amazed that you got as much out of that statement as you appear to.  Is the assertion now that markets are so magical that they make things free?  My professors in the econ department will be pleased to hear about this development.

    That is certainly the assertion. And our friends will be eager to tell them about it.

    What color is the sky on your world?

    I love it!  Also, we should charge marginal cost plus mark-up.  No reason we can't make a profit off of this!  Since full-fledged citizens would effectively be shareholders in the nation, they're going to want to see some return on their investment beyond the rendering of social services and infrastructure.  Viva capitalism!

    Also, why isn't there already a Larry Legend Day?

    Of course we should make a profit. It would go against free market principles not to. And that would be wrong.

    Whenever I head on down to the ole free market, I always ride my unicorn.

    Ayn Rand and Objectivism is merely a way for those with the maturity of a badly parented two year old to rationalize their horid behavior. Nothing more.



    As a libertarian, I LOVE it! Where do I sign up? I think I could get a much better overall deal out of your proposed system than I do out of the one presently in place, provided none of the proposed services are forced on me if I don't want them, my ability to choose a separate provider for any of said services is not infringed, and that the ability for alternate providers to provide said services is also not infringed. Incrementally, the more adaptive and competitive alternate providers would come into posession of your preciously public resources, and the proposed socialist "enterprise" would have to compete (and likely fail) on every level. That is - provided the socialist enterprise maintains the agreement, even through the tough times. It's called principle, and if all else were equal, this would be a lovely experiment. A libertarian's dream - thank you!

    No need to bother working out a repayment plan on the education, thank you. If a full acounting was done, I have paid for my own and a few others by now.

    I think I could get a much better overall deal out of your proposed system than I do out of the one presently in place, provided none of the proposed services are forced on me if I don't want them, my ability to choose a separate provider for any of said services is not infringed, and that the ability for alternate providers to provide said services is also not infringed.

    I'm afraid it would take Government intervention to make sure that your ability to choose a separate provider or to not pay for services isn't infringed. If cable can make you pay for channels you don't watch, by default you can be made to pay for services you don't use. We could make sure, however, that you're only charged for the services you need. There would, of course, be a charge for that, as well.

    You make a good point. I am still in, even after striking that caveat. I just place the burden of both requirements upon myself, instead. Problem solved.

    Another sucker born every minute.

    And, predictably, here is the name calling. What's next? Ad hominem innuendo? You will accuse me of breathing through my mouth, or drinking beer from a refrigerator that I keep on my lawn? I kept it civil, I conceded a valid point I had missed. Why does the left do this? It's their most limiting tactic, yet the most-oft used? Shame. The hostility that is everywhere saddens me.

    Well sorry about that.

    Let me put it this way: people's self-assessment of their tax contributions relative to the share of benefits they receive tends to be unrealistic.

    I'll believe your claim that you've already repaid your public education and that of several other people, when I see the accounting, thanks. And I'll view you as having repaid your schooling when your tax receipts add up to the inflation-adjusted real cost (including interest) of your schooling *above and beyond* the other benefits you;ve received.

    Let's try this constructively: do you seriously think that "preciously public resources" are going to be handed over? No, no. Public property isn't property waiting for an owner. Public property has already been bought and paid for. The public reservoirs aren't going to be sold at a discount to some private firm. Their value is going to be maximized. You buy all the bottled water you like ... most of it comes from public reservoirs to begin with, so we'll make our money off you.

    Is that an unfair monopoly? Build your own 300,000 gallon reservoir. The taxpayers already did.

    Your conviction that private enterprise always beats public enterprise is deeply appealing ... so appealing that people choose to believe in it despite history. The history of private sanitation, waterworks, and road-building is quite slender next to the history of public works. Your ideology would be more plausible if the "natural state of affairs" it describes had ever actually appeared in nature.

    And that said: would you like to buy some eggs? It's a wonderful discount.

    Willing, I figure you are used to the vitriol that dominates the comments over at TPM, where every ad-hominem remark really is an ad-hominem remark. That's not quite how dagblog rolls. If one of my comments is followed by a slew of anti-Canadian rants, I understand that it is merely a friendly if pathetic attempt at light humor. Cue Genghis.

    Two words: natural monopoly.  Consider roads.  Let's say you have Town A and Town B.  As anyone who has a cursory understanding of Euclidean geometry knows, there are infinite paths that could connect these towns, but one and only one preferred path - the straight line between them.  Assuming all else equal between competing roads (quality of pavement, number of lanes, etc.) there will be a single preferred route.  Logistically, a significant number of competing roads to connect the two towns would be hardly more realistic than an infinite number.  In this way, the infrastructure required leads to a situation where the most efficient delivery of roads would be by a single entity, not by multiple competing entities - a conclusion that we can arrive at without even calculating the loss that would occur comparatively in a less efficient system, though there are ample historical examples that illustrate what happens under these circumstances, the late canal era of 1800's America being a nearly perfect example.

    Given that efficient delivery of service in this scenario requires a monopolist provider, we then have to consider whether it would be preferable for this monopolist to be a public trust or a private entity.  Here, the public trust has one chief advantage, which is that it can operate at cost without rent-seeking behavior, whereas a private entity would always deliver the road at a higher cost due to mark-up for profit.

    This is what the libertarian perspective misses, but it's because it mistakes a political philosophy for economic theory.  The same thing goes for most utilities - eletricity, water, sewage removal.  You just can't have 20 independent, privately owned networks of pipes and cables and what-have-you running to your house (and everyone else's to boot).  Logistically, it is not possible, which is why the way this problem is addressed everywhere around the world is with a monopoly, whether it be the government acting directly as the monopolist or a private monopolist empowered by the government to act as such within a regulatory framework.

    Modern economic theory has some important things to say about the efficient allocation of resources, but there are two important caveats when discussing whether or not a market is the best solution.  One is that efficiency is almost certainly not the only concern.  Efficiency is not equity.  The other is that markets only allocate resources efficiently when they are competitive.  When you say that you favor a market solution when a monopoly would be more efficient, in other words when a market is not and cannot be competitive, you are saying that you prefer to waste resources and therefore to necessarily pay a higher price for the goods and/or services in question.

    That may be your definition of freedom, but, as it is said, it isn't free.

    Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose. Hey, we're on the brink of universal freedom.

    Is that what that smell is?

    This would seem like a good compromise on it's face, but it's unworkable. As a libertarian, I'd say I would end up paying for all that inefficient govt stuff regardless if I signed this deal. How so? Well, let me start with business taxes. How does a business pay those taxes? With the jar of money it buried in the yard? With the pot of gold they've been hiding at the end of the rainbow?

    No. We do. When Mr. President decides to raise taxes on those greedy rich people, Richie White CEO decides that he enjoys making $1M/yr and would like to keep it that way. His stockholders also like that nice $100M/yr dividend he doles out. What is he to do? He raises the price of the cell phone/car/condoms/etc. and just makes everyone else pick up that tax tab. Even if he felt sorry for all those libertarians that got suckered by this deal, the board would just replace him and implement the policy regardless. One of the few times this has not happened was when congress requested pharma cover the donut hole, massive layoffs were used to make sure those profits stayed high. (Ask a PhD chemist what their job prospects are like post Obamacare, lol) WE get screwed and pay for all this stuff regardless of how progressive our tax rates are. I'm not even mentioning insidious inflation either.

    Another problem is outright competition for labor on the public and private side. If the government subsidizes any activity, the price for the associated labor and resources rises dramatically. The introduction of federal subsidies for housing, education and healthcare has caused them to exceed inflation constantly, until the public lets them collapse (housing is down finally). I don't think a 9-month kindergarten class is worth $500,000, but the labor I would pay to do the job on the private market would not take any lower rate if they know that is on the table.

    I'm not a libertarian because I'm a stubborn adolescent with no children who wants to blow weed smoke in everyone's face. After spending 20 years in govt education and a life around people who received govt entitlements, I've grown tired of the govts lies. It just doesn't work. Big name libertarians such as Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell, John Stossel and Ron Paul all had very similar paths to libertarianism. They were exposed to govt, sometimes even supporting it outright, until they looked under the hood.

    Keep asking yourself, what did those kindergartners do with $500,000? You can also get a reality check (and maybe a govt paycheck!) by looking at these sites:

    Look up those CHP officers, school admins (hell, even teachers), university of california faculty. The story unravels from there.

    Your second graf is just the old "we can't tax the wealthy because they'll just pass it on" trope a la Dubya.  Sorry, but econ 101 would have taught you that they can't pass it all on.  Why?  Because goods and services cannot be priced into infinity.  They have to be priced to move.  CEOs cannot and do not just unilaterally set the prices of the offerings of their firms based strictly on how much they'd like to take home.  Is this actually how you think firms operate?

    In your third graf I have no clue where the $500k figure comes from, but I can tell you that the statement you conclude with, "the labor I would pay to do the job on the private market would not take any lower rate if they know that is on the table," makes no sense.  This seems to imply that there is no incentive to compete on price.  Why wouldn't a private firm want to outbid the government or another firm?  If, as you suggest, the government offering was riddled with inefficiency, this should surely be an easy task for private firms.

    I don't know what kindergarteners do with $500k.  My nephew just started kindergarten.  He does not have $500k.

    Also, is there something extraordinary about an average salary for CA state workers of $57,536.16?

    You are right that the businessmen cannot raise prices indefinitely, but they can find cheaper workers, burdening us with having to find other jobs. Either way, they will maximize their profit using any method possible. And if the taxes and regulations get too high, businessmen simply won't invest here. Leaving us unemployed as many are now. Either way, those taxes and services are gonna hurt the little guy WAY more than the rich guy, which is my point in the first place.

    The $500,000 figure is a number that I thought of for a twenty student kindergarten class in Washington D.C.

    See here:

    In the article, they also show that the price it takes to fund one PUBLIC student for a year is approximately the SAME PRICE of the PRIVATE school Chelsea Clinton attended. Again, that alludes to my point (not confirming it completely).

    Buddy, I wasn't born yesterday. It took me twenty years of listening (and believing!) to progressive, liberal garbage and seeing it's results first hand to finally admit, I was part of a govt catastrophe that people held up as a necessity. It is hard being libertarian when the govt makes up 40-50% of the GDP and increasingly employs everyone I meet. They don't want to here how I want to kick them out into the private sector and compete head on with Chindia. It's not popular, but the truth is not democratic, sorry.

    I hope you can pick up at least one book on libertarianism to at least compare against those twenty years of progressive BS I endured. I doubt you'd have the patiencee, but if you could read two libertarian books, I'd suggest "Free To Choose" (Friedman) and "Libertarianism: A Primer" (Boaz)

    Do I seriously need to explain CA is bankrupt? Do I need to point out the Fuck You letter Schwarzenneger sent to an assembly member? The deficit that never goes away? The threats by the governator to reduce state employees' to minimum wage? The furloughs? The prison population that grows without bound? That were so fucking bankrupt that the governator would like to send all the prisoners to Mexico? Read and question, just like I do. You'll learn stuff. Hopefully not as late as me.


    The reasoning in your first graf is muddy.  Businesses always strive to employ workers for less and workers always strive to be paid more.  It's called the labor market, but you don't seem to understand how it works.  "Business" isn't some monolithic entity that can unilaterally set wages across the market.  Neither is it meaningful to dilineate between cheap workers and not cheap.  Where is the line drawn and why?  Instead, try to analyze why some workers are paid more than others.  A typical distinction here would be between skilled workers and unskilled workers.  Yes, unskilled workers demand less for the efforts, but they also cannot perform the jobs of skilled workers.  I'm not worried about an unskilled worker outbidding me because they don't have my skillset.  They cannot do what my clients ask.  And I, along with workers of a similar skillset, would not be willing to do the work for less.  Again, it's a market.  As long as it's competitive, it is efficient at allocating the resource, which in this case is labor.  Complaining about competitive market outcomes hardly seems very libertarian, but that appears to be what you're doing if I'm understanding you correctly.

    And of course firms seek to maximize profit.  Corporations have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders to do so, but just because they seek to do so does not mean they can somehow set wages in the labor market to achieve this goal.

    And, yes, if taxes and regulations were too draconian business would seek preferable environments, but given that businesses do invest here (if by "here" you mean the U.S.) that is hardly an argument against the current regime.  By this reasoning, the current policies must not be too severe.

    Finally, taxes hurt the little guy if they're regressive.  How do services hurt the little guy?  Either way, you have not substantiated your claim, which appears to be that progressive taxation harms those in lower income brackets.  If you have some actual evidence that this is the case I would be willing to entertain it, but your argument for this point has gotten worse and more convoluted, not better.

    I can't really comment on the editorial you link because none of the data the author refers to is sourced.  What I can say is that it's pretty typical of what I read from the Cato Institute (cue the Koch brothers again) - long on rhetoric, short on data.  This paper features a chart with data from the NEA on per capita K-12 spending for the five largest states (it's the last chart in the linked section).  I'm still not sure what point you're trying to make with this link, but the author of the editorial seems to be gunning for school vouchers, which is par for the course at Cato.  Of course, this would would lead (they hope) to defunding public schools, which is the real goal.  The history of the Prop. 13 tax revolt in California, and the subsequent passage of Prop. 98, is informative here.

    I wasn't born yesterday either.  That's why I know that in the post-war era, consumer spending moved from being the biggest share of GDP, at about 60%, to an even bigger share of GDP at about 70%.  Government spending is and has been at about 20% of GDP for decades.  Examine Table 1 of this CBO paper and you'll find not only that what I say is true, but also that government spending as a share of GDP hit a peak in 1985, when the supposedly fiscally conservative Ronald Reagan was running the country.  Maybe it's hard being libertarian when you don't know what introductory macro students learn in their first week.  It's worth point out that this isn't even theory.  We're just talking about getting basic facts straight.  Your numbers are off by 2-2.5x.

    As for everyone you meet being employed by the government, anecdote is not a substitute for data. This is a fundamental principle of statistical analysis used across the sciences, so I won't go further on this point except to illustrate a reason why it doesn't work (although you can look up selection bias and confirmation bias if you want to know more).  Earlier you linked to the Sacramento Bee.  I don't know whether or not you live in Sacramento, but if you did there would be a very good reason why you might encounter a lot of government employees, which is that Sacramento is the seat of government in the most populous state in the union and, therefore, the government is a major employer in region.

    You should know that I've read quite a bit about libertarianism.  I've read Mises, Rothbard, Hazlitt and others.  I've seen the entirety of Milton Friedman's "Free to Choose" PBS series (publicly funded!) and am also aware of contributions to the field of economics through my studies.  As a lifelong resident of California, I'm also painfully aware of the situation here, but merely observing the current situation is not a supporting argument in and of itself.

    Sir, I hope you'll agree that my ability to read and question is intact.  Furthermore, I would like to tell you that I find it highly presumptuous that you did not think I had ever really studied what any of the big name libertarians have published.  However, I will tell you that it is what I've come to expect when debating with libertarians.  I encounter mistakes of fact, mistaking anecdote for data and other errors, but these are common to any argument.  What I find consistently when I debate with libertarians is that once these avenues have been exhausted, they invariably take an evangelical tone and inform me that I only need to read and learn the truth of libertarianism as they have.  If only the curtain of my ignorance could be pulled back in this way, I would come around to their point of view.  Never do they consider the possibility that I have already done so and rejected that philosophy on substance.

    It is in evidence here that it is you, not I, who is in need of further study.  I would suggest any introductory college text on economics.  Paul Krugman publishes a fine textbook of this nature, but if you'd prefer someone of a conservative stripe I can also recommend the introductory text by N. Gregory Mankiw.  If you applied the patience required, and I'll give you the benefit of the doubt as to whether you possess it, you will walk away with a great deal more knowledge about basic economic theory than you currently possess.

    I've read introductory texts on economics, it's how I got started as a liberal in a way. The whole Keynesian idea of deficit spending in bad times and make it back in good times seemed absolutely beautiful. Why be a slave to gold in bad times? My essays as a student all received A's. And in a way it worked for the short run. However, what did Keynes say..."In the long run, we are all dead." Except, if we're alive, after they are dead. Gulp.

    Well let me get even more evangelical libertarian then and abandon the statistical BS. Both sides (Krugman and Cato) are guilty of skewering the statistics, but that is beyond the scope of a comment section. Both sides gotta bullshit a little to keep readers from getting bored of their redundant arguments.

    Let's start with the obvious question, where does the rich guy get the money to pay all those taxes? It doesn't materialize out of thin air. The rich guy sells you your computer so you can rant against libertarian evangelists. You pay the guy $500. But Obama says taxes on him should be 90%. And let's make the deal sweeter for your liberal position, the rich guy forgot to lobby for loopholes and isn't smart enough to raise prices on the computer. So he pays the 90% tax. Done deal right? You win, he pays the tax, your kiddies get that nice education right? You still lose.

    Let's start with the computer. The rich guy now has far less profit to invest in R&D to improve the computer. Even if you said the keyboard sucked, the picture was bad, etc. Him and all his other competitors have very little cash on hand to research these things. You lose on innovation, all around. Steve Jobs would not be as creative as he was if 90% of his dough was constantly being given to the state.

    But your kids got that valuable education right? They got to go to college right? They are super smart, in graduate school, studying on that rich man's taxes on some weird, interesting scientific project. They graduate, but there are not many jobs in R&D, so they got to post-doc, but guess what, there are still not many R&D jobs. The public sector ate up the money. The drive to innovate is not there. Your kid becomes an adjunct, letting their skills become nearly worthless in five years. Where I'm at, this is a common story.

    Seriously, look up the science field, it's been gobbled up by taxes and regulations. Massive layoffs for chemists, biologists, etc. Bell Labs closed, NASA is laying off. Hell, even if you have Nobel Prize winners as references, you'd still have a tough time getting a job. See here:

    Look at this scary graph also:

    Ask your self, why is this happening? Despite all that govt spending on R&D? It's because that inefficiency eats into the total wealth of society.

    As Friedman would say, "There is no free lunch." But another way of putting this is that there is only so much wealth a society creates. Taxing the wealth of one segment and distributing it to another, doesn't change that amount and mostly leads to generally decreasing that wealth as a whole, due to inefficiencies. The inefficiency comes from the fact that the people receiving it may not have the aptitude to use it to greatest advantage. Public employees are guilty of that, and the economy is showing it.

    There's a lot to discuss in your comment, which could be a whole post of it's own. I'll leave it to DF, since he probably learned more about economics yesterday than I ever care to know. But I do know this: that 90% taxation line is BS. It's a marginal tax rate.

    Let's say I make $50,000 this year.

    Let's say you make $100,000 this year.

    Let's say Mr. Smith makes $250,000 this year.

    Let's say when Genghis's awesome new book hits the shelves, he will make $1,000,000 this year.

    Let's say Steve Job makes $100,000,000 per year.

    If the tax rate is 20% up to $50,000, we all pay that same 20%. Then, I'm done.

    If the tax rate is 30% from $50,001 to $100,000, then you pay 20% on half of your income and 30% on the rest.

    If the tax rate over for incomes over $100,000 is 35%, Mr. Smith pays...well, I think you get the idea.

    Also, the marginal tax rate hasn't been anywhere remotely in the neighborhood of 90% since the early 1960s. In addition, I don't believe that's what President Obama is suggesting now, so maybe we can back off the alarmist rhetoric for a minute. The marginal tax rate on top earners is currently 35% and that's only on earners making over about $310,000 (click the link for more info). That's simply shameful. Society, at it's simplest level, is a contract wherein people live together and agree to keep each others bests interests somewhat in mind while also striving to better their own lives. We've basically abandoned the first part of that contract.

    The 90% was just for the thought experiement. Though the rate has existed before in U.S. history (Reagan was personally effected). I do realize that the tax rate is much lower than that, which is also a reason the U.S. has been able to keep from going down the tubes as fast as the E.U.

    So most of your comment was unnnecessary. Attack the merits of the argument, even if the tax rate was 35%, is it really helping society? Libertarians believe the govt should really just stick to property rights and abandon the other activities. Many hold that if the govt did just that, it would only make up 3-10% of the GDP. I would say most libertarians at least support the idea of school vouchers for privately funded schools on the grounds that ignorance is a lot more costly. Even Thomas Jefferson helped fund schools, knowing that an educated populace is what allowed them to get the U.S. started.

    If the govt was so good at doing stuff, it wouldn't be in constant budget crises. We would also just donate to the govt instead of to private charity. The govt just sucks at doing most things and the more it tries to help, the more things stay the same. Even at that much lower 35%, the govt seems to wreak havoc regardless. It's constant passage of regulation to "protect" people only hinders the little guy. The big corporations that liberals hate so much love the passage of new legislation. Since it means more rules their army of lawyers can use against the little fledgling businesses.

    Look at the obvious, what are some of the big societal problems govt has actually solved? Poverty, nope. Drugs, nope, cheaper than ever Prisoners, we sport the largest populations of those. Healthcare, we spend 8X more than mexico for only two more years of life. Remember, that's after implementing Flexner, medicare/medicaid, state licensing, ete. Defending our country? The govt seems to make muslim people more pissed by the day according to wikileaks. And that's all with that 35% tax rate, imagine if they had more! You give first.

    There are very few times the govt has imposed itself in a way that benefited society in an obvious manner.

    One problem is that if the government sticks to just "property rights", then you end up with private corporations controlling everything else. Libertarians might be just fine with that, but many with a keen sense of history aren't eager to return to the days of robber barons. Another problem is defining what exactly "property rights" entails. Do I have the right to my parents' property when they die? Do I have rights after I die? The answer to those questions seems obvious only to those who have never deeply considered them.

    Our government certainly does screw up a lot of things, but as Winston Churchill suggested, it might be a hella lot better than the alternatives. (Not being able to solve problems doesn't mean one shouldn't try to mitigate them.)

    Libertarians typically act as if all of the evil in the world comes from government, that the only abuses of power can possibly come from government.  They almost universally ignore the rich history of abuses of private power.  And they also ignore that citizens have an oversight role in government that they do not get with private entities.

    It would probably be more correct to say something like, "Wealthy property owners believe that the government should be limited to protecting their interests strictly and do not want to pay a penny more for anything else.  Also, they would very much like everyone else, including those who own no property and would see relatively limited benefit from such a system, to continue to pay for it anyway.  When they profess such views, they are fond of calling themselves 'libertarians.'"

    Yes, yes.  Everyone looks out for their own interests.  It doesn't surprise me whatsoever that people make the above argument.  What surprises me is that they expect everyone to buy it, when it benefits them not at all.  If you understand the politics of self-interest as well as you seem to claim, this shouldn't be at all shocking.

    So before government spending as a share of GDP was 40-50%, but now "many hold" that it would only make up 3%-10% of GDP?  Wow, that's amazing.  I'm sure you can tell me exactly how those numbers were arrived at, yes?

    Many also hold that there is an afterlife, though none have witnessed it.

    Thomas Jefferson is a weird name to bring up after school vouchers.  He did help fund schools - with tax money.  He was a big supporter of universal public education, but you don't seem to agree with him.

    "If the govt was so good at doing stuff, it wouldn't be in constant budget crises."  Yeah and if private entities were so good at it, they would never go bankrupt.  Or need to be bailed out by the government.  Let's remember, too, that's it the supposed party of "fiscal responsibility" that cranks up debt and deficits, something that Milton Friedman observed on a number of occasions.  Top marginal tax rates were higher under Reagan than under Clinton.  Given the history, you should be thrilled to see a Democrat in the Oval Office since that has coincided with lower taxes, reduced government spending and balanced budgets.

    Governments haven't done anything to alleviate poverty?  Are you serious?  Point to a society that was or is bereft, simultaneously, of both government and poverty.

    You point to healthcare as a government created problem?  We have the most privatized healthcare system in the world, but you are right about the inferior outcomes.  That's hardly a supporting argument for you.  Government effectively handed over all of health management to the private sector back during the Nixon administration.  You can see how it has turned out.  Economist Uwe Reinhardt is an excellent source of analysis on this particular subject.

    Seriously, the stuff you're writing is barely coherent at this point.  Governments are necessary.  If you prefer no government, I expect you'll be heading off to the promised land of Somalia shortly, where they haven't had a stable government in 20 years and, naturally, all the ills of society have completely vanished, giving way to a prosperous nation of John Galts.

    Of course you don't really want to do that.  Even the hardest of hardcore minarchists still wants to see their interests protected and understands that government is necessary at least for that, as I outlined above.  All libertarians are saying is "I want the government that provides the maximum benefit to me."  So do others, but they have different interests.

    Wow, for my next argument I'm actually going to cite a liberal, peer reviewed paper, with all the nice graphs, statistics, equations you liberals could ever want:

    It comes from the bastion of liberalism, the publicly funded University of California, Berkley itself. This is the main conclusion:

    "Our baseline specification implies that an exogenous tax increase of one percent of GDP lowers real GDP by almost three percent."

    As an economic advisor for Obama, Christina Romer has resigned because of this. Despite her initial support for all that stimulus. She does try to do some damage control in the paper, but the truth was obvious. The paper brings up a Catch-22 for pro-govt people. Admit the paper is right, govt taxation is bad. Admit the paper is wrong, liberal statistical methods are then unreliable. So who cares what Krugman has to say at that point? Maybe his numbers are whack and have no more worth than anecdotes and thought experiments.

    Well the conservatives messed up the economy with all that fiscal "restraint", right? Yes they did. Neo-Cons practice almost nothing libertarians preach. They pay lip-service to fiscal restraint. They have a vision for society, just like liberals, and they will use the govt, just like liberals, to achieve that vision. There is no difference. Human beings are sacrificed either way for another human being's gain.

    Why don't I just move to Somalia? I've heard the argument before. Libertarians are not anarchists, we really just want a govt that protects property rights (intellectual, land, bodily properties, etc.). Somalia's lack of govt is not something libertarians support. There is a point of efficient govt, like back in the 1800's, where it was a a mere 3-10% (see here

    We see govt as a necessary evil, and we want as little evil as possible.

    Yeah.  Government is a necessary evil.  Kinda like our bodies are necessary evils.

    Your false equivalence between Krugman, a peer-reviewed academic, and the Cato Institute, a partisan think tank, is amusing.  Here's a challenge for you: if Krugman is such a bullshitter, find me an example of it.  People who are manifestly capable of providing analysis superior to yours attempt to do so on a regular basis and he regularly reminds them of why they need to go back to school.  Seriously, come with something concrete.

    Your weird story notwithstanding, Orlando is right about he marginal tax rates.  And again you link an article that doesn't really seem to be saying what you think it does.  The article is about lay-offs in the pharmaceutical industry due the economic downturn.  Nowhere does it even argue that this is because of marginal tax rates or even taxes in general.

    All what government spending on R&D?  Which spending?  For what?  Can you say anything concrete about this are you just going to keep blowing hot air?  I want to see data, sources and methodology that I can actually examine, not the completely superficial games you're playing.

    "Only so much wealth" is also a funny thing for a libertarian to say.  I thought it was libertarians (PJ O'rourke frequently makes this argument) that it's not a limited pie.  See, if it is, that means that one person getting rich necessarily happens at the expense of others.  That's not usually an argument that libertarians want to make.  They typically like to ignore concerns about distribution entirely.

    Money being in private hands doesn't mean that it will be used to "greatest advantage" either.  Who's advantage anyhow?  Look an Bernie Madoff.  All of those people with all of that private money and what did they do?  Employ a bunch of out of work chemists?  Nope, they gave it to a huckster because he made his portfolio look shinier.  Now all of that money is gone.  Is that the "greatest advantage"?  It was for Madoff, for a while at least.

    You haven't really made an argument here and you certainly aren't providing any evidence for it.  Again, single anecdotes do not data make.

    Also, Joan Robinson probably had the best answer to Keynes' famous line, which was that we're all dead in the long run, just not at the same time.

    This libertarian loves this idea. This would be an instant 50% raise in pay. If this system would also exempt my employer from its share of my social security, workers compensation, payroll taxes etc, I would be cheaper to employ than tax-payers, which would make employing me more attractive than employing tax-payers, and would increase my job security.


    The savings from tax-free gasoline should more than pay for my road tolls, as would the tax savings from a purchase of a single automobile. Around 20% of the cost of an automobile is taxes (every step of the production process is taxed, from mining to refining to transportation to labor to final sale). I have a very large yard so have no need for a public park. Government does such a poor job at keeping parks safe that out of safety concerns I wouldn't use them in any case, so I'm paying for others' use.


    My water is provided by a private company. The water doesn't come from a government-built reservoir, it comes from a nature-built river. Less the taxes, franchise fees and sewer fee (my house isn't even connected to the sewer system; I have a septic tank, so I'm paying for others' sewer use) my water bill will go down by 80% (yes, 80%). My local government does not provide garbage pick-up service, so I already pay a private company for that (I pay 1/3 the amount I used to pay for government garbage service when I lived where it was provided). Eliminating the taxes and franchise fees will cut my phone and cable bills by one-third, my food will cost 20% less (9.75% sales tax plus the taxes built into production and transportation), and on and on.


    I would love it if the USPS quit dumping trash on my property. I get electronically billed for most of my services, and only get junk in my mailbox.


    I could double my charitable giving, and put my grandkids in private schools, and double my retirement savings and give my mother more money every month than she gets from social security and still have money left over.


    This idea is a winner.


    Congratulations, this is pure Dean Swift!

    The kicker is, not every libertarian gets the Swift thing. After all, "A Modest Proposal" is just a suggestion about getting out of the way of natural market forces. What's funny about that?

    Uh, paying for services rendered is all well and fine, but I'm not sure I want to accept someone's word for what a monopoly government service is worth in the absence of a real market. What the rest of society paid for its bloated and inefficient road system, courts, etc. means little. 

    And never mind the fact that the rest of society would still be under the yoke of taxation, which is hardly just, whether they "choose" it or not. It's morally wrong, aside from any implementation issues. It is unacceptable for even a portion of the population to still be taxed.

    Furthermore, the issue of how to pay for certain services in the absence of taxation is by far the least important issue. The most important issue is the scope of what government funds in the first place. Once that is reduced to its proper size, funding will be a relative non-issue.


    Hah, let's have a "pay to play" privatized court system instead of the bloated, inefficient public system we have.  I'm sure there won't be any unintended consequences.

    Apparently Libertarian/Objectivists don't or cannot understand satire. Who knew?Sealed

    This is horrible satire. Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" was far better. This is fucking garbage, shit talking on libertarians. Objectivists are on their own, that's a whole other world away from libertarianism.

    Nice idea but nice try.

    This would actually work IF:

    1/ there existed a 'free' market to accurately and fairly calculate prices.

    2/ the benefactors of the existing tax system (stolen money) did not already corrupt the players and the positioning of the winner-loser arrangement in the marketplace by forming deals with those wealthy citizens that benefit in kind.

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