This Time, This Place

Commenting on the last post, Jim Sullivan expresses his frustration with being coerced to pay taxes and have his property taken from him — a form of theft, he claims.   When I respond that it is a kind of fee for the numerous services that create stability and prosperity, he can correctly point to the lack of an opt out.  Even if he is much better off because of government, he never had a choice in the matter.

Others on all parts of the political spectrum will point to numerous other social ills: poverty, starvation, genocide, wars throughout the third world, first world imperialism (funded through taxes), and all sorts of conditions and actions that are intolerable.   When there is an industry worth over $60 billion a year turning young girls into sex slaves and destroying their lives (sometimes they are sold in to it by their parents), torture, and human rights violations across the globe, one has to wonder what is going on in this world.  Compared to much of the evil on the planet, I find taxation not to be so bad.  I live in material comfort and security — most of us in the US are in the top 1 or 2% of the planet in material well being.   Clearly, it’s not so bad.

Or is it?  Are we in a gilded cage, living lives guided by trend and advertising fashion — the ‘culture industry’ — in a way that dulls our desire for achievement and meaning?   Do we medicate ourselves (whether in alcohol, legal or illegal drugs) and indulge in various distractions simply because the world around us seems to have a lot of toys, but little of substance?    And what about Jim’s objection to the lack of choice — he’s born in a world where taxation is mandatory, and none of us can do much about it, like it or not.

Ever since we left our hunter-gatherer roots and started to form communities, the problem of individual interests vs. collective interests has been there.  Traditional societies used tradition, norms, and religious rule to coerce people to adhere to the rules of the community.   These were pervasive and often people were simply indoctrinated to follow them.   But it worked — for the most part people freely chose to do things that benefited the community, often at their own expense, ranging from providing labor to sacrificing ones’ life to the gods.

Moreover, in smaller communities people see directly the negative effects of looking out for only oneself and not others in the community.   So people often choose to pull together to provide for the common good our of a clear self-interest as well.   That creates a sense of security and meaning — we’re there for each other, we are stronger as a community than as individuals.   When the polity grows in size, and when factory life alienates workers from the products of their labor, there is a de-personalization of the community.  It is too big and diffuse to really identify with.  You don’t know who made the chair you’re sitting on, who grew the apple you’ve just eaten, or even who drove the plow that just cleared the road outside your house.

This de-personalization makes it harder to find incentives to contribute or participate.   If you bought apples from the orchard down the road, and the family had a severe problem, you’d be tempted to help out — you know these folk, they provide you food!   But if a big corporation employs large numbers of apple pickers at low wages, there is no connection.   Thus the collective action problem grows — the community needs support from citizens to survive and thrive, but the old ways of providing it (voluntary, through church, or communities pulling together) becomes sparse, as people no longer have those connections.   The result is a series of needs for the community to maintain itself, while people have no incentive to respond to those needs, they don’t see the connection.   The leaders of the community (now a large sovereign state) turn to force and taxation as a necessary evil to prevent collapse.

Yet this de-personalization also means that it becomes very easy for both politicians and citizens to separate out their actions from the consquences of those actions.  Cut taxes while raising spending?   Sure, that will get votes, and we can find ways to manipulate monetary and fiscal policies to put off having to actually deal with the imbalances this leaves behind.   This also makes war easier to support — it’s abstract, you can construct a caricatured enemy, and it’s a media show.  Only when the reality becomes hard to avoid due to consequences that can be felt and seen (as happened with the Iraq war by 2006) does the public start asking hard questions.  Hyper-consumption is embraced without concern for the environment.

In short, de-personalization creates abstraction, and abstraction allows people to replace real human concerns with concepts that can be rationalized through arguments which appear reasonable and common-sensical.    Within this framework, politics can be easily manipulated by the powerful (big business and big government), and average folk get increasingly alienated from the “big” decisions.  Politics becomes spectacle and entertainment at best, delusion and subterfuge at worst.

So within this framework there are a host of injustices that vary in seriousness, yet each have validity.  It isn’t right to sell women into sex slavery, genocide is wrong, war for oil or ethnic conquest is wrong, taking other peoples’ property is wrong, having some live in abject poverty while others live in opulence is wrong, and destroying our environment is just plain stupid, since it will limit the ability of future generations to have a quality life.

We can focus on which of these “evils” to combat, and that will cause political division.  To combat poverty and human rights violations, government power and taxation is often a means to that end.   To combat the ability of powerful actors (government, supported by big money) to take one’s property would require an inability to act on many other problems.   Those of us who accept government power and taxation do so as the ‘lesser of two evils,’ not allowing this means no action to protect others and work against serious problems.

At this time and place in history, that’s where we’re at.   Sovereign states are the form of government which exists, and while someday they will be replaced by something else, that won’t be anytime soon.  Poverty will exist, warfare will continue to exist, people will be sold into slavery and often forced prostitution, lives will be destroyed, and children violated and exploited.   People will be taxed, and will not be free to choose how they want to organize their lives.   Pragmatically, the best we can hope for is to keep those with power accountable to both the public and rule of law.   Unfortunately, that’s an imperfect solution and more often than not governments become corrupt and in the hands of elites.   It’s a nexus of big money and big government, with the irony that the right often ignores the misdeeds of big money, while the left excuses the misdeeds of big government.  Yet the two are in this together, complicit in driving the world we have.

Perhaps there is no “right” political answer to this dilemma, just a constant balancing of pragmatic concerns, with a goal of over time moving closer to an ideal of real liberty for all — liberty from government intrusion, as well as from poverty caused by class difference, exploitation, and the abuse of power by either government or big money.   We have a long way to go.  Sometimes I think we live in the pre-history of humankind, a dark, violent and dangerous era.   Sometime in the future humans will look back at our era and be thankful they did not endure this time and this place.

Yet, despite that all, I love life and enjoy every day, and see beauty all around me.  I do not let myself get burdened psychologically by the political and social ills of this world — I cannot change the whole, I can only live my life in a way that can try to spread a little love and kindness.  Somehow, the big issues will take care of themselves over time.  We can vote, participate, and contribute — but most importantly, if we live right, we can have a good life in this time and place, and perhaps make small steps towards a better future.

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  1. #1 by Mike Lovell on January 25, 2010 - 15:34

    “You don’t know who made the chair you’re sitting on, who grew the apple you’ve just eaten, or even who drove the plow that just cleared the road outside your house.”

    I don’t know who built the chair, but inspector 33 let it go out on the market for us to buy, real nice guy I’m sure. It wasn’t an apple, but an orange, and it was courtesy of my aunt’s tree in California. And the plow driver who did our street (this morning in fact, we got 4 inches when they originally called for negligible accumulation), is named John. He’s kind of like the uncle you had growing up who had a joke for any occasion.

    • #2 by Scott Erb on January 25, 2010 - 15:39

      We do have our favorite orchards for apples in summer, and Pete plows our little road (though I don’t know who plows the main road). I really prefer rural life for the big city for the reason it does seem easier to hold on to community ties. We went skiing this weekend at a local ski place. Small hill, but a real community effort. Kids are safe, you know a lot of people, people pitch in. That means something. Alas, the rain we’re getting today is going to wash away a lot of the good snow (yesterday was glorious skiing).

  2. #3 by Jeff Lees on January 25, 2010 - 17:23

    I personally have no moral objections to paying taxes, even though I often have objections to how they are used. For me, I see the grim reality of a world without a government or community to look after the good of the people. While some anarchists would disagree, I don’t think life would be very comfortable without governmental institutions. Even if you have an ideal view of human nature, and envision a more peaceful world in a society without government, there would still be no paved roads, hospitals, schools, or military to protect you. And if there was an absence of government, some other power structures would arise, and they probably wouldn’t be as democratic as our government is now.

    I also think in a democratic society we need to concede to the wishes of the majority sometimes. We can vote for candidate who might think there should be no taxes, but if another party wins, it’s our duty as democratic citizens to except their rule.

    I also see that technological advancement don’t often happen unless there is are institutions in place to facilitate research and education. Without taxes, we would not have these.

    So while I object to many of the ways my tax money is used, say for imperialistic wars or corporate socialism, that is the price I pay for the roads I drive on, the schools I attend, and the standard of living we all have in this country. I see taxes as part of the social contract I have with the government. They build and facilitate the most technologically advanced civilization know to man, they build infrastructure, keep me safe, and provide with the necessities of life, and I forfeit a small percentage of my income (the smallest percentage of any industrial nation) to them so they can do so.

    Personally I’m a communitarian, I am all for raising taxes as long as they go to supporting education, infrastructure, and welfare services (like universal healthcare) and not the pentagon’s budget, or to corporate socialism, or to authoritarian governments.

  3. #4 by Mike Lovell on January 25, 2010 - 20:40

    Jeff-

    “Personally I’m a communitarian, I am all for raising taxes as long as they go to supporting education, infrastructure, and welfare services (like universal healthcare) and not the pentagon’s budget, or to corporate socialism, or to authoritarian governments.”

    Well, lets take this point for an expanded consideration. Say we eliminate Pentagon spending, hypothetically. However, we take that same money and apply it elsewhere, PLUS raise your taxation rates. All the proceeds go to welfare programs, education, roads, etc. But, you now pay 65% total in taxes, and your current expenses remain the same….are you still fine with this raise in taxes? Or at what level would you remain fine with, but not cross?

    And as far as corporate socialism- I stated in another blog commentary that the apt term is corporate fascism, but I think we’re on the same thought line anyways- do you want to do away with workplaces being forced to comply with ADA standards, OSHA Standards, and the like? I only ask, because it was big business owners that wrote proposals for all these costly “burdens” on business for the government, which they were all the more happy to do, because of the ability to force out smaller businesses who couldn’t afford changes in building codes, etc from competing with a more innovative product or delivery of services, thus ensuring big business market share. In other words, corporate fascism, or at least one major aspect of it.

    • #5 by Jeff Lees on January 26, 2010 - 05:24

      Mike-

      To address your point about taxes. I don’t think we should cut all defense spending, but 700 billion is a little much, especially when it’s more then every other nation combined. I think that if we make reasonable cuts to defense spending and other areas we could put more money into education, infrastructure and welfare without raising taxes (an optimal solution). Besides defense spending, I think there are other ways we allocate our money that is morally questionable. Over the past decade the federal government has given the oil industry approximately 5 billion dollars a year. We also give many weapons systems to authoritarian government to help them “fight terror.” When most of the money is squandered by corruption, and the rest goes to assault rifles that are used to kill and oppress the innocent.

      And I agree with your point on “corporate fascism.” Corporation are very talented at getting congress to pass legislation that is good for them, and often harmful to their competition. Whether it be direct federal subsidies to corporations, or manipulation of safety regulations to squash small businesses, Washington needs to develop an eye for legislation that is authored by corporations and only serves corporate interests, not the people’s interests.

  4. #6 by Jim Sullivan on January 26, 2010 - 01:11

    First this: ” Traditional societies used tradition, norms, and religious rule to coerce people to adhere to the rules of the community. These were pervasive and often people were simply indoctrinated to follow them. ”

    Then this:” But it worked — for the most part people freely chose to do things that benefited the community, often at their own expense, ranging from providing labor to sacrificing ones’ life to the gods.”

    As soon as you add “freely chose” you contradict yourself.

    Also: “To combat poverty and human rights violations, government power and taxation is often a means to that end.”

    Often? I’d disagree and say government power and taxation sometimes combat poverty and human rights violations, when they aren’t busy causing them, either through corruption, bureaucratic indifference or well-meaning action.

    I’m reminded of C.S. Lewis:

    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

    Jeff Lees said:

    “Personally I’m a communitarian, I am all for raising taxes as long as they go to supporting education, infrastructure, and welfare services (like universal healthcare) and not the pentagon’s budget, or to corporate socialism, or to authoritarian governments.”

    Supporting education (I take it you mean public), infrastructure, and welfare services by raising taxes will result in authoritarian government to some degree. I could be wrong but you seem inclined to utopianism of the collectivist kind. Doesn’t collectivism almost certainly lead to authoritarianism or worse, totalitarianism?

    • #7 by Scott Erb on January 26, 2010 - 02:22

      People freely chose something because they were manipulated to think a certain way. Traditions existed in order to assure community goals were met, requiring people to put the good of the community above their own. Can communities function when people put their own interest first, or if they are manipulated to act in accord with the self-interest of an elite (advertising, political propaganda), rather than the good of the community?

      The collectivist-individualist dichotomy seems unsolvable if you look at it as an either or. Traditional societies worked because individuals would define their self-interest in a manner that served the collective good. I don’t think we can go back to tradition as guiding our lives, but giving power to the state bureaucracy is indeed dangerous (and bureaucrats want to expand power).

      Can one have a communitarian libertarianism, where individual liberty and maintenance of a strong commitment to community co-exist? I think so — in fact, here in rural New England I think we see that in our local communities quite often. But when a community is defined as a state (country) of over 300 million…well…

      • #8 by classicliberal2 on January 27, 2010 - 22:37

        “The collectivist-individualist dichotomy seems unsolvable if you look at it as an either or.”

        And, to be very clear on the point, posing them as either/or is utter nonsense outside of a world in which people live alone on self-sustaining islands and never encounter one another. It’s the point where theory becomes illness. It’s why right-wing “libertarians” is completely worthless; it offers “theory” that floats around in the mind and has no connection to anything that happens in the real world. It’s the child who wants to have everything his way and eat nothing but candy bars made philosophy.

        As a practical matter, one person has “rights” only because another person agrees to recognize those rights. “Rights” are, thus, the creation of community, and the community is the only circumstance in which the concept has any meaning, the only context in which a “right” can be asserted.

        That established, it’s only a question of deciding what rights are recognized within a community. Functionally, that’s an organic process that is always in a state of evolution. Such questions are forever being hashed out, in one form or another, particularly in a liberal democracy (which is, in itself, an expression of a communities’ belief in the right of a people to determine their own government).

        A liberal community values freedom, and the key to maintaining it and, where necessary and possible, expanding it is to preach in its favor. Convince people. Questions about one imposing their values on another are VERY important. There’s no way to ensure it never happens, but in a community that values freedom, questions of that sort should always feature prominently in the discussions, debates, and thought of the nature of that freedom.

        Sullivan, in the remarks that inspired this topic, said taxes take his property, and are thus “theft.” What “property” is being taken, though? U.S. currency, which is the literal creation of the state, dependent entirely on the state’s existence for its value, and was amassed only because the state provided the system and the environment that allowed it to be. The very concept of “property rights” as it relates to that currency–the one being asserted by Sullivan–has no meaning outside of the existence of that state and of the community of which it is descendant. Does that mean the government could take 100% of it in taxation and no questions could be raised as to the propriety of that? No. Why? Because the community would see that as entirely inappropriate. After all is said and done, Jefferson was right after all when he said it is, as a practical matter, with the people that such considerations rest.

        To almost no notice, the U.S. Supreme Court has just issued one of the worst rulings in its history, granting legal fictions organized for the purpose of making money have the “free speech” rights of a person. Allowed to stand, it would be the end of the United States (and I say that as a committed anti-alarmist–this time, that level of alarm is most definitely justified). The response? We fight against it, explain it to people, get them on our side, and try to beat it back. The Leviathan we face in that effort is far bigger than the state; it’s also far more destructive of freedom. The fight against it is going to be the primary battleground for freedom for the forseeable future.

    • #9 by Jeff Lees on January 26, 2010 - 05:34

      I don’t think it will result in authoritarianism, because I only mentioned things we are already doing (besides universal healthcare). I’m not talking about a shift in government’s role in society, I’m talking about a shirt in priorities. I think we could take a few hints from Europe, where they have universal healthcare, free and/or reduced education through college, more comprehensive welfare, and more stable infrastructure. Granted, our government is much larger, and it would be much more difficult for us to accomplish this nationally, but the federal government has all the power it needs to change the state’s priorities towards these goals.

      And I don’t see America becoming a totalitarian state if we adopt a more communitarian state of mind. Personally I see our hyper-individualistic culture as leading us to moral bankruptcy, where our empire will eventually crumble under the burden of hyper-consumerism and our imperialistic wars brought about by our lack of empathy. Once we stop caring about our community (local, national, and international) we doom ourselves to hedonism and a lose of virtue and personal meaning.

  5. #10 by Jim Sullivan on January 27, 2010 - 02:16

    Scott says:

    “Can one have a communitarian libertarianism, where individual liberty and maintenance of a strong commitment to community co-exist? I think so — in fact, here in rural New England I think we see that in our local communities quite often. But when a community is defined as a state (country) of over 300 million…well…”

    I have no issue with a communitarian spirit. As long as it it isn’t legislated. That’s the sticking point and I wouldn’t be able to underline it enough. I’m sure its much the same here in northern NYS as it is in rural New England. But we don’t have laws forcing us to act like we care about our community. We just do.

    Jeff says:
    “…but the federal government has all the power it needs to change the state’s priorities towards these goals. ”

    and

    “And I don’t see America becoming a totalitarian state if we adopt a more communitarian state of mind. Personally I see our hyper-individualistic culture as leading us to moral bankruptcy, where our empire will eventually crumble under the burden of hyper-consumerism and our imperialistic wars brought about by our lack of empathy. Once we stop caring about our community (local, national, and international) we doom ourselves to hedonism and a lose of virtue and personal meaning.”

    Where to begin? Don’t you see, Jeff, that would be all well and good if, voluntarily and as one society, we decided to pursue the virtues you value? Voluntarily. But there’s the rub; You’re values aren’t my values. Why should your’s take precedence over mine? Or Scott’s if his were to differ with yours? You deal in utopian platitudes. You admire the societal structure of many European countries. But the laws and re-education needed to bring such a change, to those that don’t value what you value, would be totalitarian. It doesn’t matter what you envision the results to be, the reality is different. Its been proven time and time again, from the Soviet Union to Cuba. Do you think they wanted to become what they did? That’s the result of legislated communitarianism.

  6. #11 by renaissanceguy on January 27, 2010 - 12:06

    Scott, I’m impressed with the excellent writing in this post.

    On big money, I have to say that it has always been that way, and always will be that way. As my seventh grade history teacher says, “He who has the gold makes the rules.”

    The amazing thing about the time we are living with is that a poor black woman can become one of the richest people in America–Oprah Winfrey, I mean. Such a thing could not have occurred at any other time in history, and it is a good thing.

    I want to see more of it. Instead of whining about “big money,” I would like the government to restore freedom so that more people can become “big money” themselves.

    I’m all for taxes. I benefit hugely from government services, and so the taxes I pay are worth it.

  7. #12 by Scott Erb on January 28, 2010 - 03:13

    I think the Supreme Court’s big error was at the end of the 19th Century when corporations were given the status and protection of individual citizens. I do not mean they should have no legal protections, only that giving them the same rights as individual human citizens was, I think, a key to giving them the power to become dominant actors in our political system. I’m not sure that the recent Supreme Court case was wrongly decided IF that precedent is allowed to stand. Perhaps what we really need is an amendment redefining the legal status of corporations, but good luck getting that passed with corporate power over the political system being what it is. Also, libertarians need to recognize that the biggest ally of “big government” right now is big money/big business — in their corporate rather than individual human identities.

  8. #13 by Jim Sullivan on January 28, 2010 - 05:03

    classicliberal2 says:

    “Sullivan, in the remarks that inspired this topic, said taxes take his property, and are thus “theft.” What “property” is being taken, though? U.S. currency, which is the literal creation of the state, dependent entirely on the state’s existence for its value, and was amassed only because the state provided the system and the environment that allowed it to be. The very concept of “property rights” as it relates to that currency–the one being asserted by Sullivan–has no meaning outside of the existence of that state and of the community of which it is descendant. Does that mean the government could take 100% of it in taxation and no questions could be raised as to the propriety of that? No. Why? Because the community would see that as entirely inappropriate.”

    If one were to look up the word specious in the dictionary, one might find this paragraph, or your other ones for that matter. It rests not on logic but on the shifting sands of whatever halfbaked philosophy you espouse. So, taxation is not theft because its the seizing of currency created and allowed by the state? You do realize that currency and money aren’t necessarily the same thing? And that by using the term currency here, you’re either muddying the waters intentionally because, you lack a solid argument, or you’re just ignorant.

    While currency is money, money is not necessarily currency. But we aren’t taxed on how much currnecy we have, but how much monetary worth we possess. By your logic (which typcal of communitarians, marxists and progressives isn’t really logic at all), if I could manage to transfer all of my wealth into a form that wasn’t currency, I’d have no tax liability because, of course, your argument is because its the state’s currency I don’t own it and it can’t be my property and it therefore isn’t theft when they take it back. You then shift to propety instead of currency and dress it up with statist shibboleths like, “…dependent entirely on the state’s existence for its value, and was amassed only because the state provided the system and the environment that allowed it to be.” This is utter hogwash, tovarisch.

    classicliberal2 also said:
    “To almost no notice, the U.S. Supreme Court has just issued one of the worst rulings in its history, granting legal fictions organized for the purpose of making money have the “free speech” rights of a person.”

    My first thought is, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    It seems pretty clear to me. “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.” That includes speech you don’t want to hear, from people you probably detest.

    • #14 by classicliberal2 on January 28, 2010 - 08:34

      “If one were to look up the word specious in the dictionary, one might find this paragraph, or your other ones for that matter.”

      It isn’t my fault your “argument” was so weak I could so brutally decimate it with such economy, but attempting to dismiss the fact that I did doesn’t make your case any stronger. My suggestion for an alternative approach: Get a better argument.

      “It rests not on logic but on the shifting sands of whatever halfbaked philosophy you espouse.”

      Actually, it just rests on practical reality, which was sort of the point, the one you studiously avoid touching in ANY part of your alleged “reply,” I suspect because you failed to understand it.

      “So, taxation is not theft because its the seizing of currency created and allowed by the state? You do realize that currency and money aren’t necessarily the same thing? And that by using the term currency here, you’re either muddying the waters intentionally because, you lack a solid argument, or you’re just ignorant.”

      Broadly speaking, money is one aspect of currency. Currency can be money created and guaranteed by the U.S. government. It can be things like bonds, that have value only because of the system created and maintained by that government. It can be the endless numbers of things we use that are not open to taxation. On the question of taxation, though, we’re talking money. I suspect it won’t lead to any better understanding, but, to restate what I’ve already written, taxation, as a practical matter, isn’t theft because the community, which is entirely responsible for the currency being “taken,” for the laws the define “theft,” and for the notion of “property rights” by which one can assert a “theft,” doesn’t consider it to be theft. The matter of what is fair and what is unfairly confiscatory is one for that community to decide. You can try to convince people to come around to your own view; that’s how liberal democracy works. If you don’t convince them, though, you can assert your ephemeral “property rights” over it all you like–they’re just going to laugh at you.

      “While currency is money, money is not necessarily currency.”

      Actually, it necessarily is. If it has no value–IOW, isn’t currency–it isn’t money; it’s just meaningless documents, papers, and pieces of metal. Perhaps you have an intelligent friend who could explain this to you?

      “But we aren’t taxed on how much currnecy we have, but how much monetary worth we possess.”

      Actually, we’re taxed on how much money we make. Your friend–if you have one–can explain that one, too.

      “By your logic (which typcal of communitarians, marxists and progressives isn’t really logic at all), if I could manage to transfer all of my wealth into a form that wasn’t currency, I’d have no tax liability because, of course, your argument is because its the state’s currency I don’t own it and it can’t be my property and it therefore isn’t theft when they take it back.”

      My, that post I wrote REALLY DID go ENTIRELY over your head, didn’t it? Once your smarter friend explains a few things to you, perhaps you can re-read it with some semblance of understanding.

      “You then shift to propety instead of currency and dress it up with statist shibboleths like, ‘…dependent entirely on the state’s existence for its value, and was amassed only because the state provided the system and the environment that allowed it to be.’ This is utter hogwash, tovarisch.”

      …and that’s the end of your paragraph instead of the beginning, so, given the fact that if you were able to make ANY case for it being “hogwash, you would have, I suppose I can take comfort in the fact that you couldn’t, and didn’t even try. Instead of using words you don’t understand (like “statist” and “shibboleth”) and caricatures that, like those words, came from Ayn Rand and have no basis in reality, ask that friend what I was talking about. And try thinking for yourself.

      “My first thought is, ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.’

      That isn’t a thought–that’s the First Amendment. It doesn’t have anything to do with granting legal fictions created by the state the rights of persons.

      “It seems pretty clear to me. ‘Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.’ That includes speech you don’t want to hear, from people you probably detest.”

      When the “people” in question are legal fictions, rather than people, and have the power, because of their state-granted special privileges, to both drown out all other free speech and corrupt and destroy our democracy, the matter is a bit more complicated than that. Your smarter friend can explain that one to you, too.

      • #15 by Jim Sullivan on January 28, 2010 - 21:01

        Wow. Must have hit a nerve. I didn’t realize your fragile ego was so invested in your argument. I’ll be more careful this time. There’s just so much gobbledygook, I don’t know where to start…

        “Actually, we’re taxed on how much money we make. Your friend–if you have one–can explain that one, too.”

        Oucheroo.!Is this a lesson on arguing with a sixth grader? Oh, you think that’s wit. I’m sorry…Anyway, we aren’t taxed on the money we make (which we would pay in currency, if that were true). We don’t make money because it is imaginary. With me so far? I’m trying to go slow. We are paid in currency, which gives a tangible though intrinsically worthless shape to our imaginary money (you almost had it). We also pay our taxes in currency. Not just on “what we make” as you say. But on what we own. You know, property.

        There’s estate taxes, gift taxes, and GSTT’s.
        There’s excise taxes.There’s real estate taxes (what the rest of us call property taxes! I’m trying not to use that word. I can tell it pisses you off.)There’s Use taxes.

        Last but not least, there’s Sales tax.

        “I suppose I can take comfort in the fact that you couldn’t, and didn’t even try. Instead of using words you don’t understand (like “statist” and “shibboleth”) and caricatures that, like those words, came from Ayn Rand and have no basis in reality, ask that friend what I was talking about. And try thinking for yourself.”

        More childish attempts to insult me. Your feckless, pseudointelectual prestidigitation doesn’t fool me, you clever little scamp! If you had a coherent point, which you obviously don’t, you’d make it. Critical and intelligent people know as soon as the insults and Ad Hominem attacks appear, its pretty much a telegraph for “I don’t know what your saying, hell, I don’t know what I’m saying. I don’t have a clue that I don’t have a clue. Quick, attack the man, not the argument!”

        I mean, I thought I gave it at least a half-assed try to make a case. It’s obvious you weren’t swayed. It doesn’t surprise me. You see, you’ve got some interesting tells as the poker players say: Your dogged denial of private property rights(Exhibit A: calling property rights “ephemeral”), your insistance on the Community decision making process, your insistance that using words Ayn Rand might have used weakens an argument…well, what can I say. Take the mask off and wear your Che Guevera shirt with pride! You know the shirt that doesn’t actually belong to you because of those “ephemeral” property rights.

        I’m no fan of Ms. Rand but I wonder what she ever did to you? I’m sure some nasty post-modern literature professor made you slog through “Atlas Shrugged” (the heavy, lifeless prose and endless sermonizing) and you were forced to “deconstruct” it. It then melted your brain in a crucuble of fiery Objectivist slag stoked by Academia’s leftist fire. What emerged, apparently, was a collectivist troglodyte. See, I can do Ad Hominem too.

        We’ll never see eye to eye.

      • #16 by classicliberal2 on January 28, 2010 - 23:56

        You, now:

        “Critical and intelligent people know as soon as the insults and Ad Hominem attacks appear, its pretty much a telegraph for ‘I don’t know what your saying, hell, I don’t know what I’m saying. I don’t have a clue that I don’t have a clue. Quick, attack the man, not the argument!'”

        You’re quite right. Here’s you, in your first post to me on this subject:

        “If one were to look up the word specious in the dictionary, one might find this paragraph, or your other ones for that matter. It rests not on logic but on the shifting sands of whatever halfbaked philosophy you espouse.”

        And

        “…you’re either muddying the waters intentionally because, you lack a solid argument, or you’re just ignorant.”

        And

        “…your logic (which typcal of communitarians, marxists and progressives isn’t really logic at all)”

        And

        “…tovarisch.”

        And

        “That includes speech you don’t want to hear, from people you probably detest.”

        And so on.

        If, in fact, one were to remove the “insults and ad hominem attacks” from either of the posts you’ve aimed at me, there would be precious little left (except, of course, a small string of misrepresentations of what I’d written–you seem rather impressed with it, but it displays only your complete lack of understanding of what I’d advanced).

        No, we’ll never see eye to eye–you can’t see that high.

  9. #17 by renaissanceguy on January 28, 2010 - 13:10

    Scott, I have not given much thought to the personhood of corporations. I have mostly taken it for granted. Thanks to you, I am thinking about it deeply. I cannot yet say that I agree with you, but I see the point that you are making. It is very persuasive.

    You and I definitely see the big money-big government equation from different sides. It seems to me that the purpose of a business is to make money, and I do not blame them for wanting to get laws favorable to that end. It seems to me that the purpose of government officials is to represent us and do what is in our best interests, and when they immorally let themselves be swayed by money, they are violating their purpose and our trust.

    We certainly agree that the corporate-political conglomerate is a mess. That is why I can no longer describe myself as a conservative. Conservatives contributed to the mess and want to sustain it.

  10. #18 by Jim Sullivan on January 31, 2010 - 18:38

    Hey, classicliberal2! You’re back! Good to see you tovarisch! (I wasn’t aware that was an insult. I thought comrade was a kind of friend…)

    OK, OK. I’ll spot you the first one (half-baked logic…shifting sands…specious, blah,blah,blah) What can I say? I’m feeling generous.(even though they were more of an attack against your argument, not you.)

    But you’re reaching. Really reaching with the others. I mean come on, how is, ““That includes speech you don’t want to hear, from people you probably detest.” an Ad Hominem attack? Let’s see: I can see sarcasm, tovarisch, and a certain subjective disdain for your logic. How doe’s one have a debate if the can’t attack their opponents logic, or lack thereof?

    Do you even grasp what Ad Hominem means? If I called you an idiot, that would be ad hominem. If I claimed, repeatedly, to be over your head, that would be ad hominem, If I claimed, repeatedly, that you had no friends or needed a smart friend, that would be ad hominnem.

    Oh, wait. Those last ones were you…

    Bye bye. Thanks for playing. You can have a copy of the home game.

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