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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

For Phoenix

I think you have anarchy and classic liberalism confused. I am a classic liberal. The main function of a government is to prevent violations of the private property of its citizens. If I am assaulted, that is a violation of my private property. If the foundry down the street pollutes the air or water and it is injurious to me or my land, I should have recourse in the courts and law enforcement to hold that foundry responsible. When I say that the cost of liberty is personal responsibility, that means (in this instance) that it is my responsibility to test the water and air and if it is bad, I report it to the authorities. We don't need a bureaucracy, the EPA in this case, to remove that responsibility from the individual. What we need is effective courts and law enforcement. What we have now is complacency and laziness.

Does this refrain sound familiar?

"Where was the EPA when this disaster happened?" "Why wasn't the government keeping an eye on this foundry?" "The dirty water coming out of my tap represents a failure of government!" "If the EPA had held them accountable, this would have never happened!" "We need to strengthen the EPA so that this never happens again!" "There ought to be a law against it!" I could go on ad infinitum.

You can pick any govt. agency to substitute for the EPA, but for the purposes of example I will use them. We see this exact kind of mentality occurring with the disaster in N.O.. Everybody is passing the buck because nobody wants to be accountable. One only needs to look in the mirror to see who should be held accountable.

Heck, I'm even willing to meet you half-way on this. Let's use N.O. for example. If the inhabitants of a city decide that it is good to build and live in a swamp that is prone the potential of being wiped out by hurricanes; and these inhabitants elect to have their government build levees and dams to prepare for such an event, that's fine with me. I'd never do it; and since it is a state/local decision, their decision doesn't directly affect me (either personally or monetarily). When those inhabitants go the Federal government for assistance (Army Corp of Engineers, FEMA), then I am directly affected by their poor (IMO) choices. The simple application of the Tenth Amendment minimizes the affect of their poor choices on me. If only this were the case.

Re: Income tax. I don't care if the tax on income is only one cent. A direct tax on income is state-sponsored slavery. How did the government get away with it? By relying on voluntary compliance. If the Feds determined your worth to them by determining that "this" amount of your time will devoted to funding the government, then it is blatant slavery. If you do it, then it is your choice.

Re: The Jungle. It is one of the most horrifying books I have ever read. How about a less coercive method (assuming we have no recourse in the courts like in the above example)? Give food producers the option of opting out of FDA compliance. Allow producers to start and enforce their own standards. Let's call it the "Food Producers of America". Labeling on the packaging would say "Inspected by the FPA". Or we could have state standards as with organic produce. This gives business owners more liberty and consumers more options (I could pay 50 cents more for the FDA inspected head of lettuce, I could pay this price for the FPA inspected lettuce, or I could pay 50 cents less for the lettuce with no inspection at all). Again, the cost of liberty is personal responsibility. I want food that I am reasonably sure won't make me sick, so I will buy one of the "inspected" choices.

Right now, those choices have been removed. I could easily apply this reasoning from education to healthcare, roads to building standards. I am out of time right now, but I look forward to continuing the debate.


Blogger ctindel said...

Your argument that it is OK for city/state governments to implement taxation but it is not OK for the federal government is illogical. What is the philosophical difference between a majority of citizens in a city or state voting to implement certain programs vs. a majority of citizens in the country voting to implement certain programs? Especially on things that benefit from an economy of scale, it can make a lot of sense.

Keep in mind that Article 1 Section 8 gives very broad latitude to the federal government in terms of providing for the general welfare of our country.

7:41 PM

Blogger The Plumber said...

Your right about latitude, it is entirely too broad.

I understand that the feds need money. I thought I was careful enough to state my opposition to a direct tax on income. I'll have to read back over my post. I'd be no less opposed to a flat tax.

The only tax code I think allows citizens the greatest liberty is a consumption tax. This would also nearly eliminate the IRS. We kill two birds with one stone. We would also experience unprecedented economic growth. I like liberty, and efficient government.

I thought I explained why the decisions of others ought not affect me by the example of idiots building in a swamp, in a hurricane prone region. As I view coercion as bad, when the feds get involved, I am coerced in some way. If the city of N.O. and the state of La. had their shit together, the feds need not even be involved. As a result of the feds non-involvement, the affect on me is only as much, or little as I want it to be. I like altruism in times of crisis, but altruism doesn't happen at the point of a gun. Do you think forced altruism is an oxymoron?

I think it is foolish to assume that if the feds don't do it, nobody will. Some states will have a large, active government; some states will have limited government services. We all get a choice. We have greater and greater choices over how we live our lives the more we make the individual sovereign. I have more influence over what my government does at a state level than at a federal level. I have more influence over it at a local level than at a state level. You may want to live in a state where people are dependent on government but why deny me the opportunity to move as far from that mentality as possible? Why do you jam a gun in my face, other than to make me share your misery?

The scale of the economy and the size of a country, holds an inverse relationship with the size of government, if that government is to be effective.

For instance, your walking up a trail with your buddies and you come to a split in the trail. You take a vote on which route to take. Everybody votes and you go the way of the majority. There is full participation in the decision-making by all affected and all are affected equally. This is where the majority of power should lie; not 2,000 miles away by a tiny group of people who weild control of a massive bureaucracy that directly and indirectly affects nearly every aspect of our lives.

As the country gets larger, and more prosperous, a much smaller government is needed because it has the ability to act quickly and decisively. We see the folly of a large bureaucracy unfolding before our very eyes in N.O.. All I can do is shake my head, utterly disgusted with stark knowledge that I am right.

10:55 PM

Blogger ctindel said...

What is the fundamental difference between a direct tax on income and a sales tax? I mean, what if we just changed it so that a federal sales tax was 40%? 60%? It would be trivial for the feds to make such a change revenue neutral.

I totally agree with you about the responsibilities of local and state governments and the need to keep government small.

I'm just going to ass-u-me that you well understand the advantages of a representative republic over the direct-democracy-trail-hiking examples that you gave, and not go into that.

11:24 PM

Blogger The Plumber said...

earning an income is something I have to do to survive.

how much I spend to survive is something I have a choice about.

i like choices.

If the sales tax reached obscene levels, black markets would start cropping up. The negative impact of taxes would manifest themselves in such a way that citizens may actually get pissed off about high taxes. This is because they see the actual effects of high taxation. Nowadays, people rejoice when they get their "refund" check and have no idea how much they have paid. I would love, just once, for people to be allowed to keep one year's worth of paychecks without anything being withheld, and have to write the feds one big, fat check on April 15 for what they owe. Good Lord! Can you imagine the chaos?

Besides, there would be no need to have taxes that high for two reasons: 1)increased economic activity means more government "revenue", and 2) the feds would be severely reduced in size, thus eliminating the need for high taxes.

12:06 AM

Blogger ctindel said...

1. If you're only earning and spending enough to survive, then it doesn't matter whether you're taxing income or spending.

2. I seriously doubt that citizens would revolt over a revenue-neutral sales tax/income tax swap. There is no reason to believe this.

3. It isn't like IRS payroll is the predominant portion of the federal budget. Having a simpler tax code won't "reduce the feds severely in size".

4. Economic activity is relatively fixed for a given population size, so there can't be "increased economic activity". Your world of gold standards only compounds the problem by ensuring that economic activiity stays fixed even when the population grows.

1:21 AM

Blogger The Plumber said...

1) Citizens paid taxes to the Feds before the direct tax on income. Why did they change? If it doesn't matter, why did they need a constitutional amendment to do it? Can you say "slavery"

2) They wouldn't revolt regarding a swap. They may revolt if the tax rate is 60 percent.

3) The feds would be reduced is size if we followed the Constitution and left most of the regulation and taxation to the states, and local municipalities. Don't make me pull out the Federalist Papers:)

4) I spend about ten hours a month figuring taxes and I am just a one guy shop. My parents have ten employees and they spend at least five hours a week doing taxes. Eliminating the current 16,000 page, 9 million word tax code will free up untold time and unimaginable resources (pdf). Look at all that liberty we have given back to the taxpayer! If I'm not doing taxes during the business day, I'm working (or debating you). This is an old link, when I have time, I will find you something current.

Here are the nuts and bolts of the gold standard. It is a pdf and about 30 pages long.

9:31 AM

Blogger Holly said...

Hi there Plumber, I finally saw your comment on the Insider regarding your duel challenge, sorry it took me awhile to backtrack and find it:

"I will challenge you to a duel. You get your pick of mainstream conservatives. I will pick only five mainstream leftists. Extremists vs extremists. "

OK, so before I accept, please know that I would like to do this, but it might take me awhile, since things are hectic right now. Also, do I get to include the likes of Pat Roberts and James Dobson?

11:58 PM

Blogger Holly said...

RE. idiots building on a swamp.

I don't personally know the history of who chose to build in the spot New Orleans sits on today, but do you? Perhaps those early settlers can be called the idiots, but the people who were impacted recently by Katrina and the broken levees certainly didn't build that city.

Are you suggesting that people who lived in and around NO are idiots because they all didn't stand up and say "Wait a minute! We shouldn't be living here! Let's all just abandon this city and go live someplace without the risk we face here"?

C'mon... that is simply not realistic. People tend to assume that if a city has been around for this long, that whomever planned it originally, or whomever monitors it over time is looking out for the city's best interest. ie - local, state or even federal government. Isn't that part of what we expect from our government?

And if they don't ensure that a city gets the funding it needs to make it safe (ie. I've heard rumors that military funding to fortify the levees was recently cut drastically) - then at a minimum couldn't the government, be is state, federal or a combination of the two, at LEAST have better plans for emergency response?

The whole blaming the predicament on the people choosing to live there is lame, in my opinion. Unless you truly are blaming those who chose to settle there to begin with.

12:15 AM

Blogger The Plumber said...

Krauthammer has an interesting piece on this I just read last night.

I just think that the impact of others decisions (good or poor) ought not have an impact on me (or at least be minimized) unless I choose it to be so.

7:46 AM

Blogger The Plumber said...

Re: the challenge.

Boy, I had a whole bunch of quotes saved up from Kennedy, Pelosi, Boxer, Byrd, and Dean in anticipation of the challenge. I even had a couple from DeGette but that would have put over the limit. I have since removed all of the links.

Next time one of them offends my finer sensibilities though, I'll be sure to let you know. It shouldn't be too long:)

7:54 AM

Blogger Holly said...

Krauthammer's piece was pretty good.

I am just angry and sad that people had to suffer and die for no reason. Because EVERYONE who was in charge seemingly dropped the ball.

I don't care if it was local, state, federal - I don't care if it was Democrats or Republicans. I don't even care if preparedness wasn't done the way it should have been done. Yes, at some point that needs to be addressed and discussed, to make sure we learn from it.

From the beginning, all I cared about was that adequate emergency response didn't occur for FAR TOO LONG after the damage was done.

For the short term, none of the mistakes along the way mattered, not when innocent lives were at stake and every hour counted. All in due time these things can be debated, but it is no reason to be cold hearted to the situation of the victims.

10:10 PM

Blogger Holly said...

Re: the challenge.

I am glad you are staring over, because I am starting from scratch too. Just keep a log, and eventually we will be ready!

10:11 PM

Blogger The Plumber said...

Right on! I will post on it the week after next. I am trying to build a web site so my posts here will be sporatic for the next week or so.

9:08 AM

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5:42 AM


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