Harry Reid doublespeak

“The fact of the matter is, our taxation system is a voluntary system.”

This is completely absurd, and just goes to show how twisted round in circles, blind, and out of touch with reality our political leaders have become.

This is the Senate majority leader we’re talking about here, not some crackpot nobody. The fact that he can’t see that taxation is backed by force is very disturbing. I don’t understand how he can sleep at night!

401-Keg Plan

From a recent Daily Reckoning article:

“If you had purchased $1000 of shares in Delta Airlines one year ago, you would have $49.00 today.

“If you had purchased $1000 of shares in AIG one year ago, you would have $33.00 today.

“If you had purchased $1000 of shares in Lehman Brothers one year ago, you would have $0.00 today.

“But… If you had purchased $1000 worth of beer one year ago, drank all the beer, then turned in the aluminum cans for recycling refund, you would have received $214.00.

“Based on the above statements, the best current investment plan is to drink heavily and recycle. It’s called the 401-Keg Plan.”

ethical conundrum

I heard something similar to this at a quaker meeting a while back. What would you do in the following situation?

You’re standing at the bottom of a mountain, by a railroad track. The track comes down off the mountain to a fork. One branch of the fork goes directly off a cliff into a deep ravine. The other glides smoothly off into the distance. Suddenly you see a runaway rail car careening down the mountain towards the fork, with at least two people sticking their heads out the windows waving and yelling for help. You look at the tracks of the fork and see it’s headed for the ravine. Thinking fast, you look around and notice a lever by the fork which appears to switch the tracks to the other branch. However, at the same time you notice a man tied to the tracks of the safe branch. The man is fat. What do you do?

Here are a couple variations:

  • Replace the fat man with a member of your family.
  • The fat man is not tied to the tracks, but rather is standing on it purposefully, trying to commit suicide [I personally find this one rather easy — run him over!]
  • You can’t tell that there’s anyone inside the train car. It looks like a passenger car, but it’s moving too fast to see inside the windows and nobody is hanging their heads out. Still, there could easily be people inside.

tax day 2009: who do you work for?

As tax season rolls around again, it’s a great opportunity for principled libertarians to carefully consider their relationship to taxes. I like to compute the percentage of my income that goes to taxes. For most working people, that’s somewhere between 25 and 40 percent or more (not including sales taxes). When you get on up close to where you’re paying 50% in taxes, it starts to raise some interesting ethical considerations.

  • Supporting the enemy. If I believe the government is primarily engaged in evil, destructive activities such as war and welfare, and I’m spending more than half of my effort supporting the government, aren’t I a net subtraction from the world? Most people believe some of what the government is doing is good and some bad, so maybe you want to calculate how much of the budget goes to things you oppose, such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the bailouts, or whatever it may be, and then multiply this percentage by your tax percentage to see how much of your time goes towards supporting your enemy.
  • Non-financial aspects of your work. Is your job rewarding in non-financial ways? For example, a therapist or a teacher might feel they are affecting the world in a positive way that is hard to measure in dollar terms. If your job is one of these types, maybe you aren’t so concerned that a large percentage of your income supports the enemy, because you’re fighting back more effectively in other ways. For those of us in the financial industry, it’s generally harder to measure our positive effect any way other than in dollars.
  • What are you doing with it? Are you giving all of your after-tax after-living-expenses money to the cause of liberty, to offset your support for the government? If you’re working, say, 25% for the enemy, are you working at least 25% for the good guys too? If not, should you be?
  • The future. Higher taxes seem likely in the not-too distant future. If you’re already paying 40% or more, it might not be long until you’re paying 50% or more. In historical terms, we’re pretty low right now. In the 50s, top rates were over 90% and in the 70s, they were 70%. Once I’m clearly working 9 months out of the year directly for that which I oppose, it puts me in a very sticky ethical situation.

An interesting question that I haven’t thought about much yet is how the inflation tax plays in here. If you’re knowingly sitting on a pile of cash that the government inflates away to support the empire, have you essentially just handed that wealth over to the government?

Ron Paul has pointed out that if we simply changed our foreign policy from one of offense to one of defense, we would save nearly enough money to eliminate the individual income tax (which provides less than half the revenue for the federal government). There’s also the fairtax.