THE TRADE-OFFS WE MAKE WITH GOVERNMENT

A Grand Prix motorcyclist leaning in a turn (from here)
A Grand Prix motorcyclist leaning in a turn (from here)

In my last post, 2016 POST ELECTION STRATEGY AND TACTICS – PART 2, we considered the problem of controlling government from a religious perspective. Here we will look at the problem of government from a technical perceptive. That is, what are the basic things that government does that can get out of control? Since this subject has already been addressed numerous times by better authors, I will just refer you to one of them. Here is an excellent summation from Ken Cuccinelli.

We are all familiar with the law of gravity. It is a law of nature, and thankfully, the law of gravity is not considered to be open to debate.

There are other laws of nature — immutable truths that cannot be avoided but that are not as well known.

Among these is the principle that when a government derives its power from the people, such as in a constitutional republic like the United States, every expansion in the role and power of the government automatically results in a reduction in the power and freedom of the people. This law of liberty is as unavoidable as the law of gravity.

There are three ways that government increases its power: raising taxes, increasing spending, and creating more regulation.

It’s easy to see how taxes increase government power and reduce our freedom. The more of our earnings the government takes from us for its own purposes, the less we have left to spend on ourselves and our families, and the fewer choices we have in our lives. Fewer choices means less liberty.

Because the federal government’s spending is not tied to its taxing power (it historically spends more than it collects), spending is not directly related to taxes.

Therefore, the more things our government attempts to do — i.e., the more money it spends — the less there is for us to do. This crowding out of citizens means less freedom for them.

The third part in the law of liberty is perhaps even more nefarious, because it tends to be subtler. More regulations means the government is ordering us to do something or restricting us from what we are otherwise allowed to do. (continued here)

Why the picture of the motorcycle? Whenever we do anything, we have to make trade-offs. When a motorcyclist takes a turn, he must anticipate the trade-offs. He can lean into the turn to compensate for the fact that turning increases the forces throwing him outward, but how much he can lean into the turn depends upon the his tires and the friction provided by the road surface. That means the faster he goes the greater the risk of slipping and sliding. Therefore, the motorcyclist seeks an optimum speed, one that allows him to win without sliding out of control.

As Cuccinelli observed, increased taxes, increased spending, and increased regulation forces us to make trade-offs. Where is the optimum? How much should our government tax us? How much should our government spend? Where should we draw the line and say we have enough regulations? Since government uses force or the threat of force to collect taxes, spend our money, and regulate us, I think the answer is a moral one, not just a technical one.

When we call government taxation, spending, and regulation moral issues, what does that mean in practice? It means we must make certain we know exactly what it is that we need our government to do and why government must do it instead of public-spirited, charitable private entities. Is what we want the government to do actually worth throwing some of our neighbors in jail?

23 thoughts on “THE TRADE-OFFS WE MAKE WITH GOVERNMENT

    1. If the summation of wisdom and indeed wisdom itself was made manifest through the brutal slaughter of a preacher from Nazareth, I sincerely am amazed that “tough leadership”–the red progressive or “conservative” word for their own brand of liberal fascism–can ever be associated with wisdom in any sense whatsoever.

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      1. @Stephen

        Consider your own example. Did you display either grace or truth? No. What you set out to display was your own version of toughness. You just insulted the man for no good reason.

        The Jesus of Revelation is the same Jesus who died for us on the cross. He has made it known his offer of salvation has its limits. Even in the Gospels we find words such as those in Matthew 23.

        Is God tough? Ask the Egyptians upon which Moses called ten plagues.

        We cannot approach God’s holiness, but we each must strive towards His holiness. The Bible contains books of wisdom such as Proverbs that tell us how we should behave. When we practice Biblical wisdom, then we strive for the toughness to affirm what is good and reject what is evil. When we elect good leaders, we elect leaders with the wisdom to be tough and affirm what is good and reject what is evil. Sometimes we may disagree, but rarely can a comment of the sort you just made be justified. In fact, it reeks of hypocrisy.

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        1. I see the irony was lost on you. I am of the opinion that “toughness” is only valued if it comes from your own side and “straight talk” is only applauded by liberals when it conforms to their orthodoxy. As such, whenever I point out to red progressives such as yourself that the ultimate example of human excellence was a submission and not some Alamo, then it is usually met with the criticism that I do not understand something. How ‘tough leadership’ such as shutting down government services for a period of time to make a petulant point at the expense of impoverished families can be synonymous with or derived from wisdom is frankly an insult to the cross. For example, when God stood in the congregation of the gods, he did not say, “Cut taxes because it will eventually help the poor.” Instead he said, “Judge for the poor man and the needy; do just to the humble and the pauper.”

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  1. It is a law of liberalism to be sure. The Kingdom of Prussia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire are examples of quasi-autocrats providing equal if not more freedom than modern democracies all while power was centralized.

    To the other liberal notion that less regulation and less taxation will somehow make things better should look take a look at the book of Judges.

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    1. @Stephen

      Well, if you preferred Kingdom of Prussia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it is a cinch I would not much care for your definition of freedom. Given what you think of Classical Liberalism is nonsense, I suppose I should not be surprised you prefer autocrats.

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      1. You are thinking of the Russian Empire; both the Kingdom of Prussia and Austro-Hungary were constitutional monarchies. They were no more autocratic than the UK is. In both countries, the right to bear arms was actually greater than their American counterparts at the time. The press generally had more freedom and the church was venerated in all circles. But it is the inexplicable symptom of liberalism that anything involving a monarch must be reviled as autocracy and tyranny, regardless of the many things it had in common with their own beliefs.

        But that is precisely the problem of Classical Liberalism. You want all the “freedom” to do whatever you please because you find it intolerable that any knows better than you.

        Liberalism functions solely on the two contradictory principles that man is generally good and can govern himself and that man is naturally bad and will always dominate his neighbor. What has staved America off from the brutal liberal fascism of the French Revolution is promptly ignoring the inherent inconsistency in Liberalism itself.

        Take John Locke for example. In his letter on tolerance–which is ironically intolerant to Catholics and Anabaptists–he claims that every man is orthodox unto himself. Now, a reasonably clever man would see that as moral relativism unless you excluded certain religions like a fascist which is what Locke does. Since it is against the very nature of liberalism to do so, we have from Locke the proposition that man himself determines what is orthodox and therefore can define God, the institutes of religion, and even deny the wisdom of the ancients if he wishes.

        Man then becomes the autocrat of all things concerning anything of importance. Laws are necessarily derived from the moral sense of the people making them. Yet, if what is moral is defined by each man and each man–so long as he is not a Catholic or an Anabaptist if you are a strict Lockean–defines God in his own way, then the moral sense of the people will drift according to the appetites. The red progressives then have the opportunity to cry foul at every social change they are not willing to adopt at the moment and the blue progressives get to whine about how other countries are more socially advanced. Both get seats in the legislature and no one is happy because somehow their moral sense is being trampled on by someone be it the Church, the Marxist, or whatever fanciful cacodemon you liberals like to prop up to scare children into youth political organizations to save what morality you decided on this decade.

        The only law there is truly in liberalism is to not think too much about it while making up whatever you like. In the end, the object of liberalism is to free man when the result is just being shackled to the appetites.

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        1. @Stephen

          You have obviously never read 1 Samuel 8. => https://citizentom.com/2007/07/27/one-of-the-sins-of-the-jews/

          Given the way you insist upon defining Classical Liberalism, I don’t even know where to start. So I guess I will just continue to reference some old posts.

          This one deals with the difference between America’s and France’s revolution. => https://citizentom.com/2007/04/10/christianity-and-western-civilization/

          John Locke started an idea. During his time Catholics we hard to get along with. Since Catholics did not get along with any of the Protestants at that time, and you still don’t seem to want to do so, you are in no position to criticize him.

          Our basic problem these days is what always seems to happen. Even though we have plenty of copies, the Bible is not widely read these days. To work, Classical Liberalism requires people who respect the Bible enough to accept its moral teachings. When we don’t, then instead of relying upon Jesus to change hearts, we try force heart transplants upon our neighbors. Yet the only hearts we have to offer are made of stone.

          You may also find this post relevant. => https://citizentom.com/2017/01/02/how-did-we-get-from-here-to-there/

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  2. Tom,

    Cuccinelli’s arguement here is reductive to the point of almost being imbecilic. It burns the wheat along with the chaff. Cuccinelli would have us believe in some “natural law” that the size and complexity of a Democratic government is necessarily inversely related to its liberty. The absurdity of that formula is exemplified by government’s largest department by far, the Department of Defense.

    As the largest trading nation on Earth, we need a strong military to enforce that trade. Along with the technological and economic advances of modernity, the threats to our liberty are far more numerous, complex, ambiguous and diverse than the horse and buggy days of our founding. Our military has grown larger and more complex along with those new and increasing threats. The people would have no liberty at all without that systematic increase in the size and complexity of the Department of Defense that protects us from growing threats. .

    Does the Defense Department’s increase in size lead to obvious problems of increased waste, redundancy and corruption? Yes. And the effort to root out waste, redundancy and corruption while responding to new threats and advances takes people with intellectual sophistication, an understanding of nuance and an appreciation of the ambiguities involved, not simple minded and formulaic demagoguery.

    Taxes are similar. Taxes are not inherently unjust. Neither is any tax system ever going to be perfectly just (and even if it was, we would still hate giving our money away). Some tax system is necessary. Figuring out one that is more just is not going to be solved by such simplistic platitudes. It takes more intellect and wisdom than that.

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    1. @Tony

      I don’t believe Cuccinelli mentioned the military. So I am puzzled as to why you felt the need.

      Anyway, we size the military according to the threat to our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit. If there were no threat, it would be kind of stupid to spend a whole lot on the military when it is not necessary. Don’t you think so?

      That said, Cuccinelli’s point is simple enough. He did not propose to eliminate the entire government, did he? He just observe what you should find obvious. Government taxation, spending, and regulation come at a cost. So when we have our government tax us, spend our money, or regulate us, the benefits ought to be well worth the cost. Otherwise, we are doing something foolish, almost to the point of being imbecilic.

      You say taxes are not inherently unjust. Government spending and and regulates are also not inherently unjust, but that qualification, “inherently”, sugests taxes, spending, and regulation can be unjust. That is why I have asked this before. Why is it moral for government to tax people? Consider what that involves. The IRS does not care whether you want to pay your taxes; it just insists that you do. Moreover, when the IRS goes after your money, it does so with no holds barred — except capital punishment. I guess that proves we are more civilized than people used to be.

      Effectively, the IRS looks and acts like a thief except it does its “stealing” in broad daylight with police protection. Why is what the IRS does moral? What makes a thief — even a modern day Robin Hood — immoral? What does the government do that justifies the morality of taxation? When does government go too far? When does taxation become immoral?

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      1. Cuccinelli:

        “There are other laws of nature — immutable truths that cannot be avoided but that are not as well known.

        Among these is the principle that when a government derives its power from the people, such as in a constitutional republic like the United States, every expansion in the role and power of the government automatically results in a reduction in the power and freedom of the people. This law of liberty is as unavoidable as the law of gravity.”

        In this statement Cuccinelli says his “law of liberty” is that the size and scope of government is inversely related to size and scope of liberty. Cuccinelli also says that this “law” as immutable as “the law of gravity”. Cuccinelli does not exclude any part of government from his absurd formula. He does not exclude the military and its institutions, or the expansion of patent law and its institutions, or the expansion of the court system and its institutions, or any part of government, whether it serves the public good or not. Cuccinelli does not exclude anything from his absolutist formula that the size and scope of liberty is inversely related to the size and scope of government.

        Cuccinelli’s supposed “law of liberty” is not only formulaically reductive to the point of imbecility, it is obviously patently false because one could provide volumes of exceptions (like the military) to prove Cuccinelli’s so-called immutable “law of liberty” is ridiculously untrue. And because Cuccinelli is a politician who presents himself as an authority on such absolutist political “laws of nature” and because he cannot be so stupid as to not know that his statement is patently false, although emotionally appealing to someone who wants to believe such statements, then Cuccinelli’s false reductionism is also the height of demagoguery.

        As for the morality of taxes, I thought you were asking if our current scheme of taxing accessions to income could be more just, not whether the whole concept of taxing is just. The reason that I have misunderstood your question on this is because the answer is so obvious that it is incomprehensible to me that you don’t know it.

        As citizens of a nation, a state and a community, all of us enjoy the obvious benefits of government whether those public goods and services be military protection or the justice system. As with most questions of morality, the justice of taxes can be measured by its virtuousness.

        Because, as citizens, we all enjoy the “blessings of liberty” benefits that those necessary institutions of government afford, we also have a responsibility to pay for them. “With every right comes responsibility.” Like all efforts at virtue, this statement is not a reductive and perfectly immutable “law of nature”, but rather a precarious balance. In the complex real world, the most difficult questions of virtue manifest in an imperfect balance, often between competing vices (such as courage being an imperfect balance between foolhardiness and cowardness, or prudence being an imperfect balance between being a spendthrift and being miserly). There is a good reason why lady justice is shown carrying a scale, and that scale of justice must be rebalanced as circumstances change and new variables are presented, such as with rabidly changing advances in technology and economics.

        Citizens enjoy certain beneficial “rights” that are facilitated by government instutions and therefore citizens have a “responsibility” to pay for those institutions in some manner. If that responsibility were completely voluntary, then aside from the obvious injustice of only some paying for all, you would also have what economists call the inefficiency of the “free rider” problem. Not unlike stockholders in a corporation, paying taxes gives citizens an investment stake in the benefits that government affords. With the investment stake comes demands for greater fairness and efficiency, criticism of the corruption of injustice and waste.

        Taxation therefore is just and virtuous “in principle” but, like all systems of justice based upon virtuous ends, no taxation scheme will ever be perfectly just, and it will always need to be rebalanced as circumstances change.

        Tom, you would like to have reductive, perfectly immutable, God given, black and white formulas but the real world, especially when it comes to virtue and justice, simply does not work that way. I believe that our concepts of virtue and justice ultimately derive from God, and because they derive from God, they exist universally to some extent or another in the minds all people in all times and places, regardless of their religion or lack thereof. As such, the concepts of virtue and justice are elegant and universal, but their practice in a complex and changing world, except in the most obvious cases, is often a very difficult balance between competing interests, competing rights and responsibilities, and competing vices and virtues. With such complexity dillemnas are the norm and ambiguity is a natural plight of all but God.

        Taxation is not inherently immoral. Like all complex schemes of justice, taxation is as moral and just as we make it. It can always be more perfect, but it will never be perfect in a country as large and complex as ours. So no, taxation is not necessarily stealing and the IRS are not necessarily thieves, but the person who does not pay his or her fair share of taxes certainly may be acting with less virtue than he or she could be.

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        1. @Tony

          Absolutist? That the issue? The only absolute truth is that there is no truth?
          https://carm.org/what-relativism

          As a scientist/engineer what I have learned to do is use mathematics to model the world. Cuccinelli’s Law of Liberty is merely the expression of an idea with mathematical terms. Effectively, what he argues is that the bigger the government gets the fewer rights we have.

          Is it possible to actually model what Cuccinelli s saying in mathematical terms? Not really. We don’t have a good quantitative measure of liberty. So you can speak of reductionism and the heights of demagoguery to your heart’s content without looking terribly foolish.

          Nevertheless, the greater the amount of wealth our government takes from us the more we work for the government. The more the government spends, the fewer options we have for buying something. The more the government regulates us, the fewer are the things we are permitted to do. To argue otherwise means that the government actually produce something. Does it? Up to a point. That happens when the government secures our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but we are well pass that point. That is also quite obvious. Hence, Cuccinelli did not see the need to mention that part of the curve where government taxation, spending, and regulation actually does increase liberty.

          You mentioned military spending. These days military spending is just a small part of the Federal Budget, but it did not use to be that way.

          So why do you object against something that is so obviously true? Why is your only argument against Cuccinelli’s Law of Liberty (doubt he actually invented it) senseless ridicule? Perhaps we can derive an explanation from your argument for the justice of taxation. What it shows is that you have not given the matter much thought. You also failed to answer the questions I asked, and the questions are plainly worded. You tried, I suppose, but the question does not have a simple answer.

          Perhaps it would help if you read this post. => https://citizentom.com/2016/09/13/the-battlefield-for-everybodys-dreams-and-everybodys-covetousness/

          Bastiat said government exists to provide justice. Here are a couple of other posts you might find interesting.
          https://citizentom.com/2016/09/03/what-is-government/
          https://citizentom.com/2016/09/10/what-would-it-mean-to-make-america-america-again/

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      2. “During his time Catholics we hard to get along with.” Actually, Locke’s whole criticism was that the Church demanded you believe certain things and belong to a ecclesial polity governed by separate laws. He had much the same criticism of the Church of England–which I believe got him banished–but was less prejudice. While he delighted in the executions of Jesuits, he contented himself with only lampooning the Anglicans. I get along quite well with Protestants and they make up about 50% of the ASP. They, like myself, are able to look back at past wrongs and forgive them as well as have the good sense to reject Locke as a prejudice old fool who’s heretical and obtuse conceptions of human nature are what prompt such contempt for religion that we have today. Locke is directly responsible for the idea that religion is what you make of it. Such a dangerous concept, which you frequently complain as the product of Marxism or some other boogeyman, was created by Locke and there is nothing you can honestly say to refute such a well known piece of philosophic history.

        Classical Liberalism requires no veneration of Sacred Scripture. Indeed, Kant, deemed by Liberalism the world over, as the owl of Minerva that flew out at the ending of the Age of Enlightenment, summed up the object of Liberalism quite well. Is it any wonder that Liberalism, which sought to question even the sanctity and validity of the Scriptures as Locke did, brought forth the moral relativism that now plagues us? It is not to the student of philosophy and the history of ideas. Liberalism bases itself on rejecting what came before outright before collecting ideas they still agree with arbitrarily into a hodgepodge that they call the one true philosophy. The irony of Kant, Descartes, and Rousseau decrying the science of metaphysics for being too overpopulated with conflicting ideas while creating their own conflicting ideas of man and the state is for me now a delicious joke.

        As to the question of taxation, it seems you want all the benefits of a government without any of the necessities. You want a strong national defense, but don’t want to pay the requisite sums to maintain it. The “wisdom” that Cuccinelli seems to preach is “cut assistance and raise war spending.” This has, after all, been his party’s mantra for the past 30 or so years. It is a matter for Fr. Vander Woude to address if he is still the pastor of Holy Trinity and Cuccinelli remains within the boundaries of his parish. As I have said elsewhere, Liberal conceptions of wisdom are barely in conformity with the Gospel and where they are, they are out of conformity with Liberalism.

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        1. @Stephen

          Your distortions of Classical Liberalism are simply off-the-wall silly. You just end up making yourself sound kooky. Instead of trying to redefine the expression, why don’t you just clearly explain your complaint, or would that sound even more kooky?

          Locke’s reputation is what it is, beyond your meager power to sully. Mine? Who knows? So I will just observe that defense spending only about 20 percent of the Federal Budget. Since most of the other spending is unconstitutional (I wish more citizens would take the time to read the Constitution and the Federalist Papers.), I think we are being taxed too much. We are being taxed too much to pay for things the government should not be doing.

          For reasons I explained in my last post (=> https://citizentom.com/2017/01/03/government-love-and-charity/), I think that government charity is an oxymoron.

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  3. So even though he framed it in such absolutist language, Cuccinelli’s so-called “law of liberty” was just a bit of rhetorical hyperbole that was supposed to describe the far more nuanced argument that you are now making. It did not sound that way to me, but even your more nuanced approach has too many holes in it to hold much water if you just look at our own history, much less all the most advanced nations in the world.

    Your argument represents a trend rather than simple formula. Under the theory of that trend, as government grows in the size and the scope of its powers and as government needs more taxes to support that government, it’s citizens should enjoy less freedom and prosperity.

    You have said that our government has grown extremely large in size and scope in this country and that its taxes have grown exorbitant. Under the tendency of your theory then, all of our citizens should have less freedom and prosperity than we have enjoyed previously in our history or that other countries that have smaller governments and less taxation enjoy. In fact, however, anyone who looks at our own history and who looks around the world can see that just the opposite trend existsfor both freedom and prosperity

    As for freedom, never in our history has the average American citizen had more rights of all kinds and more equality of justice. Even setting aside the slavery and Jim Crow periods that severely limited both the freedom and prosperity of a large segment of the country, an average person could not even vote or hold office at our founding. One had to be male and own property to have those freedoms. Pick any liberty and I think that you will find that it has mostly expanded in ratio as government has expanded here and around the world to define, arbitrate and enforce that liberty and all rights in general. Looking at our history and the history of the western world, liberty seems to have far less to do with the size of government than the quality of what that government does.

    As for taxation, as our taxes have increased to their highest levels,our average and overall prosperity has soared to levels of average and individual income never seen in the history of mankind. Some of the highest taxing countries in Europe also are the most prosperous and happy. Once again, the average and overall prosperity of our country and other prosperous countries around the world seems to have less to do with the level of taxation and more to do with the quality of the public goods and services that the government affords. And as average prosperity has increased in our country the rich just seem to get richer because average people have more money to spend. Henry Ford thought his enterprise would do better if his own workers could afford the cars that they made and he has been proven right.

    Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying that more government and more taxation equals more liberty and average prosperity. That kind of statement would be just as reductive and ridiculous as Cuccinelli’s “law of liberty”. What I am pointing out is that even your general correlative trend simply doesn’t work because our success and the success of the west’s so-called welfare states provides too many exceptions to make even such a general statement correct on its face.

    As for taxes, I’m not sure what questions I have not answered. Perhaps some of your questions lead to their own conclusions and don’t leave room for the truth of other variables. I don’t know. What about taxation do you want me to answer that I have not said or implied already?

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    1. @Tony

      The only problem with Cuccinelli’s argument is that you want to make it into something it isn’t. You and your reductionism. Silly! It does not seem to matter what I say. You have locked on the notion that Conservatives oppose government. When I deny that assertion, then you come back with the notion that Conservatives make absolutely no sense.

      Conservatives don’t oppose government. Conservatives oppose the misuse of government. We oppose social engineering. A welfare state, for example, is immoral. Redistributing the wealth is stealing. What someone else earns does not belong to you. You don’t have the right to turn government into Robin Hood either.

      Consider again how you responded to my questions.

      As for taxes, I’m not sure what questions I have not answered. Perhaps some of your questions lead to their own conclusions and don’t leave room for the truth of other variables. I don’t know. What about taxation do you want me to answer that I have not said or implied already?

      You talked to some extent about what makes taxation moral. You completely ignored this issue: When does taxation become immoral?

      Consider again your answer to this question: When does taxation become moral?

      Because, as citizens, we all enjoy the “blessings of liberty” benefits that those necessary institutions of government afford, we also have a responsibility to pay for them. “With every right comes responsibility.” Like all efforts at virtue, this statement is not a reductive and perfectly immutable “law of nature”, but rather a precarious balance.

      There is a precarious balance? Look at your own words. Balance with respect to what? You never say; it is just precarious. Yet all you seem to be worried about is the “free rider” problem. Do “free riders” give you an excuse to tax anyone for any cause.

      What causes are moral? We have a Constitutional republic specifically because all causes are not moral, and the majority cannot be trusted to decide for the minority what is moral. When some popular jackass proposes something immoral, the Constitution is designed to put the brakes on the majority and force the People to seriously consider what they are doing. Of course, when the Constitution just means when the people in power want it to mean…….

      Let’s go back to some of the assumptions you made so you could make a bunch of unsupported statements in your third, fourth, fifth, and sixth paragraphs.
      1. We have more freedom. Really? We have laws and regulations out the wazoo. Nobody can even keep track of all the things our government now calls a felony. Consider the stupidity of the Feds telling us what kind of light bulb we can buy and regulating the amount of water we can flush down the toilet.
      2. Prosperity has increased. During the last eight years? Nope. Go back far enough, and the answer is yes. However, prosperity has arguably increase in spite of the government, not because of it. Because of technology, our productivity has radically increased. Because of technology, we can survive the monstrous burden of the welfare state. However, it is absurd to say the welfare state adds to our prosperity, even though some people who should know better do say exactly that.
      3. High taxes don’t restrain prosperity. One of the problems with modelling the real world is that we cannot control the variables. It is not actually possible to isolate changes in the rate of taxation from all the other changes like new inventions, social changes, war, weather, natural disasters and so forth. Hence, some economists can say absolutely stupid things, and there is no straightforward way to refute them. You point to Europe, for example, as an example where high taxes are some kind of blessing, but Western Europe is self-imploding. Because of state driven secularization, the people are docile. They don’t believe in anything. All they care about is getting their goodies from the government. Hence their cultural heritage is disappearing. Soon they will most likely be swamped by the Muslim hordes their ancestors held off for centuries.

      Look at the Muslim nations where those hordes are coming from. In the decades to come, the nations of Europe could look like that — and so could we. Those nations provide excellent examples of government power run amuck.
      4.Government keeps the rich from getting richer. Only in theory. Experiments to test that theory have been tried repeatedly. Even the Pilgrims tried redistributing the wealth at Plymouth Rock. Fortunately for us, after half of them starved, they gave up on the idea. The Communists and the Nazis demonstrated quite well where that theory leads in practice.

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  4. Interesting response Tom, and a lot to digest. I don’t disagree with much of what you have written here. I disagree, however, with some of the broad conclusions that you appear to draw. Let me just deal with one of your questions that I hope may resolve many of the others. When do taxes become immoral?

    Any institution or system is moral to the extent that it is virtuous. Any institution is immoral in so far as it serves our worst vices (greed, envy, cowardice, etc.). I believe that virtue ultimately derives from love, love of God and love and our love and compassion for one another. I believe that vice ultimately derives from hate and indifference, indifference to God’s commandments to love and to show love and compassion for one another.

    At least since Jesus resurrected and went to heaven, no person or institution is perfectly virtuous and therefore perfectly moral, nor can anyone or anything be. As I have mentioned before, one reason for this is that virtue itself is often an imperfect and “precarious” balance between vices (such as courage being an imperfect and precarious balance between being foolhardy and being cowardly).

    Another reason that the balance is imperfect is, as you have also sort of mentioned, the multifariousness of variables, factors, competing interests and competing virtues and vices creates dilemmas for which there are no perfectly virtuous and just black and white formulas, but instead only solutions that are more or less virtuous and just than others. Also, unlike an omniscient God, because we are always going to be blind to much more of the world than than we actually imperfectly see, ambiguity is also always a problem, and that problem is all the more exacerbated when we refuse to acknowledge it. As civilization has continuously become more complex and our interrelations become more widespread and diverse, our institutions necessarily must become more complex to keep up with civilization. Ambiguity therefore increases and moral institutional solutions to problems of justice necessarily become more intricate and need to constantly be rebalanced to resolve increasingly complex dilemmas.

    Justice is the degree to which the institutions with power over us (or in the case of a democracy, the ones we imposed upon ourselves) are designed and work to seek the most virtuously impartial balance possible. As an institution, taxation is not inherently virtuous or vice ridden. In other words, it is not inherently moral or immoral. Rather the degree to which a taxation institution of government is just depends upon how well it balances competing virtues and interests in order a vast number of goods and services.

    I’m sure that you will correct me if I’m wrong, but your greatest moral objection to taxes seems to be their material redistributive quality. You appear to believe that it is inherently immoral for government to take wealth from some folks and give it to others. Their are no doubt instances where government’s distributive role is immoral, but it it not “inherently” immoral.

    A main point of my bringing up patent law in my post on an earlier thread was to show that government can have and necessarily has to have a distributive role. The mine owner had wealth that he owned underground that he could not get to because his mine was flooded. Entrepreneur investors and guildsmen inventors had a wealth intelectual knowledge to invent and build steam engines to pump out those mines, but that knowledge was inaccessible to the mine owner because the inventor needed an an incentive that rewarded their investment risk and their inventiveness.

    Through government patent law, government facilitated the “redistribution” of the mine owner’s trapped wealth to the inventors and their investors in ways that worked to the benefit of all parties and society in general. These first government granted patent monopolies were not as just and efficient as the could be, in that they were too broad, but as the complex area of justice that is the law of patents has evolved it has sought to provide a more just redistribution of wealth of entreprenuers inventors, investors and buyers that facilitates economic incentives that provides fair wealth incentives to all parties. In other worlds, through patent laws, the government redistributes wealth generated from intelectual property in ways that can either justly (and therefore virtuously) reward all parties effectively or not. But anyway one looks at patent law rationally, it simply is at its heart a government redistribution of wealth.

    By simple defining, enforcing and arbitrating any kind of property right, the government evvectively redistributes wealth. By making slave owning legal, the government facilitated the redistribution of the wealth that was the slave’s labor to the plantation master. By making slavery illegal, the government redistribed from the plantation master back to the freed slave the ownership of that labor wealth. Government’s facilitation of the redistribution of wealth through these legal property rights that were the institution of slavery promoted behavior that was not virtuous and therefore an injustice. By making slavery illegal and ending that government afforded property right, government facilitated a redistribution of wealth that was more just and virtuous. Either way, just or unjust, government and it’s institutions were absolutely necessary to effect the redistribution.

    You like to use the story of Robinhood as an example of the evil that government does when it practices redistribution. This is an odd analogy because Robin Hood is seen by most people as the hero of the story.

    In the story, while the rightful King is off fighting the Crusades he leaves his corrupt brother in charge to run the kingdom. The brother’s government is unjustly taxing the peasants into starvation in order to enrich himself and his cronies. In an effort to remedy that injustice, Robinhood steals the legally stolen wealth from those rich cronies and gives it back to the poor. Under your Lockean theories, don’t people have a right to rise up when put under such unjust redistributive tyranny by the government? Wasn’t that pretty much the same logic that the founders used in the Declaration of Independence? The founders were not making the argument that the king did not have a right and even the responsibility to make laws that effectively redistributed the wealth of his kingdom; they were arguing that redistribution was being done unjustly. They were not so much arguing that the taxation itself was inherently immoral; they were arguing that the British taxation put upon them while they were being denied all the other rights of British Citizenship (such as representation in Parliment) was immoral and unjust.

    By any law or regulation, government is effecting a redistrution of wealth. In the case of taxation, the government is effecting a transfer of wealth to pay for public goods and services that all citizens enjoy. I have often used the protective goods and services provided to all citizens by the miitary as an analogy because it is a pretty uncontroversial example of one where we seem to agree that taxing us to pay for military protection is not unjust. Don’t you agree that what would actually be unjust would be for a citizen to avoid the responsibility for paying for the public goods and services the military provides while enjoying all their obvious protective benefits?

    So back to your question of when does taxation become immoral. Well first of all, because morality is about maintaining an imperfect balance of virtues, no taxation scheme will ever be perfectly virtuous and moral. Any scheme will only be more or less virtuous, more or less corrupt. The taxation scheme can itself be more or less unfair. Or the public goods and services that taxation pays for can be more or less unherently fair or unfair. When the circumstances are so obvious that all of us acknowledge the corruption, then it’s unarguably immoral. For anything in between, there will probably some disagreement, and settling such disagreements is what the institutions of democracy are designed for. The devil is in the details. However, if you are saying that government redistribution and taxation is just plain black and white corrupt, then just prividing (often very debatable) examples where you think it is simply does not prove anything.

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    1. @Tony

      Your response is best described as gobbledygook. If it is just too complicated, then are we suppose to let the politicians do whatever it is they want to do?

      We have a Constitution, including the 10th Amendment. The Constitution authorizes the Federal Government to do certain things. It is a charter. That is the point of a charter, state the purpose of organization and the powers given to it. For added clarity, we have the 10th Amendment. Obviously, the Constitution exists to keep the politicians from doing whatever it is they want to do.

      Your gobbledygook, on the other hand, is just morass of words. Once we enter that mire of relativism, there is no way out.

      We will just consider one example, redistributing the wealth. Even if all the government does is protect our rights, that affects the distribution of wealth. The people who don’t robbed, because the government protected their rights, become wealthier. Judges, policemen, lawyers, juries, and so forth get paid. So you can point to that and say: “See. You approve of the government redistributing the wealth.” To which I say: “Bullshit!” Unless we are in a major war, protecting the rights of the People to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is a relatively small expense. That is because it is not about redistributing the wealth. What we generally call health, education, and welfare programs, however, don’t exist for any other purpose. Redistributing the wealth is the intended consequence.

      Yet it is all too complex! We just cannot tell the difference. What malarkey! Even the Robin Hood analogy. You have to enshroud that in obscurity. Good grief!

      All you are doing is PROVING why we don’t want a big government. Look at your own words. You have no idea how to control it. What are we suppose to do? Trust Congress? Trust Trump? The people they appoint to the Supreme Court?
      🙂

      Like that idea? I don’t, but the bigger the government gets the less choice we have in the matter.

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  5. And your rational argument in response is “gobbledygook”, “bullshit”, and “malarky”. Is the fact that you really don’t have a rational response why you can only respond emotionally? Why the angry rhetoric and mischaracterization? For example, how is my explanation that government facilitates the redistribution of wealth (and even the creation of wealth) by the its institutions that define, enforce and arbitrate property rights, and specifically my example of patent rights, not true? How is my rational that government redistributes wealth to provide for public goods and services such as the military flawed?

    Your constitutional powers argument is not actually responsive to anything that I have said. It is a non sequitur and an emotional attempt to change the subject. You know very well that the Constitution grants the federal government all those powers that I mentioned, and the federal Constitution does not limit states from any taxation and redistribution powers as long as the affect of those powers do not violate the 14th Amendment. In fact, I have specifically talked about constitutionally granted powers because the examples are uncontroversial and not susceptible to your favorite ultra vires condemnation, and because they do illustrate a necessary redistribution of wealth. Our defense department alone is the largest organization of any kind in the world and it is the largest department of our government by far in people employed and money spent. It’s economy dwarfs most countries entire economies. In providing the goods and services of protecting us in a dangerous world, it redistributes a crapton of our wealth and both of us agree that it is a necessary and appropriate government function.

    If anything is “malarkey”, it is that something can’t be true, moral and beneficial if it is also complex and hard to understand. I agree that governmental laws and institutions should not be anymore complex than need be and should strive for elegance, but sorry to break it to you, but you live in a complex and rapidly changing world. Patent law is a constitutional power of our federal government. Some form of intellectual property law is absolutely necessary to a thriving modern economy today. And it necessarilty evolved in complexity in order to be more fair and just. Just to practice patent law usually takes a background in math, science or engineering, and a special bar exam and qualification. I don’t understand all the physics that it takes to launch rockets into space. It’s all “gobbledygook” to me, but that does not mean that I can’t believe that its principles can’t be true or right because it is necessarily too complex for me to understand it all.

    I don’t claim to be as good, concise or clear a writer as these matters would require if I were trying to publish a book or an article on them rather than just responding here on a blog. And I’m typing these posts on my IPad during a few quick moments between doing more important things so they have their fair share of typos and some misspelled words. That’s certainly a fair criticism of them.

    But you are not even trying to deal with the truth of the basic concepts and examples provided in response to your article and to the questions you have asked me. Instead, your objections are just unnecessarily dismissive and profane, or they distract with new unrelated issues as if I am here supposed to be trying to defend the other side as one your favorite strawmen. Can’t you just stay on topic and deal with the concepts that I have explained and defended in response to you? Ask yourself why you can’t? Is it because you don’t really want to admit that what I have said is true because you would have to get past the blinders of some of your favorite ideological dogmas and bugaboos? You would be forced by the logic of my statements and examples to admit that government actually does play many necessary and beneficial “busybody” roles and that those roles have necessarily grown larger and more complex with modernity. I don’t know, but that is what it seems like is happening when you answer in such a dismissively angry and derogatory way.

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    1. @Tony

      Angry? No. Disgusted? I suppose so.

      You want to debate? Debate what? All you have offered is subjective. Well, I believe…….

      I bring up the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and you dive down a rabbit hole trying to prove government gives us our rights using patent law as an example. Instead of using a simple example, like protection against theft, you hunt up the most complex legal tangle you can find and say “see”.
      🙄

      Our government is constitutional republic. Your rationalizations just throws that out the window, and you don’t even bother to justify it. You just say the Constitution says whatever the Supreme Court says it says.

      The Supreme Court does not have the authority to change the Constitution. It only has the authority to interpret it. When the court interprets the Constitution wrongly, we have the obligation to correct the court. Our republic belongs to all of us, not just nine people.

      Because what you offered is entirely subjective, there is nothing to it your argument. It has no substance. The balance is whatever you want it to be.

      In practice, what you are defending is majoritarian tyranny. In such a system, politicians retain power so long as they reward enough of the right people (special interests), and don’t piss off too many others. Because the “balance” produced by such a system is so precarious (to put it kindly), when it is allowed to progress, majoritarian tyranny always leads to just plain tyranny.

      What is disgusting is how you tried to bring Jesus into this. Jesus did not preach gobbledygook. To become the perfect sacrifice, He lived in accordance with the Mosaic Code, much of which, the Ten Commandments in particular, remains in force.

      When a Christian sins, he or she knows it objectively. To escape the guilt, the Christian must rationalize away an objective act of sin in a manner similar to what you have done. Hence you have argued stealing is okay if the government does it for us. We just have to have good intentions.

      And yes, I have no problem calling all the words you used gobbledygook. I also have no problems calling your rationalizations bullshit and malarkey. When someone tells me lying and stealing are okay, what else am I suppose to call it?

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  6. “Your distortions of Classical Liberalism are simply off-the-wall silly.” Distortions? It is not I who has tried to explain away Locke’s explicit moral relativism by saying, “But Catholics did stuff.” If you are trying to whitewash the clear and present problems implicit in such a statement as “Every man is orthodox unto himself,” then you are a hypocrite. Even the newest student of philosophy can see the inherent problem in everyone being orthodox to themselves. Locke lays the very foundation for moral subjectivism and you claim his legacy is inviolable. As if I was the only critic of Locke. I have come to the conclusion that you have never actually studied Locke, his contemporaries, his influences, and his critics, or that you have and you are so enamored with the romance of being your own metaphysical boss that the implications are ignored.

    Yet, if I am to talk about Classical Liberalism, I cannot restrain myself to the metaphysical problems of Locke’s ill conceived and frankly heretical cosmology. Hume’s ideas of never getting an ought from an is; Rousseau’s ill-conceived state of nature; Kant’s impossibly consistent categorical imperative; all these liberal thoughts are nothing more than the vain ambition of ants to become gods of things outside their ability to bend to their will. Whereas the Israelite were prohibited from worshiping pagan gods, a more modern telling of the story with the problems of liberalism introduced would be a prohibition to make up your own god.

    Hume assumes–ha, alliteration–that an is cannot produce an ought because Hume denies the very nature of an is. The reality that the facts of life always necessitate a course of action or inaction on our part is something any second rate physicist will agree with. If the door of the bathroom is closed and you are in need of using the bathroom, the only course of action to resolve those two realities with dignity is that you ought open the door.

    Rousseau’s state of nature is so comically the dream of a man who just wants to copulate frequently and with multiple partners without the inconvenience of children that I laughed aloud the third time I read it.

    Kant, in trying to preserve the morality venerated by Western Civilization for millennia that he actively destroyed by declaring that there can be no metaphysics, created an imperative that relies solely on the judgment of the person making the determination. It is easy and simple for one to use the Categorical Imperative to justify the murder of infants in the womb, if you rationalize it like a liberal with plenty of mentions of burdens and freedom and whatever other nonsense they conjure up to justify atrocities.

    I could talk about more–Spinoza, Descartes, and other–and even show how that fraud De Montesquieu passed off the separation of powers as some novel idea when it had been practiced in several Medieval and Renaissance societies for centuries. But then all liberals are merely carpet bagging philosophers trying to steal credit for ideas that predate them for centuries and even millennia. Take Heliocentricity for example. People attribute it to Galileo but the theory had been around for centuries and was actually quite popular. What is Locke but the application of Calvinist Trinintarianism which is itself a deviation from Catholic Scholasticism? What is Descartes and Hume but Academicians? What is Kant but a neo-Epicurean? I know you would like to pass off my criticism of liberalism as this crazy idea, but people have been doggedly doing it for over three centuries now. The fact that you are newly aware that anyone has these criticisms is no fault of mine.

    Now, you say that the government is doing something it should not be doing. That, I must point out, is deriving an ought from an is and as a liberal you must not do that. With regard to Liberalism, I am of Nietzsche’s opinion: either they are wrong or we are gods. There is no other alternative.

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