Wednesday, October 28, 2009
During college, I had an elderly professor from Hungary who, it was rumored, still had fragments of a bullet in his back because he had the temerity to vote against Communist rule with his feet. That bullet came to mind yesterday when I ran across a pair of news stories about people avoiding confiscatory tax rates in America and what governments are starting to do about it.
First, New York is hemorrhaging productive citizens:
More than 1.5 million state residents left for other parts of the United States from 2000 to 2008, according to the report from the Empire Center for New York State Policy. It was the biggest out-of-state migration in the country.Except for the story's emphasis on how much loot these people are taking with them, I agree with that last line. Were I a New Yorker, I'd be concerned that there were fewer opportunities to trade with those who left. Forget my taxes or the replacement of those who left with the less productive and parasites: These new people would mostly not be a problem but for the fact that the welfare state turns many of them into problems by chaining them to anyone who hasn't left yet.
The vast majority of the migrants, 1.1 million, were former residents of New York City -- meaning one out of seven city taxpayers moved out.
"The Empire State is being drained of an invaluable resource -- people," the report said.
Fortunately, New York can't prevent people from fleeing, but if you haven't left yet, your state might take a cue from Chicago and do what it can along these lines:
Chicago and Cook County residents aren't the only ones about to get shocking tax news; the city is debuting a "tax whistle-blower" plan that could turn neighbor against neighbor in Chicago's business community. [minor format edits]The bullets haven't started flying yet, but on a national level, the gun is already cocked. Recall that there is already an emigration charge for people who renounce their American citizenship for tax purposes and that both parties collaborated on the law, which Bush signed. Interestingly, the bill includes a measure to confer benefits to soldiers, giving it a pro-American veneer that will mollify the unobservant.
That bone tossed towards the patriotic and the fact that a Republican President signed the exit tax into law remind me of something else: Glenn Reynolds points to a Libertarian's blog posting on a Robert Samuelson piece about the physician slavery debate in Congress. Specifically, Samuelson notes that Democrats are now using terms associated with the free market to re-brand socialized medicine.
Samuelson calls that "genius," and the Libertarians seem pretty impressed with that observation, but this is nothing new or rare at all. As another example look no further than the Chicago story above, where a tax official quoted about the new tax snitch program refers to the bounties as an "incentive."
More to the point, I've been on this scent for a very long time.
Has anyone ever heard of "cap-and-trade?" That government fuel rationing scheme sounds enough like capitalism for Arnold Schwarzenegger (who once fled socialism himself) to back it and tout it as a "free market" solution to global warming. Or "privatization" of infrastructure that merely replaces a socialist arrangement with a fascist one?
Republicans have been branding statism as capitalism for a very long time. There's no "genius" in the Democrats applying new labels to their various schemes. That's just monkey see, monkey do -- and by a monkey very slow on the uptake at that.
If you want to call a deception that will make America less free if people fall for it "genius," you will have to dig a little deeper. Anyone can see the veneer peeling from the wetted, dripping particle board in the above examples. Think of a freshly-varnished chair made of fine, but rotting wood and you'll get the idea of what "genius" is really like.
For "genius" of this kind, consider a group that makes lots of hay out of the similarity between our two big government political parties and the fact that their policies will lead to tyranny. Consider further that in the process of doing so, this group is constantly plagiarizing the conclusions of a brilliant political philosopher, even to the point of glomming on to the popularity of one of her most famous works -- while at the same time smearing its author as "intolerant" and "dogmatic" as a means of belittling the principles she used to reach the conclusions they're plagiarizing. Such a group will pose as an "alternative" to the main two parties, while selling the exact same product not just in a different bottle, but with different flavoring. That group is the Libertarian Party.
To start to comprehend this deception, one must ask: "What is the essential thing wrong with tyranny?" To appreciate the answer, "It violates individual rights," one must know what rights are, which means knowing what man is and why rights are important. (This is just where one has to begin.) One must also understand the nature of physical force and the moral difference between initiating it against another man and using it in retaliation in self-defense. Only after one has done this can he see why this question is important, consider how best to protect himself from others who will seek to harm him through physical force, and consider whether and how to delegate his retaliatory force to others in order to form a proper government.
The Libertarians pretend that no such careful thought is necessary, and that one can simply destroy all government to achieve freedom. They take the moral principle that Ayn Rand discovered that man should not initiate force against others out of context and misapply it to politics in order to pass off anarchism as capitalism. (The ones who do not actually advocate anarchy help those who do by pretending that this is a minor quibble.) To them, government as such is a bad thing. This is not true.
A hint of the rot comes when one tests the chair: Since Libertarians reject thinking in terms of principles, they frequently react to the fair question of how an individual will be protected from the initiation of force under anarchy any better than under a dictatorship with smears like that the one noted above and with insults. As Nick Provenzo once put it so well, "Want to enrage a Libertarian? It's easy. Just have standards." (Obviously, this is no refutation of Libertarianism, but it should cause one to wonder what exactly is going on.)
Caveat emptor. Just because someone can correctly point out the deficiencies in the products currently on the market does not mean that what he is selling is any good. Just because someone says that freedom is cheap doesn't mean it is. The struggle for freedom is difficult and will be lost without careful, principled thought on the part of pro-freedom intellectuals about fundamental issues, of which non-initiation of force is neither fundamental enough to serve as a starting point nor even meaningful outside such a context.
If a slave market is not capitalism, neither is anarchy freedom. Capitalism does not exist when rights are violated and rights are not protected without a proper government. And I don't care how good that might sound: Do not take my word for it. Do not take Ayn Rand's word for it, either. She can make your thinking easier, but obviously, she can't do it for you. Your agreement will mean nothing unless you understand what all of that means for yourself.