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Raise taxes - slow the economy
Posted by: McQ on Sunday, July 15, 2007

One of the bigger lessons to be learned by politicians everywhere is that taxation can inhibit economic growth. Actually, what politicians need to learn about taxation is its function is to provide the funds necessary to run the government, and nothing more. But for some reason it appears that lesson was long ago lost. It's almost as if they feel a collective right to revenue at whatever level they choose if it will fund their pet projects, taxpayers be damned.

Obviously the level of taxation can and does directly effect the amount of economic growth a nation (and the global economy, depending on how big the player is) will enjoy.

James Pethokoukis, of US News& World Report talks about that in his latest article. Some interesting points. He first quotes Goldman Sachs:
"If we and the consensus are correct, then the period 2003-2008 will have been one of the most powerful periods of economic growth globally since accurate data [have] been collectible for much of the world."
That's a pretty powerful statement. Here's an even more powerful one:
The 21st century has also seen a global effort to reduce tax rates. Since 2000, according to the Tax Foundation, more than half the countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development—the group of 30 nations that includes most of America's major economic competitors—have lowered their top marginal rates, reducing the OECD average rate from 45.93 to 42.95 percent.
Got that? The most powerful global economies the world has ever seen has been driven by what? Tax reduction. In fact consider this:
Indeed, the global economy is growing at about a 5 percent annual pace, according to the International Monetary Fund, after growing 4.9 percent in 2005 and 5.4 percent last year. By contrast, the global economy grew at a 3 percent pace from 1980 to 2000 and at 4.7 percent from 1960 to 1980.
Now this may come as a surprise to some on the left who claim that we did just fine with the high taxes of the Clinton administration, but if you look at it globally, not so hot.

Which brings us to this:
The group goes on to examine possible future trends, including what happens if the Bush tax cuts are left to expire at the end of 2010 or if a 4 percent tax surcharge is imposed on wealthier Americans to pay for reform of the alternative minimum tax:

The U.S. reduced its top rate by over 13 percent between 2000 and 2006, dropping it from 15th to 21st in the rankings. If no other country had reduced its tax rates, the U.S. would stand at 26th highest, but the strong tax-cutting trend in other OECD countries blunted the impact of the 2001 rate cuts. . . . Full repeal of the 2001 rate cuts after a surcharge to fix AMT would move the U.S. from 21st to 9th highest in the rankings—and that assumes the tax cutting abroad comes to a halt. A repeal of the 2001 tax cuts with no AMT surcharge would move the U.S. to 11th highest, while an AMT surcharge alone would move the U.S. to 14th highest. In all three cases, the U.S. would rank higher than it did in 2000 (15th), before the passage of the 2001 tax cuts.
Notice the line after the bold part? "That assumes that tax cutting abroad comes to a halt" as well. Fat chance. Pethokoukis asks:
I wonder what would happen if all the industrialized nations decided to start raising taxes? It might make the U.S. more competitive with them on a relative basis, but how would it affect global economic growth?

Yet there seems little chance of that happening, given the global competitive race, in which making your country more attractive to financial and human capital is critical. Examples like Ireland, where tax cutting has accompanied a huge economic boom, are too powerful to ignore.
Yet given the mantra of the Democratic Presidential candidates, we will be ignoring it if and when one of them is elected. Meaning?
So it looks as though the high-tax experiment might be confined to America, which by the way already has the second-highest corporate tax rate.
What were those two words I was looking for? Oh, yeah ... unemployment and recession. Yeah, that's the ticket.
 
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Good point on the Democratic candidates, though the idea that taxes slow the economy is pretty standard consensus, it’s not like that’s anything new — at least not among people who understand economics. The only argument for tax increases is to keep the budget from going out of control (Germany increased taxes dramatically in the 90s to pay for unification, resulting in a huge economic slow down). In such a case a tax increase may be necessary but the best option is cutting spending. Maybe if you unify like Germany did and need to rebuild another state tax increases are the better option to put yourself in a position to grow after the cost is paid (better than having out of control debt), but that’s an exception. Still, there is always a political calculus — if growth is too focused and large numbers discontent, economic instability could be as damaging as higher taxes. If there are economic imbalances like that, taxation and wealth transfers are usually a bad method to address them, however, since it’s a short term treating of the symptoms and soon it will be hard to break that pattern, and the fundamental problem will get worse.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Now this may come as a surprise to some on the left who claim that we did just fine with the high taxes of the Clinton administration,
There seems to be this myth, perpetrated by both Democrats and Republicans, that the 1990’s were a time of high taxes. But the fact is that on average the top marginal tax rate for the entire Clinton administration was LOWER than for the majority of the Reagan administration. Reagan’s tax cuts didn’t come into effect in any meaningful way until 1983, there was a tax increase in 1982 as well, and the new low rates of the 1986 act (which actually raised the capital gains tax) weren’t in effect until 1987. Clinton was simply living in and taking credit for the economy Ronald Reagan left for him.

Bush and Clinton raised taxes which certainly hurt the economy, especially Bush’s which rightly lost him his job. Everybody seems to remember the 1990’s as a boom time, but it was really 2 decades: The moribund period from 90-96 and the boom time of 97-2000. Until 1996 or so the economy was good but nothing to be particularly proud of.

1997 was when things really changed. What happened then: The Capital Gains tax was cut and the economy took off, unemployment dropped to the lowest levels in decades and unexpected (by those who confuse tax rates with tax revenue) tax revenues soared and balanced the budget, through no positive action of the politicians at either end of Pennsylvania avenue whatsoever, no matter how many of them try to take credit.

The current economic growth dates from the REAL tax cuts in 2003, not the sham in 2001. Especially the cuts on dividends and capital gains which are still not very competitive globally. If spending had not gone up at the highest rate since the Johnson administration the budget would be so awash in surplus cash that the politicians wouldn’t even know what to spend it on, although I’m sure they would be able to figure out a way. Of course the relative balance of the budget is of no consequence to the real economy, in fact budget surpluses simply embolden the government to spend more money and interfere in the economy even more, so I’m partial to deficits myself.

The historical lessons, around the world, show clearly that growth and marginal tax rates are inversely proportional. This plain for all to see, at least those who want to see. Just think how much growth and wealth could be created if we didn’t have the highest corporate taxes on the planet.
 
Written By: DS
URL: http://
But the fact is that on average the top marginal tax rate for the entire Clinton administration was LOWER than for the majority of the Reagan administration.
According to the Effective Federal Tax Rates, the top quintile had higher rates during the Clinton era than the Reagan era. The opposite is true for the lower three quintiles.
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
[W]hat politicians need to learn about taxation is its function is to provide the funds necessary to run the government, and nothing more. [...] It’s almost as if they feel a collective right to revenue at whatever level they choose if it will fund their pet projects...
I think part of the job description for politician is certainty that revenue at whatever level they choose is necessary to run the government. This goes along with the willingness to regard and represent as indispensable any project they advocate.

Reading the snippets of Pethokoukis’s article, it’s sobering to note that, in the 30 nations constituing the OECD, well over 40% of their product is bled from the most productive.
 
Written By: Linda Morgan
URL: http://
Post hoc much? So, according to a Goldman Sachs email that’s all but unfindable on the web, based on unspecified data and reasoning, economic growth across some set of countries has been strong. At the same time, some almost certainly different set of countries have reduced their top marginal (and often merely nominal) tax rates from 46% to 43%. Not only are we supposed to accept each claim on its own without much support, but we’re also supposed to accept a causal connection between them as though no other factors could have been at play. Then, to top it off, we’re supposed to extrapolate those results to any tax cut, anywhere along the scale, no matter how distributed or administered.

Sorry, I’m not that gullible. This seems like just more of the same "surge" strategy that brought us the Laffable Curve fiasco at WSJ. Someone’s using those "independent" channels to push the administration’s desired talking points again, and others are all too happy to do their part by installing their own little square of astroturf.
 
Written By: Platypus
URL: http://pl.atyp.us
If you assume that lower marginal tax rates increase growth by any amount, it’s easy to show mathematically that eventually tax receipts will be higher under the lower rates. (Well, it takes a bit of calculus, but it’s not very advanced. Also, the assumption is that tax rates don’t go to zero, because that zeros out one of the terms used in a limit. I’d put the equations in here, but I doubt anybody except someone who’s a geek in both math and politics would care.) The initial assumption (that lower rates do increase growth) is a reasonable one to make, because a lower tax rate always increases the amount of money available for investment. Certainly other factors (war, famine, population decline, etc.) could overwhelm this effect, but it’s a very good starting point for an "other things being equal" analysis.

Of course, the time span it takes to get to the higher tax receipts depends on how much extra growth you get in exchange for how much lower taxation. If you assume that a good sized decrease in tax rates causes only a very small amount of extra growth, the time span can easily be so long as to be pointless. But real world cases suggest that the amount of extra growth doesn’t take that long to get to higher revenues.

So a far sighted politician, even one who wanted to get extra money to spend, would be in favor of gradually cutting tax rates to get ever increasing growth. (*-see footnote)

The problem is that politicians want to spend that money today. Linda is right that they can easily convince themselves that anything that benefits their constituents and/or increases their chances of re-election is necessary. Almost all of the politicians on the Democratic side, and a substantial minority of those on the Republican side, cannot distinguish between necessary functions of government and functions that are merely desirable to some part of the citizenry. Long term effects mean next to nothing to them, as they have proven again and again.

By the way, Platypus, I don’t like the Laffer curve either, because it is an attempt to impose a static model on the very effect I discussed in this comment. A proper analysis must be dynamic, because it takes time for any increased growth to work its way into the economy.

The Laffer curve only makes one irrefutable point - that there is some tax rate above which you can’t get more revenue in any but the shortest time frames, because the receipts for a 100% tax rate become zero (people won’t work for nothing). But it doesn’t say anything about what that rate for maximum receipts might be. And, because it’s static, a Laffer curve for one time period doesn’t necessarily apply to other time periods.

(* - There may a floor in tax rates at which decreases in tax rates don’t measurably increase growth, but I think it would be very low because, as I said earlier, decreased tax rates always leave more money for investment. For extremely low tax rates, the extra amount available for investment by cutting those rates would itself be very low, and I suppose it could become so low that it produced no consequential extra growth.)
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
Good point on the Democratic candidates, though the idea that taxes slow the economy is pretty standard consensus, it’s not like that’s anything new — at least not among people who understand economics. The only argument for tax increases is to keep the budget from going out of control...
And yet, I see a quote from you...

I simply find a working welfare state good for economic freedom -Erb
What kind of government is it, do you suppose, that will be able to confiscate enough funds to support such a system? One with, dare I say this, high taxes? And what does such a system do to the economic freedom of the people whose money is stolen to support it? And of course, what does such a system do to the economy?

Are we to now take you no longer think a working ’welfare state" a good thing?




 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
According to the Effective Federal Tax Rates, the top quintile had higher rates during the Clinton era than the Reagan era. The opposite is true for the lower three quintiles.
Here are the real numbers, without all sorts of statistical games:



Marginal tax rates are what drive individuals to work, save and invest OR if the rates are too high to shield their income from taxes by diverting it into less productive activities with favorable tax treatment.

Low marginal income tax rates, tax rates on capital gains, dividends and interest lead to higher capital formation, which leads to increased productivity, which makes us all richer.

Very simple.
 
Written By: DS
URL: http://
The link:

http://www.ntu.org/main/page.php?PageID=19
 
Written By: DS
URL: http://
If you assume that lower marginal tax rates increase growth by any amount
Unfortunately, that assumption is only true in some cases and is downright silly in others. Sure, lower marginal tax rates make more money available for investment, which doesn’t mean that money will actually be used for investment - which must be both domestic and productive for your theory about eventually increasing tax receipts to work. Even more significantly, lower marginal tax rates and lower current revenues mean something isn’t being done. All but the most extreme minarchists believe that the government should be doing some things, even if it’s only providing for national defense (which alone requires a non-trivial level of tax). Government’s failure or inability to do some (possibly small) subset of those things for lack of funds will harm the economy; cut enough of them and eventually the net effect of all this cutting on the economy will be negative. Therefore, the "lower taxes, greater growth" theory only applies within a certain band. The interesting economic question, as those who have actually studied this knew all along, is where that band starts and where we are relative to it. Between that and the absurdity of believing that all types of tax cuts are equal, any blanket assumption about the efficacy of tax cuts just becomes conceptual mush. Unfortunately, some people seem to like that mush quite a lot and even splatter it on their blogs.
 
Written By: Platypus
URL: http://pl.atyp.us
Platypus: exactly, there is a line where a state can no longer function, and before that political dissent becomes so great that stability is in question. Moreover, if the state is unable to maintain rule of law, corruption becomes every easier, and that ultimately hurts economic performance more than taxation. The minimalist line (law and order and political stability maintained) is much lower than the line most Republicans and Democrats want to try. Many want to pay for a world leading foreign policy, something which requires a big, powerful government. Others want a more active government to try to bring about social ends. Ultimately, I think not only are not all taxes equal, but neither is all spending.

Think about the example of Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen bank. They loaned money and get it repaid, but did so defying all traditional banking rules and having to fight against government bureaucracy. Their focus was not on a hand out or trying to shape an end result, but on giving credit to the poor, and in so doing giving them hope and the capacity to develop an entrepreneurial spirit and the possibility of the kind of "change from below" that avoids the dependent relations of the past and sets up "development from below," shaped by the interests of the people, not the neo-liberal "Washington consensus" which looks to foreign direct investment and aid as the primary engines of development. That model has failed for a variety of reasons.

The same is true with domestic policies: money spent to try to engineer outcomes or create egalitarian situations is often ineffective because it doesn’t change the essential structure of society — the poor not only are still poor, but now dependent on bureaucracies or corporations who benefit from how taxes are structured and money spent. I’m convinced that spending money in a way to give real opportunity to the poor (rather than just wealth transfers) and promote an indepedent rather than dependent spirit would help this country immensely. I’m not thinking top-down trickle down investment from the wealthy "making everyone richer." Rather, empowering the poor, in a way cheaper yet more effective than the big government programs in fashion in the past few decades. Right now the game is structured to benefit a rather unholy alliance of big money and big government, with each claiming they are the enemies of the other (while, for instance, Democrats like Hillary are favored among many business elite). Both the left and the right are comfortable with the current arrangement. Creative thinking needs to be crafted on how to alter it in a way that can make a difference (I’d also argue that we should give up our efforts to project our foreign policy preferences world wide, but that’s another argument).
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
oh yes, free markets and no taxation. The ones that built and paid for the interstate highway system? The ones that built and paid for the Tennesse Valley Authority? Or the ones that sent a man to the moon?

Don’t ’free markets’ and ’no taxation’ have constraints in funding and building large projects? Doesn’t the government actually contribute to the economic growth when it taxes people to create infrastructure that businesses use almost for free? Imagine where our defense industry would be today if the government itself did not tax people to build nuclear missiles, airplanes, warships, and munitions. So too, highways and electricity. Single payer systems with forced taxation accomplish what businesses would not dream of doing because of the financial risk involved. (Can you say ’Panama Canal’?)

Free markets and no taxation may work when you make toys, food, or lawnmowers, but aren’t they a little out of touch with what it takes to create the infrastructure that fuels industry growth?

Perhaps ’free market’ means business doesn’t have to pay for the marketplace infrastructure? Perhaps ’no taxation’ means don’t tax me to maintain it after you taxed me to build it’?

There is more at play than just consumerism, I think.


 
Written By: kindlingman
URL: http://
Many want to pay for a world leading foreign policy, something which requires a big, powerful government.
Perhaps you hadn’t noticed, for all your experience and study in matters of the constitution, that defense is one of the few constitutionally mandated expenditures of tax money.

And my other questions remain unanswered.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
oh yes, free markets and no taxation
Huh? Where was this argument made? Put down your b0ng.
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
Here are the real numbers, without all sorts of statistical games
Only comparing the top marginal rates ignores many factors in the actual amount of federal taxes you pay on your income. What deductions and exemptions were available? What rates did you have to pay on your income below the top rate? What other federal taxes are taken out of your income? etc...

Anyone at the highest marginal rates is definitely not driven "to work, save and invest OR if the rates are too high to shield their income from taxes by diverting it" based only on the top marginal rates. Their accountants are looking at the total picture in order to reduce taxes no matter what.
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
JWG:

It also ignores the amount of taxation levied on businesses within the country. Those taxes, after all, are passed on as a cost of doing business to you and I... the consumer. Dare I say this, those numbers amount to approximately half of the actual taxes we pay. In other words, we’re getting only half the story, when we look at tax rates to individuals... even assuming we’re getting the whole of that part of the story.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
Bithead: READ! I favor defense of the homeland as per the constitution. I do not favor foreign interventionism, something the founders also opposed. Also, my views on welfare and spending are clear in my post.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I do not favor foreign interventionism, something the founders also opposed.
Except for the times they didn’t. Who sent our troops to Africa? Who sent troops to non-US territories in North America?
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
JWG: Actually, the best argument about the non-isolationism of early America was the conquest of North America. Perhaps my view is an ideal that never really was followed.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I favor defense of the homeland as per the constitution. I do not favor foreign interventionism, something the founders also opposed. Also, my views on welfare and spending are clear in my post.
And so your position is one of isolationist. Back in the 1700’s, Scott, you probably would have gotten away with that position.

And yes, your position on the welfare state is well established. Which, in turn, gives lie to the more recent post.


Just so you know.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
Boris Erb writes:
Bithead: READ! I favor defense of the homeland as per the constitution. I do not favor foreign interventionism, something the founders also opposed.
"The First Barbary War (1801–1805), also known as the Barbary Coast War or the Tripolitan War, was the first of two wars fought between the United States of America and the North African states known collectively as the Barbary States. These were the independent Sultanate of Morocco, and the three Regencies of Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli, which were quasi-independent entities nominally belonging to the Ottoman Empire."

Was Thomas Jefferson a Founder, Boris?

You favor "defense of the homeland," do you? But you’re against "foreign interventionism?"

You’ve got two concepts there buzzing around your head, and I say you don’t understand either, not in sufficient context to give them any meaning.

For instance, you’re one of those people who is always urging "go to the UN" until we actually go to the UN. What you mean, actually, is "go to the UN and get stymied by the process."

By the way, Boris, did you ever actually read UNSC 1441?
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
The ones that built and paid for the interstate highway system?
[...]
Imagine where our defense industry would be today if the government itself did not tax people to build nuclear missiles, airplanes, warships, and munitions.
These are both legitimate provinces of the federal government, as per the Constitution. Try again.
 
Written By: Jordan
URL: http://
Bithead, are you seriously arguing that one cannot have an isolationist foreign policy without getting rid of the social welfare system? And are you against the social welfare system, would you scrape all that exists? What role do you see for government? What do you see our foreign policy goals as representing?
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Boris Erb writes:
Bithead, are you seriously arguing that one cannot have an isolationist foreign policy without getting rid of the social welfare system? And are you against the social welfare system, would you scrape all that exists? What role do you see for government? What do you see our foreign policy goals as representing?
One of Boris’s favorite tactics is to pretend he misunderstands what someone has written (well, he may not in fact actually understand what Eric wrote; that’s also a possibility), thereby hopelessly confusing the discussion, and to then try to hit the re-set button and bring the discussion back within range of his remedial academic skills.

Needless to say, the thread of the actual discussion will be lost and Boris will feel safe again. Like facts and truth, coherence is not Boris’s friend.

I have seen Boris’s level of mendacity before, but not in anyone who wasn’t either a sociopath or psychopath.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
Bithead, are you seriously arguing that one cannot have an isolationist foreign policy without getting rid of the social welfare system?
One of Boris’s favorite tactics is to pretend he misunderstands what someone has written (well, he may not in fact actually understand what Eric wrote; that’s also a possibility), thereby hopelessly confusing the discussion, and to then try to hit the re-set button and bring the discussion back within range of his remedial academic skills.
That he stumbled his way into that one, and did not arrive there by intent, is an idea that I have great difficulty reconciling with his history.

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
Bithead, I have posted very clearly my views on welfare and taxes, as well as on foreign policy. My foreign policy views have been pretty consistent since I started posting — I was, after all, as critical of Clinton in Kosovo as I am of Bush in Iraq. My views on economic policy have moved towards the "libertarian" side due to a number of experiences: 1) re-reading Hayek, and not just as a book I had to hurry through for college — it was convincing on a number of fronts; 2) visiting Russia in 2002 and seeing the psychological and spiritual damage done by Communism to the very soul of many of the people. That system built a psychology of dependency that has made it difficult for the country to recover from. The economic costs and even the millions killed can be chalked up to authoritarians of all ideologies; communist control was an attack on the soul; and 3) learning about Muhammad Yunus and his micro-credit system in more detail, and realizing that the way to get people to develop and take control of their lives is to give them opportunity, not a hand out. This is the real third way between socialism and neo-liberalism.

My ideals even when my thinking was more to the left have always been libertarian — it’s always been about wanting people to have opportunities to exercise their freedom, and to be confident and take responsibility for their lives and choices. Those core values are consistent. However, I’ve become far more cynical about government acting as a force for good — power corrupts, as they say, and bureaucracies stifle initiative and create inefficiencies. I’m still not happy with the current system of course and still assessing and working through my beliefs — which is why I read this blog and examine other arguments, both political and ideological. I’m a pragmatic libertarian, meaning I recognize that choices are not simply ’right or wrong.’ So you can puzzle that I was for a national health care system at one point and now am not. You can theorize that for some odd reason I’d publicly post arguments in favor of things I secretely do not believe. That’s fine. I’m not going to argue about that stuff. But if you want to discuss ideas, I will — because I’m convinced that the path to wisdom begins with the words "I might be wrong." That’s why you won’t see me in some kind of left vs. right jihad.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Boris Erb writes:
So you can puzzle that I was for a national health care system at one point and now am not. You can theorize that for some odd reason I’d publicly post arguments in favor of things I secretely do not believe. That’s fine. I’m not going to argue about that stuff. But if you want to discuss ideas, I will — because I’m convinced that the path to wisdom begins with the words "I might be wrong." That’s why you won’t see me in some kind of left vs. right jihad.
Ah, Boris, you’ve been dissembling* and outright lying for so long that you have no credibility on any matter.

You write "I’m a pragmatic libertarian, meaning I recognize that choices are not simply ’right or wrong.’"

Hell, Boris, weren’t you a "Left libertarian" just a while ago?

Or is that now a "label," in your terminology, whereas "pragmatic libertarian" is just, what, a state of being, and since all being is, really, so temporary, just another one of your temporary postions? Is it more or less as temporary as your definitions of socialism?

You say you "re-read Hayek?" It seems like five minutes ago you were going on about how Marx, "though he made errors," was a genius.

Will you read from Hayek at your "Sunday school?" Will there be no "right or wrong" choices at your Sunday school as well?

Don’t get me wrong, Boris. I don’t want you to jump out of a window. That would be wrong.

* dis·sem·ble
1 : to hide under a false appearance
2 : to put on the appearance of : SIMULATE
intransitive verb : to put on a false appearance : conceal facts, intentions, or feelings under some pretense
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
Bithead, I have posted very clearly my views on welfare
Yes, you have... and I and several others keep beating you about the head and shoulders with them. The quote, and the link to it speaks loudly to both that, and your position. But I take it, from the rest of your comments, that we are not to take that statement is your current position? Are we now have to assume, that you’ve pulled a 180? Here’s a hint; you haven’t made it all the way around, yet, or even most of the way. Given the reactions you’re getting here, and elsewhere, even from people who didn’t even know you, back then, it appears to me you have some work to do in that area, at least.

After your long track record on the subject, it’s going to take some serious convincing, Scott. David Horowitz went through a process similar to what you’re claiming you’re going through now. Somehow I don’t think I’m going to see you being as successful at it. I see you going through the questioning process, Scott, but you still haven’t arrived at fundamentals, as he did. Principles. (Gee, where have we heard that word from recently?) You still can’t bring yourself to dismiss the idea is on which those monstrosities, such as the soviet Union, and the welfare state here in the US, were founded.
My ideals even when my thinking was more to the left have always been libertarian — it’s always been about wanting people to have opportunities to exercise their freedom, and to be confident and take responsibility for their lives and choices. Those core values are consistent
And of course you extended their freedom, by taking away from them. Yeah, that’ll work. If you’re telling us the truth,(and I think that an over large assumption) you saw the results of that in 2002. Of course if you were telling the truth, you’d know that libertarianism and the, socialism you been pushing over the years, are about as far up as it of each other as two things could possibly be.

You wanna know what your biggest problem is, Scott? Your inability to admit you are/were wrong. You still cling to little bits and pieces of socialism... that disproven, monstrous way of thinking. It shows up in your posts which is precisely why even people who didn’t know you back then gave you a hard time today. The fact is, the socialism which you historically espoused, leaks through in your posts of today. Every single one.

That’s why you’ve been spending all your time on the defensive lately. When you can actually deal from principle, and understand it, I expect most of those problems will disappear.

I can’t say I’ll be disappointed if it happens, but I also can’t say I’m overly excited about the chances of it.






 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
You say you "re-read Hayek?
Maybe Scott meant Salma Hayek...
 
Written By: meagain
URL: http://
megain, You’ve been spending entirely too much time with Drezner.... :-D
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
Bithead, I didn’t read the link you posted because it’s irrelevant. If you want to talk about my position now, we can. If I held different positions in the past on a variety of issues (which I agree I did) then fine. I went from more left-libertarian to pragmatic libertarian. But I will NEVER be anywhere close to Horowitz who went from far left to far right (thankfully he’s faded from the spotlight after a brief grab of attention). He is not libertarian of any sort, but conveys an authoritarian attitude. I’ve been wrong on numerous things and have admited so directly (even in Q&O comments) when corrected. You seem to be doing everything you can to avoid actually talking about anything of substance, wanting instead to talk about me. Your interest in me is flattering, but I prefer to discuss ideas.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Bithead, I didn’t read the link you posted because it’s irrelevant.
I notice that anything you cannot argue against is immediately in your mind relegated to the irrelevancy. You certainly thought the contents of that link relevant when you wrote them. Their your words. Now suddenly, there are relevant. That figures. Nothing has changed here, either. This is a tricky been pulling since the late nineties. Are you beginning to understand why I’ve refused to take you seriously for a decade, now?

As for the rest, that’s precisely my point; it is about the ideas as it always has been. The inherent in the discussion, is an assessment of right and wrong... A concept which you completely and routinely denied. You have not been able to bring yourself past that yet, and I doubt you will.

In the hope you might, Allow me to offer you a bit of educational advice, both in all seriousness and to illustrate my point;

I would urge you to read Robert Conquest’s book "The Great Terror". the book was originally published in 68, and I honestly don’t know whether not it’s still a publication. I’ll bet you can find it used, somewhere. But in Conquest we have someone who joined the communist party of great Britain in the thirties. Sometime thereafter, much as you claim, he went to the Soviet Union and saw the results of the non thought he’d been preaching. It was enough to cure him. Ever after... (And if he’s alive today he’d be in his 90’s, I think) ... he was among the most staunch anti-socialists you could think of.

And of course Horowitz went far right. So did Conquest. That’s because they recognized that the principles that they were pursuing were 180° out of phase with reality. You may learn something, but I tend to doubt it.

And don’t mistake by responding to you in a semi-civil tone, for interest in you. You haven’t managed operate from principals yet. Therefore, it is you that are irrelevant. What is relevant, is the principle. The ideas. And that’s why I’m responding.... to defeat that which argues against both.

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
My thinking is far different than the right wing, I’ll never go there. I think some people have a personality that leads them to need to embrace an extreme theory, to have some "theory of the world" that they can have faith in, a sort of secular religion. Such people veer from far left to far right. I moved from being in the libertarian party (and voting libertarian in my first election, the candidate was Ed Clark) to being more of a social democrat/left-libertarian in the nineties, and now am drifting back towards where I started, but with a more pragmatic understanding of the limits of both government and the market in terms of dealing with the complexity of the real world. The core point for me is individual liberty and the need for people to confidently take responsibility for their choices, and act not based on social expectations (conformism) or on how they were programmed to think by priests, parents, or teachers, but on their own personal reflection about the world. You talk of principles, Bithead, but I don’t know if you understand what they mean. Here are my core principles:

1. Every human has inherent value, and should be treated as subjects, not objects.
2. Humans should not be used as a means to an end, but seen as ends in and of themselves.
3. Principles are best demonstrated in how one deals with others (e.g., someone might claim to be a strong Christian, but if they are cruel, degrading and meanspirited, it is a sign that they really aren’t living by principle). Thus I strive (often failing!) to treat others with respect and kindness.
4. Humans achieve more when they are optimistic, confident, and take responsibility for their lives and choices. Governments or social structures that work against that work against the human spirit.
5. I have a strong spiritual belief that is rather neo-Platonist. Followinig Plotinus, I think that all of existence is united, and we are all parts of the same "all that is," experiencing reality from different perspectives. I cannot prove this, nor do I expect others to share this belief (though it is very similar to the kind of theology Augustine created for the early church — he read Plotinus and injected early Christian theology with neo-Platonist ideas, the trinity is platonic).

That’s enough for now. I love discussing ideas; political games get boring, however.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Every human has inherent value, and should be treated as subjects, not objects
Demonstrably false. there is, after all, the occasional who has no value whatsoever, and should be treated as target practice. The track, in terms of principle, is the ability to tell the difference between the two. Your statement suggests you of yet to learn that.
Humans should not be used as a means to an end, but seen as ends in and of themselves.
Again, wrong, at least partially. when one thinks of the generational aspect of the human existence, one realizes that they have never been anything but a means to an end... the end being the welfare of the next generation. Or, as Justin Hayward put it, (since my MP3 picked up that song just now) "I’m just another step along the way."

Principles are best demonstrated in how one deals with others (e.g., someone might claim to be a strong Christian, but if they are cruel, degrading and meanspirited, it is a sign that they really aren’t living by principle). Thus I strive (often failing!) to treat others with respect and kindness.
That would seem to depend utterly on what you call cruel degrading and mean spirited. As a fairly loose example, consider the discussions that invariably arise when one starts making judgments of right or wrong. We’ve been hearing this a lot about lifestyle choices lately; anyone making a judgment in that area is being "cruel degrading and mean spirited", when in fact they’re being nothing of the sort. Once again, reality is whatever Scott says it is.
Humans achieve more when they are optimistic, confident, and take responsibility for their lives and choices. Governments or social structures that work against that work against the human spirit.
How very interesting. Scott Erb, graduate of the school of Ronald Reagan.
You talk of principles, Bithead, but I don’t know if you understand what they mean.
I wonder the same thing of you. I’m looking for principles, Scott... as in "a fundamental, primary, or general law or truth from which others are derived" What you’ve given me is platitudes, as in "A trite or banal remark or statement, especially one expressed as if it were original or significant." Not a surprise, since you have always demonstrated an ability to come up with the latter, and have never displayed an understanding of, much less an adherence to, the former.




 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
Wow, you don’t believe that humans have inherent value, and shouldn’t be treated as subjects? Bithead, you oppose natural rights, and the basic ideals of the founders. Fine, but I certainly can’t agree with you there. I’m beginning to think you lack principles, Bithead. You talk about "principles" in general, but you don’t ever state what principles you believe in, and you seem to be denying the principles our country was founded upon.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Boris Erb lists his core principles:
1. Every human has inherent value, and should be treated as subjects, not objects.
Yet, Boris, you have stated flatly that there is no such thing as a natural right to one’s own life, and insist that you have no natural right to your own life. And, of course, you’re a believer in abortion. So "inherent value" doesn’t inhere too deeply, does it?

Further, you misunderstand the meanings of subject and object. The inherent value of human beings, for instance, is objectively present.
2. Humans should not be used as a means to an end, but seen as ends in and of themselves.
That would mean, Boris, that an insurance company, for instance, would run afoul of your principles if it required its salesmen to turn a profit, because that would be using the salesmen as a means to an end. In fact, the platitudinous premise of this principle is a negation of human economy, where we use thousands of individuals each day as a means to our ends, usually in the most benign sense of "use."
3. Principles are best demonstrated in how one deals with others (e.g., someone might claim to be a strong Christian, but if they are cruel, degrading and meanspirited, it is a sign that they really aren’t living by principle). Thus I strive (often failing!) to treat others with respect and kindness.
Did someone hurt your feelings, Boris?

And, by the way, dissembling, mendacity, eelishness, and outright lying does not constitute "treat[ing] others with respect and kindness."
4. Humans achieve more when they are optimistic, confident, and take responsibility for their lives and choices. Governments or social structures that work against that work against the human spirit.
Why do I sense the Erbian eel at work in that oozing platiple (the merger of platitude and principle)? Well, taking responsibility for ones life and choices is often grim work, about which one might be foolish to be optimistic or pessimistic. Confidence is certainly helpful, but circumstances often break confidence. Freedom, Boris, is hard. (Although tenure helps, doesn’t it, because in fact once you have it there isn’t all that much responsibility attached. You could, for instance, miseducate three generations without so much as being called to task for it, or required to refund a penny.) Also, Boris, I worry when narcissists begin prattling on about "the human spirit." It’s cognitively dissonant.

Human beings reach beyond themselves when they face serious challenges that they have a chance to overcome. That’s why America is so successful. It’s hard. But it can be done.
5. I have a strong spiritual belief that is rather neo-Platonist. Followinig Plotinus, I think that all of existence is united, and we are all parts of the same "all that is," experiencing reality from different perspectives.
Are you saying that the universe is "one big note," Boris? It’s amusing how you manage to repackage your totalizing concept of humanity.
I cannot prove this, nor do I expect others to share this belief (though it is very similar to the kind of theology Augustine created for the early church — he read Plotinus and injected early Christian theology with neo-Platonist ideas, the trinity is platonic).
Well, why would you expect others to share such an obscure and half-formed belief?

And actually, Boris, the Trinity is derived from scripture, and was not invented by Augustine. He developed the theology from the theological work of even earlier Church fathers. His study of Plato or Plotinus might have influenced the way he thought, but the Trinity is not per se Platonic.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
Boris Erb writes:
Wow, you don’t believe that humans have inherent value, and shouldn’t be treated as subjects? Bithead, you oppose natural rights, and the basic ideals of the founders. Fine, but I certainly can’t agree with you there. I’m beginning to think you lack principles, Bithead. You talk about "principles" in general, but you don’t ever state what principles you believe in, and you seem to be denying the principles our country was founded upon.
Ah, Boris, when did you start believing in natural rights and "the principles our country was founded upon?"

Did you have a Road to Damascus event, after berating natural rights ad infinitum for so long?

Or are you playing "let’s pretend," again?
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
"visiting Russia in 2002 and seeing the psychological and spiritual damage done by Communism to the very soul of many of the people. That system built a psychology of dependency that..."

For someone who claims to have read so much you obviously learned little from it. Some of us knew this long before 2002 and without having to go there. Perhaps Solzhenitsin(didn’t he live in Maine?), Pasternak, etc. weren’t on your reading list.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
The reason is simple enough, Tim... he simply discounted the facts being presented to him, that didn’t fit with his world view. That is, until such time as he was forced into acknowledging it by seeing it firsthand.

That’s the process, pretty much, that Conquest describes... as does Horowitz. Which, by the way, is precisely why I originally brought both of them up.

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us

 
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