Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Fundamental Error

Big, unlimited government causes corruption in business and government to thrive. Heavy and byzantine regulation and taxation turn government into a crony-capitalist, fascistic, money-laundering operation. We're all familiar with this. This is the issue. If you're a liberal, you see this issue in terms of the rich being on the take and the poor getting left behind.

The error is to suppose that empowering government to fix this problem is a good idea. Government has caused the problem by being given too much power. Giving it more power only exacerbates the problem. And this is where we find ourselves: out of money and drowning in corruption.

Suppose you have a mafia gang in your neighborhood. It gets power and starts dealing influence and favors, stealing from the residents, and restricting liberty. The situation becomes very bad, with corruption, poverty, and economic decline. So, you hope to clean it up by calling for the mafia gang to get more power. This is an error.

There is a matter of luck at play. Our military has enormous power. Yet it is full of honorable people, just by our good luck. Our government has a fair amount of honorable people in it, but not nearly enough to counterbalance the dishonorable ones. If you empower a government body, you better be lucky enough to have that body peopled by honorable men. In the case of government outside of the military, you aren't so lucky. Stop making this mistake. Your luck isn't going to change.

The Founding Fathers wanted government to be restricted, hog-tied, and severely limited to enumerated powers, so it couldn't wreak havoc of the kind it is wreaking now, 200 years later. They knew we wouldn't be lucky. They knew there would be corruption. Please try to revisit this vision of government. It is correct. The progressive vision - the vision driving American federal and state government for the last 100 years - is an error. Please try to give up on the "But if we just..." reflex which drives you to suppose that there are governmental solutions to this problem. These solutions are 2000-page bills that feed the parasite that is killing you.

The choice is small, limited government or big, unlimited government. There is no third way. Big, unlimited government isn't the solution; it's the problem. If you can't see this, you'll keep making the same error over and over again. Please reconsider the Founding Fathers' vision.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Social Contract

The left is talking about social contract. The idea is that the rich didn't really earn their money alone. They earned it partly because they relied on workers and the government. So they should to give a lot more of the money to the government than they already do and the government will distribute the funds to the workers in the form of welfare payments.

Unfortunately, this argument works for the non-rich, too. They have houses and cars. They got these in part because there is a government and because there are rich people. Therefore, they need to give a lot more of their wealth to the government which will give it to the rich. Indeed, the argument is more robust when it runs in this direction because the non-rich contribute very little to tax revenue while the rich account for almost all of it. The argument, if sound, shows that the rich are exploiters of the non-rich and the non-rich are freeloaders. Indeed, it shows that both groups should pay far more in taxes than they do now.

So, the argument isn't sound. What went wrong? The argument is based on the idea that since an individual earns wealth in a social group, if it's a lot he owes more of that wealth to the group than he has already paid back to it. Always more. He always owes more. What's "a lot"? Who knows. The poor have houses, HVAC and cars. That's a lot. The premise is barely cogent, let alone a good basis for an argument. But when uttered emotionally by candidate the U.S. Senate such as Elizabeth Warren, it inspires voters. I'm sure she will win because Massachusetts residents will be moved by her emoting. In the hands of Gates and others it has inspired youngsters to "occupy" Wall Street and gripe about rich bankers, global warming and genetically engineered food. It's poppycock.

What would a good social contract require? Its justice would require that every adult who can work pay the same absolute amount in taxes. Since everyone is equal and everyone commonly enjoys the protections of government, everyone should pay the same absolute amount. Not only is progressive taxation unfair to the rich, but even a flat tax is unfair. The amounts paid in taxes by each individual should be absolutely the same.

There are two caveats to this principle. First, we may require a government that is too costly to be born if we stick closely to this principle of taxation. So, we may need to increase the tax requirements on the wealthy just enough to support a functioning government. This is a just caveat if we cannot in fact have a society without these increased payments. Second, a good social contract requires that when innocents fall into dire straits through no fault of their own, their fellows - family, members of their community, or the government as an instrument of the latter - come to their aid when it is reasonable to do so. Yet, this caveat may itself have a caveat that charity should not be entrusted to the government but left in private hands. So, this caveat does not by itself support the view that a good social contract requires a welfare state.

In any event, a reasonable concept of social contract implies limits on governmental power. When you have an unreasonable concept of social contract, you tend to overlook the wisdom of these limits.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Take account of the plethora of opportunities available to you; use your imagination. The liberty to be oneself is of unsurpassed preciousness. What threatens it is big government, criminals, poverty, war and similarly debilitating conditions in which a person or circumstances rule over a person, making him unable to fulfill himself in his life. This liberty is a crown jewel in Western political theory. It is an object of devotion in the eyes of the American Constitution. Imagination is funny, but a liberty from governmental, criminal and poverty-induced regimes of behavior are its siblings. They thrive together. One discovers a course for one's life which is among the best things one can do with one's liberty, in view of one's preferences, talents, and circumstances. (There is something deeply human and personal about the value of liberty, even though liberty itself is a pretty starkly simple concept.)

The free human spirit loves the imagination. It makes clear for that spirit which paths make sense. Imagination sees how things fit together under various scenarios, so that we can judge which path to prefer. It should go without saying that logic and empirical evidence are also important in choosing a path of action or way of life. But imagination lets you see. It is like the illustrations, figures, photos and other visual bits in a book, only it's not limited to the visual faculty alone.

You need to think through your own talents and where they might lead. What do you have to offer that people need? See whether you can imagine it. What would you prefer to do over the course of you life? See whether you can imagine that, as well. In each case, you need facts about people, inferential powers, and the imagination to project a way of dealing appropriately with the former.

There should be no holding you back if you can only get a good hold of yourself in that place, where you love yourself and feel powerful enough to be yourself splendidly because the circumstances are such that you are free. This is the key blessing of the American political system. The American people could cease to care about this only if they forget forget this. Don't forget it. Dig deep within yourself. You have a reservoir of talents and intelligence and drive to tap into. You must protect the political circumstances which protect your free exercise of the right to do so.

Kkeep close tabs on the facts about human beings and yourself in particular and the facts about your circumstances. See whether you can understand human nature generally and also your particular character and circumstances. The American dream is closely tied to reality. It is not unmoored but free.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Term Right

I'm thinking of the political noun, such as it is, not the moral adjective which we use to describe actions. The political noun is rubbish at this point.

The term has been perverted through long use of a certain type, namely to denote the competitor to the leftist using the therm. This competitor could be law-and-order societies stamping down on the leftist's goal of disorder or violent revolution. Or it could be a another leftist organization competing for power with that of the speaker. It could be some people whom the leftist has targeted for plunder.

It is in these ways a speaker-relative term (where the speaker is a leftist.) What semantic connection it may have had to conservatism is now well trodden under by ambiguity. It's a severe ambiguity, with occasional incoherence between "my competitor" and "conservative." It puts Hitler in with the set of conservatives, which demonstrates that its shared meaning is absurd. It is now a semantically broken term and may as well be abandoned.