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December 02, 2009

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Doesn't add up.

I don't know, this seems to go hand in hand with the polls that show the military is the most respected institution in government (if not U.S. society as a whole). Thus, if they're sent to do something, they are provided with all the resources they need because to not do so is abandoning the troops or to believe that they can't accomplish their mission is also abandoning them (if a few thousand of them get killed trying to accomplish the impossible, well it's the democrats fault, not the guy that sent them to do the deed in the first place).

But if the IRS wants a few more auditors to clamp down on the tax cheats, screw 'em, bureaucratic wankers who waste my tax money (even though such an expenditure would pay for itself several times over).

That none of this makes any sense just means we're insane, and is a feature, not a bug, to those in charge.

I'll just reiterate my point that infrastructure and transportation in the US is paid for primarily via the HTF, itself primarily funded by fuel taxes.

So they're not really in conflict as budget priorities...

So they're not really in conflict as budget priorities

Infrastructure is not limited to roads and transportation.

Electrical grids? Communications networks? Pipelines? (I'm an EE, so I threw in pipelines to be nice.)

Sewer networks & upgraded wastewater treatment plants? SUPERTRAINS? Non-coal power systems? Superfund sites? Brownfield reclamation and development? Building rehab? Bridges? Levees? (I'm a CE, so I threw in the power plants to be nice :) )

Broadband

It's simple, really. Money spent on big projects in the USA might help poor minorities, which is unacceptable to the important bigot vote. OTOH, money spend on massive projects overseas helps KBR and other big, politically connected contractors. Is it any surprise where our money winds up going?

I'll just reiterate my point that infrastructure and transportation in the US is paid for primarily via the HTF, itself primarily funded by fuel taxes.

I'll confess, I consider 51 percent a somewhat unorthodox definition of "primarily." Although I suppose the nested primarilies could naturally reduce to a bare majority.

Sorry, mds, I thought we were talking about federal revenue for projects -- I wasn't even looking at how states typically pitch in, which they almost always do.

Also, IG, some of the examples mentioned -- high-speed rail (aka SUPERTRAINS) and bridges -- are also funded by the HTF, while others -- aka pipelines* -- are built with neither federal nor state money, and do well enough.

*Maybe other examples, but I knew pipelines, since they're under similar authorities (e.g. TNI) as transportation

Pick a state, visit the state offices and the major cities, and you can identify from tens to hundreds of millions of dollars worth of software systems development needed in each of them (I used to be a software guy, and I'm not throwing in anything for the CEs or EEs 'cause software is always way down on the list).

Could we count properly staffing all of the DMVs, unemployment offices, etc, countrywide, so the waiting lines aren't so long as a huge public works project? Sometimes simple things like that, that make government work better, rather than a three hour wait, can do more to restore people's confidence in government than any number of showy projects.

Also, yeah, antiquated software and machines are a bane on city, county, and state governments. I know software guys and was almost one. :)

More generally -- it is true "Infrastructure is not limited to roads and transportation, but in practice, it mostly is.

Looking at the rest of the general non-HTF ideas*, I can see the outlines of a decent second stimulus proposal, and many things that can easily curb into current administration priorities (e.g. green jobs).

So here's my idea -- let's say we put together a rough draft for a super-projects bill, then estimate the cost.

If it doesn't come to that much -- which, in total, could actually be up to a trillion dollars, since deficit spending for jobs creation makes a lot of economic sense at present -- I think that would show it to be less a question of budget priority, and more an actual political aversion to government taking on large domestic problems (aka "big government").

Anyway, for the super-project rough draft proposal: of the proposals so far remaining, these look like the big (ie expensive) ones:

Electrical grids (let's say a nationwide "smart grid") -- est. cost $400 billion
New power systems -- let's say we go really expensive and double the number of nuclear power plants with 100 new ones** -- est. cost $200 billion
Broadband -- I've actually got no idea; $100 billion? At any rate, it won't lack for private partners***...

So there you go*^; $700 billion (more or less) in one year, and we've gotten the most expensive proposals done.

*with the exception of "communications networks", which are private (at least nowadays) and not doing badly

**now, TBS, we could also get a lot more bang for the buck if we used this money to build plants using more renewable energy, and the government wouldn't lack for private investors; OTOH, with this you're going to get at least some Republican support (or indications they would like to support it)

***Actually, I think I read a case for treating broadband like transportation somewhere, so using HTF funds aren't out of the question

*^Levees, while certainly necessary, actually, not much; New Orleans reconstructed levees were estimated at $10 billion back in 2006

On this point I'm a little unsure, but I would think buying software for use for municipalities would be relatively cheap, since we're primarily dealing with IP; most of it would be in the contract negotiations. Am I wrong?

Visit Naked Capitalism and read up a bit on Japan's failure to spur renewed economic growth with large public works spending after their real estate bubble collapse.

Not that I'm saying we don't need the investment. We do.

Quick adjustment to 10:38 comment:

estimated federal share of smart grid would probably be something like $200 billion; private partners hopefuls would probably form a line around the city

so the big proposals are more like half a trillion; like I said, more than doable in a year; and not really a question of budget priority question

A lot of these are things we should be building anyway, regardless of their current stimulus effect or lack thereof. Living off the aging infrastructure of the 30s-60s is not a long term solution.

bobbyp, are there any particular posts you have in mind? As a reaction, without knowing what points you have in mind, is that there are some systemic problems with large public works spending in Japan that are responsible for lack of economic growth that are separate from consideration of whether public works spending works.

So far as I can tell (and I stand ready to be corrected by any of you conservatives out there), right wing/semi-libertarian thought goes something like this. Government is evil and dangerous. It should therefore be limited to its bare essential functions. These consist primarily of armies, police and prisons. Since these are clearly necessary, any objections to government don't apply to them. It is only when government expands (dare I say metastasizes) beyond its proper bounds that it becomes dangerous.

Milions for defense, but not one cent for tribute!

" It is only when government expands (dare I say metastasizes) beyond its proper bounds that it becomes dangerous."

Nah, even within its proper bounds government is dangerous, it's just that THAT increment of danger is largely unavoidable.

And you're downplaying the evil aspect. To the extent that government can do anything that can't be accomplished in the private sector, it's because government is free to do things we recognize as evil if done in the private sector. And really ought to recognize as evil when done by government, too. Theft, assault, extortion, kidnapping. The government engages in all these activities on a routine basis, it just uses a parallel vocabulary for them.

When you're talking about some activity which is genuinely necessary, and simply can't be done in the private sector, you've got some kind of necessity defense available to you, the evil is at least a necessary evil. But when the government gets into activities which are optional, or which could have been done in the private sector, without recourse to evil, the resultant evil isn't necessary, and has no defense.

A further point, on the danger axis, is that we have a constitution for a very limited government, at least on the federal level. To the extent we find ways to relax enforcement of those limits to enable government to do things outside it's allotted domain, we increase the danger by weakening the rule of law.

Hope that clarified things for you, EL.

Let us give our President the Benefit of the Doubt and here is why....

After great Deliberation and Agony, Pres. Obama called for an Escalation of the "struggle" but he also Coupled it with an End date of this Struggle by military might and because of that (end date), I have Hope that soon the Long Nightmare of the twin wars, ignited by the twin towers will be over.

I saw in Pres. Obama a heart that bleeds for this decision for anyone whose heart center is open and active feels the pain of this task, yet, speaking with a Heavy Heart, I also heard in that speech the unspoken wish or Intent that he was going to also bring Bin Laden to justice ( the great Prize and Symbol)! I also heard the great Urgency he feels to bind up all loose nuclear threats and to prevent them from getting into those hands within Afghanistan and Pakistan which might annihilate the world as we know it. He has not made this this "call to arms" for Oil or for profit based upon a lie but a heartfelt desire to keep safe the people in the world, in the binding up of these nuclear threats to the world by this faction which he knows is still out there plotting to do harm! That in this way we are Standing up for Peace and that somehow we must go into Hell for a Heavenly cause.

I heard him also say to the Military Industrial Complex Machine that there will be an end date, and that it will not be open-ended, but that the battle for peace might call for other strategic ways to get to this goal -- that giving the benefit of the doubt to his generals -- he will try their way (since they are so much more knowledgeable about military than him).
As, he spoke about true security from a world without nuclear weapons (his real true goal), he also spoke about the need to unite with the world to accomplish this task because in truth, terror and nuclear weapons is a world problem! And finally, he called us to the time after 9/11, when we were all united but got deviated from the course, but to return to that Unity of purpose, one more time.... and that if he is lucky, he will bring home the Prize, Bin Ladin, break the back of this threat, and then for the weary and battle scarred-soldiers they can look onward and say, well done -- yet, there's no place like home, there's no place like home!

Let us trust " that there is a goodness in all of life that cannot even be eliminated by thoughts that temporarily cause you to believe that negativity is the underlying reality of human life on earth... " (1) Let us call on that goodness to illuminate our way forward towards that peace and goodwill and seal the door where evil dwells.

1. Ron Scolastico. Doorway to the Soul

Money spent on big projects in the USA might help poor minorities, which is unacceptable to the important bigot vote.

Interesting how many ways the other guys can be painted as racist.

Probably we're slaughtering darker peoples abroad, too, because we're not permitted to slaughter them at home? Just guessing, here.

lib-japonicus: I was referring to this post:

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2009/12/in-the-eye-of-the-storm-updating-the-economics-of-global-turbulence.html

Read the links therein. Robert Brenner has moved up on my reading list.

To be fair, I think you would find that most (or at least many) conservatives who favor lots of military spending but hate domestic spending do *not* have an "overarching faith in the ability of the government to achieve grandiose social engineering objectives abroad in cultures it doesn't understand or have any meaningful connection to." Some do, or claim to, and those people are either very confused or dishonest. Maybe both.

The conservatism I remember (and one that I think still exists in many actual Americans, as opposed to talking heads on TeeVee) absolutely HATED nation-building projects.

When right-wingers use humanitarian/nation-building language, they're co-opting it from "liberal hawk" types to bolster their argument for war. That they needed to do this in the case of, say, Iraq, should've been a red flag. It was for me! This is one of the reasons that neo-conservatism is such a bloody mess.

If you cannot build a convincing case for war without claiming that you're doing it for the good of the people you're about to blast to hell... Houston, you have a problem.

[/end rant]

To be fair, I think you would find that most (or at least many) conservatives who favor lots of military spending but hate domestic spending do *not* have an "overarching faith in the ability of the government to achieve grandiose social engineering objectives abroad in cultures it doesn't understand or have any meaningful connection to."

I think this used to be the case, but not since neoconservatism overtook the GOP. There is no real strong voice in the conservative movement that stands opposed to neocon doctrine.

Buchanan, on occasion, but then he often lapses into "cut and run" rhetoric in favor of ongoing occupation.

Bacevich and Larison are notable, but notable because they are the exceptions, not the rule. Will can be brought around as well. But, again, these are marginalized voices.

Slartibartfast: Interesting how many ways the other guys can be painted as racist.

You think there's no racial aspect to it? Former RNC Chairman Lee Atwater recognized the origin of some of those policies.

You start out in 1954 by saying, “N*gger, n*gger, n*gger.” By 1968 you can't say “nigger”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.

we have a constitution for a very limited government, at least on the federal level.

Can you please explain what you mean by this?

"Very limited", how? What activities or responsibilities, either specifically or as a class, are prohibited to the federal government?

I don't mean prohibited to one branch or actor within the government, I mean to the federal government in its entirety.

I understand that there are lots of folks in the US who would *prefer* that the government be as small as possible.

What I'm looking for is where that preference is embodied and made mandatory in the Constitution.

Brett,

Concrete examples of government theft, assault, kidnapping and extortion outside the military and law enforcement context would be helpful. One of the reasons we liberals consider military, police and prisons as the most dangerous (though also most necessary) aspects of government is preciscely because they are the ones with the most coercive power.

Former RNC Chairman Lee Atwater recognized the origin of some of those policies.

Which policies are you referring to? Do you think that deciding to fight wars abroad as...lemme see if I've got this right...the only way we can keep from helping poor minorities in America, or even the best of a bunch of alternatives, that's a matter of policy?

Either way, I have no idea what you could be thinking, here.

Thanks for the pointer bobbyp. This reply is going to be a bit of a ramble, because I think it is important to know previous positions. R Taggert Murphy, who writes the analysis, is iirc often been put in a group of people called 'revisionists' in regard to Japan. While I think that revisionists had very good observations about when folks were arguing that Japan was going to be No 1, I think that some of them have overstated the degree of planning and foresight of the Japanese government.

Murphy has often argued that Japan's problems were the result of elite's planning them that way with the eventual aim being financial domination of the world. This makes it sound a bit kooky, but I don't think I am exaggerating. This Japan Focus article and this one gives a taste of that vibe. Now, I'm no economist, but Brennan's arguments are that somehow Japan's problems foreshadow America's and this is specifically countered by Richard Katz.

Now, the argumentation about Marxist interpretations of economic trends and such are way above my pay grade, but I still think that rather than a planned crisis created by the Japanese, the more realistic explanation is that of Wolferen, that Japan is like a supertanker which doesn't really have anyone steering it. And my read is that I take the failure of Japanese public works investments is less associated with a flaw in the general idea and more a flaw with the way it is carried out here.

When you're talking about some activity which is genuinely necessary, and simply can't be done in the private sector, you've got some kind of necessity defense available to you, the evil is at least a necessary evil. But when the government gets into activities which are optional, or which could have been done in the private sector, without recourse to evil, the resultant evil isn't necessary, and has no defense.

The problem I have with this line of argumentation is that it conflates moral arguments and practical arguments into a big sticky mess. In practice, attempting to address one of the sides of the argument leads to refutations from the other (ie attempts to practically justify the NHS lead to arguments about whether government is inherently evil, attempts to use the evil argument against other types of spending lead to arguments about practicality/necessity).
Of course, I think neither set of positions is correct (ie I think that painting all government action as immoral is mistaken, and I also think that, if something is immoral, then practical excuses ought to be irrelevant- we don't embrace evil out of convenience, or if we do we rarely brag about it)- but again, in practice one is never permitted to get to the nut of either case, as once the conservative is given the power to define both evil and necessity the ground can be shifted around to prevent either position from being probed.
nb for lefties: I think the only way to handle this, should it occur, is to ask that only one of the two propositions be debated at a given time.

Even if the government is evil, wouldn't one have to demonstrate that the private sector is less so before suggesting that the private sector handle everything it possibly can? What makes the private sector (i.e. a bunch of people) so much more trustworthy than the government (i.e. a bunch of people)? I'm sure it has something to do with guys with guns and jails, which we've already agreed we can't do away with and which have nothing to do with, say, who provides health insurance.

These discussions are so fruitless, if sometimes fun, because they're so vague and over-generalized. To get anywhere, you have to pick a given policy and discuss it in detail. These broad government=evil versus government=good arguments are a bunch of fluff.

The majority (still) of Murkins are self-consciously 'white.' They conflate domestic spending with support for all the 'colored' people--racially, socially, economically, linguistically 'different'--whom they detest, and who are always the most publicized--if not the most numerous or the most generously--beneficiaries of public largess.

That 'white' majority has been told for 60 years that social expenditures on the marginalized people is "wasted." They would rather feel 'moral' and 'patriotic' by spending money on the blighted of the world, --or on military/Imperialistic adventurism-- than see 'their tax dollars' used to improve the lot of those who they detest, from socio-politico-economic motives, even if it means their own positions would also be improved by the domestic expenditures...

It's textbook (albeit subliminal) 'institutional'/structural racism (as if there were any other kind).

EL, kinda silly to demand "Concrete examples of government theft, assault, kidnapping and extortion outside the... " context in which government typically engages in these activities.

Wu, I would agree that, "painting all government action as immoral is mistaken,"; Government does evil to obtain it's funding, for instance, but doesn't necessarily do evil in the spending. It's just that evil is what government brings to the table, that you can't get elsewhere. (and get away with it...) If you don't need evil committed to achieve your end, you've got no need to involve government. If people want to buy what you're selling, you don't need to tax them to pay for it, for instance.

If people want to buy what you're selling, you don't need to tax them to pay for it, for instance.

Unless you want them to be able to travel via a road to get it. Or if you want the ability to ship it to them. Or get parts shipped to you. Or have workers educated enough to make the product, etc.

If people want to buy what you're selling, you don't need to tax them to pay for it, for instance.

Luckily for Brett, he never had to shop at the company store back in the day in the old mining town, free-market paradise that it was.

Here's the thing, Brett. Most of us are on a different wavelength from you, so a certain amount of clarification is necessary for me always to get at what you are saying. (And, conversely, feel free to ask me for clarification of my viewpoints if you need it).

So let's see if I understand where we are. I think you and I agree that armies, police and prisons are dangerous because of their inherently coercive nature, but nonetheless necessary. I think you are now saying these are where government "assault, kidnapping and extortion" are located. As for government's other roles, they are "merely" theft because all taxes are theft. Taxes have to be tolerated as a necessary evil, but should be limited to what is absolutely necessary.

Am I understanding you right?

Oh, come now, hairshirthedonist, the workers could have always moved to another company town if they didn't like it.

Also, the company town wasn't a genuine free market, since its monopoly was maintained by a captive big government. Or by Pinkerton's, which is somehow almost always missing when all the "no true Scotsman" labels start flying. Heck, if the workers didn't like being coerced by a private army, they could always have hired their own. Individually, of course, since laborers banding together into collectives is also evil.

EL, pretty much.

Government does evil to obtain it's funding, for instance, but doesn't necessarily do evil in the spending.

I think it's a mistake to even invoke moral values here, but if we're willing to live with a certain amount of 'evil' to eg effectively fund national defense, then why would we not also be willing to live with a little bit of 'evil' to eg effectively fund transportation? Both are critical to the long-term health of the nation.

It just looks like an unseemly coincidence- government spending is funded by 'evil' and must therefore be minimized to what it absolutely necessary, and it turns out that Brett's policy preferences are the necessary things and the other things not so much.

And I still don't see any justification in that explanation for why we should be acting in an evil manner. If taxes are evil, then we ought not levy taxes. One doesn't justify immoral actions by their practical benefits.

I take it no one here is from Boston? It was hard for me to get past the second sentence of that quoted article, because of the weirdness of mentioning the Big Dig as just an example of a big infrastructure project, rather than a hilarious horror show with the message do not ever do an infrastructure project this way again.

"but if we're willing to live with a certain amount of 'evil' to eg effectively fund national defense, then why would we not also be willing to live with a little bit of 'evil' to eg effectively fund transportation?"

If I'm willing hotwire a car to get a dying man to the emergency room, why shouldn't I be willing to hotwire a car when I go grocery shopping? Maybe because I don't freaking NEED TO?

I think the problem here is that you don't really find coercion all that offensive, provided only that it's used for something you approve of. So you don't even bother trying to find non-coercive ways of accomplishing things.

Point @10:41: If my past experience in local government and IT (though not in both at the same time) is any guide, a lot of municipalities have all sorts of crazy old computer software that doesn't talk well to other systems, is hard to maintain, and is poorly understood by anyone except possibly the guy who set it up 15 years ago. So it's not just a matter of buying something new off the shelf, or even just paying a contractor to make you a nice new database from scratch; it can be a pretty big team effort to figure out what you've got where, what would be a better system to have, and how to move to the new system without breaking everything. It's like cleaning out the Augean stables while providing temporary lodging for the horses, and recovering the crucial pieces of corn that were embedded in the cleaned-out material.

"To be fair, I think you would find that most (or at least many) conservatives who favor lots of military spending but hate domestic spending do *not* have an "overarching faith in the ability of the government to achieve grandiose social engineering objectives abroad in cultures it doesn't understand or have any meaningful connection to."

Rob,

I believe most of the ordinary(?)conservatives I know think that if war is necessary (usually it is as they tend to be hawks) then we should go pound the enemy and then come home. The mess isn't ours to clean up as they "made us" go to war.

Afghanistan clearly meets this criteria.

As for this:

As I've said before, Americans have come to believe that spending government revenues on U.S. citizens here at home is usually a bad thing and should be viewed with suspicion, but spending billions on vast social engineering projects overseas is the hallmark of patriotism and should never be questioned. This position makes no sense, but it is hard to think of a prominent U.S. leader who is making an explicit case for doing somewhat less abroad so that we can afford to build a better future here at home. Debates about foreign policy, grand strategy, and military engagement -- including the current debate over Obama's decision to add another30,000-plus troops in Afghanistan -- tend to occur in isolation from a discussion of other priorities, as if there were no tradeoffs between what we do for others and what we are able to do for Americans here at home.

I have no idea who these people talk to but it certainly isn't anyone I know, conservative or liberal. I would need to see some poll or something that says any group of Americans thinks we should spend any more than a million here or there on anything that resembles foreign aid as long as there is a hungry person here.

I don't know any of the people in that group if it exists.

However, I note in the middle of the paragraph he changes from referencing Americans to politicians. That could be his problem.

I think the problem here is that you don't really find coercion all that offensive, provided only that it's used for something you approve of.

Neither do you, since you still haven't booked your tickets for Liberia.

That's like saying I think the hot tub is too hot, so I should jump in a steel foundry.

If taxes are evil, then we ought not levy taxes. One doesn't justify immoral actions by their practical benefits.

This is why one has to distinguish when an evil is a necessary evil. For instance, "provide for the common defense" is akin to rushing a dying man to the emergency room, while "promote the general Welfare" and "To establish Post Offices and post Roads" are akin to grocery shopping. For the former, taxes are a necessary evil; for the latter, they are frivolous theft at gunpoint.

I have no idea who these people talk to but it certainly isn't anyone I know, conservative or liberal.

Those people would be: those that supported Bush's invasion of Iraq and subsequent hanging around. Ditto the hanging around portion of Afghanistan. And other similar foreign policy adventures.

Neo-cons think like that (and if you look at their intellectual roots it makes sense in a bizzarro-world kind of way).

The powers that be on the Right currently think like that. That's clear.

I wasn't arguing against that at all. I just thought it was worth mentioning that I think many "normal" conservatives still have the older and much more sane view. Which happens to largely coincide with mine.

"Those people would be: those that supported Bush's invasion of Iraq and subsequent hanging around. Ditto the hanging around portion of Afghanistan. And other similar foreign policy adventures. "

Eric,

I agree, but those people are politicians. I can't seem to find a lot of Americans who agree. It's one of the main reasons Bush McCain isn't President and a real problem for Obama.

Although I must say it was the hanging around part of Iraq that people didn't like.

If I'm willing hotwire a car to get a dying man to the emergency room, why shouldn't I be willing to hotwire a car when I go grocery shopping? Maybe because I don't freaking NEED TO?

But I would argue that hotwiring a car to get a dying person to the emergency room isn't morally wrong, not that it's morally wrong but it's necessary from a practical point of view.
Besides which, your analogy assumes your argument ie that defense spending is 'necessary' but infrastructure spending is not.
Finally, your example can be used to show the gradations available- is it Ok to steal a car to get someone who's merely badly injured to the ER? A woman in labor? A dying pet? To carry sandbags to your home to prevent floodwaters from overwhelming it?

I think the problem here is that you don't really find coercion all that offensive, provided only that it's used for something you approve of. So you don't even bother trying to find non-coercive ways of accomplishing things.

First, Im trying to understand your position, not my own. No, I don't agree with you at all, but if you can only 'explain' your position coherently to people with whom you already agree, then it's probably not a very strong argument. Im not debating your fundamental point about taxation being theft even thought I disagree with it- taking that as a given, I still don't see how you justify your position.

Second, your first condemning sentence *exactly* describes your position, not mine- taxes to pay for what Brett wants are a venial sin, taxes to pay for stuff Brett doesnt' care about are a mortal sin.
I don't find taxation immoral *at all*, personally. IMO high taxes are usually inefficient, just as badly designed highways are inefficient, not immoral.

That's like saying I think the hot tub is too hot, so I should jump in a steel foundry.

But, Brett, the point is that the hot tub would be a steel foundry were it not for the coercion you find so offensive. You also seem to think there's something objective about where you draw the line between what is acceptable for government to do and fund through taxation and what is not. There isn't, and since we all have to share to some degree or another, our forefathers came up with a representative democracy to sort out all the competing subjective judgements about what government should or shouldn't be doing. I'm sorry you don't like the way it's turned out, and I mean the way it's turned out in a general systematic way, not that you don't like one particular policy or another. We all advocate for particular things we support and argue against things we don't, but not so many people think that most of government should be abolished. For those that do, tough crap, I guess, since most of us feel differently. And don't pretend that having to pay taxes or go to jail is the same thing as, say, simply being thrown in jail or not being allowed to complain on blogs or practice your religion or move about freely in public places or watch porn involving consenting adults or drink Chimay or wear a Speedo or listen to Pig Destroyer or become a Mason or wear high heels or start a political party. You're paying taxes with the money you earned in the system that government has fostered and secured for you. If you don't want any part of it, go build a log cabin somewhere where no one will ever find you and live off the land or something. I find it hard to fathom what it is you're after, really, when considering all the implications of your position.

(I got a phone call in the middle of typing this, so I apologize for any redundancy in content with other comments that may have been made and, while I'm at it, for the lack of paragraphs.)

If I'm willing hotwire a car to get a dying man to the emergency room, why shouldn't I be willing to hotwire a car when I go grocery shopping? Maybe because I don't freaking NEED TO?

First, I would say that hotwiring a car to save a dying man is not immoral at all, as opposed to saying that it's just as immoral as hotwiring a car for fun, but justified by practical need.
Second, your analogy assumes the point you are supposed to be arguing ie that defense spending is absolutely necessary but infrastructure spending is- frivolous? unnecessary?
Finally, your examples presents a number of possible gradations of need: what if they guy will lose his leg without that quick trip to the ER? What if it's a woman in labor, who might be fine (or might not)? What if it's a dying pet? What if I need the car to bring sandbags to my house to stop the floodwaters from reaching it?

I think the problem here is that you don't really find coercion all that offensive, provided only that it's used for something you approve of.

First, I don't agree with your position, but Im not contesting that point for the moment. Im saying that I find your position incoherent- taxes are evil, but practically we can do them anyway, but then only for stuff you like (ie 'find necessary via some occult process whereby "necessary" and "stuff Brett likes" are identical').
Second, your sentence describes you, not me. I think taxes can be designed inefficiently (just as highways can be), but I dont find them immoral by nature. You do, yet in your capacity as Tax Pope you forgive some expenditures as venial sins, while condemning others as moral sins. It is you who do not find coercion offensive when used for purposes you like.

Thanks Hob.

Slartibartfast: Either way, I have no idea what you could be thinking, here.

Roger proposed that bigots object to domestic spending because they perceive it as helpful to poor minorities.

You objected to this and suggested the he painted the other guy as racist. Since you object, I assume you think his characterization was unfair.

I provided a quote from Lee Atwater, who was in a position to affect policy and understand the origins of it. He indicates that their appeals to bigots had become abstract at that time. He cites "economic things", which, under Reagan largely meant cuts to social programs as something that appeals to bigots. Note that he originally gave this interview anonymously and was a member of Reagan's administration at the time.

The Atwater quote supports Roger's original assertion that some people oppose domestic spending on account of racism.

At no point in this thread have I referenced U.S. foreign policy.

At no point have I indicated that racism is the only reason to oppose domestic spending.

Maybe the problem here is that Brett would not pay taxes if he was not coerced to do so.

Is there anything that government can legitimately do that incurs costs?

If there is, is it legitimate for goverment to expect citizens to contribute to those efforts from their own resources, whether through income taxes or any other kind of tax?

If the answers to the above are "yes" and "yes", then the problem raised by the issue of coercion is not with the government, but with the people who would not contribute to common efforts without the threat of coercion.

Those folks are called "free riders", and the classic solution to dealing with free riders is, FBOW, to make them knock it off.

Just putting the horse on the right end of the cart.

And I'd still like to hear about what "limited government" means, and where it is mandated in the US Constitution.

Wu, my point is not that infrastructure spending isn't necessary. It's that funding it by taxes isn't necessary. Or at least that grossly inadequate efforts are made to fund it in any other way.

And, by the way, I can think of plenty of stuff I like, that I'd never advocate be funded by government. Space exploration, aging research, lots of things. You really can't assume that if somebody approves of something, they approve of funding it by threatening to shoot people who won't ante up.

Since you object, I assume you think his characterization was unfair.

Overly broad, and unevidenced, as regards to this particular accusation.

The Atwater quote supports Roger's original assertion that some people oppose domestic spending on account of racism.

No, Atwater's quote says something more like: we started out with racism, then gradually wound up with something else. Atwater thought it went from overt racism in 1954 to not much in the way of racism at all in 1988, if you believe his words. we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other.

You can choose to disbelieve Atwater's assessment, but I don't think you can justifiably pick and choose which of his statements to disregard. I also that quote tends to get confused with a statement of what he, Atwater, has personally done and advocated. Which would be difficult, given that he was 3 years old in 1954, and 17 in 1968.

The Atwater quote supports Roger's original assertion that some people oppose domestic spending on account of racism.

No, Roger's assertion was more that racism drives domestic policy, because of the crucial bigot vote. Which is confusing, because a majority of bigots (assuming he's correct) chose to put a black man in the White House.

At no point in this thread have I referenced U.S. foreign policy.

I didn't say that you did. But where money gets spent ongoingly is (in my estimation) a matter of policy, and if it's spent in other countries, that's a matter of foreign policy, isn't it?

At no point have I indicated that racism is the only reason to oppose domestic spending.

Unless I've misread Roger, he's saying it's (on a nontrivial basis) at least an important reason, for some consequential fraction of the US populace.

Which may be true, but at this point it's bare assertion.

Racism, in one form or another, has influenced some rather important pieces of US domestic policy since our infancy. To what degree it continues to do so, I have no idea. But I'd like to see for myself, rather than take Roger's word for it.

Marty: I agree, but those people are politicians

Rob: I just thought it was worth mentioning that I think many "normal" conservatives still have the older and much more sane view.

Me: I don't necessarily disagree with either of you up to a point, but I think that even rank and file GOP voters are being warped by the neocon agenda.

Actually, many were already in that state of mind circa the end of Vietnam, which if they US had just committed to for another couple of decades, we would have won. Or something like that.

For example in the modern era: If you watched the GOP primaries, the only candidate taking a traditional conservative view of foreign policy was Ron Paul. He didn't stand a chance.

Now you can say, sure, but these are politicians not voters. But politicians have to hew within a certain range of the desires of those voters.

Meaning, can the voters really claim to oppose the foreign policy they keep voting in favor of? Especially when they cheer loudest for those that espouse the neocon agenda with the most gusto (during the primaries, not the general).

After all, McCain's famous pledge was "100 years in Iraq."

Only tangentially related, but I find the following incident interesting. The source is a column on the Interstate Highway System by Henry Petroski in American Scientist; I believe it's the September 2006 issue. It seems that the first proposal for an interstate highway system came from Carl Fisher (identified as the "builder of a motor speedway on the outskirts of Indianapolis") in 1913; he suggested a "coast-to-coast rock highway" to run from Times Square to Golden Gate Park. Quoting from Petroski:

"Fisher proposed that the rock highway be funded by 'automobile barons' like Henry Ford, but Ford opposed the idea, arguing that if private industry began to pay for good roads the government would never be expected to do so."

FWIW.

People trying to argue with Brett's view of taxation as theft, round 1,000,000,000. Possibly not the greatest use of this forum, but if y'all are enjoying it, carry on.

Brett,

I happen to think you are nuts, but no matter. You are uncommonly honest and consistent in your libertarianism, so I respect you for that. Unfortunately, many pseudo-libertarians are not so consistent. They seem to exclude armies, police and prisons from their general distrust of government because these are core functions and therefore not a problem. In particular, they share your aversion to government spending but don't count these as "spending." That's what so offends our side.

Take, for instance, Bill Clinton's 1994 anti-crime bill. Conservatives raised hell about the big spending on things like midnight basketball. In fact, most of the expense went to police and prisons, and conservatives had no objections to that at all. Prisons and police didn't count as "spending" because they were core functions. Midnight basketball strayed beyond that, and so even the tiniest expenditure for it raised outrage over " big spending." In fact, midnight basketball was developed by a police crime fighter who found keeping inner city youth busy playing (or watching) sports at high-crime hours was a highly cost effective means of crime fighting. So far as I could tell, a lot of people didn't care. So far as I could tell, they would rather have higher taxes and higher crime than see even one cent diverted beyond the core functions of police and prisons.

Now, I know it is unfair to ask you to be a spokesman for anyone but Brett Bellmore, but let me ask you, as an honest and consistent libertarian, which would you prefer? The more expensive alternative that sticks to core functions, or the more cost effective alternative that expands (or should I say metastasizes) beyond them?

Folks,

I say we find some way to charge Brett Bellmore a la carte for any government services he cares to consume, and absolve him from paying taxes. Of course, he'd scrutinize the bill like some snowbird retiree looking at the check for the Early Bird Special and complain the he never ordered anything from the USPTO menu, he only asked for air cover from the USAF. And he'll be damned if he pays for it and he wants to see the manager NOW!

Brett,

In all seriousness, you talk as if "the government" is a foreign occupying power rather than the collective will of your fellow citizens. The rest of us have just as much right to decide what "the government" is for as you do. "The government" is us. We appreciate your passionate conviction that we would be better off if we adopted your principles. If your point is merely that you would be better off, we love you just the same -- but we have to wonder why your principles should matter more than ours.

--TP

"he only asked for air cover from the USAF.."

See, thar's the rub. A libertarian, generally speaking, (and I agree Brett is forthright about his views) believes the air cover (government force) is a necessary "evil", provided for in the Constitution.

Then the government goes off and calls in the air cover (force) to coerce midnight basketball, NIH grants, and God forbid, universal healthcare from the poor taxpayer, who, by the way, lives in a representative government which, by and large, carries out the common will, imperfectly, natch, but we are, after all, human beings.

It would seem to me that if we disallowed the government from having the instruments of force (which libertarians grant the government as nearly its sole function), it wouldn't be able to coerce us to pay taxes for all of the other stuff.

So let's get rid of the armed forces and government police power. Then we can ignore the bureaucrats, those evildoers.

Everyone would have a weapon, on the table, safety off. Mano e mano e womano.

Somebody wants to coerce money or time or labor from me and we settle it on a case by case basis as free people.

Nobody move.

Wu, my point is not that infrastructure spending isn't necessary. It's that funding it by taxes isn't necessary. Or at least that grossly inadequate efforts are made to fund it in any other way.

This seems like a change from your analogy about stealing a car to drive a dying man to the ER. In that analogy, we didn't fund infrastructure because it wasn't as important as defense, which was a life-or-death issue.
Now, you're arguing that it isn't that infrastructure isn't less important than defense for our long-term national health, but that it can be funded in other ways.

And I think that still presents a series of problems of degree. That is:
1)we might fund transportion entirely via private means, but it would almost certainly mean less effective transport than that which we currently enjoy. Since these things (defense, transportation, education) aren't discrete (ie we don't either have them or not, we have better or worse systems). If a)taxation is Ok to preserve the nation and b)a better transportation network means a better economy, which certainly impacts long-term survival, then c)taxation to create a better transportation network seems to fall under the same aegis as defense spending
2)Likewise, not all defense spending is for the immediate survival of the nation. The Iraq War was a war of choice; it seems that you ought to be opposed to any military spending above that necessary to protect the nation from direct threats. Tax-based spending that is. It would be odd to support a tax-funded war in the Middle East to protect our access to oil while calling tax-funded research on fusion to free us of that dependence as evil.
3)Why not have a donation-funded military? People like the military, they like being safe, etc. Since we can stand a less-efficient privately-funded transportation system and a less-efficient privately-funded education system, why not a less-efficient privately-funded military?

Wu, my point is not that infrastructure spending isn't necessary. It's that funding it by taxes isn't necessary. Or at least that grossly inadequate efforts are made to fund it in any other way.

There are still lots of places in this country that are grossly underserved by both the interstate highway system and public transportation. I don't see private concerns rushing in to fill the gap, do you?

That's like saying I think the hot tub is too hot, so I should jump in a steel foundry.

Well, no, it's a tacit admission on your part that maybe the land of no government and no taxes isn't the paradise you imagine it to be in your fever dreams.

Oh, wait, Liberia's also full of black people, isn't it?

I think that even rank and file GOP voters are being warped by the neocon agenda.

Those that have stuck with the GOP, yes. Or they were already "warped" in that way. My grandfather would be an excellent example.

He's all fired up nowadays about this Tea Party stuff (not a word about spending under Bush, mind) and will blithely suggest nuking [insert perceived enemy here], or any other full-on red-meat, macho-man solution to any given conflict/problem. He's a racist to boot. The man listens to Michael Savage on the radio ranting about the eeeevil gays and other boogiemen during the deep of the night. Does Savage "warp" him? I don't think so, really. He just reinforces the existing warpage. Grandpa already didn't like blacks and gays and the pussy Democrats who cater (or pretend to cater) to them.

My favorite line: "We'll get him out of there, one way or the other." Thankfully, he doesn't have any guns, AFAIK. My response was "yeah, at the end of his second term..."

...

Arguing with a Libertarian about taxation/theft is futile. It's like arguing with a Communist about profits.

"we might fund transportion entirely via private means, but it would almost certainly mean less effective transport than that which we currently enjoy."

Don't know about that, most of the toll roads I've been on have been well maintained. But my casual reply is that you've moved from having me hot wire my neighbor's care to GET to the grocery store at all, to having me hot wire it to get there five minutes quicker. Five minutes makes a difference getting somebody to the emergency room. It's not that big a deal grocery shopping.

Didn't really expect anybody to agree with the position, but I did want to pitch in and articulate it.

Don't know about that, most of the toll roads I've been on have been well maintained.

Toll doesn't equal private. And it's not simply a question of maintaining individual roads. It's a question of the effectiveness of the overall network of roads - that is, it's a matter of central planning (with a bit of collective action thrown in). Hmmm, where is this leading?

It's leading to the decision that you're willing to violate people's liberty for far less reason than I am. But that's to be expected, I'm a libertarian, you're not.

You can't get from is to ought, there's no objective way to resolve our disagreement. We just have differing opinions about the relative importance of freedom vs other goods.

But that's to be expected, I'm a libertarian, you're not.

I used to be one, in my youth. I tend to feel that I'm no longer one because I grew as a person through experience, but maybe I just lost it somewhere along the way and am no longer able to see things clearly.

I think part of the problem with our differing opinions is that you tie freedom and liberty far more tightly to money than I do. There's certainly some correllation there, but I think it dimishes as one's means increase. I also think you tend to see yourself as being far more disconnected from other as an individual than I do.

I would see, say, using tax or other government revenue (i.e. tolls) to build a well-coordinated roadway network as something that benefits everyone so greatly that it would be foolish to leave it each of us as individuals to figure out how to make it happen (or whether it should happen at all) when there's a very well-suited mechanism in place, and a democratic one at that, to do it.

I mean, how much freedom and liberty are you getting out of our highway system? Think of all the places you can go and the goods and services you can afford because of it. These "other goods" are freedom. But all you can think about is the percentage of your income you have to pony up - an income you might not even have in the first place were it not for the infrastructure provided by our government. And I don't think there's any other realistic way for that infrastructure to have come about than through the efforts of government.

I'm sorry, but this particular aspect of libertarianism seems terribly narrow minded to me. It makes no sense, AFAICT.

But my casual reply is that you've moved from having me hot wire my neighbor's care to GET to the grocery store at all, to having me hot wire it to get there five minutes quicker. Five minutes makes a difference getting somebody to the emergency room. It's not that big a deal grocery shopping.

Didn't you just say a moment ago that infrastructure is just as necessary as defense, and that the difference wasn't necessity, but whether one could be provided via private means? In that case your example is defective, you've gone back to making infrastructure a trivial luxury.

(And it's still not clear to me why we can't provide for eg the common defense via voluntary contributions.)

That is, both are necessary for the long-term health of the nation; both might be provided for privately, but perhaps not as efficiently as when funded by public means. But you put one into one category (ie 'necessary evil') and the other into another (ie 'just evil'), and I see no rationale.

It's leading to the decision that you're willing to violate people's liberty for far less reason than I am.

And that's the point Im debating- someone who supports taxation for eg the Iraq War seems to me to be just as lax in worrying about violating people's liberty.

There seem to be two arguments in favor of public funding of defense but not other goods:
-free riders
-fundamentally neccessary to the nation's heath

And I just don't see how the CDC or the interstate highway system don't fit into those categories, but the Iraq War does. Or, at least, if there's a difference it seems to be quantitative, not qualitative. And that seems like a fine distinction to hang 'necessary evil' versus 'unnecessary evil'.

You can't get from is to ought, there's no objective way to resolve our disagreement. We just have differing opinions about the relative importance of freedom vs other goods.

I think hsh is making that argument; Im not though. Im taking your positions at face value and wondering if they are consistent.

We just have differing opinions about the relative importance of freedom vs other goods.

Just speaking for myself, I think we have different understandings of what "freedom" means.

Don't know about that, most of the toll roads I've been on have been well maintained.

Not only are you not aware that toll roads are not privately funded (with the one exception that springs instantly to mind for me being the Dulles Greenway), you've clearly never traveled either the Ohio or Pennsylvania Turnpikes.

Didn't really expect anybody to agree with the position, but I did want to pitch in and articulate it.

And the rest of us owe you a vote of thanks for that. It is good to be reminded of what someone you disagree with really believes, rather than some straw man charicature.

"Just speaking for myself, I think we have different understandings of what "freedom" means."

Yeah, that, too. I've noticed that when 'liberals' want to violate a right, they redefine things so it's not a right anymore, rather than just admitting they think violating the right is justified. I think it's a mechanism for avoiding cognitive dissonance, between the self-image as being the side that's really concerned about rights, and the reality that you're actually quite casual about violating them in what you think is a good cause.

That may be because you often appear to believe that the US has not changed from when settlers were out trying to eke out an existence on the prairie. It's always hard to figure out if this is what you really think, or you believe that if we just went back to the legal constructs and notions of that time, everything would magically improve, so, unlike you, I'm not willing to mark it up to cognitive dissonance when it may be a blindness of some sort.

Yeah, that, too.

Yeah, and I've noticed that whenever libertarians bump up against something that bugs them, they frame it as an unconscionable violation of their sacred liberty.

Like I said, different understandings of what freedom means.

Not saying that's necessarily a bad thing. It is what it is.

But I am saying that's what we're actually discussing. The specifics are just how that plays out.

What I will say in defense of my particular point of view is that it might actually be workable on a planet with six billion people on it. IMVHO.

The libertarian ideal, less so. Again, IMVHO.

When you're making decisions about things that affect, basically, everybody, I think it behooves you to live in the real world. The world of things that can actually be realized.

The world on which 5,999,999,999 other people, with their own interests needs and desires, also live.

Again, IMVHO.

LJ, I think things have changed considerably since the founding era, and that in some respects the Constitution is a really poor fit for current circumstances. How could you expect otherwise?

That's what makes any approach to 'interpreting' the Constitution which would produce an output that wasn't sometimes a poor fit for current circumstances dishonest. The damn document really DOES mean some things which are unfortunate. (Of course, we probably disagree about which they are.)

And I think the appropriate response to this is to amend the Constitution. Amend it formally, after full public debate.

Because, you know what? 'Interpreting' a bad constitution as though it were good is NOT functionally equivalent to honestly interpreting a good constitution. It's not the same because in order to do it you need the whole freaking system to be staffed with people willing to engage in massive doublethink.

Dishonest constitutional interpretation requires government by dishonest people.

I actually think we'd be better off with a substantially worse constitution than we have now, if it were going to be honestly interpreted. Because then honest government would be at least theoretically possible. That's why I favor a constitutional convention.

But until we amend it, it should be honestly enforced, every creaking, chafing word of it.

The problem with calls for it to be "honestly" enforced is that what it "honestly" means is open to interpretation. Especially in the face of changed circumstances, with the advent of things not dreamt of in the founders' philosophy.

You're basically asking for the Constitution to be interpreted "literally". That's still an interpretation. Yes, it's reasonable to call for particularly egregious interpretations to be struck down, and there certainly are those. But not everyone would agree on what they are (e.g., is corporate personhood, or considering the spending of money free speech? I say emphatically yes, and I'm going to guess you'd say no and no), and there's less clear-cut "misinterpretations" that perhaps most people would disagree with being labeled thusly.

It's extremely easy to call for a "literal" reading in the abstract, but as soon as you let one other person join you in making such a reading, you're back to interpreting. Well, you were always interpreting, but the second person strips away your illusion of objective "literalism"...

Brett thinks the Constitution is a "poor fit for current circumstances" and calls for a Constitutional convention. He thinks that it's a "bad" Constitution and that it has been interpreted dishonestly to be a "good" Constitution.

What do you mean by this, Brett?

The Constitution is the basis not only for a federal statutory regime and the general shape of government but also for the federal common law. The Constitution has to be read with the accompanying body of judicial interpretations which have been handed down for more than two centuries since its founding. The idea of rigid Constitutional interpretation based only on the words, amended with the frequency that a statute might be amended, is at odds with the Constitution's fundamental purpose. You really want to start over, Brett, with a Constitution that has served the United States through two and a half centuries? What exactly do you hate about this "bad" Constitution?

I agree with some that the way the Senate is organized makes little sense. There are some procedural matters that need to be formalized. The balance of power between state and federal government was too loaded in the direction of the states in the Articles of Confederation, but the Constitution that followed it went too far the other way, especially after the 17th amendment. The federal government probably really ought to have at least SOME of the powers it has usurped. While some of the prohibitions need to be reinforced. In particular, the states really, REALLY need some say over the composition of the federal bench, if they are not to have all constitutional adjudication systematically stacked against them.

"You really want to start over, Brett, with a Constitution that has served the United States through two and a half centuries?"

The Constitution has not served the US through two and a half centuries. It served the US fairly well for a bit less than a century, got tossed aside for a few years of military rule, eventually got largely reinstated, and for the last 80 years or so has been progressively of less and less relevance to the actual functioning of the government.

For the Constitution to have served this country through two and a half centuries, it would have to have been substantially complied with for that time.

What Brett calls "a bit less than a century", Lincoln called "four score and seven years". What Brett calls "a few years of military rule", most people call "the Civil War".

We should have let the South secede, then, and I would not lift a finger to stop them from seceding now. That's how libertarian I am.

--TP

Yeah, that, too. I've noticed that when 'liberals' want to violate a right, they redefine things so it's not a right anymore, rather than just admitting they think violating the right is justified.

If you were to assume that liberals share your views on the definitions of those rights in the first place. That seems pretty unlikely; if they agreed with you they would be libertarians.
It seems you want to divide the world into libertarians who are honest and libertarians who are dishonest (aka liberals). That's a pretty weird way to understand the world, but I suppose it's very safe, no possible alternative ways of seeing things can intrude. Only the Brett Viewpoint has the legitimacy to even exist in the world.

We should have let the South secede, then, and I would not lift a finger to stop them from seceding now.

Letting them secede then would have meant the continued enslavement, possibly until today, of tens of millions of black human beings.

So, I'm not with you on that one.

If they want to secede today, all I have to say is here's your hat, what's your hurry. I wouldn't spend a dime, let alone a single human life, to keep them.

The southern states did not secede to preserve their sacred liberty from odious federal rule. They did not secede as a matter of political principle. They seceded because they could not abide the idea that they should not be allowed to treat other human beings literally like livestock and beasts of burden. A very special type of livestock, one for which they could, and quite often did, provide their own stud services.

So f*ck the CSA, the stars and bars, the rebel yell, and any other fond relic of dear old Dixie. Folks can't walk around in polite society sporting swastikas saying "Heil Hitler", likewise the freaking tedious nostalgia for the dear old south should receive nothing but opprobrium.

Seriously, f*ck that sh*t to hell. Sorry for the language.

Regarding social changes:

If you want to live unmolested by the demands of a modern industrial or post-industrial society, it's quite easy to achieve. Just drop off the radar. Work for cash or barter, pay cash for whatever you need to buy.

Find a place, whether urban loft or derelict rural patch, on which to squat. Or find a community off the beaten track where you can get some property cheap, and where the tax obligations are sufficiently minimal that you can cover your nut by collecting cans and bottles.

And live your life. Noone will stop you.

I know folks that either do or have done this. It's freaking easy. It's yours for the having if that's what you want.

If that doesn't suit, then suck it up and deal. You're going to live in an environment in which a broad range of useful services are provided through one form or another of public means. You're going to pay for this through taxes and fees.

If you're wise, you'll see this as a good thing, because the alternative in the world we actually live in now is for it to be provided, for profit, by some private actor, and your access to water, roads, electricity, and any number of other necessary things will be contingent upon how profitable it is for somebody living in another time zone or continent to provide it to you.

And if you think government is unaccountable to you, feel free to try getting anyone above a customer service flack on the horn at any corporation with revenues larger than, say, $100M.

Jefferson's ideal democracy is workable in a world of yeomen farmers, where folks aren't dependent on a modern industrial supply chain for every damned thing they need to survive. If you want to turn the clock back on that, I'm OK with it, but I don't see it happening.

Short of that, there is no conceivable way for individual people to have the self-sufficiency or factual, real-world independence for anything like the libertarian paradise you cherish to play out as anything that remotely resembles liberty.

More's the pity. But that's the world we live in, and barring some kind of cataclysm it ain't likely to change.

russell, that's one of your comments that I'd like to have bronzed and put somewhere people have a chance to look at it often.

There are quite a few like that.

Brett's somehow under the illusion that all was fine and dandy the first fourscore and eighty, which is an idea that doesn't quite survive a casual brush with history.

From American Creation by Joseph Ellis:

Jefferson had reached the conclusion that the bank [The Bank of the United States] was not just unconstitutional, it was actually treasonable.

More on that here. Jefferson actually thought this whole national bank thing meant that some folks should be put to death, if it were to be passed. Which it was.

That was a mere sixteen years into the fourscore-and-seven. A decade or so later, Jefferson would exercise some quite creative interpretation of what France sold us under the Louisiana Purchase.

And then there was the codification of constitutional rights in the Louisiana Territory only for "white inhabitants of the ceded territory". I like to think this sort of selective granting of rights would tend to be viewed as unconstitutional, in modern times.

Sorry, no time to go over the next 61 years, but I would be shocked if it contained nothing but strict adherence to the Constitution.

I feel that I'm probably calling down some gentle correction at the hands of dr ngo by getting into matters historical, but if I've erred in some way, it'd be good to be set aright by trained professionals.

russell,

I want to second Slarti's endorsement, and to expand slightly on your choice of the word "cataclysm."

I personally have no wish to go back to the days of the yeoman farmers. I prefer the advantages of a technical society where I can get paid to work on computers.

More than that, though, any cataclysm that turned the clock back to those days would doubtless involve the death of millions of people. I think that is better avoided.

Good to see you, take care. --ral

Slart, I don't think there's ever been a time when the federal government was in full and complete compliance with the Constitution. But that doesn't preclude it getting further out of compliance as time passes.

" I like to think this sort of selective granting of rights would tend to be viewed as unconstitutional, in modern times."

Well, of course it would be unconstitutional TODAY. We've got the 14th amendment.

Well, of course it would be unconstitutional TODAY. We've got the 14th amendment.

Of which Brett surely approves. It's a Constitutional AMENDMENT, after all, and real constitutionalists accept the legitimacy of constitutional amendments.

So Brett surely also accepts the legitimacy of the 16th amendment, though he often talks as if he doesn't.

--TP

Brett, nothing to say in response to Russell's last comment? No explanation why you prefer a society with government to living free of all that evil?

Well, of course it would be unconstitutional TODAY. We've got the 14th amendment.

The 14th amendment should not ever have been necessary, because the Constitution never, ever said anything about that these inalienable rights were only available to white people.

It's only because some people found it expedient to act as if it did, that the 14th was necessary. That acting was, itself, unconstitutional.

Ditto rounding up Indians, and putting the unslaughtered ones on reservations. Or denying voting rights to women, blacks, Indians and Chinese.

From a certain point of view, Brett, we've come more into compliance with the Constitution. We may be more fully into compliance in areas that you are less personally interested, but I think it's a point that can be argued to good effect. The 13th, 14th, 15th and 19th (and, arguably, the 24th, because poll taxes were an attempt to circumvent voting rights) amendments were only necessary because the US government, and the various state governments, were out of compliance with the Constitution.

Just because the Framers didn't think these things through, fully, doesn't mean that their intention to instantiate some rules to maximize liberty have to stay blinkered indefinitely, does it?

"So Brett surely also accepts the legitimacy of the 16th amendment, though he often talks as if he doesn't."

Ok, you're going to have to explain that. It's true that I don't particularly like the 16th amendment, but I can't think of anything I've ever said that would so much as imply it wasn't legitimately ratified.

"Brett, nothing to say in response to Russell's last comment? No explanation why you prefer a society with government to living free of all that evil?"

I think he exaggerates how easily one could live free of all that evil. I know of societies with a surplus of governments fighting for control, I know of no anarchies I could move to.

I think he exaggerates how easily one could live free of all that evil.

People do it. You could, too.

The main impediment for most people is that you have to accept living without owning much or any real property, and you have to learn to get by with little or no money.

IOW, I wouldn't really be free, I'd get to be my own jailer, instead.

IOW, I wouldn't really be free, I'd get to be my own jailer, instead.

To be honest, I think that's about as good as it gets, for anyone.

Perhaps what you're looking for is your own planet.

Also - just want to say that slarti's 9:37 is, IMO, also quite bronze-worthy. Well said.

What I'd really like, of course, is to start the evil on a downward trajectory, rather than the current upward one. More out of concern for my son than me, of course, given my medical circumstances.

Interesting exchange.

Brett, regarding the trajectory of "evil" in the U.S., would you judge that we (you) are closer to the position of the anarchist character, Kostoyed (the young Klaus Kinski) in the movie "Doctor Zhivago", who is chained to the wall of the boxcar traveling to his jail (to Siberia with Zhivago and his family) for his crimes against the State .. or.. would you say .....

........ we (you) are closer to Otis the town drunk in "The Andy Griffith" who is jailed every Saturday night after having a snootful but can reach outside the cell for the keys to let himself out the next morning.

Or neither.

I'm trying to get a sense of what you mean by "evil".

Further, I hope your medical condition is on the upward trajectory to full health. But I have a question which fits the context of this discussion.

If I am taxed to provide an NIH grant to whomever might cure your condition, has an evil been done to me (setting aside the constitutionality of the tax)? Would an evil be done to your son as well if the grant which led to a cure was paid for by saddling the country with debt, the interest on which he will repay in taxes?

Aside from that, I wonder who is freer, the man in our society who has relatively complete freedom to choose between McDonald's, Wendy's and Burger King, but has never read a Russian novel, for example, or the man under Stalinist rule in the old Soviet Union, who would be executed for suggesting that he have a choice of bacon cheeseburgers, but whom finds and reads and rereads a novel by Gogol, Dostoyevsky, or Tolstoy in his cell.

That's more a question about the nature of "jails".

Further, I hope your medical condition is on the upward trajectory to full health.

me, too

Pretty soon we'll be discussing "the Prisoner."

I haven't watched the remake yet.

Brett, I send my wishes for your improved health.

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