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August 27, 2011

Comments

The seasteading idea seems terribly familiar. It's like listening to paens of praise for getting "back to the land." They mostly come from people to whom subsistance agriculture sounds like a cool idea -- which is only possible if you have absolutely no experience with agriculture, subsistance or otherwise. (Yes, I know some people actually do try it and like it. But I would bet big bucks that, if pressed, they would admit that the reality isn't even close to what they envisioned.)

At an absolute minimum, these folks should be required to watch a couple of seasons of Dirty Jobs. Just to start getting a clue about what is required to keep their massively insulated existance going.

If Thiel et al were capable of learning from experience, I might say, sure, please go build something with loose building code and no worker protections and no hygiene, and don't call the Coast Guard when you've got problems.

But they aren't.

I'm curious about the libertarians who will choose to live on these islands to work at below minimum wage.

What kind of work? Will it involve bilge?

I imagine at some point some of the low-paid will require major expensive surgery, ostensibly from libertarian physicians on board. Will this surgery be offered gratis, or will full payment from the low paid be demanded upfront?

Or will payment be demanded on credit? Or in kind? What kind?

What are the terms of credit on this smallish island where it might be tough to elude the libertarian bill collectors who I imagine will have few regulations to hew to in their "methods".

And what of sex? What will the proportions be between the number of males and females?

One can imagine any number of arrangements/hook-ups?

And the inevitable jealous rages.

Thus the need for everyone to be heavily armed. Should be fun.

Will we hear about the violent mutinies?

Will there be a Mr. Christian among them?

Will there be regulations regarding cannibalism? Why? Seems kind of overbearing especially if two libertarian consenting adults have a little thing about cannibalism.

Currency? Puka shells? The labor of children?

Building codes? Fire codes? Why?

Will the island be sold in parcels to property owners, or will they rent? From whom? Or will everything be communally-owned, from condos to vaginas?

Will there be homeless people on the platform? If not, why not, homeless folks being about as libertarian as you can get.

Will they have a urine-based drinking water system? Sort of the ultimate ePISStemic closure.

Say, the supply vessels contracted to ship food to the platforms sink in foul weather.

Say, they run short on food.

Say, there are rudimentary rules regarding a large edible fish caught by one libertarian during such an event.

It's his or her property, I assume.

Say, he or her decide the fish will not be shared with the other starving denizens.

What then? Oh yeah. Everyone is armed.

Will the "islands", when all is said and done, look like Galt's Gulch, a hippie commune circa 1967, a western frontier town circa 1838, the Bounty, a tony, upscale mid-Manhattan apartment building, Robinson Crusoe's island with or without Friday, that other island with the marooned kids without or without Piggy, Jamestown, Mr. Christian's island with its bitter factions living on different sides of the island, the Shackleton voyage, a marooned expedition on a distant planet signaling vainly for provisions?

Will it descend into banal everydayness and boredom with a gift shop, a bait shop, a bar with seafaring themed decor, and a dispensary for anxiety and depression medicinals?

What if there is a guy on the island who asks too many questions, like me?

Right. Yes. Everyone is armed.

What happens if libertarians are prone to seasickness?

What about pirates?

the founding of ideologically oriented micro-states on the high seas, a kind of floating petri dish for implementing policies that libertarians, stymied by indifference at the voting booths, have been unable to advance

My guess is that Werner Herzog already has an option on the movie.

Oh yeah, hunkering.

Went out back, turned all the lawn furniture over. Secured the bulkhead doors. Took down the birdhouses and bird feeder. Trimmed back the pine tree branch that bangs against the skylight. Am currently at work powering down some servers, when I get home I will help my wife bring the potted hibiscus in from its summertime home in the back yard.

We have a good supply of bottled water, the flashlights are charged, we have stuff to eat. We have an electric stove, so we have some already-cooked stuff on hand.

Tonight, I head into Boston to play Cuban music from 10 until 1AM. We call it "hunkering with mojitos".

Take that, Irene!

Should be a fun ride home.

"for implementing policies"

Arghh, matey, thar's the rub!

Will there be common areas?

If so, what if one of the libertarians has secret fits of anarchy and a talent for graffiti/tagging?

How do the libertarians apprehend the offender and the evidence, especially without search warrants, which, I assume, in a libertarian el Dorado would not be countenanced.

Life on a ship on any non-trivial body of water is the most communal, the greatest antithesis of 'every man for himself' I can imagine, except I suppose for life on a space station.

Space stations, of course, being the other great libertarian fantasy stronghold.

This online comic is a great example of the genre, if you want to spend an afternoon melting your brain.

I suspect that the rich "seasteading" libertarians just casually assume that "the help" will do all the work. That's how it works in their lives right now, after all. This idea isn't new -- see Plato's "Republic".

But how do you get The Help to work for you? You could pay a "fair wage", but that's a null concept to libertarians.

One alternative is Dubai style pseudo-slavery, where The Help has to do everything possible to suck up to the Powers that Be to have any chance of getting home.

Another is the "Company store" model from the nineteenth century US mill towns. All the easy credit you want -- but you have to pay it all off before you can leave.

The whole thing is an interesting concept, but I haven't seen anything that leads me to believe that they know anything at all about marine engineering, international law, or, for that matter, people.

Lightning, do you suppose they will name their platform Hotel California? Nah, that would require too much self-awareness.

What about pirates? Interesting question. The famous ones, the 17th and 18th century European pirates, elected captains, agreed to a set of written rules, set the division of spoils by strict formula, laid out the disability payments for loss of limbs, and were generally as much a political as an economic unit, because not all the cooperation required in the pirate's life allows time to dicker. Of course, they were not ideologues, so they used whatever form of cooperation worked best instead of insisting that only one form of cooperation was legitimate.

What about pirates?

I didn't even get that far. I was thinking more along the lines of "what about food"?

Today we are serving tuna, tuna, tuna, tuna, tuna, tuna, tuna, and kelp.

I mean, I like fish, but come on.

Good ol' Jules Verne wrote a novel (Propeller Island aka Island of the Millionaires) about rich guys going Galt on the seas. He foresaw most of the problems. I read the English editions got heavily censored to take out most of the social criticism.
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Just yesterday I visited the leadership bunker of the (now defunct) Eastern German navy. Well in-land and well camouflaged. The actual navy leadership only went there a few times a year for no more than 2.5 days. Given the less than luxurious accommodations* I can fully understand why. With all floors mounted on springs one could even get seasick down there ;-)

*For the ranks there were only 36 bunks. The bunker was permanently manned by 50 people. At full operational strength it was 300. No surprise that there were a lot of 'extra-regular' cots to be found.

Here's what we do.

We take the city of Galveston, Texas, evacuate the innocents, and carve it into a libertarian island and set it afloat into the Gulf of Mexico.

We jet ski, pontoon boat, airlift, ferry, and beam me up scotty every whackaloon sadistic armed anti-American tax-hating f*ckwad in the redrummy murderous Republican Party, starting with Ron Paul, Rand Paul, RuPaul, Rush Paul, Rick Perry, Grover Norquist, Michelle Bachmann, johnt, the entire phalanx of fascist FOX blondes, Mary Matalin, Dick Cheney, Rupert Murdoch, the editorial page writers of the Wall Street Journal and Investors Business Daily, Mark Levin, the Log Cabin Republicans, Pat Robertson, Moe Lane and Erick Erickson's wife (the inveterate honeymooners), Jon Voight, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Senator Rubio and the rest of the Cuban enclave who murdered JFK, broke into the Watergate, and cheated Al Gore out of the Presidency, and every Tea Party sado/masochistic ignorant freak in this once great country of ours on to the new island of Galveston.

Then we wait (why wait, let's make our own) for the big hurricane to show up (we'll name it Hurricane Obama/Osama, or better, Hurricane Ayn, for those who enjoy irony), one hundred times more lethal than the 1900 killer that put six to eight thousand Galvestonians, those fun-loving libertarians of the Gilded Age, into their watery graves, and we watch what happens on satellite TV from the comfort of our Medicare scooters.

To help things along, we'll commission FEMA to strap Sarah Death Palin and David Brooks to a five million megaton hydrogen bomb and drop it on Galveston as a life preserver.

When the skies clear, a chosen few of us will take a tour boat, well-provisioned with alcohol, bullhorns, and weaponry out to the remaining oil slick and if there are survivors thrashing about, first we'll toss a few thousand pounds of bloody chum into the water to kind of rejuvenate the sea life and then we'll have some leisurely target practice.

If, by chance, Ron Paul is still floating, sputtering, his hair looking like something Professor Irwin Corey might have coiffed up, I'll lean over the side of the boat, grab his forelock, declare a national FEMA emergency in dignified tones, and push his head under until he swallows a good fatal quantity of saltwater.

You can be a live American or a dead Republican because I don't see any other viable arrangement going forward.

You could pay a "fair wage", but that's a null concept to libertarians.

That's a little stunning. I'd guess that the concept of "fair wage" gets at the core of libertarianism. I'd guess, though, that you're disputing the libertarian notion of "fair", rather than dismissing that they value fair wages.

Hopefully. Otherwise, one or both of us has some reading to do.

There are a lot of people around who seem to think "fair" is whatever the strongest can grab.

Whether that's a specifically libertarian definition isn't relevant to much of anything, given that it seems to be one of the most visible and even admired operating principles of our era.

Someone who has a million times as much as the least well off among us has by definition "earned" it, so it must be by definition "fair," so what is anyone complaining about?

Slarti -- To libertarians, it's not what's "fair", it's what you can negotiate, based on market conditions. (See the "iron law of wages"). And remember -- no collective bargaining.

My experience is that most libertarians aren't actually rich. They're middle-class people who believe they would be rich if someone wasn't keeping them down.

Slarti, you refer to libertarians as "they", so maybe you can't speak for them, but I would like to know how you think libertarians define "fair".

My own guess is that the "core of libertarianism" is something like: "If A agrees to pay B a certain wage, and B agrees to work for that wage, then C has no business calling that wage unfair."

I don't know whether libertarians would agree, but if C has no business calling something "unfair", then C has no business calling it "fair", either. A word that practically nobody in the world has any business using can hardly be the name of a robust concept.

--TP

I don't think the notion of "fair" enters into libertarian thinking when it comes to economic transactions. If I understand correctly, the issue is whether the transaction is coerced or voluntary. If voluntary, then fine. If not, then not. Maybe "fair" just means "voluntarily entered into," but it has no further implications.

One problem, it seems to me, is that libertarians tend to ignore context, history, power, information, and other things, viewing the particular transaction in complete isolation.

So there's nothing wrong with hiring coal miners, say, at low wages, to work in unsafe conditions, since no one is forcing the miners to take those jobs. I mean, if they don't like it, let them go to medical school.

Ron Paul more or less literally stated that the 2nd amendment makes FEMA superfluous in connection with hurricane (now tropical storm) Irene.
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To Countme-in: that large an H-bomb would slightly overdo it (400 million times Hiroshima) and likely cause some damage on the mainland too. A few tons of botox (right from free market, lowest bidder safety tested tinned food) could do most of the work (unless the FOX banshees and trophy wives inject all of it). The rest could be buried in tar sands directly from the pipeline and some fresh coal ash.

You consider Homer's seascapes better than, say, Turner's?

Anthony:

Oh, yes. Turner's are all *distant*, views from land. Homer's seascapes taste of salt, there's spray (or sun) on your face, looking at them.

This is a good point. I think, while still preferring Turner for capturing the interplay of light on water, that your position is sound and reasonable.

My perception of libertarians is that they are mostly psuedo-intellectuals who think that by adopting a simpleminded philosophy they have somehow made themselves smarter than everyone else.

Sophomoric mentality.

I'd guess that the concept of "fair wage" gets at the core of libertarianism.

Could you unpack this a bit? I could just be showing my own ignorance here, but I'm not aware of much libertarian thought about fair wages per se.

You consider Homer's seascapes better than, say, Turner's?

The guy I like who not many folks talk about anymore is Fairfield Porter. Not seascapes exactly but landscapes of places next to the ocean, often in Maine.

Could you unpack this a bit?

Is it sort of a "revisiting Lochner vs New York" thing?

It's interesting, looking at the Wikipedia article on marine art and their collection of seascapes, to see how few pictures of waves there are before 1850. I wonder how much The Great Wave off Kanagawa (c.1830) had on Western artists.

My perception of libertarians is that they are mostly psuedo-intellectuals who think that by adopting a simpleminded philosophy they have somehow made themselves smarter than everyone else.

When I was in college (back when dinosaurs ruled the Earth) it was Marxists. Same thing. Total incomprehension of how the world, and especially people, work.

Irene update:

Our house personally is ok (though I think one box of books may be a goner), but there's a lot of damage in the area still, with flooding, wires down, and many many trees down.

Most upsettingly, the salle where my husband fences and teaches fencing was severely damaged, when the stream that normally runs next to the building decided to take a short cut. Through a wall and out the door.

Fortunately, fencing is not our main source of income, but it's still very distressing and is not going to get fixed very quickly. We just hope the Delaware River won't decide to get into the act, too.

"You consider Homer's seascapes better than, say, Turner's?"

Can I vote for Debussy?

(Although I do like me some Turner, but more because he's tantamount to abstraction (cf. Debussy).)

There is a guy that both composed and painted with the sea an important topic in both:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikalojus_Konstantinas_%C4%8Ciurlionis>Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis.
From what I know of his music (owning a CD), it is somewhere in a triangle formed by Rimsky-Korsakov*, Richard Strauss and Debussy.
Bantock's Hebridean Symphony is also essentially sea-themed and a favorite of mine.
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On the topic of Hokusai, there is currently what is probably the greatest exhibition ever of his works in Berlin. I spotted some rather surprising similarities between his seaside pictures and those produced in Britain in the Victorian age. If there is any connection at that time, I'd suspect that both were influenced by Dutch art.

*who was a naval officer before becoming a full-time composer and professor. A lot of sea-themed music there too.

"My experience is that most libertarians aren't actually rich. They're middle-class people who believe they would be rich if someone wasn't keeping them down."

Or middle class people with rich neighbors, who don't react well to the suggestion that they should want to rob their neighbor. Lacking envy, and not particularly regarding it as a virtue... Along with people who figure that, since they did eventually grow up, they don't want somebody treating them like a child.

As long as we're diagnosing each other, having a 3 year old son makes me think maybe liberals just never quite reached the point of understanding that other people's stuff is other people's stuff. And instead just evolved ever more convoluted excuses for dictating the use of other people's stuff.

To libertarians, it's not what's "fair", it's what you can negotiate, based on market conditions.

By no means could I be considered an authority on libertarianism, but I'd suggest that to libertarians, "fair" and "what you negotiate" occupy about the same set.

And remember -- no collective bargaining.

Again, not an authority on how this is treated, but I'd guess that collective bargaining would be just fine, provided that the use of force is not involved.

One problem, it seems to me, is that libertarians tend to ignore context, history, power, information, and other things, viewing the particular transaction in complete isolation.

So there's nothing wrong with hiring coal miners, say, at low wages, to work in unsafe conditions, since no one is forcing the miners to take those jobs. I mean, if they don't like it, let them go to medical school.

Fair points, Bernard. Libertarianism, like nearly every other -ism (possibly more so; possibly even to an extent rivaling objectivism), tends to break down in real-life applications. It's difficult to imagine a society like this one actually functioning.

They're middle-class people who believe they would be rich if someone the government, negros and Mexicans weren't keeping them down.

Fixed.

As long as we're diagnosing each other, having a 3 year old son makes me think maybe liberals just never quite reached the point of understanding that other people's stuff is other people's stuff.

Does your three year old son understand yet that nothing he "owns" is actually his because he did not earn it?

I'd suggest that to libertarians, "fair" and "what you negotiate" occupy about the same set.

This sounds accurate to me.

And to more or less reiterate Bernard's point, for "what you negotiate" to really pass the smell test of "fair", the parties involved would need to be negotiating from positions that roughly approximate parity.

The basic, intuitive appeal of libertarianism is obvious. Let's just all do what we want, and then we'll all be as happy as we are likely to be.

That sounds absolutely great to me.

The only problems I see are that (a) it requires people to be responsible actors, and (b) it doesn't scale well.

(a) is historically a pretty dicey proposition, and there are now over 6 billion people on the planet, so (b) is also kind of problematic.

It is possible for small numbers of individuals to live a reasonably libertarian lifestyle. Move to a rural area, commit yourself to a highly self-sufficient lifestyle, and avoid obviously bugging other people, and you can probably make it work.

Anybody who really wants to live that way can make a pretty good go of it. Not 100%, but close enough for most folks' purposes.

Northern New England has lots of folks like that. I imagine lots of other, similar places, likewise. I have friends who, at various times, have lived that way.

I applaud them. Live your life! Do your thing! I will be the last person to stop you.

But the other 5.9999 billion of us have to find another way to get along.

And instead just evolved ever more convoluted excuses for dictating the use of other people's stuff.

This sounds like an argument against taxation in general, and, by extension, government in general. Why is it so hard to recognize that no one makes their way entirely on their own and that everyone relies on the institutions and structures of an ordered society, and that the most successful among us have benefited most from said reliance? I mean, all we're talking about (around here, usually) is marginal tax rates and possibly treating investment income more like wage income, as opposed to confiscating houses, boats and cars. Get a grip, holmes.

I mean, all we're talking about (around here, usually) is marginal tax rates and possibly treating investment income more like wage income, as opposed to confiscating houses, boats and cars.

To follow up on this, the government actually does confiscate houses, boats, and cars, usually in the context of War On Drugs BS.

And pretty much every liberal / lefty / what have you on this blog is against it.

The overwhelming evidence of 10,000 years of settled human civilization is that people - human beings - live in organized societies, they establish public institutions for themselves, and they run all of this by governments.

Not only that, but they pay for it with taxes of some kind.

There are exceptions - hunter/gatherers, extremely nomadic groups - but these tend to be very small populations who organize their lives around clans and/or kinship bonds.

Once you get into populations larger than, say, hundreds or very low thousands, you have government.

It's what we do. You can dislike it, but you might as well object to language, or writing, or art-making, or the use of technologies based on the simple machines.

If you want to take your family and head for the hills to grow your own and live free like the buffalo, you can do that. But it not only doesn't work for humans at large, it's against the human grain. It's historically unprecedented, where for "history" read the last 10,000 years.

It's a dream.

We were fortunate enough to not have any damage, but we did lose power (as did basically all of Eastern CT) and haven't gotten it back yet. A lot of the stuff in the fridge is probably goin' in the trash. I haven't dared open the freezer, but at some point a whole lotta meat is going to/already has thawed.

That, and I'd like a shower. In my shower, to be exact. I may have to settle for the showers my company has for those who bike to work and such. I guess I'll live. ;)

As for libertarians, well, yeah, yet another reason why, despite having some sympathies for their ideas, I am not one. I went through that phase when I was 17 and fancied my self oh-so self-reliant/self-made and whatever (I was, in fact, a deluded fool to *ever* think that, given my background).

Brett: As long as we're diagnosing each other, having a 3 year old son makes me think maybe liberals just never quite reached the point of understanding that other people's stuff is other people's stuff.

That's one way of looking at it. And certainly private property is a good thing, in general. That said, I know I'm happy that should someone just plain move into my house and resist my efforts to eject them because, well, their stuff is a little more pointy and explody than my stuff, I can call on the government to eject them for me. There thus should be some sort of "fee" for this service (maybe some other three letter word).

More broadly, this viewpoint seems to gloss over the process by which "stuff" is "other people's stuff," how that process might be shaped, formed and enforced, and how those with lots of stuff might take advantage and/or bend the process to their ends. "Stuff" isn't just allocated to people as a matter of divine right, or something.

Brett: And instead just evolved ever more convoluted excuses for dictating the use of other people's stuff.

Let's just stick to the federal government on this one, what liberals are advocating spending more on defense than nearly the rest of the world combined? I realize that Social Security and Medicare are highly popular among liberals and also very expensive, but they are also highly popular among non-liberals, so I don't think they fit here either.

So, what parts of the federal government would you do away with tomorrow, and how would that save you any real money?

Finally, let me just note that unless you're (not "you" Brett) someone who pays tens of millions of dollars in taxes each year, directly or indirectly, you likely use more in government provided services and infrastructure in a single day than you will ever pay in taxes.

"That, and I'd like a shower."

Would ya, now?

See, this is the problem with all of you "no man is an island" types. You sit around, complaining about the thin film and grit of civilization griming up your body because all of that "other people's stuff" --- the sparky stuff in the walls, the power generating station, the pipes snaking mysteriously underground directly into your residence, the water pumping stations, the water treatment plants, and the reservoirs, ya know, infrastructure --- suddenly can't be counted upon, when any three-year-old will tell ya, if you let them anywhere near an effing blog, that directly outside your window you've got God's own deluge coming down about 10 inches per hour, so get out there in the rain with all of the libertarians, naked except for the holsters and bandeleros, and shampoo your hair.

Do take your weapon with you, however.

You never know with libertarians. All of that full-frontal libertarian nudity sometimes brings out the worst in them, and even they start to think that "other people's stuff" belongs to them all of a sudden, and then you have to explain (pointing back and forth between your gun and your weapon) in one of those Marine Corps (you ever notice how ex-Marines turn out to be libertarians after they have their individual spirits broken in boot camp for the sake of the unit) drill-sergeant voices: "Semper fi, motherf*cker. This is my gun and this is for fun and this is my weapon and this is so on and so forth, and the next time you try to give me a reach-around under the guise of soaping my back during one of these freebie libertarian hurricane bathing sessions, I'll send you to f*cking Iwo Jima and you will learn the true meaning of the word "island", you mainland, peninsula-loving maggot!"

If you do that last in the voice and manners of Lewis Black, it works better.

Obliquely OT, but in response to Hartmut:

"There is a guy that both composed and painted with the sea an important topic in both:
Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis."

Now that is a guy I know little about, except that he's the answer to "name a Lithuanian composer." I have one CD of string quartets; I did not, however, know that he was also a painter. More research is clearly warranted.

It seems the Sea is available on YouTube.

Thanks for the hint. I have 'The Sea' on CD but maybe I can find his organ works on youtube.

My pleasure, and thank you. I listened to it.

the voice and manners of Lewis Black

Big fan, I am.

I got that shower, by the way. It turns out my company has a small locker room w/showers for those healthy souls who go running on their lunch break or bike to work.

Private enterprise (large, bureacratic private enterprise, mind you) for the win!

;)

"Can I vote for Debussy?"

As a painter?

.... you can, but it will count as much as those "Rick Parry" votes.

Brett, here's an alternate perspedctive on 3-year olds, sharing, andn other people's stuff:
http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/332653/title/Kids_share%2C_chimps_stash

"Or middle class people with rich neighbors, who don't react well to the suggestion that they should want to rob their neighbor. Lacking envy, and not particularly regarding it as a virtue... Along with people who figure that, since they did eventually grow up, they don't want somebody treating them like a child.

"As long as we're diagnosing each other, having a 3 year old son makes me think maybe liberals just never quite reached the point of understanding that other people's stuff is other people's stuff. And instead just evolved ever more convoluted excuses for dictating the use of other people's stuff."

I find it interesting that certain people talk about envy a lot. Not liberals, who don't seem to have envy on their minds, but certain libertarians, generally those influenced by Ayn Rand, because, apparently, envy is on their minds a lot.

Liberals, after all, don't want other people's stuff for their own use; their idea is to benefit society as a whole with some part of people's earnings, while leaving most property in the private sphere. The fact that they like a system with private property is the reason Marxists have contempt for liberals.

Warren Buffet thinks people like him should pay more taxes, not because he is envious, but because he thinks it would be more fair, and as a rich man, he knows that he uses more government than most people, so he figures he should be willing to pay for it.

Nor do liberals think the accumulation of stuff is an infallible guide to merit. The people who think that are your particular breed of libertarian, which is why they think in terms of envy. If you were liberal, you would think that there are worthwhile public goods that can best be provided by government. Those goods would be public, not mine or yours.

Maybe you just never quite reached the point of understanding that not everything has to be private property. I understand why your three year old hasn't yet grasped that, but you should have matured enough by now. You've managed to get from "Mine!" to "yours," but you haven't yet learned "ours."

Actually, I haven't seen Brett's stuff to know whether I want it or not.

I could use the hand-carved atlatl, I suppose, but I'm afraid I'd use it backwards and spill my latte by accident.

I kid, we kid.

If we didn't kid, well, we might as merge with Redrum.

Maybe you just never quite reached the point of understanding that not everything has to be private property.

This. Also, this. And, again, this.

Thank you johnw.

If we didn't kid, well, we might as merge with Redrum.

Those guys are just no fun anymore.

More's the pity, once upon a time it was a place where you could have a conversation, assuming your hide was thick enough.

It's like a zombie circus over there, now.

It's like a zombie circus over there, now.

I think I still have a valid login, maybe I'll go visit...

Warren Buffet thinks people like him should pay more taxes, not because he is envious, but because he thinks it would be more fair, and as a rich man, he knows that he uses more government than most people, so he figures he should be willing to pay for it.

Warren has come a bit late to the "I'm rich, tax me" party. He was silent on this point while amassing bazillions, and now that he has more than any 1,000 people could spend in a lifetime, he thinks maybe he and others, most of whom have a fraction of his wealth, ought to pay more. Thanks, Warren, for your newly found selflessness. It's inspiring.

Maybe you just never quite reached the point of understanding that not everything has to be private property.

Out of curiosity, what do you mean by this?

McKinney: "Warren has come a bit late to the "I'm rich, tax me" party. He was silent on this point while amassing bazillions, and now that he has more than any 1,000 people could spend in a lifetime, he thinks maybe he and others, most of whom have a fraction of his wealth, ought to pay more."

Maybe Warren was silent because in 1962, when Buffett became a millionaire, the top rate on income (over $200,000) was 91%. He had no reason to complain that he wasn't being taxed enough.

Oh, and I forgot to point out that, even with the 91% tax rate, he managed to become a millionaire, and make bundles and bundles more thereafter through the rest of the 20th century, when tax rates were still higher than they are today. He started complaining when tax rates became ridiculously low.

Out of curiosity, what do you mean by this?

My guess is simply that some things are best left as public goods and that the government is the best entity to provide them, a great example of which are roads that everyone can use without paying a toll every couple of miles.

Not that I think you'd disagree with that general notion, McKinney. Probably not Brett, either, generally. The disagreement is probably about where the line should be drawn, not whether or not there should be a line at all.

It seems most libertarians are okay with public roads and a national military. It's usually somewhere around public schools that some of them start whining.

Maybe Warren was silent because in 1962, when Buffett became a millionaire, the top rate on income (over $200,000) was 91%. He had no reason to complain that he wasn't being taxed enough.

Could be, Sapient. That was only 59 years ago. Not much has changed since. And, it was in 62 or thereabout that the top rate went to 50%--under Kennedy.


Oh, and I forgot to point out that, even with the 91% tax rate, he managed to become a millionaire, and make bundles and bundles more thereafter through the rest of the 20th century, when tax rates were still higher than they are today.

Do you recall how cap gains were treated back then? Do you think he became a megamillionaire paying the max, ordinary income rate? Not likely in the least. Almost certainly, the vast, vast portion of his wealth was cap gains, taxed at favorable rates from as early as I can remember.

It seems most libertarians are okay with public roads and a national military. It's usually somewhere around public schools that some of them start whining.

Well, I'd say most Americans are fine with roads, courts, a military, schools and probably even the postal service. Where the divide comes is HCR, the Boeing thing in S Carolina, federally imposed "prevailing wage" rules, and many, many other things that really are not universal in the benefits they bring (although HCR is touted in that fashion, no one AFAICT has a clue what it will actually do or cost, although many have assured me it will be a slice of heaven).

...although many have assured me it will be a slice of heaven

I'd say a slice of better-value-than-what-we-had, especially if you value people not being driven into bankruptcy or dying from preventable illnesses and/or sooner than they otherwise would have.

McKinney, ordinary income was taxed at 91%. Capital gains were taxed at 25%, 30% more than the current rate. During his career, capital gains tax climbed to 39.9%. That happened to be the year that Buffett ended up on the Forbes 400 for the first time.

Buffett is also opposed to estate taxes, because he doesn't believe in passing accumulated wealth, and creating a plutocracy.

A rate chart is here, fyi.

Whatever you might wish to say about Buffett, he's not a hypocrite, and he doesn't seem to want to deny others the benefits that he's enjoyed.

I may be the only person on this thread who has actually attended the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting, which is comprised of a literal arena full of people who are primarily in the top 5-6% of households in the country in terms of income. When Buffett makes statements like those summarized by sapient above, he is not exactly met with a chorus of boos. Quite the contrary.

Another chart of marginal income tax rates.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Income_tax_in_the_United_States#1930_-_1980

Unless I'm reading it wrong, the top marginal rate dropped to 70% just after Kennedy left office feet first, as Sapient's data shows as well.

Not even a tax cut could assuage the John Birch Society, Cuban refugees, and Richard Helms, but they thought they had bigger fish to fry, and fry they did.

The rate went to 50% under Richard Nixon.

Ronald Reagan hit the sofa back in the 91% top rate days of the early 1950s, pleading theft, and couldn't be roused again to put any forth effort whatsoever until he signed his own tax cut bill in 1981.

Then Tip O'Neill made him raise taxes here and there and, few people know this, Reagan secretly switched jobs with the guy who polished the silver in the White House, to avoid the tax burden.

He grew a stubble on his face and just gave up completely, wandering the grounds of the White House with a metal detector (he'd hand the young Arthur Laffer any quarters he found), even though he thought up the first Apple computer before Steve Jobs did but concluded: "At these rates, who can be bothered".

Of course, the real reason Warren Buffett's tax rates are low is that he opposes selling. And (from Wikipedia)

"His 2006 annual salary was about $100,000, which is small compared to senior executive remuneration in comparable companies. In 2007 and 2008, he earned a total compensation of $175,000, which included a base salary of just $100,000. He lives in the same house in the central Dundee neighborhood of Omaha that he bought in 1958 for $31,500, today valued at around $700,000 (although he also owns a $4 million house in Laguna Beach, California). In 1989 after having spent nearly 6.7 million dollars of Berkshire's funds on a private jet, Buffett sheepishly named it "The Indefensible". This act was a break from his past condemnation of extravagant purchases by other CEOs and his history of using more public transportation."

In other words, Buffett lives very well, but he'd do fine if he were taxed heavily because it wouldn't change his lifestyle at all.

"Liberals, after all, don't want other people's stuff for their own use;"

No, not really. Liberals want other peoples stuff for what THEY thinks is the best use of it. Which makes it stuff for their own use.

Otherwise they would just use their stuff to accomplish those purposes. It is the basic flaw in liberal logic that "if I take your stuff and give it to someone besides me I didn't really take it".

I'd just like to chime in to introduce a tiny bit of sanity.

"Liberals" in general would be very very happy indeed to raise the top marginal tax rate to what it was around ten years ago, when it was already historically quite low.

The most outrageously flaming liberals might dare to suggest something like a 50% tax rate on incomes measured in the millions, and/or decreasing the differential between earned and unearned income.

In short, in the historical context of, say, the last 100 years of American history, what current day "liberals" want is small freaking beer.

Seriously, you would think the god damned proletarian revolution was just waiting in the wings to make it's bloody entrance.

The absolute worst case proposal that is actually on the table - letting the Bush tax cuts expire - amounts to less than a nickel on the top marginal income dollar.

And yes, CCDG, they are the Bush tax cuts.

So you all need to give me a freaking break. Your precious liberty is not at risk, nor is your financial security.

You are being asked for, max, a nickel on your top dollar. The reason you are being asked for that is because the nation is deeply in debt. The reason the nation is deeply in debt is that Republican administrations spend money like drunken sailors on shore leave, with no regard for raising the revenue to fund it.

This is not an opinion, it is a plain statement of fact. Go look it up.

"Reagan proved deficits don't matter". It was not a liberal that said that.

The basic flaw in liberal logic is that their opposite numbers will respond positively to reason.

And not for nothing, but Warren Buffet is a multi-billionaire because he has spent his life actually doing his homework and finding *productive uses for other people's capital*.

The man deserves to be wealthy, he helped create many multiples of whatever wealth he has for other folks.

The bankster pr*cks of the world should take a lesson from him. Not that I'm holding my breath that any such thing will ever happen.

Seriously, I would be delighted if the top 2% of income earners bought themselves a bunch of sea platforms and set out to establish their own sovereign Republic of Moneystan, somewhere out there in the blue water. The sound of their whining is giving me a headache.

If you want to be a part of the national community, pitch in. If you don't, get the hell out.

That is my position.

I'm sick of listening to well off people, people who never miss a meal, who never worry about making the rent, who never wonder if they are literally going to be out on the street, whine like spoiled brats.

And if you think your favorable position is completely due to your own hard work and general excellence, I am here to offer you a clue. There are people numbering in the millions in this country who work every bit as hard as you do, are every bit as responsible as you are, who work as many hours as you do, and who simply do not earn as much money as you do.

There are a million and one reasons for that, and few of them have to do with your personal superiority, of whatever kind.

Nobody wants to "take your stuff". At most, people are asking for *extremely modest* increases in revenue, because the policies that reduced revenues to what they are now were stupid and wrong-headed, and they have been the preeminent contributor to our current indebtedness.

We spent the money, now we need to pay the bill. If you can't come across with a god-damned nickel on the dollar - a nickel - then the hell with you.

My two cents.

two things

If you want to be a part of the national community, pitch in. If you don't, get the hell out.

They used to say that about me when I was a hippie, it lost its sting.

Nobody wants to "take your stuff".

Yes somebody does, it may be fine, I have been clear on what I think are good reasons that it might be a good idea. But yes they do. Start there, diminish the flame, quit blaming Republicans (Democratic Congresses approved most of that spending, its a fact look it up) and have discussion that doesn't start with "your ideas are bad".

My two cents.

"And yes, CCDG, they are the Bush tax cuts."

No, they aren't. Our President has declared he wants to make all of them permanent except for earners over 250k. That means he wants to make 3 trillion over ten years permanent and 700 Billion raised from the "wealthy". I would say the 3 trillion doesn't just belong to Bush anymore.

And, oh yeah, the 3 trillion is the part that could fix our budget problems.

The problem is, some ideas actually are bad.

Diminishing the flame sounds great. Unfortunately, the situation is such that anger is actually appropriate.

Look, a significant part of this thread has been devoted to a discussion of whether folks who used to, but no longer do, earn a million dollars a year have it as tough as people who have been, basically, financially ruined.

And yes, I'm sure there are folks who once made a million, who are now financially ruined. There is just a whole hell of a lot less of them, in both absolute and proportionate numbers.

It's unseemly.

And what motivation is there for me to moderate my tone to exclude anger? Is that going to make a difference, one way or the other, in how people receive what I have to say?

To be honest, I'm tired of trying to build bridges with people whose point of view I simply cannot relate to, and in fact think is profoundly wrong. If anything, the big revelation to me over several years of participating in political discussions with my political opposites is how profoundly and disturbingly wrong-headed a lot of their ideas and beliefs are.

I'm just here to advocate my own point of view. I don't expect to persuade anyone of anything they don't already think or believe. This is not the halls of Congress or the editorial pages of the NYT.

It's a blog.

Let me ask you: is there anything I've said here at any time over the last couple of years that has significantly changed your point of view? On any topic?

Is "diminishing the flame" going to make any particular difference in the effect of what I have to say on you or anyone else?

The current political discourse profoundly angers me. So my tone is angry. If that's a problem for you, that's a problem for you. Not me. If it's not a problem for you, then there's no need for the friendly advice.

Some things, and some people, deserve anger.

On your own blog, you talk about how folks are freaked out - living in acute anxiety - because SS and other entitlements are targets for the axe.

You are completely correct.

Who the hell do you think is driving that bus? It ain't me or people who think like me.

You should be angry, too. Why aren't you?

I would say the 3 trillion doesn't just belong to Bush anymore.

Well, you have a point there.

But let me ask you this.

When you talk, here, about the "social agenda laid out in Lyndon Johnson's Great Society", isn't that a misstatement? Haven't a generation or more of Presidents and Congresses "signed off" on that social agenda?

Why is it Johnson's, any more than it's Nixon's, or Carter's, or Reagan's, or either Bush's, or Clinton's?

The tax cuts belong to Bush in exactly the same way, and for the same reasons, that the Great Society belongs to Johnson.

You can have it one way or the other, but not both. Pick one.

Yes somebody does

To address this, hopefully more concisely:

Government either does, or does not, have a legitimate claim on some portion of the wealth of the folks who live under it.

If it does, than "take your stuff" doesn't really seem to be an accurate description of taxation. It'd be like describing paying your bills as somebody "taking your stuff".

We're taking about more, or less. Not whether. OK, Brett is talking about whether. Excluding Brett, what we're discussing is incremental differences in a legitimate transaction.

In case it's not clear, no disrespect to Brett is intended in any of the above.

"Government either does, or does not, have a legitimate claim on some portion of the wealth of the folks who live under it."

No one, well maybe a few but not me, questions this. But when liberals, back to the point, say that we should take more of THEIR money in taxes, it qualifies as we want to take their stuff.

The right to tax and the failed logic of liberals are not related in any way.

But when liberals, back to the point, say that we should take more of THEIR money in taxes, it qualifies as we want to take their stuff.

What about liberals who pay taxes? What about wealthy liberals who would be subject to the higher marginal rates they advocate?

What about the freaking fact that, if you've managed to become wealthy in the first place, you've benefited most from the structures and institutions of government, from the very system in which you've gotten that wealth, a system outside of which that wealth simply would not exist at all?

What about the idea that people suggest things because they think they are the best way to preserve our system, regardless of where they are on the economic ladder, and that those ideas have merit without respect to the persons suggesting them?

Tax rates don't apply to people, they apply to income levels. If HSH and CCDG have the same taxable income, they pay the same taxes. We don't have HSH rates and CCDG rates, and we don't have liberal rates and conservative rates. If you earn a certain amount of taxable income, you are subject to a certain tax rate, regardless of what your name is or what your political views are.

hsh,

All good points. I object to the liberal mantra that what they want is ok because

"Liberals, after all, don't want other people's stuff for their own use;"

They do want to use it for their own use, preserving the system in a way that they think will work, etc. If wealthy liberals didn't want other peoples stuff they would just pay more.

I don't even object to them wanting other peoples stuff, just be upfront that it is what you want.

Yes, well, that's liberals. Liberals buy into the capitalist paradigm, so of course they want to take other people's stuff, and of course they rationalize why they deserve to take it rather than being up front about it. The flip side you neatly elide, naturally, is that conservatives do too, and they're no more frank than the dissembling liberals you so righteously deride...

I object to the liberal mantra that what they want is ok because

"Liberals, after all, don't want other people's stuff for their own use;"

That's not a justification for the policies liberals advocate. It's a defense against a baseless attack. What you're doing is playing a semantical game by reinterpreting, maybe without knowing it, what is meant by "taking other people's stuff." The original charge is taking for one's self, which isn't true.

Saying that that isn't true isn't the same as saying that taking for the greater good is the sole justification for taxing at higher rates, without respect to other considerations.

The real justification is that it will work better, and that, if you really think about it, it's not unfair.

What Russell said, almost exactly.

Speaking personally, I actually would like to see us go beyond income taxation to greater outright seizure of wealth. I think it's the only way at this point to get out of the economic hole we're in. Wealth inequality is vastly, vastly larger than income inequality, and it's wealth not being adequately used as capital that really gums up the works in a depression.

But the main way our society does that, which is the estate tax, keeps getting whittled down. The overwhelmingly prevalent current American intuition is that it's simply wrong to do this, that you don't just take people's stuff regardless of how they got it.

I suspect American intuition is going to change sooner or later. The way it plays out may not be pretty.

"The original charge is taking for one's self, which isn't true. "

Just semantics is right. Taking for ones self, and taking for one to use as one sees fit, are the same thing.


as for this:

The flip side you neatly elide, naturally, is that conservatives do too, and they're no more frank than the dissembling liberals you so righteously deride...

Conservatives do too, but I think they are much more frank about it. But I am willing to consider a pov that says they aren't.

Taking for ones self, and taking for one to use as one sees fit, are the same thing.

Okay. How about this? I, HSH, do not have the authority to tax, so I wouldn't be taking anything in advocating higher marginal rates at high income levels. I'm not sure what the point is, really. Are you saying we can't tax? No, you're not. So what's the freaking point here?

They do want to use it for their own use, preserving the system in a way that they think will work, etc.

It's not uncommon for people to make assumptions about other folks' motivations and intents. Pretty much everybody does it, at some point or other. I know I do.

It's a little less common to argue with those folks that your understanding of what they're about, intuited through whatever form of mind-reading is available to you, is actually more accurate than their own. But, again, it's not unheard of.

And it's not a left or right thing. Both "sides" do it, because it's a not-uncommon human thing to do.

My point here is simply to note that you are doing it, right now.

Taking for ones self, and taking for one to use as one sees fit, are the same thing.

Further, if we're taxing people, it's supposedly to pay for government spending. (It's really not, but I don't want to go there.) Do you have no opinion on what the government should spend money on? You agree that we need to tax and you agree that we need a government, so you must agree that the government do something. How are liberals any different from conservatives in thinking that government should spend money is ways that they see fit? Again, what's the freaking point here?

"My point here is simply to note that you are doing it, right now."

No, I am responding to a simple statement that was written by someone in this thread.

Next topic, please.

Let me get this straight:

Liberals want to raise the high marginal tax rate a few points, calling it taxation, which in any civil society, is exactly what it is.

But secretly what they really want to do is take other people's stuff without calling it that, and that steams some people because ... why, again, it's not forthright enough? Or ..... what? Hunh?

Meanwhile, on the other side, you have conservatives who apparently would prefer to get rid of the word taxation altogether (but, make no mistake, still tax you), eschewing mealymouthedness completely in the service of, what, honesty, and call the entire transaction "taking other people's stuff", or, in short, "theft".

Conservatives will still take your stuff and steal from you, but they want, what, respect, or points of some kind, for being frank?

First of all, I don't recall the Founders being p*ssed at the King of England for being taxed without frankness. The King was plenty frank about what he was doing. The Founders didn't walk around muttering to each other "Geez, if the King would only call it "Theft" like a man, we'd pony up in a nanosecond, once we figure out what a nanosecond is!

They objected to taxation without representation.

So when I have recruited my millions of angry, armed tax-haters for the most virulent tax revolt in the history of tax revolts, believe me, the first guys we're going to disembowel and feed face first into a wood chipper are the conservatives who say "Gimme your stuff, or else! This is a holdup. I'm stealing from you. And could you sign this piece of paper which will attest to my forthrightness so I can show it to Grover Norquist when I get back to office that the stuff I'm stealing from you will help pay for?

Whaddya think? My band of merry revolutionaries who are going to end the debate on taxation altogether would answer:
"You've gotta like a thief who tells it like it is!"?

On the other hand, if we're in the middle of lowering a liberal upside down into a vat of boiling oil and he screams: "Yes, I'm taxing you. Some more than others. It's how most reasonable civil societies work and in fact has worked really well throughout most of modern history. It's taxation. Let's talk about this", I might order a halt to his descent into the gently rolling oil, and while he's hanging there upside down, I'll say: "O.K. You talk. We're listening."


To engage in some speculative mind-reading of my own....

There's sort of a potential claim of moral superiority that comes along with saying "But I don't want it for my own use, it's for that other guy". I don't know if anyone is actually making that claim, nor do I know if such a claim would really be justified.

It all depends.

In any case, it wouldn't be surprising for such a claim, whether real or perceived, to kind of get up one's nose.

All of which has more or less nothing to do with anybody wanting to "take" anybody's "stuff". For whatever purpose.

Thanks russell, although I am disappointed in myself that you felt the need to read minds.

no worries, my pleasure, no snark.

The U.S. Government should behave just as a family does during tough times -- sit around the kitchen table and make those painful family decisions.

Whoops!:

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal/2011_08/a_federal_family_affair031916.php

Faux News living up to it's moniker.

or its, dammit

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