Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A conversation with a persistent tax-supporter

Woozle Hypertwin
Yesterday 11:36 AM  -  Public
This thought has been bubbling around in my head for some time, and only just today finally decided to de-lurk and introduce itself in a form I could write down.

There's one thing I don't understand about this big debate between the pro-corporation/anti-government people and the pro-regulation people:

How can you be pro-corporation and anti-government at the same time?

A corporation is a government-created class of organization.

Government gives the owners of corporations special protections against debtors, and artificially creates a trust-relationship between owners so they don't actually have to trust (or even know) each other in order to cooperate.

It seems to me that this has a number of implications as far as what the government should be able to expect from corporations.

Nobilis ReedYesterday 11:37 AM
The more thoughtful libertarians I know are both anti-corporate and anti-government.

Asmeret SimonYesterday 11:38 AM
It is not about benefits given to corporations. The Republican conservatives think that way. Libertarians like myself believe in reducing centralized authority. This would force the corps to sink or swim all by themselves, without bailouts or tax breaks.

Woozle HypertwinYesterday 11:45 AM
Asmeret: so do you agree that there should be no corporations, that owners of businesses should not be able to obtain protection from debtors through the government?

Rob BushYesterday 11:45 AM
+Nobilis Reed Perhaps I've never met these thoughtful Libertarians. All the ones I've ever run across advocate positions that would allow corporations to run roughshod over society. 

Jacob S.Yesterday 11:48 AMEdit
I'm in agreement; corporations only exist in this economic environment because of their legal protections.  Without those legal protections, individual share-holders would be individually responsible for all damages/debts of the corporation; which is to say, if a corporation went bankrupt, all shareholders would be individually & wholly responsible for all debt/damages of the business of which they are a share-owner.  One would have to be crazy to be a share-owner of a business which one is not intimately aware of its doings, and this would have the effect of incentivizing the reduction the propensity of corporations to externalize costs, because each owner would in fact be liable to cover, not just their own investment in the corporation, but also, personally liable for all of those external costs.
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Asmeret SimonYesterday 11:53 AM
It's a complex question, Woozle. The ideal free market would work that way, but the reality is very tangled. I think I can speak for a lot of us when I say that the Federal government should only handle matters that cannot be addressed locally or privately. These would include massive civic works, like roads, or defense.

When you look at corporate bailouts, you have to remember that these are industries that are too big and important to be allowed to fail. Nobody's sure what the way forward should be, including Libertarians.

We're stuck, in a very real way. Libertarianism campaigns hard for major changes, but our real intent is relatively minor ones. Progress is a slog through the legislative muck. sigh
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Woozle HypertwinYesterday 11:53 AM
I'm sure there are thoughtful libertarians out there, but they tend more towards the anarcho-socialist branch of libertarianism than the anarcho-capitalism branch.

Asmeret SimonYesterday 11:54 AM
You can find a lot of thoughtful Libertarians at reason.org. 

R Prakash PrakashYesterday 11:57 AM
Relating to my country, government and corporations are bed fellows. Politicians have stakes by proxy. So recently when anti corruption movement guys said they'll break fasting and contest polls, educated group of electorate welcomed the move. But many 'experts' are cautioning against, including an spineless economist who has a Noble prize.

Woozle HypertwinYesterday 12:16 PM (edited)
Asmeret: I've seen a number of very dubious arguments at reason.org, but perhaps there are some good ones as well.

Woozle HypertwinYesterday 12:15 PM
+R Prakash Prakash : it sounds like the same "crony capitalism" problem we have here in the US.

Asmeret SimonYesterday 12:24 PM
If you consider Reason dubious, I'm not sure at all that we can come to any meaningful understanding.

Asmeret SimonYesterday 12:27 PM
Cronyism is cheating, not capitalism. IMO. For one thing, in a Libertarian state, the centralized government authority would not be powerful enough to make it profitable.

Woozle HypertwinYesterday 12:36 PM
I can't seem to quickly locate any of the reason.com articles I had filed. A quick glance at the homepage doesn't turn up anything seriously problematic, although anything that cites Hayek or Mises is showing evidence of an ideology whose suggestions should not be accepted without close scrutiny.

Asmeret SimonYesterday 12:37 PM
Really? They do archive. Did you mark the permalink?

Asmeret SimonYesterday 12:38 PM
Reason.com is the print magazine, IIRC. Reason.org is the Reason Foundation, and Reason.tv is the streaming media.

Woozle HypertwinYesterday 12:41 PM (edited)
Yes, "crony capitalism" is cheating within a capitalistic framework -- which is what we have in the US.

Without a government framework, how do you prevent cheating by the powerful? How do you keep the market free?

A reason.com article suggests this:

"All markets are regulated. In a freed market we all know what would happen if someone charged, say, $100 per apple. He’d sell few apples because (under current cost conditions) someone else would offer to sell them for less or, pending that, consumers would switch to alternative products. “The market” would not permit the seller to successfully charge $100."


What if one apple-seller managed to untraceably sabotage the supply-chains of all the other apple-sellers, and then raise the price? What (presumably non-governmental) mechanisms would you have in place to make sure the free market in apples were restored after such an event?
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Jacob S.Yesterday 12:41 PMEdit
+Woozle Hypertwin I would be curious as to your criticisms of Mises. :-)

Asmeret SimonYesterday 12:42 PM
Industrial sabotage is unequivocally a criminal act, Libertarianism or no. Equating us with Anarchy is a knee-jerk reflex, and invalid. We do not promote anarchy.

Woozle HypertwinYesterday 12:43 PM
"Really? They do archive. Did you mark the permalink?" I mean, I had set some links aside, and at the moment I can't find where I put them.
Asmeret SimonYesterday 12:43 PM
I submit that we suffer the risk of crime no matter what system the government conforms to.

Asmeret SimonYesterday 12:45 PM
So would I. I'll have to look into him. :)

Asmeret SimonYesterday 12:45 PM

Woozle HypertwinYesterday 12:50 PM
Here's one: http://reason.com/archives/2011/12/13/medicare-whac-a-mole

"House Republicans, you may have heard, are trying to “end Medicare as we know it.” And well they should—Medicare as we know it is the nation’s biggest fiscal disaster."

...and yet studies show that it delivers a much higher percentage of its dollars towards actual care than do commercial insurers. How can it possibly be a financial disaster? Clearly they are omitting or distorting some information here.
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Woozle HypertwinYesterday 12:51 PM
Asmeret: we're not talking about crime, we're talking about tyranny of the winners.

Asmeret SimonYesterday 12:51 PM
Fair enough. Would you cite the studies? :)

Asmeret SimonYesterday 12:52 PM
Really? I thought we were talking about industrial sabotage.

Woozle HypertwinYesterday 12:52 PM
+Jacob S. : for one thing, Mises arguments are always presented as a massive bookstop. People who refer me to Mises articles generally do not seem able to summarize the arguments presented in those articles.

Woozle HypertwinYesterday 12:55 PM
+Asmeret Simon : healthaffairs.org/blog/2011/09/20/medicare-is-more-efficient-than-private-insurance/ (found via http://lmgtfy.com/?q=medicare+efficiency&l=1)

Woozle HypertwinYesterday 12:56 PM
Are you saying that industrial sabotage could not lead to tyranny if it was allowed to continue unchecked?

Asmeret SimonYesterday 12:57 PM
Strawman. You're inventing an argument I didn't make.

Asmeret SimonYesterday 12:57 PM
Thank you for the references. Reading.

Jacob S.Yesterday 12:57 PMEdit
+Woozle Hypertwin I think I can understand how that could be frustrating/not-helpful.  If I had a question and if someone else merely referred to a citation/article, without being able to summarize or explain how they thought the article could assist my understanding, could be very frustrating and would not meet my desires to understand & discuss.

Asmeret SimonYesterday 12:59 PM
That does happen... hmm. 

Woozle HypertwinYesterday 1:02 PM
Asmeret: "Strawman. You're inventing an argument I didn't make."

Wait, what?

* I proposed a scenario involving apples, based on an article in Reason.
* You said "I submit that we suffer the risk of crime no matter what system the government conforms to."
* I said it wasn't crime, it was tyranny.
* You said "Really? I thought we were talking about industrial sabotage."
* I said "Are you saying that industrial sabotage could not lead to tyranny if it was allowed to continue unchecked?"

Where did I put words in your mouth?
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Asmeret SimonYesterday 1:06 PM (edited)
All right. Reading this, it seems to me that there's language indicative of bias and a few points I could take issue with, but instead, I'm going to adopt the position that Medicare could be salvaged and put nationalized health care into the category of things that are too big and expensive for private industries to handle, like roads.

That's a move I can make without divorcing myself from Libertarianism. We do disagree with one another. I'll call it an investment that returns greater value, since a healthy population can accomplish more and generate increased wealth for all.

Point to you. Next? :)
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Asmeret SimonYesterday 1:09 PM
"Are you saying that industrial sabotage could not lead to tyranny if it was allowed to continue unchecked?"

This is a strawman.

Woozle HypertwinYesterday 1:10 PM
Fair enough. Not so much "too big and expensive", but rather something where profit should not be a motive.

Of course, if the government didn't require corporations to place the profit motive above the public good, maybe commercial health insurance could work. Can we agree on that too?

Woozle HypertwinYesterday 1:12 PM
How does it not follow logically from the dialogue I quoted above?

Woozle HypertwinYesterday 1:18 PM (edited)
Another dubious reason.com article: http://reason.com/archives/2011/12/07/obama-promises-to-save-the-middle-class -- this strikes me as being full of emotional appeals and distortions, and little to nothing in the way of reasoned arguments. If you can find any, then we might have something to discuss.

(edit) That said, I found two more reason.com articles that I had no problem with (I filed them because I agreed with them, not because I disagreed).

Asmeret SimonYesterday 1:17 PM
Re: strawman: I didn't say it.

I don't think the government does require profit above service. Does it? If that were the case, why bail out critical industries all the time? Surely our socialized systems are indicative of people coming before profit.

Woozle HypertwinYesterday 1:23 PM
Asmeret: you didn't say it, but I don't know what other implication to read from your response.

The sequence again:

* I proposed a scenario involving apples, based on an article in Reason.
* You said "I submit that we suffer the risk of crime no matter what system the government conforms to."
* I said it wasn't crime, it was tyranny.
* You said "Really? I thought we were talking about industrial sabotage."

Are you, then, agreeing that industrial sabotage can lead to tyranny if left unchecked? I proposed a sequence of events in a free market that would lead to tyranny unless somehow regulated, and showed how the regulatory mechanism proposed by the Reason article would not work.

You responded that crime would happen even with government.

I said it wasn't the crime I was concerned about, but the tyranny it would lead to if left unchecked.

You said you thought this was merely a case of industrial sabotage, not tyranny.

And I'm trying to figure out how that responds to my point.
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Asmeret SimonYesterday 1:24 PM
Heh. I don't recognize this guy, but personally, I distrust anyone who pluralizes "Internet."

Asmeret SimonYesterday 1:25 PM
Look at it relatively. I think we have fewer outright fallacies in our general platform than either major party.

Asmeret SimonYesterday 1:32 PM
Of course it can. And as far as I'm concerned, you leapt a long way from industrial sabotage to tyranny.

We're discussing an abstract, not a reality. This crime would occur under any system, but crime is not controllable. I don't understand your objection to the article. 

Woozle HypertwinYesterday 1:38 PM (edited)
"I think we have fewer outright fallacies in our general platform than either major party." That's a rather low bar...

Jacob S.Yesterday 1:38 PMEdit
I'll provide a Misesian critique of Medicare and see what you both think:

When an exchange occurs under the voluntary consent of two parties, both parties voluntarily consent, because they both expect that the exchange could benefit them both; if they both are correct in their expectations, then both parties benefit from all voluntarily/mutually-consensual exchange.  Therefore, under normal condition of voluntary/consensual exchange, there is an expectation of a net increase in human-satisfaction/happiness.

  When an exchange is not voluntary or consensual, one party, or a third party has to force/coerce one or both parties to exchange (in layman's terms, this is generally referred to as extortion or theft).  In all involuntary/non-consensual exchanges, one party benefits at the cost of another, at best, the net of human satisfaction is null but would generally tend towards a net decrease in human-satisfaction/happiness.

   Medicare is funded by "taxation" which is coerced under the threat of force/violence/punishment; this involuntary/non-consensual exchange would correspond to the previous analysis of involuntary/non-consensual exchanges and would tend towards a net decrease in human-satisfaction.  Those that have property expropriated, have a net decrease in their ability to provide for their own satisfaction, those that cause the coercion/extortion must coerce/extort more than what they wish to disburse, to cover the expenses/costs of the coercion/extortion, and those to which the coerced/extorted funds are disbursed, provide medical services to a set of persons "in need".

  This causes a distortion in market signals, signalling a greater demand for medical services than there is in the voluntary marketplace (because if this were not the case, then Medicare would not need to be funded involuntarily/coercively, but would be funded through other means voluntarily); this increase in demand for medical goods/services, signals to producers in medical industry that this artificially inflated demand is cause for greater investment in medical-goods/services production than actually exists in the voluntary market (in order to take advantage of the profits of the artificially inflated demand), which increases costs in advance of actual market demand. The result to be expected would be a steady increase in the over-production and over-investment in medical goods/services corresponding to a steadily increasing costs (and correspondingly, and increase in medical insurance costs).  Because those that cause the coercion/extortion, however well meaning, are not the actual consumers of the medical goods/services that they are providing coerced/extorted disbursements for, they have no actual knowledge (just their own guesses) as to the subjective preferences of how medical goods/services of those receiving disbursements (persons "in need") would prefer to receive their medical goods/services; this creates a situation were those disbursements are either going to be less than or greater than the demand of those "in need"; those "in need" are at the mercy of the Medicare bureaucracy of which they have very little control or influence, which is compounded by the lack of control they have over regulation/legislation of the provision of medical goods/services (life-saving drugs are delayed/stalled/denied by FDA bureaucracy, doctors are artificially restricted in supply by licensure, etc).

  The result of all of this, is the logical result of all involuntary/non-consensual exchanges/transactions, a net decrease in human-satisfaction.  The only persons, we might expect to have a net increase in satisfaction by this process, is the legislators, bureaucrats and agents of the institution that engages in coercion/extortion.
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Asmeret SimonYesterday 1:39 PM
+Woozle Hypertwin True, unfortunately.

Asmeret SimonYesterday 1:41 PM
+Jacob S. I can see flaws, but overall I would have to accept that analysis.

Asmeret SimonYesterday 1:43 PM
is increasingly distracted. I have a prescription refill due this week, and the way the phone isn't ringing is driving me up the wall.

Woozle HypertwinYesterday 1:53 PM
+Jacob S. : I agree with the argument, and the conclusion that it would be better to have a free market for medical care (and, side issue, non-coercive taxation) -- but the evidence shows that government-run insurance does a much better job of delivering services both in percentage of the public served and in dollar-efficiency.

The problem is that the insurance marketplace in the US is even less of a "free market" than a government-run system, because most healthcare consumer-dollars are very tightly constrained in how they are spent, and the presence of multiple for-profit players with essentially captive markets means that these companies act to optimize their profits by further restricting the choices available and reducing the quality of service delivered.

So while the argument is valid given its premises, if it is trying to argue that government healthcare is a bad idea or that private insurance is superior, it is proceeding from unstated false assumptions.
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Jacob S.Yesterday 2:16 PMEdit
+Woozle Hypertwin I question the premises required to compare the delivery of medical goods/services by "Medicare" vs "private insurance" as that comparison/analysis does not take into consideration, the costs of "private insurance" to navigate coercively enforced legislation/bureaucracies; if those "private insurance" companies are unable to freely and consensually make agreements with customers, then all of those coercively applied costs must be accounted to the institutions of coercion, and not the "private insurance" businesses themselves.  Additionally, the Medicare bureaucracy has the coercively-imposed monopolistic-privilege of forcing medical providers to accept Medicare, and therefore Medicare can artificially impose costs on providers, which then increase the prices those providers charge "private-insurance".  Therefore, to compare services and costs per person between Medicare and "private insurance" seems hopelessly flawed.
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David-Sarah HopwoodYesterday 2:28 PM
+Jacob S. "In all involuntary/non-consensual exchanges, one party benefits at the cost of another, at best, the net of human satisfaction is null but would generally tend towards a net decrease in human-satisfaction/happiness."

Wait, how does that follow logically? Suppose I steal something from you that you didn't need, and don't notice to be gone. This is clearly nonconsensual, but your satisfaction is not decreased, and mine is increased if I wanted the item. (Don't confuse this with whether the theft is morally right. Whether an event increases net happiness and whether it is morally right are independent concepts in general.)

In any case, if you say that taxation is something to which that argument applies, you've effectively assumed the conclusion that all taxation decreases net happiness, without taking into account any benefits of things paid for by taxation.
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Jacob S.Yesterday 2:30 PMEdit
The approach of Mises was never to make recommendations, only to provide reasoned economic analysis; he attempted to produce, what he would call a, "value-free" economic analysis, because it would not presume that a person should or should not, prefer a net increase/decrease in human-satisfaction.  Likewise, the Misesian argument I produced, does not make the conclusion of "Medicare is good" or "Medicare is bad", only that "The implications for Medicare have the result in a strong tendency to decrease overall/net human-satisfaction."  If someone were to say, "Yeah, I'm comfortable with a net decrease in human-satisfaction, so long as the costs are unseen/hard-to-see and the gains are very visible." (the kind of thinking that may go on in the head of a politician seeking popular support in a republic) then the Misesian approach could really have nothing to say to a person comfortable with a net decrease in human-satisfaction.

For myself, I do prefer, unequivocally and in all instances, possible net increases in human-satisfaction/needs-meeting. 
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Woozle HypertwinYesterday 2:39 PM
+Jacob S. : if the proposal is to eliminate government-operated insurance AND reform the regulation of private insurance, there might be a discussion to be had -- but I'd want to see some particular stipulations, such as toothy citizen oversight of the private insurers.

Woozle HypertwinYesterday 2:41 PM
The problem with Mises's "value-free" arguments is that they are so readily used to argue for one particular set of values, where a little further analysis (such as mine above) shows that the situation is (at best) more complex.

Jacob S.Yesterday 2:43 PMEdit
+David-Sarah Hopwood That's a good hypothetical; I believe it reveals an important point.  If Cindy, goes into Lucy's house, and steals Lucy's necklace, then Lucy is, strictly speaking, not damaged until Lucy realizes her necklace is missing (she experienced no decrease in her net satisfaction).  If Lucy, were to never notice her necklace was missing, and Lucy were to die without heirs, and Lucy directed all her possessions to be donated to charity, and assuming the charity (the technical heir) does not notice that the necklace is missing, then I suppose, in one sense, there is no net decrease in human satisfaction; however in another sense, that charity, or other heir, is deprived of the possible net gain in human satisfaction that they may have had from inheriting the necklace if it had not been stolen.

In my ethical analysis, I see all property, as the extension of the rational-consciousness/human-mind through labor/exchange to transform/exchange material conditions to provide for one's own greater satisfaction.  Therefore, in my own analysis, Cindy has expropriated the material-manifestation/representation of the extension of Lucy's mind into the world to provide for Lucy's own satisfaction.  Assuming, that Lucy had voluntarily exchanged for the money/goods exchanged for the necklace in the first place, then it would seem that the necklace, would properly be Lucy's to dispose of if she wished.  Cindy's theft, from the moment of the theft, had the potential to decrease Lucy's preparations/manifestations to provide for Lucy's own satisfaction, and that Cindy had not the right, to extend Cindy's mind through labor/action, to expropriate that manifestation of Lucy's mind for Cindy's own satisfaction.

Or I suppose, you could just say, that "stealing is unethical/wrong". ;-)
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Woozle HypertwinYesterday 2:45 PM
It's not even just "until Lucy realizes her necklace is missing", +Jacob S. What if Lucy has 100 necklaces and Cindy has none?

Woozle HypertwinYesterday 2:47 PM
"Or I suppose, you could just say, that "stealing is unethical/wrong"" -- one could, but I prefer to look at individual situtations. What if you're "stealing" food from a closed store after a hurricane has decimated the area?

Jacob S.Yesterday 2:53 PMEdit
In a sense, the only "value" of the Misesian argument, is that "humans can be more satisfied or less satisfied", the Misesian argument does not, nor could not say, "You should prefer a net increase in human-satisfaction.".  If a person such as Cindy, when she takes Lucy's necklack, prefers a particular net-decrease in human satisfaction, then there really isn't anything a Misesian could say about that.  The Misesian argument would be completely unraveled by a person claiming, "human satisfaction is irrelevant/meaningless" or "the only human's satisfaction that is relevant, is my own."
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Woozle HypertwinYesterday 3:00 PM
So, Mises essays are basically framing: he chooses to look at the problem in a particular set of terms, and thereby arrives at conclusions which just happen to match a solution preferred by particular political agenda.

Jacob S.Yesterday 3:06 PMEdit
+Woozle Hypertwin What if Lucy, valuing the necklace so little, would have freely given Cindy the necklace, if Cindy had only asked?  What if Cindy's theft, does not leave Cindy feeling particularly good about herself?  What if Cindy's guilt is transferred into resentment which poisons her friendship with Lucy?

 I would like a world where each person, treats all others with dignity and respect.  Mises may not have wanted to say that anyone should prefer a net increase in human-satisfaction but as I said, I do prefer, unequivocally, the net increase of human-satisfaction & needs-meeting.  I want to have empathy for everyone who is suffering and I want to celebrate with all those who are joyful.  I do not condemn Cindy, I want to empathize with the pain inside of her, that would cause her to steal from someone else; perhaps she was treated with disrespect for most of her life and somehow she acts out of the lack of needs-meeting in her own life. I want to empathize with Lucy, if she is not feeling generous, because she has never been given to generously.  I feel sadness and a sense of tragedy when people do not treat each other with dignity & respect; I have a sense that people only mistreat each other, because they have been mistreated.  I wish for a world where children are raised with dignity and without domination based on power-over, but rather empowered by power-with.  Unlike Mises, I will say that I am strongly in favor of all net increases in human-satisfaction.  Life & happiness/satisfaction is too precious, for me not to prefer it to the alternatives.
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Woozle HypertwinYesterday 3:16 PM
+Jacob S. : that is part of why it's important to evaluate ethical acts in their actual context, rather than in the context of absolute rules such as "stealing is bad".

I think I agree with everything you said just now.

Jacob S.Yesterday 3:17 PMEdit
+Woozle Hypertwin I'm not sure if my experience/analysis of Mises' thought is conforming to the conclusions that you seem to be forming.  I don't see how Mises' economic analysis, could be used for anything other than an analysis of human-satisfaction in the economization of scare resources; Mises' arguments could recommend no particular course of action (this is one of the critical differences between Mises and Keynes; Keynes did recommend specific policy changes), but only what kinds of action had the tendency to increase human-satisfaction and what kinds of action had the tendency to decrease human-satisfaction.  I am experiencing an impression/feeling, that perhaps you may have a negative "enemy-image" of Mises and I'm not sure that there is much I can do, that would be productive in assisting an understanding of, or empathy for Mises.  I have my disagreements/departures from Mises, but I appreciate him as a reasoned economist that had respect for the individual's subjective preferences in meeting their own needs.  The economists that I do not prefer, are those that would suggest that their ideas should be imposed on others by the force of government; that doesn't sit well with me.  The idea that people are forced to obey the commands of "authorities" makes me feel uneasy, and I would prefer that all persons could find voluntary/consensual means for meeting their needs.
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Jacob S.Yesterday 3:24 PM (edited)Edit
+Woozle Hypertwin Upon looking back, I think I made the remark that, "Or I suppose, you could just say, that 'stealing is unethical/wrong'." because I was feeling a bit vulnerable at that point... I am working on a theory of ethics, and in the preceding paragraph I summarized the kind of argument that I am looking at elucidating, but after I had finished writing it, I was feeling vulnerable, that it might be seen as a pretentious word-game and so I think I referred the more common ethical employment, as a way to say, "It might sound complex or pretentious, but what I want to say is that I would prefer that all persons treat each other kindly/empathically, and perhaps, here's a simpler, perhaps less pretentious way to say kind-a the same thing."
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Kevin PenoYesterday 3:49 PM (edited)
Without the state, a corporation is a group of people working together, through common investment, to accomplish the goals outlined by the articles of incorporation. The only thing that gives corporations unjust power is the state granting limited liability to members of a corporation. This allows corporations to rival that of state power, effectively making a corporation an entity of its own, in some cases, treated no different  legally than a person.

It is perfectly viable to be both anti-state and pro-corporatism, so long as this distinction is understood (most times it is not). To deny pro-corporation is to deny pro-partnership or pro-union in a stateless society. Since a stateless society cannot deny anything, doing so would imply law, it is illogical to claim that one cannot be pro-anything.
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Kevin PenoYesterday 3:48 PM (edited)
On the subject of ethics, the reason ethics must be reasoned in context to the various possible situations is that no code of ethics, just as no code of law, will perfectly fit everyone. Someone starving is going to have, or at least live differently by, a different set of ethics than someone who is well off. No matter what I believe or what you believe, even if apparently equal, different results are probably had.

This is why I think only through discussion and neutral non-binding arbitration can we find, as +Jacob S. called it, a net increase in human-satisfaction. Anything else results in one party finding a net-loss.
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Woozle HypertwinYesterday 4:00 PM
+Jacob S.

Re Mises: perhaps you are right. Mises does tend to get thrown into conversations in a context that is adversarial to points I'm trying to establish, so my opinion of its substance may be colored by that.

Re ethics: I agree with your rephrase as well. It was a bit ambiguous in context, and I may have taken it too literally.

Woozle HypertwinYesterday 4:05 PM
+Kevin Peno :

"The only thing that gives corporations unjust power is the state granting limited liability to members of a corporation."

This implies that non-corporate entities cannot attain unjust power. Is that what you are arguing?

(Other than that, I think you're making sense; not trying to shoot you down.)

Dan Dennet describes moral codes as "ethical first-aid" -- a rule-of-thumb for when you don't have the resources for a proper ethical analysis ; I think I agree with that. Full ethical analysis should always trump moral codes, but sometimes a snap judgement based on a code is all you have time for.
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Kevin PenoYesterday 4:07 PM
I am not implying that at all. I was pointing to the source of corporate power, and its primary purpose within a state.

Woozle HypertwinYesterday 4:20 PM
Okay. I guess I'd say "the primary thing giving corporations unjust power", then, but now I'm just nitpicking.

Kevin PenoYesterday 4:35 PM (edited)
+Woozle Hypertwin,  I suppose you could argue that, but I'm pretty sure the entire meaning and purpose behind corporation is limited liability. Thus, without that ability, they'd be nothing but a name. So, anything else you can apply or attribute as an unjust power of a corporation could easily be applied to any organization and/or only to a small subset of corporations.

Woozle HypertwinYesterday 4:40 PM
It just seems to me that there are other ways that a corporation (or any group, incorporated or otherwise) can gain illegitimate power. The legal liability protection just helps with that.

Kevin PenoYesterday 5:03 PM (edited)
+Woozle Hypertwin, I said that above. In the context of 'a corporation', I believe you are correct. A single corporation might have or gain other unjust advantages the state grants them and other organizations. The key point I'm making is that other unjust advantages are not unique to corporations. The only distinct advantage corporations have is limited liability to their member-owners granted by the state.

"any group, incorporated or otherwise) can gain illegitimate power"

Define illegitimate. I bet we'll agree on the definition, but the execution will likely differ [see ethics discussion above]. ;)
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Woozle HypertwinYesterday 6:02 PM
Ahh. The only unique advantage corporations have. Got it.

"Illegitimate": may I presume that even in a libertarian/anarchist/free-market system, there are some ground rules most people observe?

Kevin PenoYesterday 6:25 PM
Sure, in all societies there is chance of sharing ideals. Those ideals might even form into power, ethics, morals, or de facto law. That doesn't make those ideas, or the execution of those ideals, any more legitimate than similar from opposing views in the same society.

I was making a point to bring the conversation back to ethics and draw similarity to the usage of the two words. Only one person can define legitimacy, the person deciding on whether to accept something as legitimate. If they don't accept it, it is illegitimate.

This is the key problem I have with law. What you find illegitimate, someone else finds legitimate. If you change the law to how you find it legitimate, they will likely find it illegitimate. The end result is an imbalance between parties or, at best, a balance where all parties lose in order to sustain equality.
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Woozle HypertwinYesterday 6:31 PM
Well, let's try this, then: "illegitimate" is anything that violates the basic principles of society. If one principle is, say, honesty, then power acquired through lying to people would be illegitimate.

Jacob S.Yesterday 8:06 PMEdit
Does everyone in this discussion, have agreement with the proposition, that each person has the exclusive right/privilege of their own body?

Jacob S.Yesterday 8:16 PMEdit

Woozle HypertwinYesterday 8:49 PM
I agree, but I'm not sure it's firm ground upon which to base a whole structure of rules. Who decides where the boundary is between one's body and enhancements to that body, or between one's body and another's?

Woozle HypertwinYesterday 8:59 PM
I'm not sure I follow this argument:

"IF a portion-of-the-product-of-the-the-labor ('p') of person 'S', rightly belongs to a collective-of-individuals-consisting-of-an-economic-environment ('E') because those persons participating in the greater/collective economic environment make possible the success or wealth of 'S', THEN {if this principle is applied universally} 'S' as one part of that collective is therefore owed 'p' (a part/portion of the product of the labor of that entire collective), due to the role played by 'S' in that economic environment; THEREFORE the claim that 'S' owes 'E' a portion of the product of her labor 'p' is negated by the reciprocal debt owed by 'E' to 'S'."

So, let's say E is the United States, with an average household income of $54,000 and S is a multibillionaire with an annual income of $100m.

Is the argument, then, that just as S owes some portion of his income -- say, 30% -- to E because of E's role in generating S's wealth, then E owes 30% of its income back to S because of his role in generating E's wealth?

I mean, is that the argument, or am I misapplying it?
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Jacob S.Yesterday 10:18 PMEdit
Not exactly... the argument used by that philosophy professor, was that Steve Jobs ('S') owes a portion of the product of his labor (and for the moment, we are assuming, that 'S' is operating in a 'free-economy' or 'voluntary marketplace' because that's the assumption of the professor, that the economic environment is noncoercive) the rest of society is owed a certain portion/percentage of the product of labor of 'S', because the rest of society, was responsible for creating an economic environment in which 'S' could make the product of his mind/labor so valuable (the supporting argument is, that if 'S' was born in a place of extreme poverty, there would be no way for 'S' to do what 'S' is able to do in a more affluent economic environment).

My argument is that if this principle is universal, then in the same term, that 'S' would owe a portion/percentage of his labor to the rest of "society", because that "society" makes the wealth of 'S' possible, THEN the rest of "society" would similarly/universally owe to 'S' a portion of the product of their labor/mind; when the principle is universally applied and not arbitrarily applied, then this alleged obligation is negated; that IF Steve Jobs owes "society" because "society" provides a part of the economic environment that Steve Jobs operates in, which makes his wealth possible, then similiarly/universally, then the rest of society, would owe Steve Jobs a portion/percentage of the product of society's labors/minds for the part that Steve Jobs plays in making society's wealth possible; these comparative obligations on both sides, negate each other, which results in the implication, that neither does Steve Jobs owe "society" nor does "society" owe Steve Jobs. Or perhaps, this would be more concrete, if Steve Jobs owed $312 million to "society" (which would be $1 to each person {in USA} participating in the "economic environment" for their contributions to the "economic environment"), then it would seem that correspondingly/reciprocally each person would similarly owe Steve Jobs $1 for the participation/contribution of Steve Jobs in their "economic environment"; the 'claims' when applied universally, would cancel each other out.

Does that make the argument any clearer?
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Woozle HypertwinYesterday 10:33 PM
What is the basis of your calculation of how much S owes to E? Because it seems to me kind of arbitrarily chosen in order to fit the conclusions -- and not at all how I (or anyone else advocating progressive taxation) model it.

If nothing else, the appropriate curve is a mapping of "your income" (X) to "what you owe back to society" (Y). The rule can be the same for everyone, yet produce an unequal flow.

Progressive taxation is a fair idea that applies equally to everyone, regardless of whether everyone pays the same. Any attempt to claim it must be unfair if it doesn't cancel itself out is pure sophistry -- just like the arguments that it discriminates against rich people and punishes success.
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Jacob S.Yesterday 11:03 PMEdit
Personally, I disagree with the proposition, that 'S' (an individual) owes the set-of-individuals-consisting-of-the-economic-environment anything beyond an expectation to trade/exchange/labor honestly and/or non-violently/non-coercively.

But I think it is interesting, that if the proposition, claiming that 'S' owes the rest of "society" is set up, as a universal principle, there would be required some kind of reciprocal accounting; it cannot be that 'S' owes everyone, but everyone does not owe 'S', for that would be an arbitrary and not a universal principle.  If 'S' owes the rest of "society" a great sum because of the great wealth of 'S', then the rest of society, as individuals, would reciprocally owe some small sum to 'S'; how this "sum" could ever be calculated objectively, I think is impossible to determine even if it were the case that the proposition is true.  How do you calculate an "economic environment"?  Why does the obligation of 'S' go to a particular corporation (i.e. the government)? Why cannot 'S' give to the charities of his choice, or to none at all?  If 'S' gains great wealth honestly/legitimately, what does that wealth represent, other than the value that 'S' has provided his customers?  Why does 'S' owe the value he gave to his customers to third-parties?

I am left with a feeling of sadness for those that are punished (put in cages) for the "crime" of not paying "taxes".  I am not a fan of punishment in general; if threats and punishment are not proper ways for dealing with children, why would I wish to employ those methods for adults?  Taxation is ultimately enforced by the threat of punishment and I do not think that threats and punishments are very good ways to interact with people.  Punishment might seem to some to be necessary for crimes that actually harm people, but for a supposed "crime" that does not actually harm others, such punishment seems all the more tragic.

I wish for people to treat each other with dignity and respect, and if punishment and threat of punishment is off the table, then what is left is for people to voluntarily and consensually interact with each other.
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Woozle Hypertwin8:12 AM (edited)
"it cannot be that 'S' owes everyone, but everyone does not owe 'S', for that would be an arbitrary and not a universal principle."

Not if the principle is based on individual income -- as I have explained at length. That would be universal and yet result in a net movement of resources from S to everyone else, if S has far more than everyone else.

How is this not fair?

I agree that taxation should not be physically coerced, however.
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Jacob S.9:26 AMEdit
+Woozle Hypertwin I fail to reason how "taxation" could be based on "individual income" and yet remain universal; universalization would imply reciprocation.  If 'G' can "tax" the "individual income" of 'S' but 'S' cannot "tax" the "individual income" of 'G', then "tax" is not a universal principle, it is non-reciprocal.  If 'G' creates arbitrary financial obligations on 'S' ('G' just says that 'S' owes x) but 'S' is not permitted to create arbitrary financial obligations on 'G' then, I don't see how this could be interpreted as anything but the arbitrary whim of 'G'.  If a set of persons (IRS), "assesses" the individual income of Steve Jobs, and tells Steve Jobs, how much Steve Jobs owes the IRS; if this principle were applied universally, then Steve Jobs would justified in similarly assessing the income of IRS, and submit to the IRS, the sum Steve Jobs assesses that the IRS owes him.  If "taxation" were a universal, and not an arbitrary principle, if I told you, "you owe me $10" then you would just respond, "well then you owe me $11" and there could be no resolution, so long as each person could arbitrarily decide that others owe them some arbitrary "debt", all of the arbitrary claims, would essentially cancel each other out.

I feel encouraged knowing that you would not support the force/violence/or-threat-of-force against those that would choose to abstain from paying "taxation". :-)
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Woozle Hypertwin9:31 AM
Would it not be a universal rule to say "if you jump over this cliff, you will die"?

Jacob S.9:50 AM (edited)Edit
I wouldn't identify that so much as a "universal" rule, as I would identify such a proposition as a conditional statement expressing a possible/likely consequence.

Woozle Hypertwin9:52 AM
Okay. But is it unfair? Is it being applied asymmetrically?

Jacob S.10:02 AMEdit
"Fairness" requires the framework/presumption of some ethical-theory that could make an analysis of "just" or "unjust" in order to determine the "fairness".

I don't see what is "fair" or corresponding to justice, for a corporation, to threaten punishment against individuals, who do not pay them, a fee that is assessed by that corporation.  Even if a person, pays the corporation that money, each person does so, under the explicit threat of punishment (codified in "law"), and therefore does so under conditions of duress.  I would concede that some people, would "happily" pay their taxes; perhaps some people pay the local Mafia, "happily" as well, I do not know; what I do know, is that if the punishment and threat of punishment were to be extinguished, then "taxation" would seem to appear to be like any voluntary charity and I'm fully supportive of voluntary charity.  So long as that terrible specter  of the threat of force looms over all others, I'm not terribly impressed by the "fairness" of the current political schema.
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Woozle Hypertwin10:13 AM (edited)
As I understand it, your objection to progressive taxation is that it is a rule that is being applied in some asymmetric or unfair way -- that if it were to be applied equally, the same amount of taxation would have to be owed in the other direction, leaving zero net debt.

Is this correct?

Jacob S.11:15 AM (edited)Edit
My reasoning wouldn't apply solely to "progressive taxation" but any taxation; but essentially yes, "If 'G' can create an arbitrary claim of obligation upon 'S' ", then it is non-universal/non-reciprocal, if 'S' is not permitted (by 'G') to create arbitrary obligations upon 'G' to 'S'.  If it were universal/reciprocal, then the claims would essentially cancel each other out, without resolution.  It is not so much that the net calculus would be a zero sum, but that it is a zero-sum game, that neither side gains advantage if they both have the same universal ability to make arbitrary claims of obligation upon each other.
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Woozle Hypertwin1:51 PM
You're proceeding from false assumptions about the reasoning behind progressive taxation, I think. It's not an arbitrary claim, but a claim based on comparative need and ability.
Jacob S.4:22 PM (edited)Edit
If "taxation" is not an arbitrary claim, then why is it not reciprocal?  Why is the person taxed, not permitted to tax others?  If employing the threat of force to extort money is not something that you or I would find ethically satisfactory under all other conditions, why would we make an arbitrary exception, when it is called "taxation"?  How is "taxation" different from extortion?  If you and I would not be ethically comfortable, with a mafia/yakuza enforcer, extorting money from a business owner, why is the same action by an IRS agent a different kind of ethical category?

Woozle Hypertwin5:32 PM (edited)
You're trying to conflate two different ideas: (1) the idea of non-arbitraryness, and (2) the idea of reciprocity.

Plus "reciprocity" does not imply "reciprocity in the same amount". If the rule is "15% of your income goes into the pot", then how is it "arbitrary" non-reciprocal for someone earning $1m annually to pay $150k while someone earning only $100k pays $15k?

(edit) And why is reciprocity important?

By your same argument, if a grocer demands $1 for a banana, that's an arbitrary demand unless the grocer also buys a banana from me for $1. How does either of us benefit from this?

How will a future Steve Jobs benefit from a society in which nobody knows how to read or write because past Steve Jobs (and all those earning at his income level) refused to pay for public schooling?
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Jacob S.6:11 PMEdit
I use the term "arbitrary" to describe a proposition or principle, based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or rational-system.

If Bob were to say, "I was justified in stealing Tom's cellphone, because Tom was being a jerk."  I see this as an arbitrary justification; Bob is saying that his own subjective-perspective of "Tom...being a jerk" was the cause/justification of the theft of the cellphone.  This appears to me, to be mostly based on Bob's personal whim and not on a rational principle.  To make Bob's arbitrary principle, non-arbitrary, we would have to extend that same principle to all persons; that all persons who subjectively perceive someone else as being a "jerk" would justify their own subjective determination of what should be stolen from the "jerk" as retribution/punishment for the "jerk-iness".

"Taxation" seems similarly arbitrary, because one particular corporation (government/IRS) determines for themselves, how much an individual "owes" and then by coercion or force, will proceed to expropriate what they have determined that the individual "owes".  Granted, there is an appeals "process" but the arbitrators are employed by the same corporation that made the arbitrary determination in the first place and the rules that are recognized by those arbitrators, are the rules written by that same corporation.  What if Walmart "taxed" people for the "economic benefit" of having a Walmart in their neighborhood, and the appeals process consisted of a Walmart judge, arbitrating based on Walmart rules?

To make the principle of "taxation" non-arbitrary, we would have to universalize the principle to any and all persons, and not some arbitrarily selected persons; we would have to permit/allow/support any and all individuals to do exactly the same act which is performed by those individuals acting in their capacities of that particular institution which "taxes" currently.  Any and all persons would then necessarily have the same right of an IRS agent, to determine who owes them, how much, and then to select their own employees to arbitrate those that would dispute that claim, based on rules selected/legislated by the extortioner, and then to compel those who have failed to be granted an appeal by those employee-arbitrators.  This would create a situation, where every person, would have the reciprocal power to use the threat of force, to compel others to give them whatever money that they assess/determine is "owed".

The obvious result of this, would either be complete chaos/violence as every person tries to compel all others to give them money or alternatively, every person's claim to this "power to tax" would be seen to negate all claims of others to "tax" that individual.  In either case, the principle of "taxation" if made universal/non-arbitrary, would seem to either collapse upon itself (because everyone is extorting everyone, no one's needs are met, except the most powerful/violent extortioners), or everyone peacefully decides that all claims of extortion, essentially negate themselves.

I reason the principle of "15% of your income goes into the pot" as arbitrary, because who decides which "pot" it will go in? Why 15% and not 1% or 50%? How is this principle decided, except by those with the power to force, compel or coerce the 15%?  How is the power to force, compel or coerce, not just the arbitrary whim of those in power?

In the case of your grocer, the demand of $1 for a banana, is by itself, an arbitrary assessment; but the grocer does not force, compel, coerce anyone to purchase the banana; if someone decides to voluntarily pay the grocer the $1 for the banana, then then both the grocer and the customer have arbitrated their own case; each got what they wanted from the exchange because, the grocer valued the $1 more than the banana and the customer valued the banana more than the $1.

But with "taxation" one party is forcing, compelling, coercing the exchange.  The "customer" is not permitted to arbitrate her own case; she is not permitted to walk away from the "taxer" like she could the grocer.  She is in a situation of subjugation to the "taxer" and the "taxer" is in a position of domination over her. She cannot realistically extricate from this compelled interaction, it is being foisted upon her, against her will; she may meekly pay because she does not want to be punished, but her meekness in no way changes the situation; she might also meekly surrender her purse to a mugger as well, but this would not ameliorate the ethical actions of the mugger.

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