Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Poor

Common objection to anarchism is "What about the poor? They can't afford X!"

Actually, they could afford it better without the government, because a massive tax burden has now been lifted off of them.

Consider first the income tax. On paper, without knowing better, one would look at Title 26 subsection 1 and think "The income tax is progressive, the rich pay more than the poor."

This is true to a point. This point is the corporation. The example I normally use to illustrate the problem is this:

Average Joe:
Income - $10,000
Expenses - $8000
Taxable income - $10,000

Richard the Rich:
Forms Corporation
Corporate income - $1,000,000
Corporate expenses - $900,000
Taxable income - $100,000

Notice that despite having 100 times the income, Richard the Rich has only 10 times the taxable income as Average Joe. And this is a simpified version not counting all the other tax benefits corporations get.

Average Joe must pay out of his post-tax reserves of money for his insurance, gasoline, rent, and other things.

Richard the Rich pays out of his pre-tax reserves of money for these things, lists them as corporate expenses, and is taxed on whatever is left.

This is why the income tax, contrary to popular belief, is actually NOT progressive. It is progressive only to a point.

The figure I've read is that 95% of taxes are paid by the richest 50%. On paper, this is true. But taxation increases the effective costs of production which increases the cost to the final consumer, in most cases meaning, the poor. So the poor pay for it one way or another.

If Walmart is taxed on 5% of it's income, these costs are not simply absorbed by Walmart. Walmart has to increase prices (or lower prices not as quickly as they'd like to) in order to make up for it.

This isn't half of it, and this is just the income tax.

Now let's look at "subsidies" and "regulations" and "tariffs".

The price of sugar in the United States is 4 times the price the rest of the world pays for sugar. We're talking one of the basic cooking supplies, which the poor pay a greater portion of their income on than anyone else. Why is this? Because of regulations, taxes, and tariffs.

The United States imposed a tariff on softwood imports. Why? Because Canada refused to impose a tax on it. The tariffs raise the cost of building the kinds of homes that the poor would be moving into as soon as they could to escape the slums and ghettos. But now, they are stuck in high-crime neighborhoods for longer because housing is more expensive.

Food is supposedly "subsidized" in the US, to make it more available to the poor. Who eventually pays those income taxes again in the form of higher prices on everything? Oh right, the poor.

Who spends the greatest portion of their income on rent? The poor. What do property taxes do? They raise the costs of operating apartments and the like, causing the prices to rise, causing the poor to pay more.

If you still believe such a thing as "Progressive taxation" exists, you are tricking yourself.

And what about licensing? It limits not only the number of sellers, allowing prices to rise, but it also limits the ability of the poor to become a seller, build a business, and get out of the hole.

Even the police have this problem. Without prices and choice, allowing the poor to decide for themselves how best to allocate resources to secure the rest of theirs, there is too much spent in the way of police-department-bureaucracy and tools used by police, and too little spent in the way of actually protecting people from harm. The poor are overcharged and underserved. The government has no rational means to calculate how much the poor desire the services over the money they pay in taxes.

On the topic of police, who in his right mind would pay money to have a man come and throw him in a cage for selling weed? Nobody! What makes anyone think this kind of "service" is doing any good for the poor?

No matter what the government does, it has perverse consequences. And the poor always bear the brunt of this, because they have the least influence on politicians, they don't vote, they rarely understand what is going on, and when they do, they don't have the resources to do anything about it.

The best way to help the poor is to get the hell out of their way and let them do something about their own lives.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Chaos and Order

One of the things I did to help me think about the topics I write about here was to make a two-column list. Everything consistent with my philosophy is on one side, everything opposite of it is on the other. This helped me relate certain ideas. As I made this list, I had to figure out which side these two words go on: Chaos, and Order.

They're just not on the list. But some of the things I realized as I thought about it did make the list.

Reality is guided by certain laws. We call these "the laws of physics" among others. These laws create a kind of order to things which does not have to be imposed. It just happens on it's own. It is not because people said "We need to force matter to congregate in an orderly fashion to create distinct objects" that we have distinct objects. The universe, clouds and clusters of galaxies, galaxies, galactic structure, solar systems, planets, moons, asteroids, this order did not come about because it was imposed upon reality. It simply became. Intelligent Designer not required, batteries not included.

Perhaps I'm using this word out of context, but I want to use the word "Emergent" to describe it. The universe as it exists today is the result of the natural order of things. It is the result of individual particles behaving according to their nature.

To some, the universe may seem chaotic. They may think it requires some rearranging to be more orderly. Assuming they had the means to do this, they might for example, place all particles 1 mm apart from every other particle in a tesselating tetrahedral formation, grouped three-dimensionally according to the particle's mass, charge, and spin. The universe would then be more "orderly". But the very moment the laws of physics had to once again be applied, the particles would be organized in a way incompatible with their nature. Particles would attract and form new particles, force other particles away, et cetera. This perfectly orderly universe quickly would become a violent soup of subatomic annihilations and decays. The Intelligent Designer here may have been able to somehow force the universe to be orderly. But one thing no Intelligent Designer can do is change the laws of physics which guide the behavior of these particles.

The same principle applies to people. To some, the free market may appear a turbulent and choatic way of doing things. They can attempt economic control, but they cannot for example, repeal the law of supply and demand. While it might be possible for them to force reality to be a certain way, they cannot rewrite the inherent laws of nature which caused it to behave differently in the first place.

When you force order, you create chaos.

When you permit chaos, reality will give you a sorted order.

Design - Order degrades into chaos.

Emergence - Chaos sorts itself into order.

Ethics and Politics, Truth and Lies

"The bigger the lie, the more people will believe it." -Josef Goebbels, Nazi

The best political quiz ever given was that which I found on Marc Stevens' website which as of the redesign, I haven't been able to locate. It claimed to be "The World's Smallest Political Quiz." Except it wasn't the one you find on the website of the Advocates for Self-Government. It had one question and two possible results. (WSPQ is not the smallest after all.)

The question: "Should a good or service be provided at the barrel of a gun?"
If you said "yes", you were directed to the definition of "tryant", "despot", et cetera.
If you said "no", the test returned "Congradulations, you are not political."

I am not political.

Ethics and Politics are usually seen with a relationship whereby one's ethics decide one's politics. What you think is moral and immoral determines what you think should be legal and illegal. I don't exactly think of it like that. The relationship between ethics and politics is the same as the relationship between truth and deception. Politicians find ethics inconvenient just as liars find truth inconvenient. Politics and lies deliberately conceal and negate ethics and truth.

Political language is a language of lies. All political words reflect this. When you see a political lie, translate it to an ethical vocabulary. By doing this, you can make anyone who habitually uses political lies look like an idiot by using an equivalent ethical truth.

"Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

Remove the political lies of "Your" (as if you actually had possession or property right in the government) and the implication that "country" means "government" and what we're left with is:

"Ask not what I can do for you, ask what you can do for me."

The stupidest idiot who ever lived could recognize this if not for the success of political language.

When political lies distort reality, the easiest way to set things straight is to restrict yourself to the ethical vocabulary, except to translate political to ethical terms or clarify how these political terms are related to the ethical terms.

When people talk about "war", talk about murder.
When people talk about "law", talk about involuntary servitude.
When people talk about "taxes", talk about theft.
When people talk about "nations", talk about individuals.
When people talk about "legality," talk about morality.

A libertarian reading the words "WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH" will see a beautiful irony here. That first, there are three perfect absurdities of logic, and three perfectly valid political statements. War abroad distracts the public, creating peace for the ruling class, while peace abroad creates political conflict at home. Freedom of government is slavery, and freedom from government enslaves the government. Ignorance is patriotism, patriotism is the basis of government's consentual element, and strength, force, is used to compel the rest to act as the ignorant masses do. They are three lies, but in the political realm, they are three truths. The political realm is a lie.

One of the most absurd of the political lies is the collective lie.

"National" = "Ours"
"Ours" = "Yours" as in "We tax ourselves."
"Ours" = "Mine" as in "We get federal aid."

"For every dollar we send to the state level, we get five dollars back." -local government

"For every dollar you give the mafia I like, I get five dollars."

So whenever you see "Our" or "Us" or "We" or "Nation" or "Country" or "State" in a political context, keep in mind that someone is lying to you.

Deception is an inherent, inseperable part of politics. Politics itself is a big lie.