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  1. #11
    ^He pronks, too! Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by greenfairy View Post
    How do you argue with something like that? Obviously I think it's better to teach someone to fish than to give them a fish, but I don't think it really works that way most of the time. The rich aren't always rich because they are skilled, and the poor aren't always poor because they aren't.
    I mentioned aggregating wealth. This law is applicable to any kind of commodity of power, and in today's age wealth, particularly money is the commodity of power. All it comes down to is that for each dollar you have, you have greater power to obtain another dollar. Each additional dollar you get then makes it that much easier to get another dollar, and so on. It's basically a run away effect that makes it so even very minor differences in wealth caused by fluke accidents can grow into massive wealth advantages for someone who barely tries. This is particularly true over multiple generations of people. Your friend probably doesn't realize that there are uncountable factors, some seemingly ridiculous, that give people advantages and disadvantages in gaining wealth, and that because of wealth aggregation, it only takes a small advantage to ultimately create a very skewed outcome. There isn't anything necessarily fair about who's rich and who's poor.

    However, to me, that's all beside the point. I'm not so concerned with whether or not people are rich are poor for supposedly fair reasons, I'm concerned with whether or not the distribution of wealth creates more positive or negative outcomes for society. I conclude that inequality of wealth creates more negative consequences than positive consequences.* Again, it would take a long time to explain all the reason this is the case.

    *There is theoretically a point of wealth equality that is actually more negative than positive, but I do not believe there is any entire country on earth that his this level of equality.
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  2. #12
    ^He pronks, too! Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    Let me just say that in general I presume your friend is some sort of free market fundamentalist. To speak very broadly, every flaw of this ideology comes from one of two problems, which I'll call the ethical problem and the functional problem.

    The ethical problem is basically the problem of deontological ethics and it has to do with Peguy's post about anti-tax people defending their rights. These are people who have become very fixated on the idea of good conduct, and what qualifies as good conduct, and whether or not people are performing it. That is to say, they define something like theft, and then make sure no one is committing what they call theft, consequences be damned. I think a good example of this comes from how often free market fundamentalists bring up Robin Hood as a condemnable figure. They are more concerned with the fact that Robin Hood is stealing than they are with whether or not starving, homeless people are being fed and sheltered.

    The functional problem is about a belief in "market forces" or "the invisible hand". Basically, many if not all free market fundamentalists believe that if no non-profit entity (like the government) interferes with the behavior of markets, then the economy will run as optimally as it possible can. Based on this, they might say that your taxes and welfare programs are well-intentioned but misguided, because you cannot understand the markets well enough to manipulate the economy into doing better than it would if the markets were simply unfettered. Everything they believe makes sense if you accept this premise. The problem is that there's no reason to believe any part of that premise.

    So how do you argue with these people? I've been trying to figure that out for years. I would compare it to trying to convert a Christian to atheism.
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  3. #13
    Emperor/Dictator kyuuei's Avatar
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    What I know is that nothing is simple. "Simple interest" is anything but. If you deviate, even slightly, from the flat percentage pay rate, the whole system gets screwed up and requires recalculating.

    The concept of simple interest on, say, a car loan: you pay 5% interest on your car. They calculate that out by the number of months you have the loan (Lets say 60, or 5 years) on a 10,000$ car. Interest = 10,000$x.05x5 totaling 2,500 of total interest paid. That breaks down to a daily interest rate of $1.37~approx. a day for the entire 5 years, or $41.10~ a month. The loan itself costs $166.67~ a month. That's a total payment, every month, of $207.77 ..

    If you pay that amount on time, every month, without fail, there are no problems. But, lets say, you get a birthday gift in! An extra 100$! Whoo! You want to be a good debtor and use it for the car, so you go to make a payment with an extra 100$ in there. You paid $307.77. Well.. Not cool.

    Now, your interest rate is different. Completely. The pay off date, the amount the principle is, etc. is all entirely changed. Usually, no one notices this and the bank just continues to act like it is the principle balance. But the principle is truly different. The interest you pay is lower, it is no longer 2500$, but slightly less. It is down an extra 100$, which puts it ahead of schedule and causes the number from the percentage to change. The percentage gets *lower* because you paid more. You have to re-calculate the whole thing again. And that is just one person on one single loan aspect.

    It is easy to make something sound simple, but it's not really simple at all when explained, and in fact is more complicated than just telling me, "hey, you'll pay $1 a day for everyday you're paying for the car until its paid off." The percentage makes it complicated, not the money.

    This is the supposed *simple* system on something like a loan. I cannot even begin to imagine how absurd and complex a tax system would be with a flat tax rate. Incentives, tax breaks, everything would change.. and I don't know if anyone has noticed, but incentives are there to help more than just the people paying the taxes. Tax breaks for various causes like donating to charity are there to help more than just the rich people that supposedly want to get out of paying money in any way they can.
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  4. #14
    Emperor/Dictator kyuuei's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Magic Poriferan View Post
    They are more concerned with the fact that Robin Hood is stealing than they are with whether or not starving, homeless people are being fed and sheltered.
    This.

    Based on this, they might say that your taxes and welfare programs are well-intentioned but misguided, because you cannot understand the markets well enough to manipulate the economy into doing better than it would if the markets were simply unfettered. Everything they believe makes sense if you accept this premise. The problem is that there's no reason to believe any part of that premise.
    There is also no evidence that this will happen at all, completely agreed. I recall there not being many welfare programs in the 1930s, but I don't think that made the economy, the markets, and the country any better. I don't think that living in a modern feudal era is my cup of tea either.
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  5. #15
    respect the brick C.J.Woolf's Avatar
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    High-income people derive more benefit from the things taxes pay for, so they can be expected to pay a higher tax rate. These benefits include police and armed forces to protect lives and property, international peace that allows free trade, educated workers thanks to public education, and economic infrastructure.

  6. #16
    philosopher wood nymph greenfairy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peguy View Post
    Probably some variation of "It's MY money, and I shouldn't have to pay for squat!" and "Taxes are a violation of peoples' freedom and a force of arbitrary rule."
    Very true. Maybe a civilized intellectual debate on the subject isn't possible.

    Quote Originally Posted by C.J.Woolf View Post
    High-income people derive more benefit from the things taxes pay for, so they can be expected to pay a higher tax rate. These benefits include police and armed forces to protect lives and property, international peace that allows free trade, educated workers thanks to public education, and economic infrastructure.
    Hey that's a good point. I wouldn't have thought of that.

  7. #17
    Honor Thy Inferior Such Irony's Avatar
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    If you're poor enough, you pay very little to no income tax. With a fixed tax rate, the poor would likely pay more in taxes. The poor can barely make ends meet as it is already.
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  8. #18
    Senior Member cafe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by greenfairy View Post
    Yeah that's kinda what I think. How would a tax conservative respond?
    “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”
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  9. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by greenfairy View Post
    I have this friend who feels very strongly that taxes are unfair and that they should either be a flat percentage or we shouldn't have taxes at all. I tried to argue with him and realized that all I had was ethical beliefs (such as it would be more costly to people who didn't have all their needs met than it would be for someone for whom it would just decrease luxury, to which he responded something about not enabling people) combined with the assumption that without taxes the government wouldn't have any money, and couldn't really do much of anything. I'd like to have some better arguments, which don't rely on emotional appeal. Do any of you have any to offer? Would you indulge my lack of education on the subject and clarify for me the essential points about how everything works?



    Please don't reply if you agree with this proposition, unless you have brief comments for the purpose of clarification. Thanks.
    Modern capitalism requires, and has done since the world war, a number of government fixes to keep it operational, among the most important of these has been circulating money in the economy and demand management, its not easy but it is possible and all governments do it, some tax and spend on the military and some do it in other ways.

    No other firm or agency in any society can afford to spend at a loss in quite the way which governments do, the welfare state, while for various cultural or ethical reasons could be attacked, could not be attacked on the basis of its economy role.

    Flat taxes or no taxes, which I think he is making an entirely moral argument in opposition to if you break it down, will take a massive amount of money out of the economy, especially from those who are most likely to spend their money rather than save it, which has myriad knock on effects, small businesses cant operate, land lords cant collect rent, estate agents cant sell property/homes, the entire economy stagnates and stalls and slows down. Best case scenario there is an "upstairs-downstairs" scenario in which servility becomes the career path of necessity and the new unemployed become dependent upon private households and incomes as servants of some sort. Worst case scenario, well, the world is not going to depopulate without incident to the levels necessary to make feasible the libertarian-flat tax-no tax dream.

    The whole argument about flat taxes or no taxes is just the accompaniment to no government and the idea that the economy is a self-regulating equitable and efficient structure which provides full employment but there's years and years and years of history to indicate that this just aint so. There's a recession and crisis on pretty much as a result of the banks to deliberately failing to self-regulate and appropriately manage risk, crisis and real possibility of collapse.

    Managerialism is a whole other phenomenon, pointed up in part by the scandalous executive and boardroom pay deals during the crisis and accompanied by histories of business failure, which the market has provided no correction for and politics is at a loss to correct either due to the democratic deficit and market power of the same individuals/class.

    Taxation is the least invasive way in which government can intervene where monopolies or monopoly power exists in an economy to address things like supernormal profits, anti-competitive practices etc. which flat taxes can not or would not see as an issue even.

  10. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peguy View Post
    Well in a perfect world, of course the state could provide for the common good free of charge. Nevertheless, we're in an imperfect world, where stuff costs money. The state does have the ethical duty of providing for the common good. As citizens of the state, it's our obligation to contribute the monetary means for which the state depends upon to provide for this common good. The state depends us citizens, and we citizens depend upon the state as well(you could even go further and say we citizens are the state). Now legitimate grievances can be made against unjust taxes, but taxes in of themselves are not unjust by nature.

    A few basic pointers.
    Well I did read a number of earlier socialist sources which suggested that a mixed economy, whether government nationalises industries and commercial interests or just has a share in private enterprises which pays dividends to the treasury, could operate profitably and the profits could cover state expenses, in which scenario taxation would remain only as a means of adjusting wages and incentives in the economy or could be dispensed with altogether.

    I know.

    Socialists who wanted to abolish taxation.

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