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Tax Plans and Planetary Plans of the Altruistic Elite

“Our defense of luxury consumption is not, of course, the argument that one occasionally hears, that is, that it spreads money among the people. If the rich did not indulge themselves in luxuries, it is said, the poor would have no income. This is simply nonsense.”

In reality it is not. Highly selective tax increases can give rise to severe local economic hardship by making gainfully employed people poor. When this is done in the name of “fairness”, simply put it is the Robin Hood theory of governance. It would be one thing if a job was lost because of market forces but it is a farce when it is eliminated in the name redistributing wealth. This is not to argue that taxes are not necessary for the functioning of government or that the wealthy should not pay a disproportionate share of taxes. I do not even object to the use of taxes foreign aid even if it mostly goes to waste and doesn’t bring countries out of poverty.

The thing that makes people mad is a constantly changing the playing field, caused when taxes are raised and lowered primarily as a coercive social tool aimed at punishing or controlling the behavior of one group at the behest of another group.

Suppose that next year someone, (that someone will not be a yacht owner) says “Let’s stick it to those rich yacht owners. How can they live with themselves when the poor are starving in Africa.” If the tax causes people to significantly reduce yacht purchases, the really rich are not hurt. The truly rich, the Kennedys, the Gores, the Kerrys, already have their yachts. They also have lawyers who can get their expensive toys counted as business expenses or register their yachts offshore. In any case the additional taxes would not dent the multi- billion dollar Kerry fortune.

The people who would be hurt are the upper middle class barely rich whose lifestyle would be diminished by targeting them because of envy. Is it an accident that most of the people affected by these type taxes are highly productive affluent white males who just want to enjoy the rewards of their success? These guys are the backbone of the economy, providing huge numbers of jobs both as employers and by spending their income. I heard on NPR yesterday that 70% of the US economy depends on consumer spending. In this country everybody is rich and this generates the jobs and tax revenues that fund all government functions including welfare and foreign aid. The consumer marine industry is a part of this.

The boating industry is especially significant in some relatively unpopulated costal areas. The ways of sticking it to the rich are always devised by urban leftist cosmopolitans who dedicate their lives to altruism and global fairness, not at their expense but to be paid for by others.

It is true that the unemployed mechanics, boat captains and mates could move away from the coast and find jobs elsewhere. Also since the revenues generated by the new taxes would be used to feed the starving masses in Africa, there will be plenty of jobs available as stevedores loading shiploads of foreign aid. The lefties can even come down from their posh Colorado ski resorts and ecotourism sites and help if they don’t mind soiling their hands, but they probably won’t.

Pleasure and Happiness vs. Gain and Meaning

The confusion on this subject can be resolved by doing away with the words pleasure and happiness.

Come on, really, how much pleasure can one expect anyway. Eating, sleeping and sex comprise the major sources of the pleasure available to most people. OK, so you can think of some additional ones. If you read a novel or go to a movie, how is this different from going into the happiness machine? And what is happiness? You may be happy one moment and just neutral or unhappy the next.

If this is your way of understanding the situation, the machine approach is by far superior. Just dial up always hungry, always horney, always happy, a comfortable bed and an unlimited supply of what satisfies the above. This partly describes the life of Elvis in his later years. Or you could have an unlimited supply of crack cocaine. In the happiness machine world you could specify that it wouldn’t kill you.

It is more enlightened to think in terms such as gains and meaning. Let's look at a few examples. You may get pleasure from eating a hot dog. You don't get much pleasure from eating a hundred hot dogs. If your goal is to win a hot-dog eating contest you may eat a hundred hot-dogs, enduring mostly misery in the process but having the chance of gaining renown as a champion hot-dog eater (secondary gain.) Your reward is fame and, if asked to endorse a certain brand of hot-dog, perhaps fortune. A beautiful woman who is attracted to a champion such as yourself might even consider you a fine mate (tertiary gain.) The chance of gaining all this far outweighs the mere solitary pleasure you get from eating a hot-dog when you are hungry. Being an accomplished person brings meaning to your life, even if you mostly just suffer pain from a tummy ache and ulcers from eating too many hot-dogs.

Most of the gains people pursue are not pleasurable at all because they are pursued beyond the point of mere primary gain (pleasure) to the extent that they may cause pain. They are pursued in order to have the chance of getting secondary gain (self esteem and societal approval) and even tertiary gain (money and girls.) Examples include boxing, running, working, and even hobbies such as hiking, mountain climbing, tournament fishing and so on.

So, one of life’s prime pleasures, food, won’t do, as a primary source of happiness and meaning.
What about sleep? It just won’t work. To get personal and societal kudos for one’s acts they have to be hard or painful. Every nursing home is full of people who sleep all day every day with no effort. On the other hand you could gain your fame by staying awake for a world record period of time. This is especially true if you are doing something while awake, such as dancing.

Sex? Why is there no Guinness Book of World Records for the number of times a day some guy masturbated? It is all primary gain. No sponsors, I guess, and it probably wouldn’t help you attract girls. There are also no rewards for abstaining from sex. Someone needs to come up with a better way to make a contest out of sex, otherwise the happiness machine wins.

From this short discussion, I think that it has been established that primary pleasure is not the source of happiness. In fact, just the opposite is true. Actually pain is more likely to bring meaning. I don’t know what this has to do with social policy, but, I have heard that the most intense forms of happiness or meaning are the escape from pain or danger. I am told that, a man who has just passed a kidney stone is very happy, as is a shipwrecked sailor who has just been rescued. A social policy that simulates this might be most efficacious in making people happier. It is futile to try to make people happy by placing them on welfare. It does just the opposite. They become even more hostile and demanding.

Since meaning is gained more often from pain than pleasure, the happiness machine would be most likely to deliver lasting efficacy if it were programmed by the United States Marines or coach Bear Bryant than by Timothy Leary.

Next we shall explore the happiness and meaning that comes from creativity and discovery. In the post referenced by Constant, the example was given of a new pill that equaled the happiness inducing properties of making a major scientific discovery, all while having discovered nothing. Surely no one could prefer the state of fake discovery, even if it were a sure thing to a real discovery.
I submit that persons are awarded with happiness and meaning in their life for fake creativity and discovery all the time. Look at the hordes of brilliant intellectuals who created page after page of Marxist “Works.” Observe the libraries full of scholarly treatises relating to the Talmud, the Bible, Galenic Medicine, and what have you. I am not judging these belief systems here but if they turn out to have no external validity, how are their adherents different from the people who enter into the happiness machine?

Then you have the sad history of various brilliant scientists and intellectuals who made one or two real discoveries and then succumbed to their public adulation and star status by spending the rest of their lives promoting crackpot causes. Bertrand Russell, Noam Chomsky and Linus Pauling come to mind. Once the initial valid work is done, if the later output is nonsense, what difference does it make whether these people are in the real world or the happiness machine?

Mieville and the Lefty Killjoys

I read the anti-libertarian article by China Mieville. OK, the big ship concept is an easy target, but not on libertarian grounds.

In fact Mieville is a good wordsmith who launches some pretty deadly torpedoes at the floating paradise, but his real target is libertarians. His motive, like most leftists nowadays is not to propose any credible plans for humankind’s improvement but to cut down or hollow out the plans of anyone who doesn’t agree with their authoritarian, collectivist, universalism.

Just what upsets Meivlle so much about the idea that people might want to pursue this enterprise or any enterprise for that matter?
His analysis of libertarianism is not entirely off base. For example he points out that most libertarians are not the super rich. He correctly points out that the people who have made it are already comfortably ensconced in their protected and controlled venues and need not take to sea in order to live like royalty. Many are politically connected and protected and feast at the public trough. A trip to Palm Beach or Ft Lauderdale, Fl will suffice to inform the uninitiated that the truly rich need not board ships peopled by 40 thousand. They already have their own 5 million dollar yachts parked behind their 20 bedroom mansions. When libertarians see the cozy relationship between the powerful wealthy and government, it does not make them love government. For doing things for themselves and succeeding anyway, the hungry, hard working, creative searcher gets cut down by the collectivist intellectuals.

It is not dreamer utopians sitting idly under trees that Meiville attacks but those entrepreneurs who would actually take the financial risks to do something. He hates the “free-market vulgarians.” The thing that Meiville and other intellectuals can’t stand is that a lot of Americans are individualistic, competitive and acquisitive. At the same time don’t love or trust the government and want it out of their business. In other words they are libertarians whether they verbalize it or not.
One observer ( Nicholas Capaldi) has identified intellectuals as secular individuals who believe that there is objective righteousness that is perceived exclusively by their own cognitive community and which gives them legitimate claim to direct the various institutions of the world. And they don’t want selfish, vulgar, freedom loving people to be able to escape this by boarding a boat. This the way Meiville thinks.

Of course the leftist intellectual can not literally shoot people who disagree with them and only want to escape, like they could when they had the Berlin Wall. They can’t even keep them from building a boat. Their weapons are not guns but words. Essentially they just call people names. Maybe they can make other people hate them and thus damage them. So you get “(Libertarians are)tragically non-ambitious, crippled with class anxiety,-- and maundering about a mythical ideal-type capitalism, libertarianism betrays its fear of actually existing capitalism, at which it cannot quite succeed. It is a philosophy of capitalist inadequacy.” Becoming ever more shrill- “Whites live among Whites and separate from Asians and blacks,” - and winding up with “The libertarian seasteaders are a joke. The pitiful, incoherent and cowardly utopia they pine for is a spoilt child’s autarky, an imperialism of outsourcing, a very petty fascism played as maritime farce---”
Stephan Hicks” Explaining Postmodernism” has described this snide attitude as the result of the collapse of leftist ideology due to of the failure of Marxism and its derivatives and the persistence of vigorous capitalism. Post modernist thought, reduced to utter fatuity, lashes out venomously hoping at least to ruin other people’s fun.

If you really want to have fun and a good laugh, look at the Freedom Ship’s website. For instance, why build the thing in Honduras? Oh it is too big to build in a shipyard. So it will be built by natives whose experience in ship building consists of building small coastal fishing boats. The Freedom Ship will get around the problem of big waves breaking the keel by making it like a barge like they use to transport bulky stuff along the protected waters of the intercoastal waterways, except topped by a massive city complete with airport, subways, storage for private and commercial planes, a marina, shopping malls, a football field, a hospital and plans for a medical school.
Environmentally pollution free toilets will electrically vaporize all human waste, thus saving the local waters from contamination by filthy bilge water. The thing will be the world’s slowest ship and will be driven by 400 high tech propellers driven by undisclosed means. Just don’t be late with your monthly mortgage payments. Since the thing is unsinkable, it won’t carry any life boats. I don’t think Katrina would have much trouble chasing down and dismantling this tub.

There is not one word in the document touting the project that mentions libertarianism. It clearly states that the investors who own this seagoing condominium will abide by local and international law and pay taxes in their country of origin. Its schools will teach all children bilingually and encourage the children to think environmentally and internationally. It will move in a circuit around the world every two years. Sounds pretty progressive to me.

Defeating the Evil Twins

Some of today’s most serious problems are Global warming and Global inequality.

The left likes to think these two problems can be solved by the developed nations. All we have to do is live more simply, use renewable energy and solve inequality by transferring wealth to underdeveloped countries. No politician would survive if he actually voted to do this and it wouldn’t work anyway. With all due respect to Bill Gates, even though 2.3 trillion dollars have been spent on foreign aid in the last sixty years most of it has gone to waste. Politicians of both parties won’t even approve of limiting tariffs and reducing domestic subsidies that inhibit free trade and foreign development. This is a selfish position for leftists who often question other people’s altruism. Economic development is the only proven means out of poverty for undeveloped nations.

On the other hand, economic development means increased energy usage because energy is used to produce things and wealthier people use more energy. Wealth means energy does work so people don’t have to. Of course you could use peasants, servants and slaves to do your work but I thought we were trying to do away from that sort of thing. “Power to the people” is the slogan of leftist egalitarian. Now leftist environmentalists have rediscovered a renewable source of power. People power!

Now the rich can heat their pools, air-condition their mansions and jet around the world attending conferences on global warming and poverty. They can travel to exotic destinations to participate in enviro-tourism or demonstrate against the World Trade Organization no matter where it meets, all without a trace of guilt. They can do all this as Al Gore does by purchasing carbon offsets. Numerous organizations such as “Climate Care “ have begun accepting contributions to initiate projects in developing countries in which carbon dioxide production is supposed to be reduced by giving the natives alternative means of doing work, such as using foot operated pumps to run their irrigation devices instead of diesel engines. To cancel out the CO2 of a return flight to India from Great Britain on a per person basis it would take one poor villager three years of pumping water by foot. So, is carbon offsetting the best way to ease your conscience? This kind of scheme is a step backward. What do environmentalists have in mind next? What about doing away with those polluting motorized taxicabs and go back to rickshaws powered by coolies?

The use of draft animals would obviate the moral objections to people as a source of mechanical energy. This puts us back to the nineteenth century. It is a myth that draft animals as a type of renewable energy is environmentally friendly. Evidence for this comes from data that the cattle industry worldwide is a major source of global warming gasses. It is estimated that 18% of these gasses are produced by cows. Since horses and elephants have the same type of digestive tracts, they would add to the problem. One reference I have says that as late as 1910 the United States used 27% of its farm land to grow food for horses. To this day most of the world runs off of fats and carbohydrates, in the form of human and animal power. Incidentally, data such as this has been used by vegans as an additional reason to quit eating meat, and it seems valid to at least cut down on meat consumption to reduce greenhouse gasses. We could have a meat tax in addition to a carbon tax.

To develop their nation’s poor countries should be encouraged to use more carbon based power, go to school and start businesses, not pump water. We Americans are the ones who should offset carbon by the use of peddle power. Think of the health benefits. For example a peddle powered generator is available which is capable of powering a seventy five watt bulb. (link).It could also power a small television set or an X-Box. According to some newspapers parents are now being driven crazy by criticism from their environmentally fanatical children who are being loaded up with propaganda in school about saving the planet by saving energy. (link) Meanwhile an epidemic of childhood obesity is sweeping the nation. Now parents can get sweet revenge and take a little lard off of Junior. Think of the expression on your smarty pants kid’s face when you unveil his new bicycle powered television set and X-Box and wheel the old stuff out to the recycling dump.

I apologize for the way the text lines up but I cut and paste from Microsoft Word and the lines have a mind of their own

Why Leftists Can’t Understand Libertarians

Originally I posted this as a comment to Constant’s question about reasons that lefty bloggers give for rejecting libertarianism. Below I will argue that what they are really supporting is also a rejection of liberty for those who don’t share their vision

They think they all libertarians worship Ayn Rand

They think libertarians are against environmentalism.

They think libertarians are selfish and don’t support the greater good.

They don’t understand how markets via diffusion of power protect individuals and increase the greater good.

They don’t know the historical lessons and the present ill effects of collectivism.

They think the reason government fouls up all the time is because the wrong political party is in power.

They think a far left government would not be beholden to special interest groups. Smart people with effective plans would take over and justice would prevail.

Some libertarians come across as whacky, whimsically junking all previous non- market constructs in favor of strict anarchy.

Some lefties see libertarians as cold heartless persons who are nerds. They are Nerds who see persons only as mathematical entities living their lives in game theory. Leftists on the other hand are warm puppy loving altruists.

Everyone thinks he knows what ideal liberty is but there are several mutually contradictory definitions. The following is an abbreviated discussion of various ways of thinking about liberty. A lot of these ideas are presented in much greater detail in a book I was reading Global Bioethics, especially the chapter by Mark Cherry

The dismissive tone toward those who question the leftist party line has always irritated me. How come they all believe the same things in such detail? This book makes it clear that by dogmatically pushing their one vision of liberty, they are tacitly in favor of taking away massive amounts of it from everyone else. This book, a series of philosophical essays on bioethics, subtly opens the whole ugly can of worms.

It turns out libertarians are the real champions of libertarians liberty which is not really available without robust free market activity of a type that is an anathema to the left.

Today’s cosmopolitan internationalist leftists define liberty as the ability to realize ones potentials. Since persons may differ in their fortunes through no fault of their own, there is an ethical duty that we should just feel, which tells us to make right this inequality. Thus people who are sighted are obligated to make blind people live lives equal to theirs even if it diminishes their own lives. If someone is not able to or does want to do productive work, all are obligated to care for these persons so that they flourish equally to others. Coercion is legitimate in order to bring into line anyone who does not agree with this imperative. This extends worldwide and is not satisfied until it is all equally realized. In other words leftists define liberty as fair equality of outcome for each individual without regard to luck, innate ability, effort or societal position.

Another way liberty can be defined is a correct ideal. In other words lives are lived as determined by ethical standards that are discoverable and are based on natural law which may be imposed from the top down by national law or international treaty. Life is not lived according to individual choices but as determined by rightly reasoned moral principles. These might include such things as justice, proper conduct, human dignity, autonomy. If you propose that there is a God the principles would be commanded by God but if you are atheistic they would just have to be what the anointed wise persons (see Thomas Sowell’s “Vision of the Anointed”) felt in their heart. Once this was determined, anyone who disagreed would have to defend their deviancy against the majority opinion. It would be rule by the philosopher kings. I think we tried this in the middle ages. It was called Scholasticism, Fascism or something.

A third idea about liberty is that life is to be lived is to be lived in a way as to maximize humanity as a whole; the greatest good for the greatest number. Here the individual is of no account but the community is everything all must conform to what is decided is best to accomplish this. One way of accomplishing this is the Confucian ideal. It is hierarchical, family oriented and paternalistic. Instead of relegating the family and its elders to the dust bin as the potential breeding ground for socially incorrect, behavior and attitudes, it is the basis an orderly society which transcends the individual. Obviously there is a conflict between this way of looking at things and the first two. Who is to dictate the way worldwide society will evolve?

Fourth is libertarianism as freedom from interference. Here individuals are free to do as they want as long as they do not interfere with others, but are able to venture with others in markets. If they fail, they have to find their own way out. This way is truly multicultural and systematically excludes no one as it operates mostly by voluntary exchange, contracts and limited democracy in which government acts as a referee but is not Santa Clause, God or dictator. This is thin libertarianism but since we are talking about forms of government the thinner the better.