In a capitalist economy, taxes are not just a method of payment for government and public services: They are also the most important instrument by which the political system puts into practice a conception of economic or distributive justice. Location 51
In a nonsocialist economy, without public ownership of the means of production, taxes and government expenditures are the primary focus of arguments over economic justice. Location 85
Note: Every debate that can occur in Economics, on some level, at least to some degree and at most entirely, is concerned with taxes and how they are spent. You can be certain the stasis of every argument will lie close to this. Understanding the arguments around this fulcrum is nearly all of Economic policy debate
Disagreements over the legitimate scope of government benefit and constraint, and over the way that scope is affected by individual rights, are likely to underlie differences over taxation, even when they are not made explicit. These are disagreements about the extent and limits of our collective authority over one another through our common institutions. Location 90
Note: The Libertarian ideal believes one has no duties to another through collective action, because this is coercion and a subversion of freedom. We believe that the rights one enjoys come with responsibilities attached, and that if one is to enjoy the wealth creation environment a society achieves through collective action, one has responsibilities attached to fulfill to insure the survival of the environment. The Conservative and Libertarian view is grossly shortsighted and narrow, framing the debate as each person as an atomic individual in a vacuum, creating everything in the world he enjoys entirely alone. The reality is that no one does anything alone, without the tools in place to allow him to succeed, and he may not use these for free. That personal responsibility means paying back into the system that allows them to foster.
Few would deny that certain positive public goods, such as universal literacy and a protected environment, that cannot be guaranteed by private action, require government intervention. Location 93
Much of the controversy has to do with the justice or injustice of outcomes produced by a market economy-the relation between market outcomes and reward for productive contribution, the degree to which the determinants of economic success or failure are arbitrary from a moral point of view. What is the moral basis for a right to hold on to one’s earnings? Where the economy is largely private and the government democratic, tax policy will be the site where moral disagreements about these matters are fought out. Location 97
Note: What right does one have to another’s wealth or property? On the other side of the coin, what right does one have to hold onto one’s earnings? What determines ownership? On some level, policy seems to determine what it means to own something. Is merely picking it up owning it? Or owning it by law? There are questions important to explore in policy debates such as these.
Private property is a legal convention, defined in part by the tax system; therefore, the tax system cannot be evaluated by looking at its impact on private property, conceived as something that has independent existence and validity. Taxes must be evaluated as part of the overall system of property rights that they help to create. Justice or injustice in taxation can only mean justice or injustice in the system of property rights and entitlements that result from a particular tax regime. Location 109
Note: The thrust of the anti-libertarian argument, namely, that there are no such things as intrinsic rights to property. You would only possess something, but that determines that it’s yours? How do we know you haven’t taken it from someone else? How did they come to own it? The concept of property rights is something that we assign to someone through law, and a form of taxation is antecedent for law to exist, outside of vigilante or anarchy law, where everyone protects themselves.
The conventional nature of property is both perfectly obvious and remarkably easy to forget. We are all born into an elaborately structured legal system governing the acquisition, exchange, and transmission of property rights, and ownership comes to seem the most natural thing in the world. But the modern economy in which we earn our salaries, own our homes, bank accounts, retirement savings, and personal possessions, and in which we can use our resources to consume or invest, would be impossible without the framework provided by government supported by taxes. Location 112
Note: In short, the most fundamental and powerful objection to Libertarianism from the beginning. Finding the stasis, they believe the right to property, and to use it at your discretion is very simple and a matter of common sense. In this sense, they believe property rights are natural. But it is not so simple. In today’s world, everything from how one earns every dime they make to how one disposes of every bit of property they own is part of a vast framework of legal structure. Be careful, because Democratic principles are founded on the idea that natural rights exist, and not merely left to those who can pay for them. Libertarians would use this to include the right to property. It isn’t clear if rights are inherent or come externally from the world around us, but the ability to enjoy property the way that we do comes from a background of legal framework and protection underlied by taxation.
We cannot start by taking as given, and neither in need of justification nor subject to critical evaluation, some initial al Location of possessions-what people originally own, what is theirs, prior to government interference. Location 116
Note: And more articulately put. Prior to government “interference” ownership is left mainly to who possesses something. This is not the same as owning it. We can’t take it for granted that asking what ownership means is something we can’t question.
Most conventions, if they are sufficiently entrenched, acquire the appearance of natural norms; their conventionality becomes invisible. That is part of what gives them their strength, a strength they would lack if they were not internalized in that way. Location 121
Note: Excellent, and the following several paragraphs are some of the more useful we will find in calling into question what it means to take for granted ownership outside of conventions or institutions. Merely appealing to “natural” or “intrinsic” ideas of ownership is another way of saying you take it for granted that it’s merely a norm, but forgetting that ownership is predicated on conventions to protect your property and rights, as defined by such conventions. Very useful in debates with Jeremy and even Chris, who love to talk about money being “taken.” It cannot even be said that money is “taken” from you by the convention in place that allows the transaction to take place to begin with. Everything from Greed, Papa John’s CEO and Health Care, and all fundamental Economic Libertarian arguments are strongly addressed in these passages namely, that it’s circular to take for granted ownership is ownership just because it’s a norm.
It is illegitimate to appeal to a baseline of property rights in, say, “pretax income,” for the purpose of evaluating tax policies, when all such figures are the product of a system of which taxes are an inextricable part. One can neither justify nor criticize an economic regime by taking as an independent norm something that is, in fact, one of its consequences. Location 131
Note: Excellent writing, and something that can be copied and pasted, changing it only to make it more traditional writing, in many debates with almost anyone we go against. While there will be many attempted examples, some obscure society at some unknown point somewhere, the merely idea of income and property outside of taxes is incoherent, separating two agents that are necessarily part of the same system. They will say some tribes or all sorts of societies in history do just fine with ownership outside of a government or taxes, naturally. But other than a few dueling anecdotal tales, you can’t really argue with the fact that some sort of mechanism for the protection and determining of property rights must exist for us to say that we “own” something, which is necessarily a part of the system of ownership and must be paid for. Otherwise, ownership is arbitrary and protected only by possession, another form of anarchy. It is definitely an argument worth exploring. Just be ready for the tribes with no taxes that own their nets and weapons just fine.
Anyone who advocates the tax policy that is, simply, “best for economic growth” or “most efficient” must provide not only an explanation of why the favored policy has those virtues, but also an argument of political morality that justifies the pursuit of growth or efficiency regardless of other social values. Location 150
Note: Level 10 – Awesome, and directly applicable to people like Chris, who accept policy only in terms of what is best for “growth.” But why do we accept this at face value? Isn’t it ultimately for the well being of people? And if other things can acheive well being more effectively, why do we ignore them? This has applications for most of Chris’s arguments, but also any policy debate. In short, its basic argument principles. When someone says a tax policy is best for any particular end, it makes an assumption they have to demonstrate. Why is that end the most important?
what we think is wrong with an exclusive focus on the distribution of tax burdens, and why other political values must play a role in any adequate discussion of justice in taxation. Location 158
Note: Some things are more important than distribution. And in fact, we believe in fairness, and they do as well, or they would not be concerned that some groups were taxed more than others.
According to this conception, vertical equity is what fairness demands in the tax treatment of people at different levels of income (or consumption, or whatever is the tax base), and horizontal equity is what fairness demands in the treatment of people at the same levels. Location 163
That too would be arbitrary, so long as we excluded in-kind benefits such as roads, schools, and police, not to mention the entire legal system that defines and protects everyone’s property rights. If literally all government benefits were taken into account, however, we would notice that almost no one suffers a net burden from government. Location 180
Note: Level 10 – When talking about the Burdon of Government, if we consider offsetting effects, namely that you get what you pay for, then it really can’t be said that anyone suffers a net burden from government. If they said they didn’t choose to have these services, you can reply they don’t haev to pay for them. If they say their work is taxed, it is a simple matter that if they choose to work in a system that is made possible by taxes, then they have the responsibility to pay for this system. Again, their view is short sited.
The assumption that pretax market outcomes are presumptively just, and that tax justice is a question of what justifies departures from that baseline, appears to flow from an unreflective or “everyday” libertarianism about property rights. Though a consistent application of sophisticated libertarian political theory leads to deeply implausible results that hardly anyone actually accepts, in its naive, everyday version libertarianism is taken for granted in much tax policy analysis. Location 188
Note: Level 10 – Excellent, in pointing out very few people actually accept beneath the surface the implications of Libertarian Society, that their view is laughably short sited and naive, and takes for granded most if not all fo the world they actually live in.
To come up with a measure or even an understanding of any kind of benefit (or burden) we need to ask, “Relative to what?”-we need to settle on a baseline. The magnitude of a benefit received is the difference between a person’s baseline or prebenefit level of welfare and that person’s level of welfare once the benefit has been conveyed. In this case, the baseline for determining the benefits of government is the welfare a person would enjoy if government were entirely absent; the benefit of government services must be understood as the difference between someone’s level of welfare in a no-government world and their welfare with government in place. Location 198
Note: Fundamental in determaining what one actually owes for their government, determined by the state of their well being currently, vs that entirely without a government. When we see that entirely without a government, everything down to National Defense would be privatised, and you can be reasonably certain you would have no soceity in which to earn wealth to begin with, we can see how much one reallly owes. This is possibly the most fundamental question to ask in all of public policy debate. We can’t go back in time and run the world forward with the United States having no Government. We don’t know if, utterly defenseless, we would somehow be left completely alone, to flourish. But we can look at countries with no government. And we see none exist that are wealthy. That doesnt’ mean that it can’t be done. But there is no existing strong argument to show we should be convinved that it can.
The no-government world is Hobbes’s state of nature, which he aptly described as a war of all against all. Location 203
Note: Even the idea itself is almost incoherent. Eventually power would collect and condense somewhere, even in some forms of Mafias or equivalent organizations that you would succumb to or coerced by, only without any Democratic means of control or amelioration. In conversational terms, you can simply say, yes, it is logically possible that such a world would exist and everyone would be just wonderful. But I have no idea how we’re supposed to believe it, what examples we have to show it, or what argument you can make that would be persuasive that pure naked greed and unrestrained power would somehow result in the best world for everyone. Everyone wanting to make Blue Jeans and Pepsis to sell, would impel everyone to work together for a great world. You would frame it like this; in a biased way to make it unconvincing that such a world could exist. What if someone just wanted to beat your ass or shoot you? Yes OF COURSE it happens now, even all the time. But no one actually believes the law doesn’t stop a great deal of it. What recourse would you have? How can you pay police if you have no money to do so? Or the idea, of how free is someone if they have no money for the basic tools to earn wealth, such as education and schools?
We cannot pretend that the differences in ability, personality, and inherited wealth that lead to great inequalities of welfare in an orderly market economy would have the same effect if there were no government to create and protect legal property rights and their value and to facilitate mutually beneficial exchanges. (We leave aside the fact that without government, the earth would sustain only a tiny fraction of its present human population, so that most of us wouldn’t even exist in Hobbes’s state of nature.) Location 205
Note: Despite the fact they would deny most people woudn’t exist, since Anarchy for them is a utopia, this notwithstanding, the very idea of the Market Economy they would immediately appeal to to solve everyone’s problems would not function in the same way or at all in the absense of a legal framework and a system of property rights. In short, anyone who looks at you and makes this argument with a straight face is not being serious or intellectually honest.
But it would be entirely pointless to provide minimal income support and then demand payment for the service.* Location 227
Note: A simple argument for the same tax rates for everyone, that some people require assistence, and to take them for this would be absurd.
On this view, what is inequitable about the head tax is that it ignores the fact that people differ in their ability to meet the burden of a tax payment. Location 240
Note: The same could be said, and worded the same clear way, about the flat tax. Someone making $300k a year would have problems making a $100k tax payment only if he just couldn’t get by on $200k. Someone making $30k a year paying $10k loses the ability for food, cothing, car repair, and anything beyond the most basic medical care. You’ll meet with denial from people who can’t see black and white, but you can only explain something so clearly before the person has no conception of basic principles, which is why they are voted out.
But in addition to ordinary property, people have what economists call “human capital”: the resources of knowledge, ability, personality, connections, etc. that enable them to act productively-the most important case being the earning of wages in a market economy. Location 251
Note: This is how you can frame education, an investment in human capital that allows people to act productively in a market economy.
According to the equal-sacrifice principle, a just tax scheme will discriminate among taxpayers according to their income, taking more from those who have more, so as to ensure that each taxpayer sustains the same loss of welfare-so that the real as opposed to monetary cost to each is the same. The key factual assumption here is again that of the diminishing marginal value of money; whether the equal-sacrifice principle leads to a proportional or a progressive tax scheme depends on the rate at which the marginal utility of income diminishes. Location 293
Note: Level 10 Bordering on God – The fundamental justification for all progressive taxation, the diminishing marginal value of money. The goal of a fair taxation is to tax everyone at a rate that results in equal loss of welfare to each person. Since an additional dollar is worth more to a person who only has one, than it is to a person who already has one million, progressive taxation can be justified by virtue of marginal diminishing returns of money. This is not something we can prove with charts, or graphs, or a measure stick. But we understand, that poorer people are in greater need or additional money than are people who already have wealth. It makes a bigger difference. Taxing someone who makes a million at %40, while someone who makes only $20,000, at 10$, is fair in the sense that each person is taxed at a rate that results in the same loss of acual welfare. This is the weapon that we needed for Chris and the Papa Jon’s thread, but more importantly, behind all progressive taxation. By invoking Diminishing marginal value of money, we have the weapon we have always needed for progressive taxation. To the rebuttle that we don’t know, or we can’t say how much each person values his money, that is true. For every human that lives, we aren’t going to get it right. But we have to levy taxes for a society to function, and we have to levy enough. Poor People can’t pay as much. And taxing them at a higher rate will take basic nessessities like food off their table, while taxing the wealthy will take luxueries off theirs, or savings. Having this, there isn’t much we cant’ do now. Finally, it even addresses simply, the flat tax and the guy at the Cabellas store in Gatlinburg, “everyone should be taxed the same rate” you need only reply that this seems of course fair on the surface, but is very harmful upon deeper inspection, since the diminishing marginal utity of money would have lower class people missing meals and health care while the top loses on no essentials. While the rate is the same the actual sacrifice in real, or relative terms, would be far greater among the poor, and so the tax essentially amounts to a regressive tax on the poor, with no real societal benefit since the money extracted by the poor would cause them great harm but do nothing to, generate revenue. Pursuing an idealology at the expense of Economic and societal well being is not the way to design a tax code. To the response the wealthy already pay so much more and the poor pay so much less into into the system already comes simply from the fact the wealthy have so much more and our poor have so much less, and isn’t an indictment against tax policy but instead rising inequality. You want more “equal” tax rates, reduce inequality. You can’t get blood from a turnip. They say the markets verdict is always fair but then complain that wealthy have to pay so much more in taxes. That’s what happens when all the wealth goes to the top.
We do not know how steeply marginal utility declines, but the fact that the equal-sacrifice principle may require empirical speculation to implement does not show that it is incorrect. Rough guesswork will be a part of any plausible account of tax justice, and it is a serious mistake to prefer one account of justice to another solely because it seems easier to implement. As the economist Amartya Sen has said, “it is better to be roughly right than precisely wrong.” Location 296
Note: Level 10 – And here is our rebuttle to the certain objection that we can’t say how much money is worth to someone else, than we can’t say utility of money diminishes the more you have, and a person being unable to buy a 7th car might hurt them as much as somoene being unable to eat. Any such system will require guesswork, it’s built into the intrinsic nature of taxation.
But such exceptional cases-we discuss them in chapter 8-must not be taken as representative of our topic; Location 313
Note: Articulate – Very good. An exceptional case shouldn’t be taken as representative of the topic. Exceptional cases exist in every realm and don’t undermine the general principle.
Since taxation is not an entirely independent realm of justice, one cannot pronounce confidently that the state should extract an equal tax sacrifice from each person as measured against pretax incomes while remaining agnostic on the question of what a just expenditure policy would be. As Pigou wrote, more than fifty years ago: Location 314
Note: Level 10 – Very good, when we complain about taxes we complain about something in. Vacuum. But what we are talking about is well being. If you are compensated by the taxes by services rendered or used, the extent to which this benefits your well being makes up for the gap lost, even to a point of benefit. If you pay little but receive nothing in return (impossible) you are hurt, more than someone who pays a lot but gains a lot. The important thing is aggregate well being. Getting your money’s worth. If, of course, you’ve made up your mind that taxes are theft, government is evil, and no service rendered to you has done you any good, you’ll of course have made up your mind that taxes only hurt, but in that case it’s not the tax policies fault, it’s yours for being an immature, unrealistic, unappreciative ideologue who understands nothing beyond trite slogans about coercion and stealing meant to convince 15 year Olds, whose conception of freedom is some form of corporate ruled anarchy divorced from any reality seen on earth. In which case, too bad, move to Somalia, and quit complaining.
Paying for these minimal services that benefit everyone is then naturally understood as a matter of sharing out the cost of a common burden. Location 323
Note: Articulate – perhaps the best way to describe taxation in one sentence
Thus, the equal-sacrifice principle-taxing people differently so that everyone shares the same proportion of the common burden in real terms-has Location 330
Note: Level 10 – Best articulation of the equal sacrifice principle, and how we would answer if asked our beliefs on taxation.
If one rejects that assumption, the treatment of taxes as a “common disaster” has no further application. Location 333
Note: Articulate – Perfect way to put it. If you can’t see past “taxes are theft” and are completely unwilling or unable to see the need for public service of which you enjoy daily despite the clear evidence, then these arguments have no further application to you. But that does not make them less true. And if you rather not use the word truth, then believe what you will and never win an election because others aren’t blind. This is a great debate method that leave nothing left to really worry about. If you reject any fundamental assumption nessasary to understand what comes after it, there isn’t really anything for debate to do, but there is a reason you’ll keep losing. Anyone can deny the sun comes up.
An unreflective form of libertarianism casts a shadow over much discussion of tax policy; we will later discuss the severe damage this has done. For now we note that very few people are consciously committed to the libertarian theory of justice. Hardly anyone really believes that market outcomes are presumptively just and that justice does not require government to provide welfare support to those of its subjects who are destitute, without access to food, shelter, or health care. Location 334
Note: God and Jesus Christ the Lord – memorize this daily. It isn’t an impenetrable argument, it simply states in the most beautiful way ever seen to a libertarian that their view is a religion, a fantasy, and not taken seriously. Yes, they can say what people believe doesn’t matter, they are right, but then again, isn’t everyone? There isn’t a lot of debate beyond that, but they need to seriously consider how much they benefit from government and that no one ever votes to live this way. There is no right or wrong here. But they live on the fringe and only a few buy into their shit and the rest consider them crazy. That generally, we build societies in a manner that we think offers the best chance at the most well being for everyone, and Libertarianism is never in the ballpark. Sorry, we don’t wanna see people starving in the streets or Pepsi responsible for national defense and we don’t think someone is going to build a company for profit that feeds hungry people for free or send you a defense bill and shoot the missile out of the sky for everyone who paid but you…
As it has so far been understood, the principle of equal sacrifice requires that taxes impose the same real loss of welfare on each taxpayer. Location 342
Let us take a closer look at the market-oriented view of distributive justice required by the equal sacrifice approach. (The issues raised here are discussed in greater depth in the next chapter.) Libertarian views come in a variety of different forms, but the two that are most important for current purposes can be referred to as the rights-based and the desert- based.34 The former turns on a commitment to strict moral property rights; it insists that each person has an inviolable moral right to the accumulation of property that results from genuinely free exchanges. Location 379
Note: Level 10 – God 0 This is it. This is that hidden premise they are using to justify everything. Undermine this and the rest of the libertarian argument falls down around it. They would say that human suffering. Is undesirable, and there is a need for education and public goods. But that doesn’t matter. Those arguments are wholly separate from the fact that property rights are a strict moral construct. It’s not okay to violate someone property rights even though you need a school. They are two separate issues. One doesn’t address the other. The way to bridge this is to point out that everything must come from something. Nothing appears from a vacuum. All the capital that was sold for wealth came from somewhere, all created by private incentives, with money coined by a central bank by federal mandate and enforced by law, protected by police and military. Even a shovel, we would point out just like a pencil is a process consisting of hundreds of workers from probably a dozen countries all over the world. All of which were engaged in contracts enforced by rule of law, courts, and ultimately threat of force. All of which government helped private markets achieve. Anything you use results from this framework. We are simply peeling back the union one layer further. Collective action provides the framework necessary for markets to function well. You don’t have markets without enforcement. And the idea of private everything just falls into a circular trap, because to what law will they appeal to. Arbitrary jury doesn’t give investors the confidence to invest, not knowing the outcome. Not to mention all of this is protected by National defense. Every private transaction in a modern society is preceded by a framework that protects and enforces property rights to function. You don’t earn wealth without this. To punt kick every single mechanism that allows a market to function is not only an unprecedented leap of faith but shows one can’t possibly understand the extent to which public and private frameworks allow you to even hold a coke in your hands. Why this is supposed to be free to people is a mystery. In short, property rights exist because they are enforced by public construct, and furthermore, all of the wealth you earn is facilitated by a public framework. This is why you must pay into a system that allows this to happen. This is why you don’t do it all yourself. This is why It’s not “all your” money. This is why taxes are not stealing. You’re a willing party to wealth creation in a society that gives you the tools to make it happen. Smash this premise, and you smash Libertarianism. All they hear are a few bullet points from Bastiet, Ron Paul, or Mises over how “Taxes are Theft” and “Government is Evil” and their eyes glaze over and they play dead. Any thinking person that dares to see past this easily understands how narrow and simplistic this is. This doesn’t allow us to address redistibution, or transfer or assistance payments such as welfare or unemployment. This argument only addresses the problem in terms that benifit everyone. In which case, Education and health care can be said to be public goods in that everyone benifits from an educated, and healthy society which is more productive. Welfare is harder. We an use Friedman’s argument that the alliviation of poverty is also something everyone benifits from. It’s spurious, but adiquate. We might also appeal to the fact that living in a compassionate, moral society, we simply don’t want a soceity where people starve, suffer, die or generally subjected to the naked will of the market. If you want to live in a society like this, that allows you the benifits, you have to agree to a certain amount of “mandatory” compassion. Even if you would rather call it theft. There is no wealthy country in the world that has no such policies in place, so in short, you’re going to have to deal with it, or go somewhere where you can earn wealth without having to help anyone.
The notion of desert entails that of responsibility; we cannot be said to deserve outcomes for which we are not in any way responsible. Thus, to the extent that market outcomes are determined by genetic or medical or social luck (including inheritance), they are not, on anyone’s account, morally deserved. Since nobody denies that these kinds of luck at least partly determine how well a person fares in a capitalist economy, a simple and unqualified desert-based libertarianism can be rejected out of hand. Location 388
Note: God, Jesus Christ, Mary, The Holy Ghost and All things Holy in this world. Second to none for the most important things we’ve ever read in a book concerning politics. Memorize this word for word. A simple one paragraph rejection or the idea that everyone deserves the wealth they generate, because so much they had no responsibility in creating. Open to several rebuttles, including the rebuttle that no one else deserves it either, that one makes their own luck, and several others, but an excellent framework to start with.
There is no market without government and no government without taxes; and what type of market there is depends on laws and policy decisions that government must make. In the absence of a legal system supported by taxes, there couldn’t be money, banks, corporations, stock exchanges, patents, or a modern market economy-none of the institutions that make possible the existence of almost all contemporary forms of income and wealth. Location 394
Note: God and Jesus – The flawless articulation of the rebuttle we were seeking in the previous page, on their premise that property rights are apsolute, and would have served as a succinct, one paragraph rebuttle to Chris’s argument “We really did build that business” once and for all. The response to all arguments that they do it all themselves with no government.
It is therefore logically impossible that people should have any kind of entitlement to all their pretax income. All they can be entitled to is what they would be left with after taxes under a legitimate system, supported by legitimate taxation-and this shows that we cannot evaluate the legitimacy of taxes by reference to pretax income. Instead, we have to evaluate the legitimacy of after-tax income by reference to the legitimacy of the political and economic system that generates it, including the taxes which are an essential part of that system. The logical order of priority between taxes and property rights is the reverse of that assumed by libertarianism. Location 396
Note: God and Level 10 and Jesus – Everything in this book is Gold. Pointing out that the entire way the Libertarinas frame it is wrong. The mere idea of property rights outside of a government is incoherent.
This problem could not be avoided by moving from a baseline of actual pretax incomes to a hypothetical baseline of incomes in a government-free market world. There is no natural or ideal market. There are many different kinds of market system, all equally free, and the choice among them will turn on a range of independent policy judgments. Location 400
Note: This book is just weird. It quite LITERALLY addresses the very rebuttle that I had in mind for their part, immediately after reading these great passages. That the idea of taxation as legitimate, and the argument undermining the assertion everyone has full rights to the fruits o their labor, was a circular argument, because it assumes into existance a government they don’t want or believe should exist anyway. The point they are making, is that there should be no government to begin with to be able to claim a right to taxes. This addressses that by asserting that even without a government, there still exists no natural or ideal “Free Market.” Any system in which trade takes place will be subject to some rules that much be enforced and some framework for this to take place. The idea that everyone in a world will simply trade everything peacefully with no call to any legal enforcement or coercian of any kind is implausible and unworthy of debate. Any argument that rests on this is dead on arrival.
A flourishing capitalist economy requires not only the enforcement of criminal, contract, corporate, property, and tort law. (Those laws themselves are not natural but include evolving and contested accounts of limited liability, bankruptcy, enforceability of agreements, contract and tort remedies, etc.) In addition, most economists assume, it requires at a minimum a regime of anti-trust legislation to promote competition, and control over interest rates and the money supply to alternately stimulate or retard economic growth and control inflation. Then there are such matters as transport policy, regulation of the airwaves, and the way government alleviates so-called negative externalities of the market, such as environmental degradation. Location 402
Note: Another way in which Government is almost transperent, and easy to take for granted, but essential to the functioning of a flourishing Capitalst Economy. Someone like Chris, who gives no cr to the “business he built” sees none of these cogs running in the backgroud. You could copy this word for word and end any debate effectively with this alone. They can and will squirm and flop and perform all known types of mental gymnastics to get around this, but pragmatically, the broad strokes will be over with.
All these functions of government are taken for granted by even the most ardent market enthusiasts. The problem for the sacrifice view here is that the choices government makes in discharging these functions affect market returns. How much profit an iron-ore smelter can generate will depend on the prevailing regime of environmental law. A person’s fortunes on the bond market depend on government-influenced interest rate fluctuations. The upshot is that even if the destitute are left to fend for themselves, it still cannot be said that pretax outcomes are simply market outcomes. They are, instead, the returns generated by a market regulated in accordance with a certain set of government policies. Location 406
Note: Everything is gold in this book. More ways in which a libertarian takes the functions of government for granted
Since that system includes taxes as an absolutely essential part, the idea of a prima facie property right in one’s pretax income-an income that could not exist without a tax-supported government-is meaningless. There is no reality, except as a bookkeeping figure, to the pretax income that each of us initially “has,” which the government must be equitable in taking from us. Location 444
A fundamental division runs through these debates, between two types of normative theory-those that focus on outcomes, conventionally called “consequentialist,” and those that focus on actions, conventionally called “deontological” (from the Greek word meaning “ought”). Location 500
Note: Libertarian and probably equally Republican philosophy are deontological theories, they have little or no regard for consequences so long as certain arbitrary ideals are upheld. You can run a budget deficit period, even if everyone dies. You can’t tax the Rich more, regardless, even if millions suffer. You can’t have government, period, even if without you descend into anarchy and millions suffer beyond imagination. We are consequentists. Results matter. The idea of policy and having reasons for doing anything is incoherent without a sense of what will be the outcome. Well being matters.
Since taxes are essentially modifications of property rights that entitle the state to control over part of the resources generated by the economic life of its citizens, the evaluation of taxes will be much affected by whether one adopts a deontological or a consequentialist conception. Essentially, the difference is this: On a deontological approach, there is likely to be a presumption of some form of natural entitlement that determines what is yours or mine and what isn’t, and this prima facie presumption has to be overridden by other considerations if appropriation by taxes is to be justified. On a consequentialist approach, by contrast, the tax system is simply part of the design of any sophisticated modern system of property rights. There is no prima facie presumption against taxation because there is no preinsti- tutional conception of what is “my” property. Everything is conventional. Location 522
Note: The most fundamental and foundational explanation of why we differ so much. The distinction comes from our conception of what it means to own something. In this sense, we can address the Libertarian (and Republican on many grounds) by asking them from where inherent property rights come from. Consequntialists can justify property rights on the grounds the their definition and protection preceed any possible foundation for wealth creation and confidence in a capitalist society. They result in a better well being for everyone, but are agreed upon ideas. Libertarians believe they come from the ether. If using God, we can respond that is fine, but many of us have no reason to believe in this conception. It is helpful however, to understand where they come from. The only issue is that we believe in some rights outside of the market. Protection from harm, is something that should be available to everyone. We believe in a right to safety like we believe in a right to property. On a side note, it’s important to think of things in different terms. When Jeremy asks what makes a public police officer more moral than a private one, the natural response is to answer. But this is validating the framing. The response is that morality is not in contention here. We don’t have public police or public education because we believe it is “more moral” which would be a deontological position. That is a separate argument. We believe in public police because we would prefer some things be available to everyone. Safety is necessary for wealth creation and well being. Security is antecedent to wealth, and one cannot pay for a cop if one can’t be safe to begin with. Nothing is perfect. But the protection is there for those who need it. The idea is one of well being and a humane society. We don’t leave someone to be beaten to death if they don’t have the money to pay the cop. Confidence in public safety is a form of freedom. We believe in a social minimum of safety as a positive right.
Public goods are the least controversial, since they include the minimal conditions considered necessary in any theory of government for all the other advantages of civilization: domestic peace and security, some kind of legal system, and protection against foreign invasion. Public goods are defined as those that cannot be provided to anybody unless they are provided to everybody. If violent crime, environmental pollution, the threat of fire, or communicable diseases are kept under control in a territory, then everyone living in that territory automatically benefits, and no one can be excluded. If one tried to support such goods by private subvention, there would be no way of excluding free riders, who would enjoy the good without paying-at least no way short of exile. The obvious way of getting everyone to pay their share is through taxation, coercively imposed. Location 544
Note: While nothing new, it is very well written and better articulated than we can ever come up with off the cuff. Examples like these, violent crime, pollution, threat of fire, communicative diseases, benefit everyone and are not excludable. Since you can’t be excluded from the benifits, you have no incentive to pay for them or invest. So you get to keep your tax money, content in up having not been “coerced” and die of a disease that no one was vaccinated against.
The provision of public goods as an end places the least strain on conditions of political legitimacy, because it does not require any assumptions about how much, as fellow citizens, we should care about one another. It assumes only that we care about ourselves. Each individual has a direct personal interest in the maintenance of these desirable conditions and cannot enjoy them unless they are provided in a way that makes them available to others. So the motivation behind such provision is the minimal one of collective self-interest-a convergence of individual interests on a common end-though different issues will arise when it comes to sharing out the cost. Location 548
Note: Fantastic way of thinking. By merging Ayn Rand, and the beloved principle of self intetest and selfishness, the argument that Liberals force you to sacrifice yourself for others is short circuited. Collective well being IS absolutely in one’s self interest. There is no rule that says they must be mutually exclusive. If you can get to the point where taxes are indeed going to benefit you and not just someone else, the Libertarian need not be concerned that you are being forced to “live for another”
Roads, air traffic control, a postal system, some regulation of the airwaves depending on the technological situation, education that ensures near-universal literacy, the maintenance of public health, a reliable system of civil law-all these are plausible candidates for systemic conditions that have benefits for everyone in the society through their large effects on safety, the economy, and the smooth functioning of social institutions. Some might wish to include among the public goods the prevention of abject poverty, as a condition of social peace. Location 554
Note: Worth memorizing as a standard line of defense. Easily forgotten, but well said. By merely going straight to the roads, the argument begins to sound trite and even tired. But no one earned wealth without these things, and we have no reason to expect someone should get them for free.
But this way of putting the question is too simple, because it presupposes an antecedent distribution of bundles of resources, prior to the provision of public goods, and as we have emphasized in chapter 2, there is no such thing. Location 562
Note: A perfect response to any claim that taxation crowds out private spending and takes away earned money. It is a nonsensical way of looking at the issue. The issue assumes an antecedent distribution of “private wealth” prior to public goods. There is no private spending without a system in place to earn it. The degree to which one is taxed for its distribution is up for debate. But not an inherent moral conception of “my money” outside of the framework that made it, possible
One view is that taxation is an appropriation by the state of what antecedently belongs to individuals, and that it must overcome a prima facie objection to the transgression of the right of those individuals to dispose of their property as they wish. The opposite view is that what belongs to you is simply defined by the legal system as what you have discretion to dispose of as you wish, after taxes have been levied. Since there are no property rights independent of the tax system, taxes cannot violate those rights. There is no prima facie objection to be overcome, and the tax structure, which forms part of the definition of property rights, along with laws governing contract, gift, inheritance, and so forth, must be evaluated by reference to its effectiveness in promoting legitimate societal goals, including those of distributive justice. Location 699
Note: Level 10 – Great The most succinct description of the difference of the two views, and a short and effective rebuttle to the idea of “Pre-tax” income. Taxes are simply what you pay to have earned that wealth to begin with. It’s a more sophisticated version of Lakoffs argument seen in 2011.
These deep disagreements express themselves in conflicts over the moral significance of the market-one of the most important institutions of our common world. Much of what can be said about it concerns its instrumental value in combining the information from countless individual choices to make possible the efficient use of resources in the invention, production, and distribution of things people need and want. There is also much to be said about conditions in which the market fails, often as a result of externalities that require more centralized intervention to prevent the production of an evil like pollution or to promote a good like public transport. Location 802
Note: Just a good description of the market, what it does well and how it might go wrong.
So the typical liberal system, which combines a market economy with various redistributive policies, is based on a stark division between personal and political motives. As supporters of the system, it asks people to accept policies whose aim is the general welfare, justice, fairness, or some more precise conception of social value. Location 850
In other words, there are two moralities, one for individuals and one for society. Location 860
comfortable with a moral division of labor that mostly deputizes the tax and transfer system to express their commitment to social justice, leaving them free in private life to be as self-indulgent as they may wish to be. Location 872
The values that bear on the assessment of public policy are very diverse, so there is much to disagree about. First, there are questions about the legitimate ends of public policy-whether they should be defined by collective self-interest, or the general welfare, or some conception of fairness, including equal opportunity. Each of these in turn needs to be further defined, particularly with respect to the correct way to combine or balance out the distinct interests of many different people. Location 880
Note: Underscores the foundational disagreements between people in terms of policy decision
What kind of concern do we owe our fellow citizens, and what in our lives should remain free of collective control? Location 887
Note: We can provide collective goods that benefit everyone while remaining free in personal movement and autonomy. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.
The conviction that determines our approach to all more specific questions is that there are no property rights antecedent to the tax structure. Property rights are the product of a set of laws and conventions, of which the tax system forms a part. Pretax income, in particular, has no independent moral significance. It does not define something to which the taxpayer has a prepolitical or natural right, and which the government expropriates from the individual in levying taxes on it. All the normative questions about what taxes are justified and what taxes are unjustified should be interpreted instead as questions about how the system should define those property rights that arise through the various transactions-employment, bequest, contract, investment, buying and selling-that are subject to taxation. Location 889
Note: Thus far, a summery of the entire book in a nutshell
People do have a right to their income, but its moral force depends on the background of procedures and institutions against which they have acquired that income-procedures that are fair only if they include taxation to support various forms of equality of opportunity, public goods, distributive justice, and so forth. Since income gives rise to clear moral entitlement only if the system under which it is earned, including taxes, is fair, entitlement to income cannot be used as an assumption to evaluate the fairness of the tax system. Location 895
Note: Level 10 – Excellent summary addressing all arguments of pretax income, taxes as theft, fairness, and how fairness is even built into the system and a requirement for the income you earn to be fair. If it’s fair that you keep your income the background has to be fair, and the has to be paid for. Fairness also includes the elimination of certain obstacles to freedom and fairness encountered by some people and not others that impede their chance at a “fair” income.
The conventionality of property is even more elusive than the conventionality of language, and it is easy to lose hold of the idea that the wage for which you agree to sell your labor, and which your employer agrees to pay you, is merely a bookkeeping figure. It has only an indirect relation to the property rights over disposable income that will result from that transaction under the existing legal system, and what it legally entitles you to is morally legitimate only by virtue of the legitimacy of the system. Conventionalism keeps being pushed aside under pressure from an unanalyzed simple intuition of what is mine and what is yours. But that intuition in fact depends on the background of a system of property law: it can’t be used to evaluate the system. Location 902
Note: Wonderful philosophical summary of ownership as a convention of the system under which something was acquired. A good one to memorize.
If some solution to the distribution problem is assumed to be in the background, the main reason for public provision will be to supply public goods-that is, those from the benefit of which individuals cannot be excluded, because they cannot be supplied for anyone unless they are supplied for everyone. These will include such things as external and domestic security and the maintenance of the legal system which permits natural liberty to govern the creation and distribution of resources, but also perhaps various other cultural, social, and environmental goods that make a difference to the quality of life. Location 961
Note: Public goods, good examples and reasons
Though not everyone would agree, the view is fairly widespread that-quite Location 970
Note: Articulate – good for libertarians. Yes not everyone would agree but that doesn’t default to anarchy
And if the prior distribution is just, we should want appropriations out of it for these public purposes to give people their money’s worth. Since exclusion isn’t possible, we can’t do this by asking everyone to purchase only the amount of military protection, for example, that they want and feel they can afford. Nor can we offer protection at the same price for everyone, excluding those who don’t pay. We have to give everyone the same level of protection, at the same per capita cost in public expenditure, even though its monetary value to each of them will be different. Location 977
The main reason for this difference in value is not that some people care more about the dangers of military invasion than others, but that some people have more money than others, so that a dollar more taken from them to be spent on defense does not mean a dollar less for basic necessities, but only for something less important. The more money you have, the less a marginal dollar is worth to you, so the marginal utility of your expenditures on defense and on alternative private purposes will be equalized at a higher level than they will for someone who has considerably less-under the unequal but presumptively just distribution that is our benchmark. Location 980
Note: Level 10 – find this for the inevitable debate with Chris and Jeremy and their equivalents that come up. Progressive taxation. Your not taxing money, you’re thing utility. What does money do. It provides utility. Very good, and finally, the best breakdown of the fundamental argument of the book. For anyone intellectually honest, it is known that the loss of basic necessities like food, heat, and health care to keep from simmering is antecedent to the more luxurious forms of welfare. That if asked, anyone would give up their 6th BMW not to starve and freeze. One the basics are covered the rest do go to luxuries and investments, and while these are worthy, no one would enjoy them as much without basic needs taken care of. Money does diminish in the value is provides for you the more you get. This is why we tax more of those who make more.
Of course, these values simply have to be guessed at by the designers of the system, since they won’t be revealed by a market. Whether they could be revealed by the political process is a difficult question. Location 987
Note: Argument for political determination. No, we will never know this for sure. But until the market can determine for us we have to make our best guess if we are to have it at all.
This is completely different from the pricing and al Location of goods in the free market. If a good like asparagus can be bought by one individual without being supplied to everyone, and if there is a competitive market for its supply, then two things will follow. First, people who differ in wealth or income but who are equally partial to asparagus will buy more or less or none of it at a given price. Second, all buyers will be able to get it at the same price-which for some is the maximum they would be willing to pay for a few spears of asparagus, but for others, wealthier than they, is well below the maximum or reserve price they would be willing to pay, even for all the asparagus they could possibly eat. A competitive market in private goods therefore automatically creates a large surplus-the difference between actual price and reserve price-for people who have lots of money. Poor people benefit from this surplus only with very cheap private goods like salt and digital watches. To them, most things don’t feel cheap or costless, because most purchases are close to their reserve price. Location 988
Note: Good summary of competitive markets
With a public good, individuals can’t obtain different amounts of it and there is no need to charge everyone the same, so there is no automatic radically unequal al Location of surplus. The question for the state then becomes what single amount of the good to provide to everybody, and at what separate price for each? This is very different from the question facing the producer of a private good: what single price to charge everyone so that total sales, of unequal amounts to different individuals, will yield maximum profit? The government must operate more like a price-discriminating monopoly. It needs to figure out how much the public good is worth to each individual and charge each of them accordingly, financing the total cost of the good out of the sum of the unequal assessments and setting the level of provision at a point where for each person the assessment is less than or equal to that person’s reserve price for that level. Location 995
Note: And a good follow up, the equivalent description of a public good.
Some high levels of public provision will fail to meet this condition, because they cost more than the sum of what they are worth to all the individuals whose taxes must pay for them. There will be no way of distributing their costs so that their marginal utility will not be lower than that of alternative private uses of that money by at least some taxpayers. On the other hand, some low levels of public provision will be clearly inefficient, because they necessarily leave at least some taxpayers in the private possession of money that would give them greater marginal utility if it were taxed away from them to provide a higher level of provision. Location 1000
Note: The necessary nature of disparity in taxation and utility of some public good between those with different resources. The inherent imperfection of the system doesn’t invalidate the system. The simple fact is the poor can’t afford to pay for it. That doesn’t mean you go without a military.
So we see that distributive questions are unavoidably involved in the problem of public provision, even for those who don’t in the ordinary sense believe in distributive justice. Location 1020
Note: An excellent way to deal with any Libertarian argument. At some point you have to content with reality. And the reality is the poor can’t pay as much as the wealthy, but you can’t supply “different amounts” of public goods, of defense and scientific research and patent law to different people, so a system that libertarians would feel might be “unfair” (odd that a libertarian suddenly cares about fairness) is unavoidable in a world where we need public goods.
Assessment in proportion to benefit, as measured by different reserve prices, does seem a plausible standard, and this would probably be in effect significantly progressive. So there is room for something like the benefit principle, which we earlier rejected as a general principle of tax justice, in this restricted context. Location 1021
Note: By and large, we can assume a reserve price, that is, the price a person would be willing to pay, the amount of “value” they are willing to lose, for each person when “charging” for public goods. A poor person doesn’t want to go without defense, but someone making $10,000 a year might have a reserve price of 500$ since they are already barely able to eat, and though they don’t relish the idea of being invaded anymore than anyone else, simply couldn’t sacrifice anything more. A person making a million might well be willing to pay a higher percentage than the poor persons 5% since the loss of each percent after a point is a loss of less welfare. We can’t go around and asked everyone these questions, but we have to have certain goods for society to function, so yes, we have to make our best guess.
There is a sense in which such a system will inevitably seem redistributive in effect, if not in intent. To take another example, if the rich would be happy to pay a lot for clean streets and the poor very little, the poor will get them anyway, largely paid for by taxes on the rich, at a level that the poor could not afford on their own. But the alternative is either that the poor be required to pay more for street-cleaning than it is worth to them, or that the rich get dirty streets in exchange for extra disposable income that is worth less to them than it would be if spent on clean streets. So what is driving the solution is really efficiency, not redistribution. Location 1027
Note: God and Jesus. Memorize. Use this to answer Chris or Jeremy or countless others when they complain about progressive taxation and public goods. It underlies the simple living reality of the situation.
Rich people can band together in restricted private communities, where the streets are clean and the landscaping and security perfect, but this isn’t enough, even for them. They also want to be able to live and work in safe and attractive cities with diverse populations. Leaving everything to the market will in certain respects leave everyone worse off than they could otherwise be. Location 1035
Note: More of countless ways public goods and the population that uses them are inseperatable. Clean and well groomed cities that we are all a part of need to be paid for socially
It may be that the justification of public provision not for purposes of redistribution but rather to provide public goods for reasons of efficiency-goods that benefit everyone-can be extended to cover a great deal. The classic public goods are defense, domestic security, the legal system, environmental protection, and public health. But there may be important aesthetic, social, and cultural goods that cannot be supplied privately. If we can ensure a decent level of education for all, independently of their ability to pay, the result will be a society that is much better for everyone to live in, and economically better for almost everyone, than a society with high levels of illiteracy and innumeracy. Whether it is achieved through public schools or through mandated education underwritten by subsidies or vouchers, the benefits are not limited to the direct recipients. A considerable support for universal education by the haves, even with minimal tax contribution from the have-nots, will produce on balance a result that is advantageous for the haves as well as the have-nots, in both social and economic terms. Location 1037
Note: God – Memorize as well. One of the best articulations of public goods ever heard.
Similar things could be said of support for the performing arts in order to foster a creative cultural environment, support for scientific and scholarly research, and so forth. Finally, there is also a case, based on this type of efficiency consideration, for traditional social welfare policies guaranteeing a decent minimum standard of living, or decent minimum earnings, for everyone in the society. Such programs are usually regarded as redistributive, but the alternative to a decent social minimum is a society with real poverty, which often results in higher rates of crime, drug addiction, and single motherhood, all of which impose their own costs not only on the poor but on everyone. To be grim about it, the cost of subsidizing wages for unskilled labor to make them sufficient to support a family might well be balanced by savings in the costs of prisons and law enforcement that such a change would produce, not to mention the value for everyone of the change in the social environment.’ Location 1044
Note: Above God and all forms of bookmarking – For every conversation we have ever had in politics, if there is only one passage to know, this might be it. The most perfect articulation of why I am a Democrat we have read. Now, it is impossible to meet any argument that will phase us. Even “redistribution” is the wrong way to frame things. Taxing the Rich to give to the poor is only “redistributing wealth” in terms of semantics. Nothing is being redistributed. The Rich are losing private “value” in exchange for another form of value. A society where drug abuse, rampant crime, child pregnancy, theft and murder, filth, and illiteracy are alleviated and creating a society everyone lives better in, the Rich including. “why do I have to pay for someone else?” is the wrong framing. You are buying value in the form of a better economy and better society that allows everyone to live better and generate more wealth in. You are paying for the opportunity to live in a better world. It is in your self interest.
Again, such programs would not be redistributive in the usual sense of benefiting some at the expense of others. The poor would benefit but only to the extent that the rich would also. The size of the benefit to the poor would depend on what would equalize marginal benefit to the rich from among competing categories of expenditure-how much the well-to-do could contribute before alternative uses of their money, including private consumption, would be more valuable to them-the diametrical opposite of Rawls’s difference principle. Location 1049
Note: Also good. It’s not redistribution. It’s paying for value that increases your welfare.
Let us return finally to the special type of good mentioned earlier, which is neither a good for particular individuals in the society nor a public good for all of them, but rather a good in itself. If there are such things, we suggested, they might be justifiably supported by the state out of taxes under the heading of public duties rather than public goods. Examples would include foreign aid, support of the arts and sciences, and protection of endangered species. Location 1120
Note: You might filter certain things through taxation as goods in and of themselves. The arts, the culture, the sciences and music and goods that are iconic to the society itself. Some things, are good in and of themselves, instrinsic goods. We don’t provide subsidies for Music, Art, and Philosophy because they “grow” an economy, (though critical thinking will do that.) We suppose these things because there are other goods besides growth. Other things that add to well being besides more widgets. We enjoy culture, art, music, beauty in and of themselves. They are literally ends for which we live for. They are the reason we grow to begin with.
If the marginal tax rate applicable to an extra hour of work reduces the net benefit of the extra work to less than that of an extra hour of leisure, a rational worker will choose the leisure instead. Location 1163
Note: A good way to articulate the tradeoff between work and leisure, and the effect of taxation thereof. It is unlikely, and probably demonstrable, that while taxation on higher rates reduces the benifit of extra work, it still does not reduce it below the worth of an hour of leisure. If someone makes $2 Million instead of $3Million, we have no reason to believe he would have worked for 3 but not 2. Add to this the fact that many people don’t really know how much they are going to make on investments. So the idea that someone is “happy” with a certain amount but suddenly “unhappy” with another impossible to demonstrate. The guy had no idea if his investment would have made 3 Million or 2 Million, yet he still made it. The rate of tax is just an annoyance. He might not liek the idea of being taxed, but he doesn’t quit working because his investments aren’t paying off what he thought. “People will work less.” Tell your employer tomorrow you are going to work 20 hours next week. Lets see if he tells you “Okay no problem.” Most people work what they are told. CEOs salaries are so varied and dependant on other factors it doesn’t even amount to choosing how much to work. If anything, the pursuit of more wealth will impell people to work MORE. They certainly have no real proof that higher taxes make the whole country stop working and stay home.
To the extent that this is so, a tax system should, all else being equal, attempt to encourage rather than discourage savings. The available empirical evidence, however, suggests that savings behavior is rather unresponsive to changes in the after-tax rate of return.23 Thus, this purely instrumental argument for a consumption base appears to fail. Location 1222
Note: Good way to articulate an idealogical argument that fails in the face of pragmatic real world evidence. Many arguments “sound good” but don’t bear out in reality. Friedman’s fair pay act is a good example. It’s a purely instramental argument that doesn’t bear out in the real world to the pragmatic concerns. Also, a good rebuttle to the argument that taxing returns don’t seem to have much effect on savings afterall. Argument is reason giving, and the reason given, sounds good in theory but doesn’t work in real life.
Partly, this could be done by redistributing property rights in financial wealth and providing free education (necessary since children presumably cannot be held responsible for their parents’ spending choices). Location 1273
Note: As sting and succinct of an argument for public education that you’ll find. Sure, not all Public Schools are great, and wealth buys some kids better educations, but free education insures everyone gets something to start life with. And having a society where kids have been educated and college ready, as opposed to illiterate drug dealers, is a public good.
In any event, we do not live in the equal libertarian’s ideal market society or in a society that shows any sign of trying to achieve that ideal through its economic institutions. And so long as we do not, we cannot argue about the tax base under the pretense that the opportunities presented in our actual, inegalitarian, market world are just and thus not to be disturbed through taxation. The fairness-to-savers argument as here reconstructed gets off the ground only in the equal libertarian’s utopia. Location 1292
Note: Good way to articulate the fallacy of arguments extruded from market fundamentalism. They are true only under the pretense of a fantasy, and so not arguments we need address in reality. The world doesn’t work that way. I
Even if it is never consumed, wealth contributes to a person’s welfare because it is known to be available should personal economic disaster strike-perhaps in the form of unemployment or a medical emergency for which available health insurance is inadequate. The current trend in the United States and elsewhere of dismantling government safety nets makes the importance of wealth as security all the more obvious.