Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Swerve of Shore

  • Content Count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Everything posted by Swerve of Shore

  1. @Nicky - Sorry I didn't make it clear enough. I meant nobody except you would address the precise question of what the best type of tax would be. Unfortunately, nobody else has ventured an answer even now. Your point that corporations would at times be willing to make voluntary government contributions is well-taken ... it would not necessarily be a breach of fiduciary duty. But, one thing you did not address is my question about whether we could realistically expect foreign investors to pay their fair share (either voluntarily sending payments to our country or by expecting the corporation to pay a voluntary contribution on their behalf).
  2. The obvious finally hit me. The fact that you all think Taxation should be voluntary is precisely why you won't address which type of tax is best. So, let me ask the question in a different way: By what standard should people decide whether they (and their neighbors) have voluntarily paid an appropriate amount of tax? There is a very significant, related issue: How should people find out what level of tax their neighbors have paid in order to apply societal pressure? I doubt the Objectivist answer would be for the government to collect and publish information on people's income and voluntary tax payments. And what about corporate level income? A corporation could not voluntarily pay taxes - that would be a violation of fiduciary duty by the managers - only the shareholders could. But, Nicky has pointed out that the corporate tax (together with dividend and capital gain exclusions) has the purpose of taxing foreign investors. Should we expect foreigners to pay voluntary taxes where-ever they invest, no matter how small their investments?
  3. Interesting. A sales tax would be for the privilege of buying things? That makes some sense. Should necessities (food, etc.) be excluded. I'm intrigued that you accept, temporarily, a wealth tax (i.e., a property tax) for law enforcement. Does it trouble you that the same wealth is taxed every year (as opposed to an income tax where it is taxed once)? I don't think this is true. In high risk industries (like high-tech), I think you are right because companies are only taxed on income and income varies greatly from firm to firm. But, for relatively routine industries (like cement), the tax is probably passed on to consumers (like a sales tax) since all of the companies earn roughly the same profit. This makes some sense (although it fails to the extent the corporate tax is passed on to consumers). I have to admit that treatment of foreign shareholders is the one element I had not figured out. I was leaning toward a tax on dividends and capital gains, but agree this is jurisdictionally and practically difficult. Actually, you brought it up first in your prior post, but you're very right that I should have let it lie and not brought it up again. I regret that this thread is becoming yet another thread on the topic. You and others raise some good points about it (I'm especially intrigued by the concept of a tax on citizenship). I need to give the concepts more thought and still would rather leave it to another thread. Hopefully (perhaps vainly), this post will get the discussion back to other aspects of taxation. I still haven't heard anyone else's opinions besides yours, Nicky.
  4. Thanks, Nicky. If I understand correctly, for "right now", you are suggesting a 5% personal income tax (i.e., "peronsal income") plus a 5% corporate tax (i.e., "sales and profits") would be sufficient and not too unreasonable. I am not sure, but I doubt those rates are sufficient ... it is probably closer to 10%. But on a fundamental basis, I prefer an all individual income tax solution because (1) the incidence of the corporate tax is unclear (i.e., whether it is "borne" by shareholders, consumers or employees) and (2) whoever bears it, it is a double tax if the income is again taxed at the individual level. The exclusion of capital gains you refer to is a rough way of accomplishing the same thing ... but only if capital gains is defined as gains on corporate shares, not on land, bonds, or other items that are not subject to a first level of taxation. I do not believe a voluntary tax can work because of the well-known economic concept of "free-riding" but I'll leave that discussion to other threads. I prefer a personal income tax to other taxes for funding the military and police because the function of these institutions is largely the protection of wealth. Perhaps, some base level of per capita taxation would be appropriate to provide for their personal security functions. There is some argument for a wealth tax instead of an income tax, but I'm inclined to think taxing the wealth once (when it is earned) is fairer than taxing it on a yearly basis (although a annual wealth tax should clearly be at a lower rate). That is, I am uncomfortable with the idea that the thrifty should be taxed more heavily than the spendthrift. Anyone else have any thoughts on the appropriate type of tax for military funding?
  5. @Nicky, I took all non-military spending out of the equation, as well as all taxes other than the personal income tax, in order to isolate the question of whether a personal income tax at approximately half its current level (it could be one-quarter, the exact number doesn't matter) is the appropriate way to fund the military. But I still haven't heard anyone address this specific question. To rephrase: Everyone agrees we should fund the military. So, what kind of tax is the right kind to fund it? (Oh, and thanks for the links to other threads, @softwareNerd - you may well be right that someone has addressed my question in there. When I have the time (unfortunately, not now), I will delve into them.)
  6. I was not lamenting the fact that the thread went off in another direction. It was more like I was apologizing for breaking the rhythm of the thread by returning to my original post. I love your discussion about oranges, luxury and the mafia.
  7. Perhaps nobody cares since this thread has gone off in an entirely different direction, but I wanted to point out that this thread: http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=24387 visually illustrates the question I was raising in my OP. ... Oh, yeah, and if we're taking a poll to find out who the casual observer is, put in one vote on the side of appreciating Andy Warhol. BTW, I find defining it as "casual observer from the Italian Renaissance" to be at least as pretentious as anything a proponent of modern art might say.
  8. This thread is specifically on point for the one I was thinking of starting. I have to say I am greatly disappointed with the level of (dis)interest shown by the community. Perhaps, I can spur greater thought and discussion. Based on my calculations, the OP got it about right: funding the military alone would require an income tax at about half the current level. (This assumes no corporate tax, no inheritance tax, no employment taxes, etc.) Personally, I would like to see military spending at about half its current size, but many (most?) of you disagreed when I raised this in a prior post, so let's stick with the 50% figure. How do you all propose to fund this level of spending? Is there some kind of tax that is more fair than the income tax? If you made it truly a voluntary tax as FeatherFall suggested, I believe you would have a great many wealthy free-riders ... not a strongly progressive system as FeatherFall guesses. (In any event, I would look forward to seeing the Koch brothers write a "voluntary" check to fund the military!) As for Ayn Rand herself, as far as I know, she wrote only the piece realityChemist refers to (which can be found in The Virtue of Selfishness). This piece is NOT on point because it deals only with funding the courts and other means of contract enforcement. This is a far smaller cost than the military. Nor is there any clear "rational relationship" between a tax on transactions and military spending. I have trouble envisioning any system more fair than a non-voluntary individual income tax. (For current purposes, I'll steer clear of questions like progressivity or capital gains preferences.) Can anyone enlighten me?
  9. I do not know if this is true. If you want to explore the concepts more carefully, this is an excellent book: http://www.amazon.com/Moral-Lives-Animals-Dale-Peterson/dp/1608193462/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1353897393&sr=8-1&keywords=moral+life+of+animals
  10. postscript: one of Jonathan13's statements in the threads he linked to above seems particularly apt to me. It seems quite contrary to the Objectivist spirit of heroic individualism to say that all Objectivists need to reach the same conclusions about what art is good, and what is bad.
  11. It's an intriguing question similar to the issue of "original intent" in law. In law, there is a doctrine that the "plain meaning" controls even if the original drafter of the law disagrees with the reading. However, this is arguably very different because a law is enacted by a body of legislators and not by the single person (or persons) who drafted it. So, the "original intent" inquiry really shoud try to "get in the minds" of all the legislators (or, I suppose, a majority of them). Where a principle is developed by a single person - i.e., Ayn Rand - it is presumably only her intent that matters. But, a separate question is whether one has to reach the exact same conclusions that the original creator of the principles would have reached - as opposed to just applying the principles in a logical and rational way. To be an Objectivist, assuming Objectivism is defined by Rand and Rand alone, does one have to agree with every one of her opinions about what she likes and what she does not? Rand was extremely opiinionated. It is hard for me to imagine her accepting someone else's analysis as reasonable even where they reach a different conclusion. Moreover, I strongly suspect that she believed that all of her opinions were based on her principles, leaving no room for the notion that she just happens to like one thing and dislike another due to a personal emotional reaction but she could accept that the things she doesn't like are equally valid as "art". Although, certainly, I could be wrong.
  12. After my last post, I came up with two keyword searches: Romantic Manifesto and Heroic. Found some good stuff. I was particularly interested in this post: http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=22430&#entry281687 where Johnathan13 explains how his painting based on a paint splatter satisfies Rand's aesthetic criteria, including the "heroic" criterion I referred to in my OP. If one agrees that he has properly applied Rand's criteria (which I am inclined to do even as I seriously wonder Rand herself would have), then I am satisfied that Randian aesthetics is quite different from the authoritarian Soviet approach to art.
  13. @hairnet, thanks for the reference to the Romantic Manifesto, I will certainly look it up. My impressions of Rand's views on art are based on very limited references in Atlas Shrugged and the Value of Selfishness. @softwareNerd, I am glad to hear I am not too far offbase, given your comment about Rand's "restrictive views". Can you give me any suggestions of keywords to search for the type of threads you refer to? I thought about it before posting, but came up dry.
  14. My impression from reading Ayn Rand on art was that I would be as unmoved by what she finds aesthetically proper as what the Soviet's commissioned as "art". That is, if I understand correctly, Rand believed art must be "heroic". This reminds me of Soviet statues. Or of Maoist plays where the hero must be a worker, peasant or solider. For my part, I particularly love the anti-hero movies of the 1970s, such as Taxi Driver, Godfather and the like. I doubt very much Rand herself would like these. Must you hate them to be a "true" Objectivist?
  15. Wow, this is the best explanation of Objectivist political principles I have seen. Dormin111, did you put this together yourself or is there a source I can consult for further research?
  16. While this is no doubt accurate as a matter of Realpolitik, it is an inaccurate application of Objectivist principles. Application of force itself is not the sort of "self-sustaining action" referred to. Force is reserved to enforce rights acquired by other means: in the discussion here, that would be such things as planting seeds and building houses. If there were agreement between the Euros and the Natives as to what constituted rights in real property and how it was claimed, then arrows and cannons would be equal. Both would be pointed at those who violated this agreement. My original post raised a different point, though. Namely, that there was no such agreement between the Euros and the Natives. In fact, it is doubtful that there could be. Most of the Natives were hunters, not farmers. So, rights in land would be fluid rather than fixed, depending on where the game migrated from time to time. Planting seeds and building houses would not be seen as key indicia of "ownership". How you would properly claim and enforce such fluid rights is a very difficult theoretical question. The answer of the Native tribes (who would have thought in terms of tribal or community rights rather than individual rights) was clearly Realpolitik. When two tribes came into conflict, either Might Made Right or, if both had sufficient Might, then a Treaty would split up rights.
  17. Bullet one: Again, Medicaid does not provide funds for abortion, period ... due to GOP-passed laws. So, by withholding Medicaid funds, Obama is not withholding abortion funds. The issue in your citations has to do with Medicaid funding of non-abortion services provided by Planned Parenthood (PP), so they are irrelevant. Bullet two: I am very pleased to learn that Obama reversed the ban that was put in place under Reagan. This means that foreign PP-like agencies can now receive federal funds for non-abortion services even if they also provide abortions. Again, this is basically irrelevant since there is no funding of abortion involved, but - if you take the view that it frees up funds the agencies can now use for abortions - Obama's actions are pro-abortion rights. It was Reagan's policy that was anti-abortion. Bullet three: Romney's quote about anti-abortion legislation not being in his agenda is one of the many cases of Romney saying what he thinks his audience wants to hear even if it is a lie. Among other things, Romney has supported "fetal pain" legislation. See http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/politics-elections/261155-romney-abortion-legislation-not-part-of-my-agenda. Bullet four: Thankfully, it is a moot question whether Romney has it in him to appoint justices that would overturn Roe since he did not get elected. On this point, we can agree to disagree.
  18. Of course, one answer is: it doesn't matter. This line of argument follows from Rand's writings about inheritance. With inherited land, she holds that it is the rights of the deceased to do as he likes with his property, not the rights of the inheritor - who may be a wastral - that matter. If the inheritor is a wastral, however, Rand is confident that the wastral's property will dissipate over time anyway - that is to say, the property will eventually fall into the hands of those who can best use it. So, to return to the original question, even if the title to the land is marred by theft or has no rational basis in the first place, in the end it is the fact that it is recognized as property - and is dealt with going forward according to law and rights - that matters.
  19. Thanks, Nicky. What about the land in the USSR for which the previous owners could not be found (or which the previous owners - perhaps Tsarist officials - could be shown to have stolen themselves)? How do you think it could best be allocated?
  20. While I agree the OP is overly dramatic, these bullet points are factually wrong. Regulate medicaid. Medicare/Medicaid don't provide abortions due to long-standing Republican opposition. Anyway, this bullet is a little odd since, as I understand it, Objectivists are against Medicare/Medicaid altogether.. Affect funding for nonprofits that provide abortions overseas. Obama did not start this practice. Again it was Republican legislators who started it long ago. Obama has not had the power to overturn it. Pass federal abortion regulations (like the partial birth abortion ban act). If I'm not mistaking, Romney supported the so-called partial birth abortion ban (and Obama did not). As to whether Romney would support/sign further regulations, yes, he probably would have. He has expressed support for Personhood begins at Conception legislation. Appoint supreme court justices. This is the most important point. Actually, if he can appoint 1 or 2 new justices, Romney probably could tip the balance (if the Senate doesn't stop him) and he certainly would try to. Supreme Court justices make it a policy not to discuss how they will handle future cases, so you can't go by their public statements. The best you can do is read the tea leaves. In addition to Scalia and Thomas, it is extremely likely Alito would vote to overturn Roe. Roberts is more of a wild card ... as his Obamacare decision proved. So, one appointment might be able to overturn Roe, but two almost certainly would. So, yes, if you voted for either Romney or Obama, it should be on your conscience how you weighed abortion rights versus all other issues.
  21. Here's a quick one ... OK, only quick by my long-winded standards. How is the initial right of ownership in a piece of land rightfully acquired? As I understand it, many Indian tribes did not think you could own land ... any more than you can own the air you breathe. One historical answer is that it is whoever first claims and productively uses the land gets rightful ownership. But the Indians necessarily had to lose out on this game because they don't know how to play it. This works with frontier land, but what about other situations? What would have been the proper way to privatize land upon the breakup of the USSR? Clearly not by giving it away to the most well-connected former communists. Is it by auction? But who has the money: the same well-connected former communists. Is it some sort of process to figure out who the property was stolen from? How about giving everybody an equal piece or a lottery? As for stolen property, what do you think about "reparations" for the stolen labor of the American slaves? Should they have gotten their "forty acres and a mule" after the Civil War ... and should their descendents now get that plus interest?
  22. Thanks 2046 for your wonderfully thorough response. It greatly furthers my understanding of Objectivism. I'll just make a few minor comments. This sounds a bit like those defenders of "true" Communism who say it has never been implemented in real life. My from-each-to-each discussion explains that it can never be implemented in practice because the premises will inevitably lead to results contrary to those intended. I'm not sure how this is different. Yes, I am very interested in ways of harnessing the power of markets to achieve other goals. That's the beauty of "cap and trade". (Which oddly the Republicans now oppose even though they invented it.) Rather than writing prescriptive regulations on how each company needs to reduce pollution, it allocates the "right" to a certain amount of pollution to each company and allows them to trade them for value. The companies succeed in finding new ways to reduce pollution are able to sell allocations at a profit. Very interesting stuff!
  23. Nothing to add except I'm glad everyone figured out I intended to say Ron Paul, not Rand Paul, in my original post.
  24. Before letting this topic die, one final post. I feel we have gotten off on some interesting tangents, including the one I started on the Galt's Gulch / Utopia angle, but I would like to go basic to my main question. Going back and rereading posts, I found one by 2046 that captures the basic idea I was originally getting at. Let me spell out my original question is further detail. My discussion of the “from each … to each” maxim intended to make this point: the simplicity and naivete of that world view necessarily and inevitably leads to results that are contrary to those intended. That is, taking as a premise that altruism is a powerful enough force to lead to productivity and innovation will necessarily lead to stagnation and failure because the premise is false. And, attempting to achieve a system that harnesses human potential through the measurement of abilities and needs will necessarily lead to oppression and disaster because such measurement is impossible and therefore the evil and corrupt will make themselves the arbiters. So, the question I was trying to posit was whether Objectivism’s premises would necessarily lead to failure if the attempt was made to implement them because the premises are too simplistic and naive. 2046 has hit on both of the aspects I had in mind. First, that the expectation that most "men of the mind" will naturally adhere to Objectivist ethics is naive. Second, that the focus on laissez-faire capitalism with minimal regulations was destined to failure because the level of regulations needed to insure all men of the mind will behave in line with Objectivist ethics is actually quite substantial. On the first aspect, keeping in mind that it is merely a novel, Atlas Shrugged shows two extreme types of men. On the one hand, there are the men of the mind like Reardon, Francisco and Galt himself who do adhere more or less perfectly to Objectivist ethics. (Indeed, only Reardon is shown to have failings and then only on the personal, relationship front.) In opposition, are the looters and moochers who have neither "mind" nor "ethics". Even when they spout Collectivist slogans, they clearly don't believe them. The most obvious example of this type is Jim Taggart. My thesis is that most true "men of the mind," such as the Robber Barons of the early 1900s, also have questionable ethics. They are more than willing to use influence to achieve bad laws and regulations, and eagerly collude to eliminate competition. That is, the movers and shakers in real life are a combination of Reardon and Jim Taggart, not one or the other. The second aspect is the one that can give rise to pages and pages, even books and books, of discussion. How much law and regulation is necessary to insure Objectivist ethics prevail? 2046 is quite right that many regulations do the opposite: for instance, the limitation of tax cab medallions in NYC stifles competition rather than fostering it, and serves no good purpose in terms of safety or health. But what about the Anti-Trust division of Justice? What about the EPA and the FDA? The latter two are bloated, but are still necessary - with considerable size and reach - in my opinion. The one area where principled Objectivists and principled Collectivists would be expected to disagree is in "positive" regulation instead of purely "negative" regulation. That is, to quote Wikipedia's Objectivism entry: "[R]ights are specifically understood to be rights to action, not to specific results or objects, and the obligations created by rights are negative in nature: each individual must refrain from violating the rights of others." [citing Peikoff 1991 p355]. So, anti-pollution regulations are not necessarily contrary to Objectivism, but regulations requiring insurance companies to cover birth control are. I think this covers my thoughts much more clearly. I don't recommend getting into a discussion of Anti-Trust here since that is a huge and complicated topic worthy of its own thread. (For my part, I am not at all sure it is necessary - at least on a large scale - in this day and age when disruptive technologies flourish.)
  25. Quick question, Spiral Architect: Wouldn't you consider Galt's speech in AS to be a "work" on the philosophy rather than "art" around it. My sense was that, while obviously not absolutely comprehensive, it was a pretty thorough explanation of the philosophy. So much so that when I read the Virtue of Selfishness, I felt like I was getting very few new ideas out of it that Galt's speech had not already addressed.
  • Create New...