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Ilya Startsev

An argument for taxation

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This argument for taxation is made by Objectivism's contemporary archenemy, George Lakoff (2014):

 

A tax cut proponent says, “We should get rid of taxes. People know how to spend their money better than the government.” Reframe: “The government has made very wise investments with taxpayer money. Our interstate highway system, for example. You couldn’t build a highway with your tax refund. The government built them. Or the Internet, paid for by taxpayer investment. You could not make your own Internet. Most of our scientific advances have been made through funding from the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Health—great government investments of taxpayer money. Computer science was developed with taxpayer money, so was the satellite system, so were the chips in our cell phones, so were the wonder drugs we need. No matter how wisely you spent your own money, you’d never get those scientific and medical breakthroughs. And how far would you get hiring your own army with your tax refund?” (Ch. 16)

 

I disagree with the argument and actually see many weak points in it. I just thought you should know. Lakoff is using a tricky strategy involving metaphorical frames, and he is currently the most clever intellectual who is supporting the left.

 

Reference:

Lakoff, George. (2014). The ALL NEW Don't Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the

Debate. White River Junction: Chelsea Green Publishing.

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This is kind of sad.  I own his book "Where Mathematics Comes From" and am impressed with much of what he has to say.  (I know that you too referenced it in a long-ago post).

 

What is your connection with Lakoff?  Is his work being taught in courses you are taking. 

 

Edit.

If I recall correctly, you are from Russia?  You'd be in a unique position to tell him he's full of bull crap.  If he were right, then the Soviet Union would have been the world's leading economic power back in the day.

Edited by New Buddha

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This is kind of sad.  I own his book "Where Mathematics Comes From" and am impressed with much of what he has to say.  (I know that you too referenced it in a long-ago post).

 

What is your connection with Lakoff?  Is his work being taught in courses you are taking. 

 

Edit.

If I recall correctly, you are from Russia?  You'd be in a unique position to tell him he's full of bull crap.  If he were right, then the Soviet Union would have been the world's leading economic power back in the day.

Yes, it is sad. I was actually quite into Lakoff and his theory of conceptual metaphor until I found out his political views. I am still applying his methodology in my projects, though, but I will argue vehemently against his tax-heavy view of government. Lakoff, as I see him, is of a new generation of dialecticians. While Marx applied dialectics to social groups, Lakoff applies dialectical metaphors to all fields of knowledge.

 

I am from Russia, and it surprises me greatly that Lakoff is so covert about his views on socialism. I am pretty sure he is a socialist, even an egalitarian, but he does not officially proclaim himself to be so. He is one of those intellectuals, like Kant, who has gotten himself lost in his own theories and completely forgot about reality. He is more dangerous than Kant, however, because he uses modern neurological evidence to support his conceptual views.

 

Of course, it's impossible for people to privately coordinate large projects for profit...

Nonetheless, the military is a perfectly public, but, in Objectivism, privately funded organization that has caused all the major technological breakthroughs. Were Lakoff to mention the details hidden beneath his argument, his argument would collapse from its own weight.

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I think there are two levels to this: first, imagine the amount of wealth and talent released without tax, or with voluntary taxation. Why would there be any less innovation? Surely more? If some things would fall by the wayside through lack of private initiative -- many more would flourish. It seems to lead to the false dichotomy of contingency vs necessity. Nothing (man-made) had to be this way.

The utilitarian-determinists look at such matters from a concretist pov, I think.

Second, most important, the point isn't what we have, or wouldn't have, the entire point is (even assuming an unlikely worse situation) what we would have would be as result of freedom.

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The Interstate highway system example is a hoot. That thing was driven completely by General Motors graft. Without that corruption (and it's offshoots and smaller brethren) we'd probably have a lot fewer roads and a lot few cars because people would actually need to pay for the roads they drive on. And the US would be less spread out than it is. Etc. (And it would be just fine because that would be the way we'd be used to living).

 

The Internet is a slightly different animal--it was created (initially at least) by the military, which is ultimately a valid function of government. By-products of our investments in defense should clearly be given out the (American) public domain (or sold, or whatever).

 

And the author finishes with the military, which again is a perfectly valid point (and taxation for that is a debate among Objectivists).

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All of your counterarguments are excellent, but I prefer my counterargument while staying within Lakoff's own political frame.

 

Lakoff accepts these two conceptual metaphors:

 

Government Is Nurturant Parent

Citizens Are Children

 

I believe that his metaphors entail two additional conceptual metaphors, namely:

 

Country Is Home

Locking In A Room Is Imprisonment

 

If all these metaphors are the case, then what kind of a nurturant parent would force its children to pay in order to stay at home? Even if a child is wealthy, say he or she has won a lottery, forcing him or her to "invest" or else "imprisoning" him or her in a room would lead the child to not freely "invest" by giving what the "nurturant" parent says. Why can't the child invest how he or she thinks best? Can't children mature without parenthood? Lakoff's "nurturant parent" image is hiding a dictatorship underneath. Either pay or go to your room!

Edited by Ilya Startsev

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