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Swerve of Shore

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About Swerve of Shore

  • Birthday 01/15/1963

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  • Gender
  • Location
    Beijing, China (maintaing residence in S.F. area USA)

Previous Fields

  • Country
    United States
  • State (US/Canadian)
  • Relationship status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Real Name
    (withheld until I retire)
  • Copyright
    Must Attribute
  • Biography/Intro
    Will post extended bio, but here are highlights: born in California, raised Catholic, proud Berkeley grad (BS in Linguistics), protested Reagan's illegal war against Nicaragua, law degrees from Columbia and NYU, practice international corporate tax law, paradoxically practice includes helping companies move intellectual property offshore
  • Experience with Objectivism
    I have only read Atlas Shrugged and Virtue of Selfishness ... I actually read (did not skim) Galt's speech. I became atheist at about 10 and grew sympathetic to communism soon after. Self-identified as a Radical at Berkeley in the early 1980s. Atheism grew stronger after trying out evangelical Christianity and Bible study. Have come to see importance of capitalism as powerful engine of prosperity by harnessing so-called human nature (what Objectivists call egoism, I believe). Continue to be reluctant Democrat, but would prefer some sort of Progressive party if US system were reformed to be a multiparty democracy. Believe in redistribution (but not confiscation or complete equalization) because I believe capitalism is a powerful wealth creator but is not entirely fair or moral left alone. Remain strongly committed to anti-militarism and anti-intervention.
  • School or University
    Berkeley, Columbia and NYU grad; work at Big Four Accounting Firm
  • Occupation
    Tax Attorney

Swerve of Shore's Achievements

Junior Member

Junior Member (3/7)



  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?
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