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Charlotte Corday

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  1. Here’s my projection: life expectancy will not increase at a rate during the first 12 years of the Capitalism Party’s administration significantly greater than the present rate of increase. Now prove that your projection is more accurate than mine. Not true. Refraining from purchases would have to be a daily activity. Taking a lower rate of pay could be done just once every 12 months. In addition to the excise tax, in the 1790s the federal government was already levying direct taxes on land, houses and slaves. The only way a tax can be non-political is by having it imposed by a body that is not subject to periodic re-election. Your decision to exempt food from the sales tax is but one example of the politically motivated exceptions that will be sought. The excise tax in the early American republic that you point to so admiringly was first applied to liquor distillers, for they were a socially and politically acceptable target for punitive taxation. But what if a corporation really DID need two or even three or four jets? Your consumption tax would impose a penalty on each jet that the company bought. Thus your tax would punish ALL spending and not just wasteful spending. Great. If new cars are going to be exempt from the national sales tax, why not exempt jet planes as well? Who gets to decide what products are exempt, and, given that those making the decisions will be selected by Congress or the president, what keeps the decision-making from being political? I have already shown that if I am penalized for making purchases, then those who would sell me products will be penalized too. Whatever we tax we get less of. Less consumer spending means less products sold, which in turn means less incentive for production. Thus, as Murry Rothbard has explained, the sales tax is just another form of tax on production. With no enforcement arm, I can only assume that your national sales tax will be voluntary, and that those businesses which refuse to collect the tax will be treated no differently than those who follow the law. With regard to 1), the consumption tax has the very same effect as the income tax: they both effectively reduce personal wealth. As for 2), how would government require businesses to collect the tax if there is no Criminal Investigation Division? No less true for the sales tax. Providing proof of sales can also be burdensome to the business owner. But if the government collects a sales tax on the jet plane I buy, it is also siphoning off “earned money.” Where do you think the down payment for the jet came from, the Tooth Fairy? Furthermore, the more I have to spend to get a jet, the less I have to save and thus accumulate wealth. Same is true for that portion of a business’s expenses that go to cover sales taxes. I suppose, then, that there will be no prison terms or fines for those who evade the national sales tax?
  2. Me too. For example, if you write a song and I memorize it, do you own the portion of my mind that stores the song? If I write the song down on paper that I bought from an office supply store, do you own the paper that contains the song lyrics? Do you have the right to enter my home and take away the paper with the song on it?
  3. I’ll answer this with a quotation: “If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. “Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. “That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. “Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.” – Thomas Jefferson
  4. But where is the proof that this “simple alteration of the genetic structure” will take place during the Capitalism Party’s first administration? First of all, it is far from clear that present day researchers don’t have the freedom to perform this allegedly simple alteration that will extend our lifespans. More importantly, giving one the freedom to achieve a scientific breakthrough offers no certainty of a breakthrough. With a similar disregard for evidence, I could declare that if Charlotte Corday is elected President, we’ll be traveling faster than the speed of light by 2012! If your defense of the consumption tax rests on choice, then it is no improvement over the income tax, which also allows choice: if you do not want to pay a higher income tax, you can forego accepting a wage increase. Actually, government financing did not “work fine” in the early part of the nation’s history. Tariffs, which were especially burdensome to the South and beneficial to powerful Northern interests, were the chief source of strife between the states. These taxes on goods led to South Carolina’s Nullification Act of 1832 and eventually to Southern secession in 1861. First of all, there is no economic reason why a consumption tax could not be substituted for the income tax without first reducing the size of the government. But the fundamental argument against such a tax does not differ from arguments against the present tax structure: when taxes fall more heavily on a certain stratum of the populace, while government disbursements are made without regard to the recipients’ contribution to government revenue, then wealth redistribution is accomplished. This leads us to the great insight of the Public Choice School: when leaders are popularly elected, and net tax consumers form a voting majority, voters have no incentive to reduce taxation, and the burden on net tax producers will tend to increase. Are goods that improve the quality of our lives and make us happier “wasteful”? What about indoor plumbing? Isn’t it “wasteful” to spend money on installing a flush toilet when an outhouse would work just as well? I didn’t say they would stop. However, one of the great truths of economics is that you discourage whatever you tax. And apparently, it is “wasteful” spending on ourselves that you wish to discourage. Well, it is clear that you wish to impose a penalty on those who spend (just as the government currently penalizes smokers with a tax), otherwise there would be no tax at all on spending. And if the IRS is “kleptocratic” for taxing earnings, why would it not be equally “kleptocratic” for taxing spending? The problem is that a consumption tax does impose limits on the ability of producers to sell. If there is no consumption tax, then buyers of automobiles would pay no penalty for their purchase. But a tax on automobiles makes a purchase out of the reach of some buyers. This in turn effects the ability of producers to market their goods. This is no different than saying workers will easily be able to afford a flat 5% federal income tax.
  5. This is not a question of what people are "psychologically groomed" to do. The issue is your spectacular claims for longevity. Here's what the Capitalism Party promises: life expectancy will be 76 years in 2008 and 99 years in 2012. Why not claim it will be 109 or 209 in 2012? It is quite evident that you're pulling numbers out of a hat. Let’s see some proof for these assertions. But taxing expenditures is no less improper. What good is my acquiring money if the government penalizes me every time I spend it? Uncle Sam currently taxes us coming and going. You have not presented any economic logic for the superiority of a tax on outgo rather than income. Why should we consider the purchase of a new car or a new house or new clothes wasteful? That is a completely arbitrary characterization. In fact, the owners of the new house, car and clothes may regard their lives as being greatly improved as a result of those purchases. What sort of economy do you suppose we’d have if the government succeeded in a big way at getting people to stop acquiring goods? (If you need a hint, visit a Trappist monastery or North Korea.) If the Capitalism Party regards buying things as “wasteful” and the “destruction of wealth,” then an immediate name change is in order. Why not call yourselves the Anti-Consumption Party or the Self-Denial Party?
  6. This is the same nutty party that is promising immortality if we put them in power: Chart #1: Projected Life Expectancy 2008 76 years 2012 99 years 2016 129 years 2020 168 years See Capitalism Party Manifesto They also ludicrously subscribe to the notion that "consuming wealth is a form of destroying wealth." Think about that the next time you sit down to breakfast.
  7. The Godfather Strangers on a Train The Passion of Joan of Arc Citizen Kane Duck Soup The Third Man The Scarlet Empress Dr. Strangelove The Bridge on the River Kwai The Lady Eve
  8. If the U.S. is truly a capitalist nation, then the only money spent in a war would be money freely given by the citizens (i.e. donations) and the only soldiers sent to fight in a war would be volunteers. So whether or not a capitalist nation goes to war (and the extent of its commitment to the war) is entirely dependent on the preferences of individual citizens. It is no longer a question of a commander-in-chief issuing an order and millions marching in lock-step to carry it out.
  9. Patents are not analogous to real estate titles. We agree that if two gold prospectors are heading for the same parcel of land, the first to mix his labor with it (following John Locke) earns moral and legal title to it. However, the same factors are not in play when it comes to exclusive rights to an invention. If Inventor A, by his own ingenuity and hard work creates, say, an invisibility cloak, we hold that the cloak rightfully belongs to him and that he may rightfully sell it to others and also rightfully attach certain conditions to the sale -- such as not selling duplicates of the product to others. However, if Inventor B by his own hard work and ingenuity arrives independently at a similar cloak, there is no contradiction in saying that B also rightfully owns his cloak and has the right to sell it to others. While we cannot have two gold diggers mining the earth in the same place at the same time, our inventors and their devices are operating in separate realms, with neither interfering with the right of the other to engage in production and trade. Furthermore, if we grant one inventor a patent and thereby prohibit the other inventor from selling the product of his labor, it would be equivalent to allowing only one gold mine owner (out of a thousand mine owners) the exclusive right to sell gold on the market.
  10. There is nothing wrong with the idea of having final authority over one's own property. The trouble with a patent is that it confers a legal monopoly on a single inventor. It prohibits those who independently arrive at a similar device from selling the product of their labor. In this sense patents are an infringement on property rights, not a safeguard.
  11. Once again, Godless Capitalist has uncovered key weak points in an issue that many people take as an article of faith. Why, indeed, should intellectual property have an expiration date when other forms of property do not? Ayn Rand defends time limits on patents and copyrights because “intellectual property cannot be consumed. If it were held in perpetuity, it would lead to the opposite of the very principle on which it is based: it would lead, not to the earned reward of achievement, but to the unearned support of parasitism.” (The Objectivist Newsletter, May 1964) But the most prominent form of property, land, is not consumed either. Even after it has been stripped of its forests and mineral deposits, its value can still increase. Should we say, then, that landowners and their heirs may not hold on to real estate for more than 25 years? But let us also examine the idea that patents and copyrights exist to “reward achievement.” If that were truly the case, then two men who arrived independently at the same invention would share the reward. Instead, under current patent law, monopoly status is conferred exclusively on the first to file claim. Thus it is not intellectual achievement that is rewarded but the physical or legalistic agility of getting to the patent office first. Moreover, when the government confers monopoly status on just one of two or more rivals, it is denying the patentless independent inventor the right to the fruit of his labors. By forbidding him the right to sell his device to others, the government is denying him access to his property, in a fashion no different than prohibiting farmers from putting their land into cultivation. In this respect, patents are an invasion not a defense of property rights.
  12. Godless Capitalist has identified some serious problems with the idea of financing government through contract insurance/enforcement. The most fundamental flaw in the "voluntary" contract insurance fee is that it is not really voluntary. If non-payment of a fee results loss of ability to recover one's property, then one is paying the fee under duress. For example, if I contract with a company to install a new furnace in my home and the company keeps my down payment but refuses to give me the furnace, my right to recover my payment is not altered by the fact that the furnace contract was not insured. If the government refuses to pursue enforcement and forbids me to pursue it by other means, then government is effectively shielding the thief from justice. Government is not the source of rights, and cannot dispense rights or withhold them on the basis of who pays it money.
  13. From John Hospers's letter: ”I was the first presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party back in l972.” That was the year Nixon ran against the anti-war, pro-welfare state George McGovern. Surely the differences between those candidates were as great as the differences between Bush and Kerry. Hospers says Kerry's election would be a "catastrophe." But wouldn't McGovern's election have been a catastrophe for the same reasons? Why, then, didn't Hospers push for the re-election of the incumbent in 1972, as Ayn Rand did? "The Democratic Party today is a haven for anti-Semites . . ." Evidence? "His wife's foundations have funneled millions of dollars into far-left organizations that are virulently hostile to America and libertarian principles. Not only would these foundations continue to lack transparency to the American people, they would be given enormous vigor in a Kerry administration." What principle of capitalism requires that foundations have "transparency"? Is Hopers calling for federal regulation of private charities? “Bush cut income tax rates for the first time in fifteen years. These cuts got us moving out of the recession he inherited, and we are all economically much better off because of them. 1.9 million new jobs have been added to the economy since August 2003.” And Bush has given us the highest level of federal (non-Social Security) spending paid for by borrowing of any president in the past half-century. Doesn’t Hospers understand the elementary economic principle that deficit spending must be paid for with future taxes and/or inflation?
  14. So in a population of 1,000,000 citizens, 1,000,000 votes will be required to prohibit the immigration of Maxists, and 1,000,000 votes will be required to allow the immigration of Marxists? So, if Proposition A (to allow Marxists) has 600,000 votes, and Proposition B (to disallow Marxists) has 400,000 votes, do Marxists get to come in or not? After all, neither proposition is unanimously endorsed.
  15. The courts will “just throw it out,” you say? Well that solves that problem. Or does it? What if voters, out of ignorance or opportunism, elect politicians who appoint judges who “find” Constitutional grounds for gun control, censorship, drug prohibition, business regulation, etc -- even when such grounds are non-existent? One doesn’t have to study U.S. history very long to see that voting majorities have been easily and repeatedly bribed with welfare schemes by politicians, who in turn fill judicial benches with those inclined to interpret the Constitution as loosely and pragmatically as possible. I don’t see what good it does to keep children out of the voting booth, if we enfranchise adults who are all too willing to let their errand boys in Washington run roughshod over constitutional safeguards against big government.
  16. Columbo was one of the best series on television. I agree with every comment made above. The title character’s reliance on logic rather than force to uphold justice and Falk’s endearing performance made for great entertainment. But let’s consider an additional reason for the show’s success. Each episode followed a sure-fire formula: an intelligent and well-to-do murderer enacts the "perfect crime." The villain's hubris and underestimation of Columbo’s deductive powers precipitate the culprit’s downfall. The plots were varied and ingenious, but the viewer knew he could always count on the killer’s vanity and the detective’s modesty to tip the scales. And that leads us to another dynamic: there is clearly an aristocrat vs. commoner conflict in every episode -- at least in every one I’ve seen. Call it class envy if you like, but the writers obviously use Columbo’s shabby overcoat and decrepit car as a play for sympathy. And the villain’s wealth and prestige are invariably essential to his performance of the crime. I for one do not find the class conflict troubling. Columbo isn’t a hero because he’s underpaid. The villains are not evil because they are rich.
  17. While we can disagree about whether Columbus can be held accountable for the Spanish atrocities that followed in his wake, entries from Columbus’s own logs show that he was personally responsible for enslaving, maiming and killing hundreds of people: On his second voyage, Columbus enslaved 1,600 Arawak Indians. Of the 550 shipped back to Spain, 200 died en route, probably of disease. The remainder of the 1,600 were assigned as servants to Columbus’s men who often used them for sex. To further the collection of gold, Columbus imposed a quota system on the natives of Hispaniola. All adults were required to produce a certain minimum of gold. Failure to reach the quota resulted in the worker having one or both hands chopped off. Columbus also recommended slavery to the Spanish monarchs as a means of profiting from its New World lands. None of these facts are disputed by even the most sympathetic of Columbus’s biographers.
  18. Okay, we’ll rule out children as “not sufficiently well-informed yet.” On the same grounds, shouldn’t we also rule out anyone who thinks the federal government is constitutionally empowered to provide universal health care, public housing, and wage and price controls? Couldn’t we argue, “Democrats and Republicans do not qualify because they are not sufficiently well-informed yet”? Then how would someone who says “children do not qualify” know that he has “the moral right to limit the vote”? If “the unanimous consent of all citizens” is required, then children could not be denied the vote if a lone citizen favored their enfranchisement. In fact, I belong to the branch of libertarians who regard democracy as antithetical to individual liberty. Far from opposing “a basic competence test,” I say the fewer voters, the better. While I don’t think that decision about my life and property should be made by a majority of any group, I’d much rather see voters certified on the basis of, say, property ownership than the mere ability to sign one’s name.
  19. Exactly what is my reputation? Is it not simply what other people think of me? ("The general estimation in which a person is held by the public." American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language) Thus to claim that I have a right to my reputation is to say that I have a property right to others' thoughts. Let’s see how this would work in practice. Suppose I operate a school. I invite the parents in the neighborhood to an open house. I say to one of the visitors, “I hope you’ll consider enrolling your child in my school.” The parent replies, “I will not. I’ve got a hunch you are a witch and a daughter of Satan.” Now, if my reputation is indeed my intellectual property (and I am not a witch), then I would have moral/legal grounds to force the parent to change her opinion of me. The trouble is, I have no idea how this could be done. Would a court permit me to torture the parent in Room 101 until she no longer considered me a witch? Or to take a less extreme case, could Phone Company B sue Phone Company A’s customers, for wrongly thinking that that Company A offers superior service and rates?
  20. Should there be a minimum voting age, and why? Or, to put it another way, on what moral/political grounds do we limit the vote to certain members of the populace?
  21. First, allow me to observe that not only is your goal of reconciling government with individual consent a noble one, but your suggestions for getting us from here to there exhibit a rare independence of thought on this forum. Now to our debate: This is fair and reasonable. I do not object on principle to a contract which explicitly requires certain actions by a party if should he cancel the contract. In the case of a contract between a government and a citizen, there may indeed be a clause which requires the client/citizen to emigrate should client/citizen choose not to renew the contract. But, as I have said earlier on this thread, contracts between members of one generation are not binding on successive generations. Thus, by signing an agreement with a government, I do not bind my children or grandchildren to that same agreement. In order to be truly voluntary, a government would have to start fresh with each new native-born member of the population. Nor could it demand that a post-compact native leave the country if he chose not to sign up, for that stipulation can only be imposed upon those who have by their own free will already agreed to do so. Furthermore, if this government of yours is truly “conceived in liberty,” then within its “borders” (if we can use such a term), there will be original hold-outs who had never signed on in the first place. Given human diversity and difference of opinion, I expect that there will be a sizable minority who will refuse to sign on and will seek to institute for themselves governments (or protection agencies) separate and independent from that of the majority, creating a patchwork quilt of sovereignties. Your government, regardless of the percentage of its majority, will have no contractual or moral authority to command these “interior” non-citizen hold-outs on how to limit access to their property. But, as I have suggested above, if the government must attain the consent of each individual before it exercises authority over that individual (a pre-condition, by the way, that I consider highly admirable), then it is not realistic to expect wide, uninterrupted swaths of unity. Even if we take a state like New Hampshire that is small in territory and whose citizens generally favor individual freedom, we may reasonably expect that there will be a significant minority peppered throughout the state who will refuse to sign on to your Constitution of Liberty and who, because of your laudable respect for personal choice, must be permitted to go it alone in peace. In short, a coercive monopoly (or “territorial integrity”) is simply incompatible with your sound concern for individual consent. Forgive the interruption, but why is it the towns that do the ratification but not the individuals within those towns? “Unanimous consent” (your term) would imply that each person and not merely a consensus within a community be the deciding factor as to whether a particular individual is subject to the authority of a state or federal government. I bring this up reluctantly, because I think communities based on shared interests are desirable. But this explanation does not deal with those residents who had never signed on to the government (community, county, state or federal) to begin with. It is okay with me if your scenario excludes the hold-outs, but those hold-outs may not be sacrificed to your vaunted “territorial integrity,” nor may your government asset “unanimous consent” unless everyone within its “borders” said so.
  22. While I would not say that government property is in every case “used to serve the public interest,” I do agree that government property is not owned by the members of the public. To correct a small error: the U.S. Constitution says nothing about “roads and other utilities” being provided by “the state (not federal government) and paid for by a state tax.” The Constitution is utterly silent on the matter of what agency should provide utilities. As for building and operating roads, the Constitution did not entirely leave this power to the states. Article I, Section 8 gives Congress the power “To establish Post Offices and post Roads.”
  23. Bravo! The idea of a government requiring the constitutional consent of every citizen it rules strikes me as eminently sensible. However it gives rise to this question: what happens if one citizen (out of, say, one million) objects? Does the government rewrite its constitution in order to win the consent of all one million out of one million citizens? Or does government merely withdraw its rule (or proposed rule) from the one objecting citizen? If the answer is the former, it is difficult to imagine any document (especially one as lengthy and complex as a blueprint for government) meeting with the perfect approval of everyone in a large population. Surely, even in a nation of unusual ideological homogeneity, there are bound to be disagreements. If we change the document to please one dissenter, wouldn’t we risk losing the support of those who want no revisions? If the solution is that the government simply not presume to rule those who refuse to give their consent to its constitution, then surely those not consenting to Government A and its constitution, have not forfeited their right of self-defense and are entitled to institute a separate organization for preserving life and property. Accordingly, to employ my earlier example, on Elm Street, the homeowners at 100, 103, 106 and 109 Elm freely consent to Government A and its constitution, while the homeowners at 101, 102, 104, 105, 107 and 108 Elm freely consent to Government B and its constitution. If you believe that “a government has to enjoy the consent of each and every one of its citizens in order to be legitimate,” then doesn’t it follow that the citizen has the right to choose which government he will give his consent to, i.e. that there be more than one option? I trust your position is not that if the citizen does not consent to the government he is offered, he may not form a separate government or organization for rights protection. For that would be a Hobson's choice between a flawed (perhaps even tyrannical) government and being at the mercy of any aggressor that happens along. However, if a citizen is to be allowed more than one governmental option, then we are back to my Elm Street example, where neighbors live side by side but are ruled by separate governments. Under those circumstances, I do not see why we should not think of these governments as competing agencies. If a “government” has to win the voluntary patronage of its citizens/customers and may quickly lose citizens/customers to a more efficient “government,” then we are in fact speaking of a free and competitive market.
  24. In Post #37 you wrote, “a group of people has a right to establish an organization called a government.” Now if your government considers its citizens to consist expressly of those who voluntarily contract with it and not of any who live outside the property lines of its self-chosen members, then this is not a government at all, but a free market protection agency. For the defining characteristic of government is that it holds a monopoly on enforcing “certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area.” (Ayn Rand) So, if on Elm Street, the homeowners at 100, 103, 106 and 109 Elm may freely choose Government A, while the homeowners at 101, 102, 104, 105, 107 and 108 Elm may freely choose Government B instead, then we no longer have a monopoly on enforcing “certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area.”
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