Friday, April 30, 2010

Opportunity costs of taxation and slavery

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Many people persist with the belief that government offers them a benefit in terms of access to public goods, ensures we have a nice quality of life, etc. I would however make the point that whilst governments provide services, they do it an extraordinarily high cost which is not fully appreciated by taxpayers. I would further assert that taxpayers would rather repress this fact than acknowledge it, because they would rather evade the fact that place themselves in a position where they feel they can do nothing about it.
So just how bad is government. Let me count the ways in order of priority:
  1. Government is highly inefficient because it is very centralised, bureaucratic, exclusive of external stakeholder interests, self-serving (in a bad way because they are not accountable). If decision-making was dispersed so many more decisions could be made, but instead on many issues we have to wait years for bad decisions, then revisions, etc. We are lucky if we get sound legislation. Government accounts for 25-35% of any country's GDP. For it to be inefficient is a major drag on the economy. Also consider that in bad times they drag even more because they ramp up spending. Look at the poor quality of that spending as well. Huge waste on routs and inefficiencies. I would suggest to you that if the average rate of economic growth is 3% for a country, its 16% for a company, then we could probably be growing 12-15% a year without government. China is growing 10% a year and its a statist economy, but it actually has less intervention that Western governments. Yes, it has cheap labour, but then we could too if we had no minimum wage, and less admin cost.
  2. Statutory law created by government is arbitrary. It cannot be based on principles because how would they explain the common law limits on extortion, yet the tax office has the power to extort money from you. i.e. Not allowing you to leave the country before you 'legally' pay the tax you owe. i.e. Rescinding your drivers license until you pay your $60 fee which would cost you $5000 to contest through the court system, and you would not even get your points back. A moral victory? Hardly, morality ought to be practical. There is no dichotomy in a just society. So statutory law is arbitrary, which means that it is free to impose any law divorced from context, so it gives rise to loopholing, which requires more laws. The implication is that 'the spirit of the law' cannot be used because it has no fundamental principles, or rather it compromises two sets of contradictory principles. i.e. Contemporary 'textbook' accounting vs tax accounting laws, Common law and statutory law, common sense vs government government intimidation, facts vs appearances.
  3. There is very little accountability for government. The problem is that there is very little accountability for government. There are a number of reasons. Because the decision to establish an agency to monitor government would need to be established by government. Should they ever do so, don't expect it to have any budget. The standard argument when you attempt to use these services is that they have no resources, they are under-funded, or no powers to investigate. Don't expect any of them to speak out either. Once a public servant speaks out they are unlikely ever to get a job. No one wants to employ a public servant, and the government is a monopoly employer. Then of course there is the endless blame game. A lot of smoke and mirrors. There is also the fact that the public have such low standards for both parties in a two-party duopoly (i.e. effective monopoly).
  4. There is very little justice. The justice system in the West is a symbol only. It has never been terribly effective at delivering justice. In fact I would suggest it fumbles more than it resolves. i.e. Going to the justice system exposes one to a new set of stresses. First of all it costs a lot because it has these old-fashion procedures, so no productivity gains there. It has arbitrary rules of evidence which are not always logical. It is very slow. The govt appoints the High Court judges so its probably not a great forum for repudiating government transgressions. Its truly interesting that we have calls for free health care, free education. You never here any offer for free justice. If there were, its probable there would be no breach of laws...that's if the law was logical. The opposite is true for health. Provide free health care, and you will be bombarded with patients.
  5. Poor prioritisation of issues. Don't be surprised in the midst of a national economic crisis if your government is focused on issues which don't matter. i.e. It might be more concerned with changing the flag or trivial changes to the constitution, i.e. Having a presidential dictator as opposed to a party-affiliated prime minister. Some issues like greenhouse or whale hunting in the grand scheme of things are just not important. Sad to lose a few whales, but lets just save their DNA and move on to bigger issues.
  6. Government is expensive. The cost of servicing or administering government is mind-boggling. In Australia there must be 500-odd parliamentarians jet-setting around the country, going from home to Canberra. Big spending allowances for homes in Canberra, flight costs, government cars, food allowances. There is wasted time. All to no avail because they represent no one by themselves and the affiliated party. Too cynical you think? I have seen too few politicians drop a party out of principle. It strikes me as rather pragmatic when they do it. Not a policy issue, but a strategic one. i.e. Solid local support among rural voters.
  7. Government ministers are unethical: One of the sad realities is that politicians are not very good. The reason is that they have no respect for facts. Perceptions are more important than reality. Why is this important? Well, its a kind of discipline. If you have a respect for facts you tend to adopt policies which are consonant with the facts of reality. When you think perceptions are more important, then you think appearances are important, that people don't know what they want, but you have to make them think you will give them what you want. Voters accept the mythology that decision-making is hard because you have to reconcile all these stakeholders interests. Actually they don't, they simply need to defend the policy. I don't think too many people will defend politicians on this score; and its equally difficult for them to get a job in the private sector.
  8. Government causes problems. Many people tend to believe that governments alleviate problems. They don't - they cause problems. Any improvement is at huge cost. The world is full of examples. Where to start? Well if there was no problem, there would be no need for government. So creating problems is a great way of keeping your job. The arbitrary rules great problems for people. The public education system causes problems for students who don't know how to think, have diminished self-esteem. Government stimulus results in a boom-bust economy. Welfare leads to expectations without responsibility, discrimination by employers. Why expect to be reasonable? you don't learn to be reasonable in school. The government is not reasonable. Not even the courts. Arbitrary procedures, then punitive measures because your parents did not love you, the teacher didn't teach you, your employer didn't understand you.
I trust this conveys the cost of government. There are many more examples. Consider the way it wastes you money.
Andrew Sheldon
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Andrew Sheldon

How to end taxation

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Most people pay taxes. Some are ambivalent about the law, but some of you do it as a matter of fear. I would hope that if you are living in fear of the consequences of paying taxes that you take efforts to support a remedy or antidote to those who enslave you. Any moral campaign depends upon being organised. No moral campaign can succeed without the support of common interests, and no campaign can succeed without a strategy. The question then becomes - what strategy will achieve our common goal?
I have the following recommendations.
  1. The political system is designed to entrench the two major parties. They rely on the unthinking majority. I therefore suggest that you direct any and all persons, but particularly those with sympathetic views to this blog.
  2. Voting only legitimatises the current system, so I personally reject the system. Reason is the standard of value, not 'numbers'. Until we have a 'concensus based' democratic system, or something similar, I will not participate in our political system since it will only marginalise and render 'impractical' the facts which need to be acknowledged.
  3. People need to be reproached for the way they think. There are of course empathetic ways to do it. You do not have to demoralise people in order to achieve your values. Start up a community group to discuss ideas. Join a philosophy group. I would suggest avoiding those which tend to tread lightly. i.e. They discuss ideas as if they had equal merit because each individual has a novel approach. Humour is used to preserve the deluded dignity of counter-parties. The reality is that this is a serious concern. It is no joking matter. Repression is not in your interests either. Such forums are not seriously invested in reality; but are really parasites on society, or elderly folk in the community with nothing better to do. My local philosophy group is like that. Old people who wait until retirement (i.e. near-death) before they decide to think, and when they do its matters of no consequence.
  4. I hope you do self-protect by developing your mind rather than repressing your values, or appeasing the values are others and simply accumulating material values. At the end of the day, there are few possessions which you can retain if you live in a collectivist society. It can all be taken from why not establish a rational society. You will have more regard for people if they hold life-affirming values.
Andrew Sheldon

What is a tax cheat?

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The fact that one repudiates the 'right' of government (or its representatives) to levy taxes does not make you a 'cheat'. This is of course the dishonest propaganda of government. The fact that you hide your behaviour does not make you a cheat either. There is no shame in concealing your tax minimisation or 'avoidance' because ultimately the system is contrary to your moral rights. By that I mean - by an objective standard of rational debate - the government has no defensible reason for levying taxes upon you. You don't pay taxes because you believe they are legitimate; you pay them because you fear the consequences of renouncing taxation. They have all types of tricks to compel you to pay. These are the same methods of slave traders, dictators, bullies and other thugs. The difference is that they use extortion and arbitrary laws to force your compliance, and to give their acts the 'appearance of legitimacy'. You might look at the developing world and think that they are 'less civilised' because they have less order. The truth is - you are freer in the third world because the government cannot use financial assets as a threat to extort the compliance of people. That is why China and developing nations resorts to force because the poor have no financial assets to surrender. Thus the government can only threaten their lives to ensure compliance. So you see. You are living under a Hitler in contemporary society; its just that you dare not identify its nature. This makes the notion of 'freedom' you thought you had rather hollow doesn't it.
Don't get me wrong - few people fighting governments in any country are actually defenders of freedom. They are no less tyrannical than the governments they suppress them. i.e. In the Philippines the government imposes upon Muslims in Mindanao, and the politics of those Muslims suggests to me they are no greater advocates of freedom. So you repudiate both counter-parties. Better just education them...or otherwise let them destroy themselves. Education is cheap. The best education we can give people is the consistency of a good role model. If we act with integrity, people are more likely to see our integrity, and when they see our practicality, they are more likely to respect us and move towards our value. It does not preclude them repudiating us, but we will be rewarded for our virtue, and will readily be able to defeat them. i.e. Just as the Japanese were moved by America's reform of their country in the post-WWII period. Sadly the US ruined that in later decades with its inconsistent foreign policy. It allowed the Japanese to justify worse.

People of course can repudiate taxes for different reasons, or refuse to pay for different reasons. From my perspective any reason is a good reason. A bad system ought to be rejected. Even if you pay, you ought to repudiate the system; otherwise you are allowing society to deteriorate into a more serious state of moral corruption. You think the current tax rate is reasonable...wait until the international standard rate is 70%. Why would that be the case? We have to compete with China or other emerging countries. I would suggest it could be 70% because:
1. Those governments will be aligned in their common goal of enslaving you as we move towards an international government
2. Those governments will be at war with China or India, which have emerged as powerful collectivist states because business and Western governments superficially perceived their 'love of money' as capitalist sentiments, when in fact it was never more than fascism.

So I suggest to you there is no such person as a tax cheat. The onus is upon government to provide a moral justification for taxation. They cannot do it. They will attempt some utilitarian argument about the 'common good'. That does not even hold up to scrutiny. It ought to be readily apparent that there is a necessary role for government, but that is not the same as defending taxation. There is every reason to welcome user-pay based charges for the services we use. You would be surprises just how little criminal activity there would be if there was no government taxation.
Andrew Sheldon

The appeasement of the business man

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There is no more resounding acknowledgement of slavery than the resignation of a businessman. Quote:
"None of us like paying Income Tax or GST but it is a fact of life and we adjust our pricing to recognise those deductions".
This statement possesses two contradictions:
1. A dichotomy between what he wants (whether it is legitimate or not) and what he feels compelled to do in order to satisfy the external standards of government, the majority of voters, etc. This appears to be a justification for slavery.
2. Primacy of social values. The implication of this statement is that social values are superior to personal values, and that social values are not simply the sum of personal values, but that they transcend the sum of us. i.e. It matters little that 'none of us' like paying tax, the issue is that you are compelled to do so.
3. Moral values are actually not facts or 'facts of life', they are conceptual value judgements. In order to assess the legitimacy of moral imperatives requires a process of reasoning. They are not self-evident. The notion that 'none of us' like paying tax appears to imply that no one likes a gun in the head, and yet no one challenges the underlying justification for slavery. They just accept it. In truth, perhaps this businessman does not mean to imply all people dislike slavery. He simply feels compelled to be a slave because the majority 'in fact' desire that he should live in servitude to them.

Some people might reject this interpretation for two reasons:
1. They might not interpret their situation as slavery. I would respond that a slave is a person whose labour is the product of another. Whether you pay 30% or 100% taxation, it is still a matter of slavery, its just a matter of degree.
2. Some might argue that they are a beneficiary of their 'enslavement'. Actually this is not true because you pay a huge opportunity cost for your enslavement, and the enslavement of your fellow men. Irrespective, it is just a matter of degree. I will address the issue of opportunity cost in another post.

Assuming that he does not literary believe 'none of us' like slavery; that in fact the majority of people support slavery, either because:
1. They have some practical interest to derive from slavery
2. They believe slavery results in the betterment of those who cannot support themselves

I reject both of these premises because:
1. No one benefits from slavery for a number of reasons. The notion that because you have some pecuniary interest in some outcome ignores the greater benefits which would accrue if you were not a slave, and if you your compatriots were not similarly enslaved. i.e. Consider public education. You think you benefit from public education because it is free, but because it is free people will place less value on what they study. They might even become a 'professional student', in the profess deferring their ultimate responsibility as a human being to themselves. That is just one aspect of the inefficiency of taxation. Consider also the impact of the psychology. It is no accident that the education system is run by career socialists. It is a safe government job, but it is also an opportunity for the deluded unthinking, non-conceptual collectivists to indoctrinate your kids before they develop their own minds. Did you think you raised your kids to be 'thinkers' and wonder why they married a plumber? Probably because he had 'big hands'. He was so masculine. Because using your mind is so impractical by contemporary standards. Even money is not made with the mind, but because you have 'inside information', or a special bond with family, friends, or government. How social standards can change when you control the public education system. Oh, and if you thought you were safe with private education. Guess again. What is the standard of value for them? The public system. They don't even have to be marginally better, you will assume it without critical evaluation.
2. Helping others to help themselves. There is no question that we can give people help. I would however suggest however that it does not occur when you are obliged to give to beneficiaries. As soon as you are forced to do anything it ceases to be appreciated, and it starts to become an entitlement, and with it comes the expectancy that you will take care of them. Don't expect appreciation. Instead they will recent you when it is rescinded. The only way you can help people is if you have the power to rescind. The only way they can improve is if you have that power, otherwise they have no power to attain some form of self-discipline. Were you counting on their character? What made you think the education system or their abusive parents would give them any? What made you think the culture of enslavement would do any better for their children, than it did for their parents? I find people impossible to help unless there is a culture or 'ethic' of justice. If values or even 'love' is not conditional, then people are not accountable or rewarded for being good. i.e. Earning love/reward. I know - on some level you agree with this...but on another level you are thinking that 'love is unconditional'. Actually its not - but see my parenting blog for an explanation.

It is however not enough to renounce bad values, you have to stand up and defend the good values. It is not enough to vote for the conservatives. That will not change anything. This is an intellectual battle. Voting for conservatives is like playing craps instead of poker. Either way the game is fixed against you. The only way is to find like-minded people and organise to make a difference. More ideas on this here.
Andrew Sheldon

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