What’s Fair?

Spurred by frequent commenter Michael Reynolds, I thought I’d elevate a discussion of fairness that’s going on in the comments to this post into a post of its own.

Michael takes note of a study that finds overwhelming public support for the “Buffett rule”, a provision that those earning $1 million or more per year pay no less than 30% of their income in taxes:

According to a new Gallup poll released Friday, a majority of Americans support the proposed Buffett Rule, which would require individuals earning $1 million or more per year to pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes.

The survey found that 60 percent of adults support enacting such a policy, while 37 percent oppose it.

By significant margins, both independents (63 to 33 percent) and Democrats (74 to 24 percent) supported the measure, a key Obama campaign issue. Republicans opposed it, but by a smaller margin of 54 to 43 percent.

This presumably contradicts previous studies that have found, for example, that people believe that a lottery winner’s paying more than about 15% of his or her winnings in taxes is unfair. Perhaps the way to reconcile these two apparently conflicting opinions is that most people don’t think of themselves as prospective millionaires but can envision themselves as lottery winners.

I agree with Michael’s observations:

Fairness is not irrelevant, it’s basic to our capacity to actually resolve some of our problems. It is vital that the rich be seen to suffer along with everyone else. That’s not class warfare, it’s actually the opposite of class warfare. Class warfare is what we will get if working class people and the poor suffer while the rich get richer.

However, I don’t believe that the “Buffett rule” will effect the results its proponents suggest that it will. Based on my personal experience of the top .1% of income earners, if the additional tax would result in, say, an additional $40 billion per year, they’d gladly pay in additional $40 billion (or more) to accountants, lawyers, or in various tax shelters to avoid paying the tax. Consequently, I’m indifferent to the proposed change to the tax code. I think it would not be effective, would result in a net loss in economic activity, will do very little to alter our national fiscal position, and is mostly political posturing. But I really don’t care much one way or another about it.

The “Buffett rule” is based on the principle that “a billionaire shouldn’t pay a lower effective tax rate than his secretary”. There’s there’s essentially only one way to achieve fairness in federal taxation, fairness defined as equal effective tax rates for everybody: abolish FICA and go to a flat tax. The revised 1040 would be simplicity itself:

  1. Write down your total income from all sources.
  2. Multiply that by whatever the tax rate is.
  3. Send it in.

The problem with that is that it would be unfair because, in violation of the precept not to compare utility functions, $2,000 means more to someone who earned just $10,000 than $200,000 does to someone who earned $1 milllion. It certainly means more in terms of their respective abilities to feed, house, and clothe themselves.

There are ways to tinker with such a formula to ensure that it’s more fair, e.g. you could exempt the first $20,000 in income, but then you’re not arguing for fairness in effective tax rates any more.

Fairness isn’t simple. It’s protean in the extreme.

While I think it’s reasonable to support life, I’m less comfortable with supporting lifestyle. Lifting people from lives of grinding poverty is one thing. I don’t think there’s a moral obligation to enable everybody to live a comfortable life in Maui. If New York or San Francisco want to pay poor people to live there, that’s their business. I don’t think the federal government should tax a plumber in Memphis so that a bum can live comfortably in Manhattan. I don’t think that would be fair.

I don’t think that a flat tax system is likely since I don’t believe that Congress will cheerfully relinquish its power to help friends and punish enemies, to modify other people’s behavior. Certainly my preference would be ending subsidies to the rich than trying to tax the results away after the fact.

What subsidies to the rich? They are incredibly numerous. The home mortgage deduction is a subsidy to the rich. As Medicare and Social Security are currently constructed they are subsidies to the rich.

The bank bailouts that both the Bush and Obama Administrations pursued were subsidies to the rich. Agricultural subsidies as constructed are subsidies to the rich. The list is practically endless.

I don’t think any of those measures are at all likely for much the same reasons that a fair tax system is unlikely: the Congress won’t relinquish the power.

In the end I’m left with questions. What is fair? How can fairness be accomplished?

45 comments… add one
  • PD Shaw

    A few weeks ago I took the Moral Foundations Quiz at YourMorals.Org, which I believe is a college program to study people’s morality, a summary of a libertarian’s results are here:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/03/science-asks-why-cant-we-all-just-get-along/254644/

    Anyway, my moral foundation lies consistently between conservative and liberal prototypes, except on one measure: fairness. I value fairness less than both conservatives and liberals (according to the test). I think that’s because I believe life is unfair, and too much attention to fairness is generally going to lead to a confusion of wants and needs. I personally think a tax system needs to focus on maximizing revenue without impeding growth. We need the revenue to deal with needs, and we can’t impede growth so as to minimize longterm revenue because the needs will never go away. Fairness is not necessarily consistent with these goals.

    I do think Michael is right that a tax system requires enough fairness to have legitimacy. But I doubt most people understand the tax system or how invaluable that home mortgage deduction is to most of them.

  • It’s an interesting battery of tests. I haven’t completed them yet but the preliminary results suggest that I don’t fit comfortably with either liberals or conservatives which I could have told you without tests. For example, I place a higher value on independence than most people do. I want neither to rule nor to be ruled. Also, benevolence is more important to me than it is to most people.

  • Steve

    The lottery thing says more about lack of knowledge about tax rates than anything (or wishful thinking about winning.) If the wealthy will spend lots of money to avoid taxes, too bad. Just make it harder. (The logical endpoint for this argument is that we should not tax them at all.)

    I would agree with PD that we cannot achieve fairness. Still, I don’t think a democracy can work without the appearance of fairness. We can at least try to achieve some semblance of a meritocracy. We should really try to keep the concentration of wealth also resulting in a concentration of political power.

    Steve

  • The logical endpoint for this argument is that we should not tax them at all.

    Or that we should make the tax much less avoidable. Or that we should phase out taxing income in favor of taxing consumption. Or any number of other strategies.

    Hearkening back to the point that PD made, I doubt that fairness can be realized via the tax system. The tax system should concentrate on optimizing revenue, i.e. maximizing the long term revenue that can be achieved and avoid social engineering.

  • There are many facets to the issue of fairness as it pertains to the economy and the tax system. I want to introduce an unexamined facet and put it into play. Consider lies of commission and lies of omission, consider that with rights come responsibilities, consider that the counterpart to “paying one’s fair share” is the responsibility of “producing one’s fair share.”

    Look at the case of Obama. He graduated from HLS and was celebrated for that achievement. Instead of going into Big Law and earning hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, on which he would be taxed, he instead went into “community organizing” and began a career of extorting money from productive sectors of the economy. It could be argued that the path he choose actually destroyed value in the economy. What’s indisputable is that he could have produced more economic value than he did, been taxed on that, and he could have contributed his fair share, but he choose not to.

    There are a lot of people who go to work in the non-profit sector, they go and work as actors and writers, and for the most part, they earn less than they could if they began working in soul-crushing jobs elsewhere in the productive economy. I find it kind of rich that many want those who are the most productive to shoulder more sacrifice while reserving for themselves the freedom to pursue their dreams and seek artistic, spiritual or emotional fulfillment in their working lives. If people are happy to burden others in order to help the collective, then they too should be willing to have others place burdens on them. Get a job, hippy!

    It’s inherently unfair that someone in Obama’s situation chooses to work below his productive capacity, thereby costing the treasury foregone tax revenue, and then claim that others who are working to their productive capacity are not paying their fair share.

    If “fairness” is so malleable, then perhaps we need to have a discussion about people, who are sitting on the sidelines, purposely not manning up and jumping in to pull their fair share instead of only focusing on those who are pulling but perhaps slacking off a bit.

  • Icepick

    But I doubt most people understand the tax system or how invaluable that home mortgage deduction is to most of them.

    If most people understood the tax system, most pols would get laughed out of office whenever they proposed some new tax policy. Consider that the people running the country have a conflict of interest when it comes to producing educated citizens.

  • Ben Wolf

    Fairness is relative to the circumstances. When the middle class and poor hurt, they want the wealthy to hurt as well. When the wealthy get richer the poor and middle class want a share. So which do you think people would honestly prefer: a world where the rich are hurting, or a world where wages and salaries grow faster than the elite’s profits? I’d be willing to bet they’d choose the latter.

  • So which do you think people would honestly prefer: a world where the rich are hurting, or a world where wages and salaries grow faster than the elite’s profits? I’d be willing to bet they’d choose the latter.

    I’ll bet against you. Check out the research literature on Inequity Aversion. Look at the experiments which use the Ultimatum Game. Briefly, one person gets to decide how to split a pot of money and the other person either accepts or rejects the offer. The person who responds is always better off so long as he gets something but quite often when the split is not “fair” the 2nd person rejects the offer and both players get nothing.

    Your vision has wages growing at a faster rate than elite profits, but elite profits are still larger, that is, some people are getting a disproportionate share and that strikes some people as unfair. The need to punish the unfair player is quite strong in many people, even if the punishment delivered makes everyone worse off.

  • jan

    Fair is such a generalized term, open for interpretation by not only the circumstances at hand but the values and expectations of those using it and to whom and what it is being applied. It’s the same as taking the broad brush of ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ and applying it to some kind of human behavior. How can you ‘fairly’ legislate what is primarily a judgment call?

    However, Obama is looping ‘fairness’ through almost every financial speech he is making. But, ‘fair’ is not an economic policy. It’s more of an emotional appeal, which he somehow wants to micromange into more laws and taxes by tapping into the old envy gene that most of us try to keep at bay.

    But, whether fairness is aimed at financial equality between peoples, moral equivalency in actions, a proper proportion of credit
    or respect for tasks accomplished, it is all relative to what one person expects and wants from another, and how it is then received.

    Wednesday I ran across an old friend who had lost his wife almost 2 years ago to breast cancer. He is now raising two daughters as a single parent. It’s tough and exasperating. Recently, on his oldest daughter’s birthday, he gave her a small gift. She turned to him and immediately complained how ‘unfair’ his gift was, as her Mom always took the girls out on their birthdays to get their nails and hair done, making them feel ‘special’ for that day. The father was both stunned and hurt, that she expected him to live up to the rituals she had with her Mom, considering it unfair of him to present her with a gift of his own choosing.

    Now, even though that is a more personal anecdote, it does demonstrate how fairness is more often than not defined by the eye of the beholder. And, the more that someone tries to define fairness for another, it seems it only seems to create an alternative condition of ‘unfairness’ for another.

  • michael reynolds

    The need to punish the unfair player is quite strong in many people, even if the punishment delivered makes everyone worse off.

    Thank you for proving my point, though of course that’s not what you intended.

    Yes, people — in fact, some other primate species as well — have an innate sense of fairness. Which is why we have to satisfy that sense of fairness. Because those people also have votes.

    The “community organizer” thing is just your inevitable race-baiting horseshit, no doubt later to be echoed by Drew, but as as I said: thanks for making my point about fairness.

  • Yes, people — in fact, some other primate species as well — have an innate sense of fairness. Which is why we have to satisfy that sense of fairness.

    You think like a moron. It’s not people who have a sense of “fairness”, it’s some people who have a sense of “fairness” and whatever it is that they’re feeling also varies in degree. It’s a distribution, not an innate quality.

    If it’s not an innate quality, then there is no need to hold everyone hostage to a solution which is designed to satisfy the vocal and perpetually enraged, for when you reward bad behavior you tend to get more of it and giving in a little bit to the fairness fetishists only encourages them to seek to punish others even more. Bad incentive structure there.

    What to say to the people who are not bothered by unequal outcomes and believe that the process is fair? Their sense of fairness is satisfied.

    The “community organizer” thing is just your inevitable race-baiting horseshit,

    Replace Obama with aspiring artist or writer or actor or art history major or some other category of person if that makes it easier for you to address the point. Obama was simply a classic example – a HLS grad who could have earned, and been taxed on, hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in salary, and instead choosing a career route in which his earnings were less than his potential. He actually made the US poorer in terms of tax revenue than it would have been otherwise.

    If there is a sense of “paying their fair share” then what exactly is so outlandish about the notion of expecting people to “produce their fair share of wealth?” People like you are calling for sacrifice from those who are successful, so why not make the same call for sacrifice on everyone who is “following a dream” instead of working for as much money as they could possible earn given their skill sets? Being an intern for a Congressman pays jack, expect the person work as a waiter instead. Being a tour-guide at an Art Museum pays jack – expect the person to be a dental technician instead. Being a struggling actor pays jack, expect the person to be a bookkeeper. Anytime someone could be earning more money than they currently earn, expect them to produce more wealth so that it can be taxed.

    There are two obligations in play “pay a fair share” and “produce a fair share.” If people like you hold yourselves out to be the judges of what constitutes a “pay a fair share” then expect people like me to hold ourselves out as being the judges for what constitutes “produce a fair share.” That would be fair, wouldn’t it? You are about fairness, aren’t you? I think that that solution is fair. It’s a quid pro quo. How could you object to such a fair proposal? If you’re objecting to a fair proposal like this, then it seems to me that you’re more interested in punishment of others, than you are in creating fair solutions.

  • michael reynolds

    It’s a distribution, not an innate quality.

    No. Factually wrong. All people — expect for sociopaths and psychopaths — have an innate sense of fairness. Which again, is why it appears even in non-human primatological studies.

    The definitions of fairness differ and change, but it’s present in normal humans. As such it must be acknowledged and dealt with. Unless you propose to do away with universal suffrage.

    As for paying your fair share and working your fair share and all that, I assume this is the new tack being taken by Sailer and you and the rest of the scientific racists. Now we are to blame an individual for failing to maximize his or her production. Are you using “from esch according to his ability” in your V-Dare propaganda, or does that line still stick in your throats? And have you worked out what to call the authority that would judge whether individuals were producing sufficiently? Would “Central Committee” work?

  • Zachriel

    TangoMan: It’s not people who have a sense of “fairness”, it’s some people who have a sense of “fairness” and whatever it is that they’re feeling also varies in degree. It’s a distribution, not an innate quality.

    Actually, it is an innate biological trait, and shared by humanity’s closest biological relatives; but like most traits (such as sex drive, or desire for society), it does vary in degree. And in humans, most traits are subject to cultural adaptation.

    TangoMan: Obama was simply a classic example – a HLS grad who could have earned, and been taxed on, hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in salary, and instead choosing a career route in which his earnings were less than his potential.

    Obama’s income:
    2009, $5.5 million
    2010, $1.8 million
    2011, $0.8 million
    Average $2.7 million per year.

    Obama’s job also provides him lodging. Not too bad. Oh, and he’s President of the United States, so he is rather at the top of the career pyramid.

  • michael reynolds

    On fairness among the relatives: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/09/030918092951.htm

    ScienceDaily (Sep. 18, 2003) — ATLANTA – In the first experimental demonstration of its kind, researchers led by Sarah Brosnan and Frans de Waal, PhD, at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center of Emory University, and the Living Links Center, have shown nonhuman primates respond negatively to unequal reward distribution, a reaction often seen in humans based on their universal sense of fairness. While researchers have long recognized the sense of fairness within the human species, Brosnan and de Waal are the first to confirm this trait in nonhuman primates. The findings appear in the September 18 issue of Nature.

    There are the original scholarly papers as well– no doubt you can find them TangoMan, you’re a whiz with statistics and such. Humans, non-human primates, even, IIRC, dogs, have a sense of fairness. And this will shock you: all this happened even before civil rights.

  • michael reynolds

    Zachriel:

    Obama’s job also provides him lodging. Not too bad. Oh, and he’s President of the United States, so he is rather at the top of the career pyramid.

    And yet, he remains a negro. If he were white he’d be TangoMan’s exemplar of a highly productive life.

  • jan

    It’s so telling that the preponderance of statements made, denoting ethnicity and color, are made by those who are the enlightened socially progressive one’s. Apparently, there is a need, in this group, to keep differences alive and well among people, while at the same time hawking the politics of share and share alike.

    The definition of fairness, as constructed in such a liberally conflicted mind, will only be attained when all ambition, creativity, motivation is neutered, and the bottom line of ‘sameness’ is finally realized. Yes, we will not only have robots doing the physical work, but also human robots being the beneficiary of such a socially engineered laboratory of small people, liberated from living anything but a safe, sanitized, ‘fair’ life.

  • michael reynolds

    It’s so telling that the preponderance of statements made, denoting ethnicity and color, are made by those who are the enlightened socially progressive one’s.

    Not really. Racists are on the down low. They can’t talk the way they’d like to, so they develop code. Kind of like gay people used to have to do when they would say someone was a “confirmed bachelor.” The so-called scientific racists like TangoMan and Steve Sailer and the rest of the V-Dare crowd wear themselves out trying to avoid being “caught.” Because in addition to being racists, they’re also hypocrites and cowards.

    The definition of fairness, as constructed in such a liberally conflicted mind, will only be attained when all ambition, creativity, motivation is neutered, and the bottom line of ’sameness’ is finally realized.

    Jan: I make 100% of my money from creativity. I’m quite ambitious, I assure you, and the last thing I’m interested in is “sameness” as you’ll realize if you look at my reference to “creativity.”

    Which would make everything you just wrote wrong. Speaking of “sameness.”

  • jan

    Michael

    That’s because you are sooooo special and exceptional.

    Sarcasm aside…you are a pretty good writer. Don’t like your politics, but do give you kudos for your craft.

  • michael reynolds

    Jan:

    Thanks, and I don’t consider myself special. I got lucky in the big DNA card game. I played my hand with no great brilliance, but it’s hard to lose when they deal you good cards.

  • I make 100% of my money from creativity.

    That’s not fair though. What about the uncreative people who have to earn their money from physical labor or from working with their non-creative intelligence.

    The bottom line is this – unless you are earning your income via some form of rent-seeking, your income is given to you via a free and fair exchange of service for money. When people buy your books they believe that they are getting the better of the deal – they get to enjoy what you’ve written more than they believe they will enjoy holding onto the money that your books costs. You’ve made your money fair and square. There is no need to punish you more because the fairness quotient has been met.

    The other class of people, those who don’t buy your books, have no business judging you and the fairness of your transactions with the people who voluntarily buy your books. If they think that you’re cheating your fans by charging too much, then they need to find a hobby instead of picking up their pitch forks.

    The definitions of fairness differ and change, but it’s present in normal humans. As such it must be acknowledged and dealt with.

    WTF? That’s a pretty big caveat, isn’t it? It’s useless to talk of an innate trait that can’t be defined. The trait that we’re talking about in this thread is one that is focused on the fury that develops when some people see others earning more they they do. They are constrained by the rules of society and so can’t do anything about what a person earns, so they turn to the next best thing and that is to try to take away more from what the person has earned so that they can quench their fury. If this was an innate trait of fairness then all people would be sensing the injustice of some people earning more than others, the root of the inequity, but that’s not happening. To try to categorize those who howl at the moon because of unequal outcomes and those who point to equal opportunity under the same rubric is really stretching the usefulness of the definition of innateness.

    I’m bothered by rent-seeking. I don’t think it’s fair. I’m not bothered in the least by unequal outcomes. The degree to which rent-seeking bothers me is minimal, in that I’m not on my hobby horse trying to start a revolution to purge society of this corruption, rather it bothers me intellectually. I’m sure that there are people who show the same degree of concern with respect to income inequality.

    It’s a logical smash-up to claim that WE MUST DO SOMETHING about the Buffet Rule because of people’s innate sense of fairness and then point to my unease with rent-seeking and your need to punish those who’ve succeeded through fair standards and claiming that this demonstrates that innateness make it necessary and right.

    To put a finer point on this – the familiar in terms of community is also thought to have an innate quality, that is the discomfort for the Other.

    To put an even finer point on this – we are not all born equal. This is observable reality.

    To point to what nature produces for us and to claim that we must govern ourselves in ways that reinforce nature is to commit the naturalistic fallacy. It doesn’t matter than we are not born equal to each other in abilities, we treat all who come for judgment before the law as though they were equal, damn what nature shows us everyday.

    To appeal to some undefinable innate sense of fairness and then claim that this proves the rightness of a policy to punish people who’ve earned their money in a fair way is fallacious thinking.

    To appeal to the Volk and claim that god made Jews different from the People and that this justifies killing all the Jews is also an appeal to a naturalistic viewpoint.

    There is a secondary layer at work here and that is state coercion. You certainly are free to not participate in what you think are unfair transactions or fair actions which you think will produce unfair outcomes. You are free to participate in sports where the athletically gifted will excel and others will fail despite their best efforts. You are free to move to San Francisco and purposely seek out a school where you children don’t have to experience the vibrancy of being schooled alongside classmates who are 60% black. You can do all of these things by following your gut, your sense of innate rightness.

    What you do on an individual basis with respect to innate behaviors is completely different from forming public policy based on your sense of innate behavior patterns. Segregation could be justified by appealing to the sense of innateness that some politician feels very strongly. Is that a rational basis for forming public policy, pointing to someone’s innate distaste for The Other?

    Now we are to blame an individual for failing to maximize his or her production.

    You think that this makes less sense than punishing an individual for becoming successful by following the fair rules of the game? I don’t see a difference in the worthiness of the blame being apportioned between the two schemes.

    Obama COULD have earned a lot more money in his post-HLS days but he exercised his freedom not to. He made a choice and that choice deprived the economy of maximized productive capacity and the tax revenue that he could have generated. What he did was UNFAIR. It’s exactly like two factory workers, one who works hard and one who slacks off, both being paid the same. That’s unfair, isn’t it?

    Are you using “from esch according to his ability”

    Maybe you can walk and chew gum at the same time. Surprises never cease.

    If you want to go Marxist with your call for “each according to his ability” to pay, then you should have no objection to the corresponding Marxist call for “each according to his ability” to produce. That’s fair, isn’t it?

  • michael reynolds

    You’ve made your money fair and square. There is no need to punish you more because the fairness quotient has been met.

    I’m not being punished. I’m being required to contribute to the civilization that gave birth to me, nurtured me, makes my business possible and protects my wealth. Just as earlier generations were required to contribute. Civilization: that’s how it works.

    To the extent that I focus on fairness, it’s intelligent self-interest. Civilization has done well by me. I’d like it to continue doing so for me and my kids. If out of shortsighted greed or self-pitying ideological nonsense like yours I find myself in a world where 90% of the voters believe they are serfs being fleeced or ignored by people like me, subjected to serious unfairness, (and I gather you concede that a sense of fairness is innate now) then I create risks potentially more painful than a 3 or 5% increase in income taxes. Especially since Drew keeps promising me that people in my bracket don’t actually pay those taxes in the end. (Wish he’d let the IRS know that.)

    Your entire argument rests on a line about “punishment.” That’s not just an assumption — bad enough — it’s a propaganda line. Your position rests now on a slogan whose only purpose is to inflame. You begin with an assumption, then you propagandize in support of your assumption, then you argue the propaganda as though it has some meaning in itself. You fall down your own rabbit hole. It’s what ideology and especially bigotry do to otherwise intelligent people — it cripples them intellectually.

  • michael reynolds

    If you want to go Marxist with your call for “each according to his ability” to pay, then you should have no objection to the corresponding Marxist call for “each according to his ability” to produce. That’s fair, isn’t it?

    I see, so you believe you have a method for predicting which career path would yield the highest productivity? If you were Obama you’d have known to pursue some other path? Because you can foresee the economic future? And I’m the Marxist?

    Have you ever read about my life or Schuler’s? Want to walk through either of out histories and ‘splain how you’d have done it? Both of us were cooking and serving breakfast for a living at one point. Mistake? Waste? Explain.

    Community organizing seems to have led to the White House, lucrative book deals, a no-doubt lucrative retirement and a Nobel prize. But you’d have done better.

  • I’m not being punished.

    Terrific for you. However, how you feel about an issue is not determinative about the soundness of the issue with respect to public policy. Surely you must realize that while you don’t feel punished that others will, else why the opposition if everyone believes as you do.

    The solution here is simple: those, who like you don’t feel punished, are free to donate as much money to the public treasury as you believe is necessary to satisfy your cravings for fairness and those who do feel punished by others demanding that they pay more do not have to submit to the irrational masses’ call for punishment.

    The problem for folks like me is that dudes like you never seem to want to volunteer an additional 10% of your income to the treasury. For some strange reason you hold the illogical belief that the rightness of a moral position is dependent on everyone being forced to comply before one must also comply. What’s up with that? If you see an old lady stumble on the street, then help her out, don’t instead try to rally everyone walking on the street and force compliance on everyone on that street to help her out before you make any move to aid her. Just do it. Send your money to the IRS because it is the “fair” thing for you to do.

    I see, so you believe you have a method for predicting which career path would yield the highest productivity?

    Don’t get ahead of yourself there, Hoss. The tactics of implementation are a whole other debate. This debate is simply focused on principle. What is wrong with the principle? If the principle of “each according to his ability” to pay is valid as a means of organizing society, then you should have no objection to the corresponding Marxist call for “each according to his ability” to produce. That’s fair, isn’t it?

  • sam

    “Obama COULD have earned a lot more money in his post-HLS days but he exercised his freedom not to. He made a choice and that choice deprived the economy of maximized productive capacity and the tax revenue that he could have generated. What he did was UNFAIR. ”

    So, if a young woman, say, graduates at the top of her class in med school, is absolutely first-rate in her residency, and, could, all agree, make tons of money in New York City in her specialty, decides to open a practice in a medically underserved rural area, she is being unfair. Do I have that right?

  • steve

    I had dinner this week with the HR director for Catholic charities in a large southern state. I think that she, and the people she hires, add a lot of value to our society. I guess we could just let the people they provide for die. Let the kids with disabilities rot in group homes.

    Steve

  • decides to open a practice in a medically underserved rural area, she is being unfair. Do I have that right?

    By the logic of the “punish the rich” crowd, yes, that would be unfair because she’s not producing her fair share. The benefits that she creates via her job are immaterial to the determination of fairness – all that counts is how much tax she pays. Get it?

  • Drew

    I’m being required to contribute to the civilization that gave birth to me, nurtured me, makes my business possible and protects my wealth. Just as earlier generations were required to contribute. Civilization: that’s how it works.

    Pure, unadulterated bull. Everyone was born into the same civilization, nurtured, made their business (or career) possible and protects their wealth.

    Some made something of it. Others didn’t. As a compassionate society we ought to take care of those incapable of making something of it. As something better than a ship of fools we ought not to enable those who had all the same opportunities and decided to go on the dole…….permanently. Liberals are all alike, they think everyone is good, and they make no allowance for those who’s sole goal in life is to feed off the government, read: taxpayer… Trough.

  • michael reynolds

    Terrific for you. However, how you feel about an issue is not determinative about the soundness of the issue with respect to public policy. Surely you must realize that while you don’t feel punished that others will, else why the opposition if everyone believes as you do.

    So, which is it? Feeling is determinative or isn’t it? Or is only your feeling important? Sociopath much? Are you arguing that we must determine policy on the basis of your feelings? Don’t you think it might make a bit more sense to make policy on the basis of sustaining our civilization?

    You fall right back on the “punishment” line. You have nothing else, do you? That’s it, the bottom of the TangoMan barrel.

    Waaah, TangoMan and his V-Dare buddies are being punished by brown people. Waaaah. Victimhood. And victimhood based on the notion that you have some right to be a free-rider on civilization. That you should have military protection, and the protection of the law, and the benefits of an educated work force, and the benefits of a civil society, and should reap the benefits of the labors of previous generations, all without having to pay.

    Why? Because, waaaah. Poor me. Poor Pete Brimelow, and poor Steve Sailer, poor baby victims.

    Polls show most well-off folks actually are closer to my position. A surprising number of high-earners understand that we have obligations to a civilization that sustains us. Then there are the bratty toddlers among us. Waaaah.

    And of course you never do address the practical fact that 99% of the votes are not controlled by rich white folks. So the 99%, should they get it into their heads to do so, can take 100% of your wealth any time they become sufficiently motivated. Why don’t you tell us your solution to that? I mean, I already know, but I want you to man up for once and tell us all.

    Don’t get ahead of yourself there, Hoss. The tactics of implementation are a whole other debate.

    In other words, as usual, you got nothing.

  • Icepick

    Shorter Reynolds:

    All non-Democrats are racists. If they weren’t racists, they would be Democrats.

    Implications (longer):

    No Democrats are racist. Therefore Democrats are free to call each other nigger, kike, wop, deigo (sp?), cracker (or ‘pink people’) and soforth without reproach. (Wet-back is not acceptable, as it refers to someone’s denied citizenship.) Democrats are also free to notice things such as black people commit a disproportionate amount of crime in the USA and are also free to comment on it. (See various comments by Jesse Jackson, when he’s not complaining about the Jews or smearing the blood of dead martyrs all over himself.) Any non-Democrats that notice blacks commit a disproportionate amount of crime in the USA are simply proving their racism.

    Any other notice of disproportionate distributions of attributes (such as average SAT scores) that show a ‘bad’ outcome for blacks is racist, and cowardly. Truly brave people (Democrats all) never notice these things, and have the guts to keep their fucking mouths shut if they do notice these things in a moment of DINOism. (But you will almost never notice non-black Democrats moving into predominantly black neighborhoods. The only time this rule is violated is during ‘gentrification’ of some neighborhood (usually with tax breaks), which inevitablly leads to it becoming far less black. This is another thing you’re not supposed to notice.)

    I’m not sure about noticing things that would be favorable. Is it okay to notice that those of west African origin or descent hold almost all the fastest times in the Men’s 100 M sprint? I think that the Jimmy the Greek Rule may make noticing such disparaties racist, but I’m not sure. Ask your local Democratic Party chief for guidance. Probably safer to just vote Democratic and cover your ass.

    Oh, one last thing – it is okay to vote for the O because Barry Half-White is really ALL NEGRO. (But don’t notice that his racial heritage is actually EAST African, thus unlike the vast majority of African-Americans whose heritage is WEST African.) It is racist to vote against Obama for any reason whatsoever. We all know that Black Jesus is the perfect human being, and only those who are evil or insane would dare vote against him. In Michael’s dream world, everyone that votes against the O is sent to concentration camps and insane institutions – just like in the good old days when Uncle Joe kept everything in order.

    All of this follows naturally from the idea of ‘fairness’….

  • Polls show most well-off folks actually are closer to my position. A surprising number of high-earners understand that we have obligations to a civilization that sustains us. Then there are the bratty toddlers among us.

    If this is as you say, then what’s stopping you from sending money to the IRS. You make clear that you understand the moral imperative here, so what’s holding your back from sending more money to the IRS? Why is you doing the “right thing” dependent on forcing me to do the “right thing?” You can save the lady who fell in the crosswalk, do it, don’t wait to force me to help you, just do it.

    The million dollar unanswered question. There is no law preventing you from sending more money to the IRS every year. Do it. It’s the moral thing to do, you even make that case yourself. Do it.

  • Icepick

    So the 99%, should they get it into their heads to do so, can take 100% of your wealth any time they become sufficiently motivated.

    Note that they will only take the wealth of evil Republicans, leaving all of Michael’s loot alone. Or are you claiming to not be rich again, Reynolds? You and Drew just can’t seem to make up your minds if the rest of us need to kiss your asses because you’re rich and we’re not, or if the two of you aren’t really, you know, “rich” rich.

    The two of you should tags on your posts so that the rest of us know whether you’re playing at being commoners again or expecting the rest of us to bow before your majesticly rich Assholinesses.

  • Icepick

    If this is as you say, then what’s stopping you from sending money to the IRS.

    Hell, TM, Warren won’t even pay the money he owes now, but by Gawd, if you don’t pay more it isn’t fair!

    You make clear that you understand the moral imperative here, so what’s holding your back from sending more money to the IRS? Why is you doing the “right thing” dependent on forcing me to do the “right thing?”

    How can Michael be expected to do the right thing when Republicans are running around raping all the women and shooting all the President’s hypothetical hoodies? You ask the impossible, TM!

  • Mercer

    ” As Medicare and Social Security are currently constructed they are subsidies to the rich.”

    I have never heard anyone make this claim. Since the salary base ceiling was eliminated on the Medicare tax I don’t see how anyone could make this claim.

    “I don’t believe that Congress will cheerfully relinquish its power to help friends ”

    I agree. This is the reason why the code is so complex and constantly changes.

  • I don’t see how anyone could make this claim.

    All government programs are subsidies. That’s definitional. Medicare is a subsidy. Social Security is a subsidy. Defense is a subsidy. Building roads is a subsidy. And so on. Neither Medicare nor Social Security is needs-based, consequently they are subsidies that benefit the rich.

    There are also more subtle arguments, for example, the old are richer, in general, than the young (which is why, IMO, the programs should be needs and age based rather than just age-based).

    Tax expenditures, i.e. income tax deductions, are subsidies, too. One of the largest subsidies that mostly benefits the rich is the home mortgage deduction.

  • Icepick

    Speaking of fairness and subsidies, this hardly seems to qualify. This is a new one to me, but perhaps the old hands here will have known of it.

  • Icepick

    This also doesn’t seem fair.

  • The MF Global fiasco also illustrates what a wretched bit of legislation Sarbanes-Oxley is. MF Global was publicly traded; that means that Sarb-Ox applied to it. That, in turn, means that Corzine was by law required to sign off on stuff like the diversion of investor funds. Why isn’t he in jail?

  • jan

    “All non-Democrats are racists. If they weren’t racists, they would be Democrats.”

    Icepick

    I have to hand it to you. The rant that followed was harshly true, in so many ways. The very word racism has people cringe. Our history of slavery and Jim Crow (ironically led by democrats) never seems to get absolved where racial mixtures can live and disagree together based upon real issues rather than the disparity of color. How will races ever get past color when racist invectives are launched so easily into any conversation dealing with fairness? How can society go forward together, when whites are handicapped by not having color in their faces or background? Whether it’s applying for a job, school, scholarships, grants, housing — almost anything where a subsidy is involved, a leg up, or a promotion, one has a better shot at it if they can claim some kind of ethnicity outside of the European realm.

    I remember my neighbor, searching their genecology, finally finding some suitable fraction of American Indian in their family, making it a cakewalk to qualify for a college scholarship for their son.

    Is this fair?

    My son’s high school PTA was divided into 3 groups — a general one for everyone, a meeting just for African American parents, and a meeting just for Mexican parents. Of course, if there was a 4th one, just for ‘White’ parents that would have been labeled as racist. It was so politically correct that I stopped going to meetings. But, that is what this country has become — basically, a reversed racist society that few comment on or question for fear of having the term racist slimed all over you.

    Like you starkly stated, we have a black/white President, who, if you criticize his policies, is slammed as somehow being racially motivated and insulting the part of him which is black. Huh? Why can’t we just get past that ethnicity part, and feel free to disagree with all the incompetence, ineptness, lack of experience he brought with him to office, being able to discuss that part of it without bringing in his race? We didn’t do that to Bush, did we. His failed policies weren’t because he was white, were they?

    It’s crazy, and only getting crazier as socially progressive zealots, the media, liberal educators, race baiters, limousine liberal apologists continue to feed the wolf keeping color differences alive and color-blindness at bay.

  • michael reynolds

    Ice:

    Your various notes above are factually wrong.

    On multiple occasions I’ve addressed the Democrat’s long history of racism. I’ve never claimed that racism is limited to Republicans. You know I understand the history on this, which means you’re doing what you usually do when the subject turns to race: becoming unhinged.

    I also don’t claim not to be rich, on the contrary, given what I make right now, I am definitely in the 1% and may be in some higher subset, and have of course said so. Again: repeatedly and consistently.

    The silly snark about, “Okay, then, if you think you should pay more, go pay more,” misses the free rider problem. I’m content to pay my share of the costs of maintaining our civilization, but I’m not as willing to subsidize the financially capable but immature and sociopathic like Tango. That argument is no different from saying, “Okay, then, if you don’t want the Japanese to blow up our ships and the Nazis to invade, then you go fight them.” Certain things are done by all of us, a society, as a civilization.

    Unless of course your emotional development ended around age three.

    You draw benefits from civilization, you profit from the efforts of previous generations, you rely on civilization, therefore you owe. It’s really not complicated except for people who are psychologically immature. And if someone like me is calling you out as immature, you’re probably a real mess.

  • Icepick

    Why isn’t he in jail?

    Because he has the right letter after his name, I guess.

    As for S/O, that wasn’t done to stop this kind of crap, as you well know. It was done so that Congress (and the President, let’s not let W. off the hook) could pretend it was doing something about law breakers at ENRON and other companies. It didn’t seem to occur to anyone that since other laws had been violated that S/O wouldn’t be violated too. Who could have ever imagined!

  • Icepick

    How will races ever get past color when racist invectives are launched so easily into any conversation dealing with fairness?

    They’re not going to “get past it”. (Does failure to include the ‘to’ in the scare quotes constitute splitting an infinitive? Clearly not in the traditional sense, but is it a linguistic faux pas? I’ll have to ask the missus….) People notice differences in groups, and our facial recognition software makes it even more acute. The question is how does a society that isn’t monolithic (and there aren’t really that many anymore) deal with the issues in a civilized and non-violent manner. Constantly berating everyone that notices differences is just a tactic of political control used to shut up dissidents and seize the spoils of government for one’s own group. Fuck that noise, and fuck the type like Reynolds who think that only they and those that think exactly like them have any right to exist. It is at least as pernicious as the ‘racism’ he decries.

    Racism keeps changing its definition too. It used to be if you called someone a racist (especially here in what used to be the South) you knew what it meant: That racist believed that white were inherently superior to blacks in all manner of ways, and should therefore rule blacks as the whites saw fit. It could be done with greater or lesser degrees of hostility.

    These days? Who knows? If you’re Republican you can’t really mention that black people call each other “nigger” (a LOT – I get blasted by it from car stereos almost every day) and that perhaps this isn’t a good thing. If you are a Democrat, you can say whatever the Hell you like.

    Noticing that there are differences in races is also taboo, except for very superficial reasons. (I’m surprised at this date in time that medical conditions like sickle-cell anemia are even allowed to be mentioned – after all, its existence is explicit proof of genetical variances in populations, meaning that evolution did NOT stop with the advent of modern humans.) Thus we cannot mention that west Africans and their descendents are the very fastest runners, that there are variations in everything from height, weight and body type to variations in, yes, intelligence not just in but across population groups. This is all forbidden, because once upon a time people — uh, I don’t know. We’re just not allowed to notice, that’s all.

    It’s compounded by the fact that most people don’t understand mathematics, and especially are flummoxed by statistics. Some of the commentaries I’ve read about Derbyshire’s “Talk – Non-Black Version” column have indicated that the people criticizing him are completely stupid when it comes to statistics. Not simply ignorant, but stupid. But this problem is wide-spread.

    But the differences exist, and they do not posit any kind of moral superiority of one race over another. Nor do they indicate that one group or another should have their citizenship revoked. But if you notice the differences at all you are the same as a Klansman. Well, to Hell with that nonsense too. Noticing differences and realizing the impact on public policy of those differences would be important to a well-functioning society. The current non-sense of denying differences isn’t as pernicious as the system it replaced, but it is still sub-optimal.

    How can society go forward together, when whites are handicapped by not having color in their faces or background?

    This is silly. I’d rather have the extra standard-deviation on various standardized tests than affirmative action. And while whites are experiencing some inconvenience around the edges, East Asians are getting screwed by the old quota systems once used to keep the Ashkenazi Jews in check. That’s worse, both for that subset of the population and for society at large.

    My son’s high school PTA was divided into 3 groups — a general one for everyone, a meeting just for African American parents, and a meeting just for Mexican parents.

    Perhaps this will make you feel better. The meetings were for, respectively, parents of typical schmucks, parents of schmucks likely to get arrested for wearing stupid pants with hoodies, and schmucks trying to avoid deportation.

  • Icepick

    And if someone like me is calling you out as immature, then you’re probably hitting close to the mark. Because Reynolds will have damned sure already called you insane and a racist, so he’s running out of invective and failing to engage any substantive points.

    I also don’t claim not to be rich, on the contrary, given what I make right now, I am definitely in the 1% and may be in some higher subset, and have of course said so. Again: repeatedly and consistently.

    A few months back you and Drew were trying to out-do each other at the “Well, I’m okay, but I’m not really rich, not like J.K.Rowling/Mitt Romney” game. Well no shit, the two of you aren’t worth nine or ten figures to the left of the decimal point. That TOTALLY makes you just like someone who has been out of work for years….

    Also, Word Press sucks. It is eating every other comment I type, and I don’t always bother to type them up in another program first. Grrr.

  • TastyBits

    @Icepick

    CTL+A, CTL+C

    You will have it on the clipboard, and you can paste it into Notepad, Word, etc. I have learned the hard way.

  • Icepick

    Yeah, I do that when I remember to do so. I need a trick on remembering to do so….

  • TastyBits

    @Michael Reynolds, April 15, 2012 at 12:24 am

    The “community organizer” thing is just your
    [TangoMan’s] inevitable race-baiting horseshit …

    President Obama is a man. Being black does not make him any less of a man. As a man he does not need a white savior to ride to his rescue. Infantizing black people to protect them is a white liberal’s wet dream. You should spend some time on MLK Blvd. and report back. You might be surprised to learn that black folks are capable of taking of themselves.

    A non-racial response would have respected the President as a man. The following is an example:

    Yes, Barrack Obama was a Community Organizer. He could have been a highly paid lawyer, but he choose to follow his passion. He believed that the poor do not have the same options as others, and by organizing, they can affect changes to help their situation. Furthermore, Mr. Obama worked in the community he was trying to help.

    As his ability to be a high earner, this is speculation at best. We do not know what his ability as a lawyer would be, and he may have disliked it enough to be a negative influence for his firm.This could have lead to less income for everybody. Therefore, he would have been contributing “according to his ability.”

    NOTE: The above content is only an example. I am not endorsing it.

    Racism has not gone away because there is a black President, and disliking a black President does not make one a racist. Racial issues are complicated, and decrying racism does not help. Most white people are woefully ignorant of the issues faced by black people, but many black people assume a more hateful intention. As to black suspicions – Tuskegee.

    I have noticed that those who rail the loudest against something tend to be guilty of that thing. On the other hand, merely citing statistics is not an argument, and yes, one can question the reason for the inclusion of a non-relevant fact.

    Since this topic is not silly nonsense, Snark Hunting has been suspended.

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