The libertarian perplex Archives

March 31, 2009

Alas, the poor yuppie

Recently, Mutual of Senegal asked me -- in a btw-type comment -- to mugshot Craig Paul Roberts, the once-renowned Reagan-era voodoo priest, now rabidly anti-wall Street.

I hesitated, so long as his rants were aimed at the gunplay of corporate empire, American style. But suddenly I find he has obliged me with lovely material -- an aria on the dolorous days our upper middle income class now passes through, meaning folks like these:

"a husband and wife who are associates at major law firms, each of whom works 60 hour weeks and has no job security [earning] $125,000 each."
Herr Roberts' beef? Obama has these orphans of the casino storm in his tax crosshairs.
"The upper middle class with $250,000 gross incomes are major losers of the financial collapse. Many of the people in this income class are leveraged to the hilt in order to maintain appearances and can be swept away as easily as the very poor. But those who were frugal and invested for their future have lost 50 per cent of their savings. These wiped out people are the ones who will bear the brunt of Obama’s tax increase."
The O Sole Mio impersonation by Billy Babbit, Jr. here, almost becomes openly self-satirical.
"If the tax rate on a multi-million dollar annual income goes up by 5 percentage points, the cutbacks won’t really affect the lifestyle. But for the $250,000 gross income group, it means no prospect of private schools and Ivy League education for the children, who will be attending state colleges with the rest of the non-rich."
To be strictly fair, Roberts is a "free" labor man to the bone.
"Historically, the definition of a free person is a person who owns his own labor. Serfs were not free, because they owed their feudal lords, the government of that time, a maximum of one-third of their labor. Nineteenth century slaves were not free, because their owners could expropriate 50 per cent of their labor -- Today, no American is a free person. The lowest tax rate, not counting state income, property tax and sales tax, is 15 per cent Social Security tax and 15 per cent federal income tax.

The “free American” starts off with a 30 per cent tax rate, the position of a medieval serf."

Implied conclusion: 50% -- Swedish level -- tax hauls out of "earned income" are the moral equivalent of chattel slavery

* * * * *

I've never cottoned to Alex's bloc of rights, frights, lites, mites, and botchky-ites over there at Counterpunch, and I've often had Mr PCR here uppermost in my mind. A broad "frente" with this jamoke is foolhardy opportunism. Ralph Nader represents the better angle of that much put-upon much asked-of class, our ultra-meritoid hautes-professionalistes.

You ask me, taxing the $250k class sounds perfect. They love their job site hairshirt, so why not a second taxman hair shirt -- layering is often fashionable.

Boo-hooing for our honest meritoidal lunatics is a silly waste of personal salt water.

August 10, 2009

Crowding Out Free Enterprise

A troubling aspect of the health care debacle, other than the debacle itself, is the valid concern that single payer health care would crowd out free market illnesses. So I was deeply impressed when the congressional champions of leaving euthanasia to the entrepreneurial class announced that they would forego their government health plans. Viral and bacterial infections, which struggle against public sanitation measures already, will at long last have a chance to see what individual initiative can do for them.

August 17, 2009

Just sayin'

There is, actually, a libertarian solution to the health care crisis. I'm not sure how well it would work in practice, it's very much a Blue Sky kind of thing, but it does have solid provenance in libertarian thinking. The cornerstone is the universal Citizen's Basic Income, supplied by land use and resource extraction rents. In theory, most of the recipients would set up buyer's cooperatives -- on a completely voluntary basis, needless to say. The bigger the coop, the better the bargaining power. Some of the coops might wish to contract with existing medical service providers, or cut deals with aspiring practitioners and finance their own in-house medical service organizations. All very market-friendly, non-coercive and tuned to the reduction of both government power and the government-enabled parasitism of private power. Amongst other benefits, it takes care of the free rider problem in resource extraction and puts a steeply increasing price on extractive activities with environmental hazards.

It would be a hard sell, alas, to the rugged individualists whose free market solution to the problem of existence consists of engineering cozy little arrangements with the political class. I can't see anything like the CBI coming into broad practice short of a revolution.

January 14, 2011


An interesting item from Gallup crossed my e-desk the other day, in connection with the recent Defining Moment in Tucson. It's kinda fussy to reproduce the graphs here, so I hope y'all will go consult the original, which ought to open, helpfully, in a new window or tab.

Americans greatly approve of guns. Oh, we knew that, right? But the interesting thing is that they approve of guns a lot more now than they did a few years ago -- even though it seems that gun ownership, on a per-household basis, has actually dropped(*). Back in 1991, the ratio of people who wanted more strict rather than less strict gun control laws was 78/19. The ratio got close to 50/50 in 2003, crossed that magic threshold in '09, and now stands pistoleros leading, 54/44. Support for more handgun restrictions went from 60% in 1959 to 29% in '09.

I'd like to see somebody break these numbers down -- historically, if possible -- by urban/suburban/rural moieties. Of course almost nobody, statistically speaking, lives in a truly rural setting any more, but the relative number of people living in what I would call suburban settings has vastly increased, and is probably still doing so, though perhaps less rapidly. (Again, the census figures don't allow us to distinguish readily between what normal people would call urban and suburban -- it's all urban, as far as the census people are concerned.)

It seems plausible that suburban life, with its severe social isolation, promotes a paper-thin ideology of self-reliance, which may give rise to fantasies of self-defense, along with the familiar Joe The Plumber fantasies of wealth around the corner. Maybe that's part, at least, of the picture.

On the other hand -- as the New York Times might say -- there is, for me at least, a more encouraging way of reading these stats, in connection with some other graphs that Gallup gave us in the same item.

The Gallupers asked folks whether they thought the Federal government posed a threat to the rights of ordinary citizens. The nays had it, even in 2003, 68/30. But now it's down to 51/46 -- not far short of the crossing point at which more Amurricans will believe that their Gummint is a threat than not.

This development, I would say, is a tribute to the perceptiveness of the American people; it is increasingly plain to anybody paying attention that the Federal government, as actually now existing and operating, is a police-state horrorshow, pursuing goals fundamentally inimical to most of its subjects, and utterly beyond any answerability to them.

So on balance, I'll take the pistoleros, any day -- even if they're just rotisserie-pistoleros -- over the liberals, with their geschrei and gevalt about the terrible "mistrust of government" among the poor benighted American peasantry. I'm with the pistoleros on this one; "distrust" doesn't begin to describe my attitude toward actually-existing government.

If this sounds Cockburnian -- well, I've been in worse company, in my day.


(*) Good per-household or per-capita stats on gun ownership, and particularly time-series stats, seem to be hard to come by. If anybody can point me to some believeable numbers, I'd be grateful. My tentaive conclusion about per-household and/or per-capita gun ownership is based on null-hypothesis extrapolation from stats that don't directly tell the story.

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