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“A Moral Idiot”: Rand Paul Compared Taxation To Slavery And Betrayed The Emptiness Of His Political Philosophy

Rand Paul brought some libertarian philosophy into the Republican presidential primary this week, in the form of the old “taxation is slavery” bumper sticker. He even indexed it to a handy percentage scale! Andrew Kaczynski has the tape: “I’m for paying some taxes. But if we tax you at 100 percent then you’ve got zero percent liberty. If we tax you at 50 percent you are half-slave, half-free.”

Paul is probably getting his argument from Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia, which famously argued: “Taxation of earnings from labor is on a par with forced labor.” (Note that not even he went so far as to say taxation was literally identical to slavery.) His book was probably the most convincing case that can be made for this stone-cold form of libertarianism, where all “redistributive” policy is morally abhorrent and only the night watchman state is permissible.

Nevertheless, it’s still garbage. Nozick’s book constructs a detailed procedural account of justice, arguing that redistributive taxation is theft because it is a coerced transfer. He was a smart guy, and it’s very hard to get one’s hooks into his argument. The weakness, as with all extremist accounts of property rights, is not with the logic but the premises — particularly when it comes to the very beginning of property.

Go back far enough in history, and there would have been no property of any kind. The moment somebody fences off a piece of land, it necessarily destroys the liberty of everyone else in the world, since they no longer have the right to access that land. Nozick admits this is the case, but still wants to set up initial property rights. So he embraces a concept that he calls the “Lockean proviso.”

This proviso allows appropriation of unowned things, so long as it does not worsen the situation of anyone else. And what about people last in line, so to speak, who can’t appropriate anything because everything is already taken? Well, they will benefit from the general prosperity brought on by market capitalism.

Note what kind of argument this is: It rests on the overall welfare-enhancing consequences of adopting Nozick’s ideas.

The whole point of the “taxation is slavery-ish” argument is that infringing liberty to increase general welfare is morally impermissible. Yet here is Nozick, leaning on a boon to general welfare to justify a violation of liberty so he can get property rights going. This is no different from taxing the rich to provide food stamps, or from the kind of single-payer health insurance system that socialist Bernie Sanders endorses.

The upshot is that the austere libertarianism implied by Paul’s statement is fundamentally unworkable. The horse stumbled right out of the gate, and has to be put down. Neither Milton Friedman nor Friedrich von Hayek went nearly so far. Even Nozick himself apparently abandoned it after a few years.

Let me also comment on Paul’s gruesome tin ear on display here.

What is slavery really? In the U.S. context — and given the reference to Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech, this is clearly what Paul was getting at — slavery was full property rights in human beings.

It was also incomprehensibly brutal. Owning a person presented a challenge to Southern capitalists, since slave labor has no monetary incentive to work. They solved this problem neatly, with daily violence. Set a steadily increasing daily work quota (pounds of cotton picked, typically), and if it was not achieved, make up the difference with an equal number of stripes with the whip.

In this way, Southern slaves were forced to increase their labor productivity by some 400 percent from 1800 to 1860, achieving a level that was not matched until the development of the mechanical cotton picker. Southern slavery thus robbed both the body and the mind, using systematic torture to force slaves into inventing and spreading techniques of extreme manual dexterity (picking cotton by hand is very difficult).

So if Rand Paul really believes that 1 percent taxation is exactly equal to 1 percent slavery, why doesn’t he sound like an abolitionist? Why not seize one of the federal armories in an attempt to start an all-out war against a monstrous injustice? Indeed, by this measure there would be more slavery today (about 27 percent of GDP taxed) than in in 1860 (1.4 percent taxed, 12.6 percent of the population enslaved).

Only a moral idiot would think to make such an equivalence.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, July 9, 2015

July 14, 2015 Posted by | Libertarians, Rand Paul, Slavery | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Enemy Within”: The Koch Brothers, Where Money Equals Freedom And Government Equals Evil

I love a good fight between bad entities, which is why I’m enjoying the brawl that’s taking place between the Koch Brothers and the Republican Party. Too bad they can’t both lose.

The controversy over the effort by libertarian ideologues Charles and David Koch to, in essence, buy the Republican Party provides us an opportunity to once again point out the fundamental malevolence of libertarian ideology. Libertarianism is nothing more than a shameless effort to glorify selfishness, which is why the ideology has such a narrow appeal.

In the libertarian world, the only citizen who has any actual rights is the wealthiest citizen. That citizen can pollute for free, pay people slave wages, put unsafe products on the shelves, and ignore common-sense work safety standards. Local, state and federal governments would, in essence, stand down as the tycoon abuses the population for profit.

This is the sick, dark vision of people like Charles and David Koch–a vision in which money equals freedom and government equals evil. It’s a vision in which being poor and sick means being dead and buried. It’s a vision in which severe economic inequality is considered the natural and logical order, the way things ought to be. It’s an amoral, abhorrent vision.

It was the vision that guided David Koch’s 1980 vice-presidential bid, as Vermont Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders noted in April 2014:

In 1980, David Koch ran as the Libertarian Party’s vice-presidential candidate in 1980.

Let’s take a look at the 1980 Libertarian Party platform.

Here are just a few excerpts of the Libertarian Party platform that David Koch ran on in 1980:

“We urge the repeal of federal campaign finance laws, and the immediate abolition of the despotic Federal Election Commission.”

“We favor the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs.”

“We oppose any compulsory insurance or tax-supported plan to provide health services, including those which finance abortion services.”

“We also favor the deregulation of the medical insurance industry.”

“We favor the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive Social Security system. Pending that repeal, participation in Social Security should be made voluntary.”

“We propose the abolition of the governmental Postal Service. The present system, in addition to being inefficient, encourages governmental surveillance of private correspondence. Pending abolition, we call for an end to the monopoly system and for allowing free competition in all aspects of postal service.”

“We oppose all personal and corporate income taxation, including capital gains taxes.”

“We support the eventual repeal of all taxation.”

“As an interim measure, all criminal and civil sanctions against tax evasion should be terminated immediately.”

“We support repeal of all laws which impede the ability of any person to find employment, such as minimum wage laws.”

“We advocate the complete separation of education and State. Government schools lead to the indoctrination of children and interfere with the free choice of individuals. Government ownership, operation, regulation, and subsidy of schools and colleges should be ended.”

“We condemn compulsory education laws … and we call for the immediate repeal of such laws.”

“We support the repeal of all taxes on the income or property of private schools, whether profit or non-profit.”

“We support the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency.”

“We support abolition of the Department of Energy.”

“We call for the dissolution of all government agencies concerned with transportation, including the Department of Transportation.”

“We demand the return of America’s railroad system to private ownership. We call for the privatization of the public roads and national highway system.”

“We specifically oppose laws requiring an individual to buy or use so-called ‘self-protection’ equipment such as safety belts, air bags, or crash helmets.”

“We advocate the abolition of the Federal Aviation Administration.”

“We advocate the abolition of the Food and Drug Administration.”

“We support an end to all subsidies for child-bearing built into our present laws, including all welfare plans and the provision of tax-supported services for children.”

“We oppose all government welfare, relief projects, and ‘aid to the poor’ programs. All these government programs are privacy-invading, paternalistic, demeaning, and inefficient. The proper source of help for such persons is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals.”

“We call for the privatization of the inland waterways, and of the distribution system that brings water to industry, agriculture and households.”

“We call for the repeal of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.”

“We call for the abolition of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.”

“We support the repeal of all state usury laws.”

In other words, the agenda of the Koch brothers is not only to defund Obamacare. The agenda of the Koch brothers is to repeal every major piece of legislation that has been signed into law over the past 80 years that has protected the middle class, the elderly, the children, the sick, and the most vulnerable in this country.

Libertarian ideology is nothing less than an existential threat to America’s security, cohesion, safety and health. It seeks to undo the social bonds that tie us together. It wishes to turn rich against poor and powerful against weak. It recognizes no moral code except for that established by the self-serving billionaire.

All of us–progressives, centrists, moderates, even the handful of rational conservatives left–have a moral obligation to fight the cancer of libertarianism and keep it from growing within the body of our democracy; if we don’t fight it, our democracy will soon wind up in hospice care. We must condemn libertarianism as a radical ideology that’s every bit as pernicious as the radical ideologies of the past. We must educate our young people to understand that the end result of Ayn Rand is a social and economic wasteland. We must challenge libertarian ideologues and denounce them for their efforts to destroy the policies that have kept our nation strong since the New Deal. We must, in essence, declare war on libertarian ideology, for it is at war with America’s best values.

Since libertarianism is an assault on our country’s protections and principles, one cannot be both a libertarian and a patriot.

The Kochs have chosen sides.

Which side are you on?

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 14, 2015

June 15, 2015 Posted by | Democracy, Koch Brothers, Libertarians | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Preserving Their Dominance”: McKinney Pool Party Cop’s Vicious Hatred; This Is The Face Of White Rage

Why are libertarians so overwhelmingly white and male? This is a question that Jeet Heer of The New Republic explored last Friday, after a new CNN poll found that presidential hopeful Rand Paul, who happens to be the favorite among libertarians, is very competitive in the primaries amongst male voters, but almost completely rejected by females. This is a problem that has long haunted conservatism, but it is even more drastic for ultra-right wing libertarianism.

In a 2014 Pew poll, it was found that about one in ten Americans describe themselves as libertarian, and men were more than twice as likely to be libertarians. In a 2013 Pew poll that Heer states in his article, it was found about two-thirds (68 percent) of American’s who identify as libertarians are men, and 94 percent are non-hispanic whites. Compare this to “steadfast conservatives,” who were found to be 59 percent male and 87 percent white, or “business conservatives,” found to be 62 percent male and 85 percent white, according to another survey done by Pew. Clearly, the entire conservative movement is dominated by white males, but libertarians are the most male-dominated.

Obviously this is a major problem for anyone who is hoping for libertarianism to take off in American politics. So why are libertarians mostly white guys? Heer points out a few different possibilities that some libertarian writers have offered. One of them being that libertarianism has attracted many male-dominated subcultures, like computer programming (think Silicon Valley), gaming, mens-rights activists, and organized humanism/Atheism, and another, argued by Katherine Mangu-Ward, that libertarianism has long been a fringe movement, and fringe movements tend to be dominated by men.

Okay, so libertarianism attracts nerdy white males, but surely these are not the only ones making up the dedicated crowd? While looking at the larger conservative movement, it becomes a bit more clear that the hostility towards government and collective movements in general tends to attract white males who want to preserve their dominance in a society where they are quickly becoming minorities.

When my first book, a novel for young adults, was published a decade later, readers often remarked on its graduation-night scene, which involved a party, a racial slur, broken glass, a slashed face, and the protagonist ending up in the hospital–indeed a discordant scene in a novel that was focused largely on the internal narrative of a quiet, nerdy Asian American girl.

James Baldwin once wrote that first novels are always autobiographical because the author has so many things to get off her chest. In my novel, the police are called, the protagonist’s injuries are so severe and unequivocal, redress is available by pressing charges against her attacker, a white classmate. However, the protagonist ends up deciding not to press charges, a twist for which readers express surprise, frustration, and dismay. But looking back at this book that I started writing back when I wasn’t that much older than those kids at the pool party, I see that in transforming this event that actually happened to me to fiction, the inner violence became external, with ugly scars, but with an emotional escape hatch:  the protagonist had a choice to press charges or not. Not the choice I would have made, but Ellen, my protagonist, had a choice of how to deal with her attacker.

I think the frustration and heartbreak I felt that graduation night had to do with feeling that this was somehow my problem and my problem alone. The Texas teens will have to deal with the aftermath of experiencing violence at the hands of a so-called authority figure, yet–judging from what I see on social media–among many otherwise sensible white acquaintances, there seems to be less concern for the avoidable trauma these kids experienced than the pursuit of the idea that the black kids had to be doing something wrong.  And no one wants to question why this narrative exists. Why a cop arriving on a scene asks no questions, openly separates out the black kids and acts like they are all criminals, no matter how polite they are, no matter if they comply, or, perhaps, more sensibly, try to get away. The irony being that he may have arrested everyone except the one person who may have committed an actionable crime, the white woman who slapped the teen who called her on her racism.

Race, race, race, it’s all about race to you, people complain. But I want to complain back: why is this something we have to bear alone? For every person who’s going to excoriate me for not mentioning, say, that there were black kids at the pool party who were indeed from outside Craig Ranch ergo invalidating my entire thesis, this is actually a fundamental misunderstanding and blindness to how omnipresent racism has become–and being a person of color and told I’m overreacting is itself a manifestation of racism. It’s not enough for white people to say, “I don’t use the ‘N’ word, therefore I’m not racist”–this is a self-rationalizing trope that willfully ignores, as poet Claudia Rankine has said, of how so many of our daily interactions are polluted by racism, whose toxic effects, like with pollution of our air and water, last for years and years–maybe a lifetime. And sometimes leads to death.

 

By: Marie Myung-Ok Lee, Salon, June 9, 2015

June 12, 2015 Posted by | Libertarians, Rand Paul, White Men | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“How A President Paul Would Remake Society”: Rand Paul Is Building A Bridge — To The Early 1800s

The official launch of Rand Paul’s presidential campaign this week showcased an interesting blend of proposals, with the junior senator from Kentucky agitating against the forthcoming Iran deal, racially unjust incarceration, and NSA surveillance. The bulk of it, however, was dedicated to a libertarian vision of government — one drastically at odds with the last century of American governance and more.

This vision isn’t just contained to his speeches. Paul’s budget proposals provide a blueprint for how a President Paul would remake society, and the result is eyewateringly radical. When it comes to domestic policy, his views are far to the right even of Paul Ryan, whose budgets would decimate the legacy of the New Deal. It’s a vision of government from the age of Thomas Jefferson, and ludicrously unsuited to the 21st century.

And yet Paul, despite fashioning himself as an outsider, will likely be a contender in the Republican primary, which means his ideas deserve close scrutiny.

Dylan Matthews has done a deep dive into the various Paul budgets of the last three years, and the findings are jarring. “The gap between Paul’s budget and Ryan’s,” he writes, “is nearly as big as the gap between Ryan’s and Democrats.”

On one occasion or another, Paul has proposed completely abolishing the Departments of Education, Housing and Urban Development, and Energy; the Bureaus of Reclamation and Indian Affairs; all foreign aid; and the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. On the tax side, he proposes a flat income tax and scrapping the tax on estates, capital gains, dividends, large gifts, as well as the Alternative Minimum Tax.

As Matt Bruenig concludes, this would amount to a stupendous redistribution of income from poor to rich, likely unprecedented in American history. The poor would see their taxes massively increased, while the rich would enjoy a corresponding decrease.

In Paul’s dream world, other government departments get merely eviscerated. The Interior Department is cut by 78 percent, State by 71 percent, the General Services Administration by 85 percent, and the Transportation and Agriculture departments by a comparatively modest 49 percent cut each. The military was cut by 30 percent in early budgets, though Paul has since reversed himself on that.

But wait, there’s more! Science gets gored by Paul, with 20 percent of funding taken from the National Institutes of Health, 25 percent from NASA, 20 percent from the U.S. Geological Survey, 62 percent from the National Science Foundation, and even 20 percent from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (which, you may recall, recently prevented an outbreak of Ebola in the U.S.).

These aggressive cuts to discretionary spending are the simple result of huge tax reductions combined with a balanced budget. But Paul also appears to be groping as far towards the libertarian “night watchman state” — limited to the police, military, and courts — as he dares. Though Paul’s views, tainted by roots in his father’s very long history of bigoted conspiracy nutbaggery, are far from the austere purity of Robert Nozick, it’s clear Paul thinks most of what the government has done since the 1930s is illegitimate.

He’s a supporter of the Lochner doctrine, named after a 1905 Supreme Court case that conveniently discovered an unwritten “liberty of contract” in the 14th Amendment and thus abolished most laws regulating working conditions. He’s a fan of the Supreme Court decisions against the New Deal. His latest budget argues that anything but a flat tax is likely unconstitutional. It seems clear that if he had his druthers, he really would abolish everything but the police, the military, and the courts.

This extreme suspicion of federal government is only matched by his reverence for rich people and businesses; Paul does not touch property law, special legal protections for corporations, or even the wretched mortgage interest deduction. His position would fit reasonably well in the Gilded Age or the pre-World War I era, when “due process” for workers was often non-existent.

But it was Thomas Jefferson who made the most sustained effort to bring the libertarian utopia into being. Fighting against Alexander Hamilton and his allies, Jefferson did about all he could, especially early in his first term, to implement the night watchman state. It didn’t work very well, and he began abandoning the effort by the end of his term — and he was living in an agrarian slave society. Trying it in 2016 is patently preposterous.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, April 8, 2015

April 10, 2015 Posted by | Domestic Policy, Libertarians, Rand Paul | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Can America Stand Rand?”: Cranking Up His ‘Libertarian’ Campaign

Platitudes typically litter the announcement speech of every aspiring president, and Rand Paul’s address in Louisville today was no exception. “We have come to take our country back,” he thundered—or tried to thunder—“from the special interests that use Washington at their personal piggy bank.”

Exactly what those special interests might be, he neglected to say — although they probably don’t include the oil or coal lobbies he tends to favor. He went on to rant against “both parties” and “the political system,” not to mention “big government,” deficit spending, and the federal debt. Naturally he prefers “small government” because “the love of liberty pulses in my veins.”

Yet Paul delivered these encrusted clichés with impressive energy, to an enthusiastic crowd featuring enough youthful and minority faces sprinkled among the Tea Party types to lend a touch of credibility to claims that he is a “different kind of Republican.” Speaking about urban poverty and education, the Kentucky Republican even name-checked Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — a gesture that too many elected officials in his party, especially from the South, still find difficult. (His father Ron Paul, watching from the audience, may have stifled a chuckle, recalling how his racist newsletters regularly excoriated the late civil rights leader as a “pro-communist philanderer” and worse, while blasting Ronald Reagan for signing the bill that made King’s birthday a national holiday.)

Appealing to younger and minority voters, Paul wisely emphasized his ideas about cutting back the machinery of surveillance and incarceration. Likewise, he kept the required paeans to economic “freedom” sufficiently vague to avoid alienating potential supporters, like students who might not appreciate his hostility to federal loans and grants, and families whose survival depends on food stamps and unemployment benefits that he would slash.The upside of a Paul campaign may be that his dissenting perspective on issues such as Iran, Cuba, and the surveillance state brings a small degree of sanity to the Republican primary debate. Although he parroted much nonsense about the Obama administration’s foreign policy, he dared to say that the goal of diplomacy “should be and always is peace, not war.”

Equally beneficial would be a frank discussion of the libertarian delusions that underlie his economic platform – and the real effects that such policies would have on American communities, families, and workers.Paul still hates the auto bailout, although killing it would have cost another million jobs. While he rails against deficit spending and Obama’s economic stimulus, the clear consensus is that unemployment would have soared without those measures. No doubt he agreed with his father’s repeated warnings that government spending would lead to “hyperinflation” and depression, but we have seen precisely the opposite: a revived economy, recovering employment, and inflation that remains too low to worry any sane person.

Among Paul’s easiest targets today was the IRS, which he promises to diminish or even abolish with his favorite “new idea,” a flat tax. That was a fresh proposal, perhaps, back when right-wing academics Robert Hall and Alvin Rabushka unveiled it in a 1983 book titled Low Tax, Simple Tax, Flat Tax. There is no reason to believe that Rand Paul’s flat tax would differ significantly from theirs in design or impact; namely, to worsen inequality, raising the burden on the poor and middle class while benefiting the very rich.

Mocking the federal proclivity to spend more than the IRS collects, Paul chortled today, “Isn’t $3 trillion enough?” But while he promises to “balance” the budget, his 17 percent flat tax wouldn’t collect even that amount — which means enormous cuts in every budget sector, from education and infrastructure to defense.

Authors Hall and Rabushka described their flat tax as “a tremendous boon to the economic elite” and noted, candidly, “it is an obvious mathematical law that lower taxes on the successful will have to be made up by higher taxes on average people.” We shall see whether Paul is as honest as the authors of his tax plan.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, The National Memo, April 7, 2015

April 10, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Libertarians, Rand Paul | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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