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July 17, 2006


Got to love Cato's David Boaz. Responding to reports that Nancy Pelosi will prove herself a fiscal conservative if made speaker, he writes:

Another NTU report showed that Pelosi voted in the interests of taxpayers only 11 percent of the time on tax and budget votes.

I just love that framing, as if taxpayers have a singular interest, and that's lower taxes. After all, I'm a taxpayer, and I'd like some government health care even if it raises my taxes. It will, after all, lower what I pay in premiums. It's indicative of the overwhelming myopia of some libertarians and their remarkably reductive view of taxation that they can actually consider taxpayers entities with no interests beyond the size of their tax burden. It's a very weird way of looking at government, and one that must make the actual political preferences of voters look rather inexplicable.

July 17, 2006 | Permalink


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Ah, yes, the classic libertarian stupidity of "taxes are just money that armed men come to your house to steal, after which they literally burn the cash in front of you while you cry in horror."

Coming next: "Property rights are paramount, unless they're the property rights of indigeneous peoples, in which case it's really too late to do anything about that, so let's just start with the current property distribution."

Posted by: paperwight | Jul 17, 2006 1:13:49 PM

I have long railed about the use of 'taxpayers', as if there were some constituency whose single interest were lower taxes. (The other insidious thing about this framing is that if people are owed something because they pay taxes, then what they are owed is (by extension) proportionate to the taxes they pay.) The liberal counterpart to 'taxpayers' is, of course, 'citizens'--that is, people who participate in the civic life of their nation, in ways that include but are not limited to paying taxes.

Posted by: Tom Hilton | Jul 17, 2006 1:39:09 PM

Yep, it's a great negative frame... IME, whenever anyone (including me) describes him- or herself as a taxpayer, it's part of a complaint, so having others use it about oneself automatically makes the reference an unhappy one.

I certainly detest having my tax money go to anything associated with the GOP these days, but as, you know, an adult and a citizen, I have to deal with it even though it really is at best like setting that money on fire, and more often it's a matter of financing every idea I despise.

Posted by: latts | Jul 17, 2006 1:47:26 PM

Hilarious, paperwight.

Tell me again how libertarianism differs from anarchy aside from providing a big police force and military for the protection of wealth?

Posted by: modus potus | Jul 17, 2006 2:03:11 PM

..and this simple model of commentary is what they use to actually decide these issues. At least in the congressional debates on CSPAN and soundbyte comments in other media.

When talking about taxes, if their mentioned at all, its to mention someone that needs a cut; be it alternative minimum, estate, or capitol gains.

The next day or week, we talk about the budget. There we discover its hard to pay for things, and certain programs need to be cut, and money needs to be borrowed.

Even though income and expenses are related to those of us in normal citizenland, in the government they rarely are. Taxes and the budget seem to rarely be talked about in the same breath. We never hear what a given tax is for, what programs it enables or why it is needed.

Not everything in government needs to be treated like a household checkbook, nor would it be wise to do so. But to have some small amount of relation between the influx and outflow of money would make it easier for normal people to understand, and maybe even let them have more realistic political priorities.

Right now to the normal joe taxes are bad, government is wasteful, programs are good, pet project x needs money, and evil project y needs cut. Is it real? maybe not, but politicians rarely talk about it any differently.

Posted by: david b | Jul 17, 2006 2:48:07 PM

What protection of wealth ?
Running deficits ruins money as surely as burning it.
Prior to WW II you could take German money to the market in a wheelbarrow to go shopping.
Modern economic theory only places optimum rates of conflagration.

Posted by: opit | Jul 17, 2006 2:48:26 PM

Citing the National Taxpayer's Union (Grover Norquist is a former Executive Director) as a reputable rater of congresspeople shows how much right-wing conservatatism is embodied in CATO thinking.

Here's some of the high profile members of their board:

- David M. Stanley, Chairman of the Board

- Steve Forbes, two-time candidate for GOP presidential nomination

- J. Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio Secretary of State

- J. Patrick Rooney, a right-wing funder

In regard to government spending, CATO really is the radical right of the radical right conservative movement.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jul 17, 2006 2:51:47 PM

Running deficits ruins money as surely as burning it.

If the money were actually representative of something that has intrinsic value, no one could screw with it. However, the window was closed in 1973 for the explicit purpose of enabling the government to do just that. And now you bitch that they are doing it.

If it really mattered to you, you would back having real money again.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Jul 17, 2006 9:50:40 PM

Fred's at it again. So Fred thinks gold has intrinsic value, but that intrinsic value varies with the world's troubles. Why is gold more appropriately valued at $600 an ounce than at $300? Is there enough gold in circulation (and in the ground) to represent all of the value of all of the currencies in the world? Of course not. Fred's just stuck in the track of the economic nutjobs that think there's a simple solution to every problem: wave the hand, talk resolutely but without facts, and utter economic nonsense.

And whose hand was on the tiller when the US moved off the gold standard. Fred doesn't mention Nixon, does he? Nor does he explain why the gold standard was a farce and the world's leaders knew that their is no fixed standard of value that applies everywhere.

Please Fred, join your buddies at NRO and LGF and other wingnut centrals. You'll not be deterred from living your fantasies in those places.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jul 18, 2006 5:14:32 AM

Tell me again how libertarianism differs from anarchy aside from providing a big police force and military for the protection of wealth?

1) I'm not sure what you mean by asking me this, unless it's a rhetorical question.

2) If by anarchy, you mean something like Somalia, right-libertarianism doesn't really differ much except in the right-libertarian belief that Somalia can't happen to them. If you mean something like anarcho-syndicalism or many of the other anarchist political philosophies, it's really different.

3) By prioritizing existing property rights over everything else and enforcing only those rights with the power of the state, right-libertarianism basically endorses feudalism.

Posted by: paperwight | Jul 18, 2006 12:03:02 PM

I love how libertarians - at least many of them - seem keen on ignoring cost benefit analysis and just continually scream about taxes no matter what they are spent on. What frustrates me about it is that libertarians also tend to be right with me on most social issues. Radly Balko has finally published a report on the increased militarisation of our civilian law enforcement and the often tragic results. Here is a link to the long anticipated report, published by the Cato institute. I have yet to get far, just found it yesterday, but it is great.

Posted by: DuWayne | Jul 18, 2006 12:37:33 PM

I love how libertarians - at least many of them - seem keen on ignoring cost benefit analysis and just continually scream about taxes no matter what they are spent on. What frustrates me about it is that libertarians also tend to be right with me on most social issues

(1) Libertarians are a vanishingly small part of the political landscape, except on the internet.

(2) The only real effect ibertarians have on the political landscape is the anti-government stuff, because that's well funded, and it's the thing that gets the white male base all riled up, since they don't think the government will ever go after them.

So, I don't really care about libertarian views on civil liberties, since they rarely if every prioritize them over their views on the evil notion of the public good and the fundamental injustice of democratic governance and taxation.

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