[font="Arial Narrow"][SIZE="2"]First, an opening note on “libertarians.” Fable, you have chastised me in the past for assuming your “liberal” viewpoints, or coloring you with too broad a (liberal) brush. I will only say that I believe you should investigate further some of the exceedingly varied points of view that libertarianism embraces. You say that “I've know of quite a few libertarians who simply disagree with the concept of taxation on the private sector no matter how it the monies are spent, as an unwarranted interference.” Well, and I have known quite a few who have no qualms with paying taxes if they believe that they are being used for purposes which they deem worthy, accountable, and lawful. And, yes, there are many, many, many different libertarian views on what is worthy, accountable, and lawful. And, yes, some libertarians believe in no such thing as a lawful tax.
Apropos, the second article to which you link in your first post incidentally comments about a ”libertarian” blogger by the name of Megan McArdle. First, I believe she has generally eschewed the title of libertarian, but even if you take her as a libertarian, then you should know that her suggested tax plan (and, yes, she believes taxes are lawful and necessary) is fairly “progressive” (or, regressive, depending on your PoV). Here it is, for reference (back when Megan was Jane):
Asymmetrical Information: The Jane Galt Tax Plan
But, then again, you have a guy like Forbes (also a sometimes-called libertarian) who believes that a flat tax (of, I believe 5 to 7%) is fair. And, again, you have those who believe no tax can ever be justified.
Please respect the diversity of the libertarian movement.
Next, you do (seemingly) acknowledge diversity in the following quote: “I'd really, really like to hear some acknowledgment from you that the problem isn't government, but people who are allowed to accumulate tremendous power, whether in corporate control, or governmental control. But I've yet to meet or speak with a libertarian who will deal with the first part of this, for all that there are numerous flavors of libertarianism.
It's as though somehow corporations must be basically good and clean, while the same people in government must necessarily be evil and foul. Despite the fact that the two work hand in glove, and that we have government of corporatism--which is rule by corporation, through its well-bribed officials. Many of those bribes public knowledge, too.”
(Italics added by me for emphasis, just to acknowledge your acknowledgement of the “flavors” of libertarianism.)
First, if you really have never heard or seen a libertarian rail against corporatism, you … well, should expand your pool of libertarian study. I would suggest a quick search of a solidly libertarian site, Reason magazine. Search there for the term corporatism. My search found this article (among others):
Corporatism, Not Capitalism - Reason Magazine
On the very subject you do not seem to understand: libertarians despise corporatism, but only get really, really upset when people confound the terms corporatism and capitalism (see, for example, Michael Moore’s latest movie, “Capitalism, A Love Story,” which isn’t about capitalism at all – a fact which Moore himself has acknowledged).
Secondly, I in no way regard corporations as inherently “clean.” I regard them as they act. Some act to curry favor and advantage through government (bad corporations!) while some genuinely attempt to work market advantage (good corporations!). [If you want a more hard core view, read Atlas Shrugged – as I know you have – which is if nothing else a 100% repudiation of corporatism.] The problem that libertarians see (while others sometime don’t) is that it is by the very nature of government that corporatism can succeed: the government can allow unfair practices to continue where the free market would not. You can see this in the continuous subsidy of things like Amtrak or the Post Office; or you can detect it in the health care bill which has handed insurance companies and big pharma a very large check (which, by the way, may be taken away at any moment on the whim of the current congress and/or white house – so kinda a foolish deal, IMHO); or you can see it in the bailouts of car companies, and wall street; or you can see it in the ugly case of Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac. Government can do all of these things because they make and enforce the laws – sometimes (libertarians believe) contrary to the spirit of the constitution, or at any rate a free and dynamic society – and because they have the power (seemingly limitless). They also have (what they seem to deem) an unlimited supply of money (taxes).
On a similar theme, your quote directed at Wildeyne: “I'd really, really like to hear some acknowledgment from you that the problem isn't government, but people who are allowed to accumulate tremendous power, whether in corporate control, or governmental control.” OK, you got it: I totally and completely agree with you 100%. Except that I would take exception to the manner in which you state it. Carefully examine your sentence: “the problem isn’t government” and then “whether in corporate control, or governmental control.” Do you see how that first portion contradicts half of the second portion? I also believe that some definition of “tremendous power” would be useful. Because, again, think about the two sides of the coin: the government accumulates power, and, rarely, if ever, relinquishes that power. It does (like allowing for the sale of alcohol after prohibition) but you must agree that it is a rare thing.
Compare that to the dynamism of an open market. Absent government intervention/subsidy/protectionism,
libertarians believe that the market will tend not to atrophy into some insurmountable monolith. They do not have laws that they can pass; they do not have the force of police or military; they cannot force anyone to do anything – because if they try, someone else will always come along with a new idea.
That is the principle libertarians believe. You may (and I suspect you do) disagree. We have had discussions previously on how the market (and marketing) can manipulate and accumulate a preponderance of market share, such that no competition is possible. I disagree. I would refer you to the Austrian school of economics for the standard libertarian argument against market monopolies, etc. (And I am sure you can suggest some contrary economic schools – yadda yadda.) I will say, though, that even here libertarians disagree, and there are lively discussions on whether market monopolies are possible for extended periods (discounting fraud, of course) without government complicity.
At the same time I should be clear: I also believe that government can be more dynamic than it is showing itself to be in the 20th/21st century, and I believe it can change. If I didn’t, I’d be a much, much more depressed person!
At any rate, to return to your original post: I would only suggest that there may be more to the subject than your rather subjective second link suggests. For what I regard as a very insightful look at state spending practices, I would refer you to this story:
Class War - Reason Magazine
It starts a bit slow on the subject of license plates, but it really does show where many, many state deficits are coming from. Or, the great example of California:
California: Harbinger of Fiscal Doom - Reason Magazine
The point of these articles is simple: state spending is out of control. And I do not believe that the example of Colorado Springs is a particularly “libertarian” one. It is a state (city, whatever) like all others. It pays its employees more than industry standard (as noted in the first link you provide) and the nature of a state (with state employees) is such that they will usually continue to increase their wealth through further taxation. When faced with a budget deficit, a great tactic is to shut off lights and say that this is the shape of things to come. What they don’t say is: well, it is either that, or Mr. State Employee loses his $100,000 / year pension with awesome health care benefits to boot.
I read through numerous articles on the subject of Colorado Springs in order to determine if, indeed, they were up against a pension/entitlement problem. I could find no definitive answer. There was a list of city employees, with corresponding salaries, but it is difficult to evaluate without knowledge of open market pay rates and additional compensation (such as the usually overly generous pension and health benefits that government employees enjoy).
However, if they are like most cities/states, that is a primary cause of their problem. More articles to re-iterate the point:
In We-Are-Out-of-Money Headlines - Hit & Run : Reason Magazine
You have described yourself (correct me if I am wrong) as fiscally conservative. I would hope that you give credence to stories like the above, and understand that simply wanting low taxes and accountability of state funding practices is not some crazy libertarian view – it is really just common sense.
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