The Smallest Minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities. - Ayn Rand
Now I'm TWO major Kevin essays behind.
No rest for the wicked. ;)
Too true, geek. I think Kevin is slowly turning into Steve den Beste. Not that it would be a bad thing. Kevin, when do the anime reviews start? ;)
I think what scares me the most about leftists is that they seem to think they know how to make the world perfect. That somehow through government action, namely the forcible seizure of the property of citizens', and the limiting of their freedoms, that the eternal ills of mankind can be solved.
I thought the same way.... when I was 16. And at 16 I was an insufferable little shit, rather than the flaming asshole I am today. (Pardon my language, I lack a better way to describe the situation)
Today I know two things: 1) Government action CANNOT solve the overarching ills and evils of our society, and 2) I *barely* know what is good for myself at any given moment, much less anyone else.
Anyone who believes that government action is the path to salvation, or that one plan, concieved by, carried out, and using human beings will fit every situation scares me deeply.
The only reason I consider myself to be a saner member of our society than the average Leftist is that I don't desire to use the power of the government, which is to say coercion, to make people act according to my worldview.
Almost all of human philosophy agrees on one point: Man is flawed. Adding people merely adds to the pool of potenial flaws.
If all humans are flawed, then all that flows from Man will be flawed. Every attempt at producing perfection has failed, sometimes horribly. No failures have been more horrific than the attempts at perfect societies: The Soviet Union, the Third Reich, the Taliban.
Why is it that people who try to produce the perfect society cannot understand the axiom that "perfect is the enemy of good"? And why can they not see the results of the previous attempts at creating perfection?
Good work, as always. For me, all I need to know about the 'anointed' is in Hillary Clinton's statement at some fundraiser: "We're going to take things away from you for the good of...."(fill in the blank; I don't remember and it's irrelevant), ala tgirsch.
Thinking about that one statement fills me with a rage so great it will one day be the death of me.
You mean this one?
“Many of you are well enough off that the tax cuts may have helped you. We're saying that for America to get back on track, we're probably going to cut that short and not give it to you. We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good.”
Yup, and it is precisely the arrogance of the notion that I am not capable of managing my own life, but someone who has no other qualification than being elected to public office is qualified to manage it for me, that will someday make me go postal.
Read "Dereliction of Duty", by Lt. Col. Robert "Buzz" Patterson, in that light, and you will see that arrogance incarnate in Hillary Clinton. She wants power over the lives of the great unwashed, whom she utterly loathes.
Kevin, there is one great void in your web site. How about a bibliography? It wouldn't take more than four or five weeks of constant work to put it together ...
Eric, you gave me the day's first belly-laugh.
There is one really good argument for heavier taxation of the rich, and that is that the rich have means of benefitting themselves that those of lesser means do not. (Just look at the total tax rates of someone who makes $50,000 a year from wages vs. $2 million from capital gains; guess who had the power to re-write the tax laws in their favor?) There's also the fact that the rich don't exist in a vacuum, they benefit from the system of respect for people and property that is built and supported (in theory) by everyone. Those who benefit greatly from it really do deserve more of the burden of supporting it.
Instead, we get an administration installed with considerable help from Exxon-Mobil creating huge tax breaks for gas-guzzlers, killing America's home-grown hybrid car program (the PNGV) and substituting a hydrogen car program that may never yield fruit. That has a lot to do with the huge profits that Exxon-Mobil is getting from American consumers, and is aimed at its perpetuation at the expense of the taxpayer in general even if individuals do their best to act otherwise. When someone is getting a tax break to act against your interests, you're paying to hurt yourself.
In the past few decades the average executive compensation has climbed from ~40 times the average wage to over 430 times. I don't see that companies are that much better managed, do you? On top of that, the people who theoretically own the companies (shareholders) almost never get a voice in those compensation decisions; it's decided by hand-picked committees chosen by the executives themselves. This is a purely American phenomenon; some nations have executive pay on the order of 10 times the average, and you can't argue that e.g. Nokia is only managed 1/40 as well as a US company. It's really hard to claim that this outrageous compensation is deserved and shouldn't be taxed as a windfall.
First, you have to justify that income should be taxed. Care to take a stab at it?
What form of coercion did the CEOs use to get their wages increased? Blackmail? Terrorism?
If the CEOs did not threaten their companies to pay them more, then how much they make is a result of the negotiations between the two of them. If you have evidence that some form of collusion or coercion was involved, I suggest you present it. Conspiracy theories about "hand picked committees" don't cut it.
If you think that negotiating for the best salary possible is a "windfall", perhaps you should define "deserved". Since most of a CEO's compensation is in stock options, if they do not run the company well enough to increase stock prices, they lose money.
And not everyone agrees that CEOs are grossly over paid, much less making 430 TIMES what the average employee does. (Chief Executive pay in the United States: avarice or incentive?)
If you do not like how the government is handling things - you seem to believe it has been corrupted by "Big Oil" - then is that not an argument that an ever more powerful and invasive state will NOT lead to greater prosperity?
And finally how did you arrive at this conclusion that the wealthy must pay a proportionally greater share of their income to support our society? Do the police arrive their homes in half the time than that of the average American? Does EMS? Is 200% of the average amount of effort put into defending their homes from fires or floods? Otherwise the wealthy are being told that they must pay a premium for the same services, or go to jail. You made 5 Million dollars this year? We will take 35% of your income to pay for the services you consume. Had you made $30,000, we would take 15%. So what is the moral argument for forcing one person to pay twice the RATE the other does?
Engineer-poet, you seem to overlook that taxation is based on force. It is not an open market, where is you don't like the options you can opt out. If you refuse to pay taxes because you believe that the state is doing a job so poor it is not worth paying what you are charged, you go to jail. And if you resist, they have the authority to kill you.
"If you do not like how the government is handling things - you seem to believe it has been corrupted by "Big Oil" - then is that not an argument that an ever more powerful and invasive state will NOT lead to greater prosperity?"
Here is where the big govt types have their greatest blind spot. Their solution to any problem is always more govt, but they refuse to see that the more powerfull the govt, the more incentive businesses (and anyone else tht wants special treatment) will have to corrupt the system. Bribing politicians is usually easier and cheaper than doing actual work.
When that corruption shows up, the call goes out for MORE govt power to stop it. The process repeats, but lefties never seem to make the connection between power and corruption, especially when they are in power.
Part of the problem is that the super-rich *don't* pay taxes. At least on income.
For example, when John Kerry's wife, Teresa, released her (redacted) tax filings, it turns out that she was paying approximately 3x what I paid.
But I can *promise* you, that she had a whole hellva lot more than 3x my income. (I wasn't jetting around on a, well, JET, for one).
That's my problem with the whole concept of an Income tax - when you're rich, you get to redefine the heck out of "income" and pay people more than I make a year to make sure you don't have to pay a lot.
Want to make it fairer? Then lets get busy getting rid (or gutting) the IRS, and go to a straight consumption/sales tax.
Tax breaks? Too complex to get into here, but yes, they're problematic.
As for killing "hybrid" development, well, the engineer in me says "fine, good". The current crop of "hybrids" is a perfect example of wasteful cost-shifting in the name of political correctness. The efficiency gained (in most cases, it's lost) simply isn't worth the huge tooling up that's currently going on.
In a anti-DenBestian mood, I disagree with SDB on his contrarian views of *any* alternative energy. 120 years ago, we'd have sneered at anybody proposing seriously to run the country on petroleum. (Lest you forget, in WWII, the Germans were still using horses for the majority of their supply trains - before we started bombing).
When something comes out that works better/cheaper - it'll prove ITSELF.
The strawman about Exxon's profits is silly. On the one hand, you deride them for stopping research, and then you deride them for having research into new fields making them money, EP.
"In the past few decades the average executive compensation has climbed from ~40 times the average wage to over 430 times."
Average - of the largest companies.
But we've also seen a huge explosion in small, > 15 people companies as the information revolution continues to spread it's benefit, and allow people to work in a smarter, smaller fashion.
That's not to excuse the incest prevalent in the current BoD craze. But let us note. 1) that the BoD incest is largely due to current regulation of companies, so people get together to work around it. 2) attempting to "correct" it via more regulation is bound to fail, miserably. Hell, look what happened when they tried to regulate executive compensation in the late 80s.
So, which is the company that will give me the best chances of making a living oppressing the poors?
Exxon-mobil, Halliburton or Carlyle? It's time for me to get a real job, you know...
Addison, I share your enthusiasm for the notion of a national sales tax.
But, you should you browse the web site of the Congressional Budget Office before suggesting that one rich person is representative of all rich people. Fact is, overall, the "super rich" DO pay taxes. They pay LOTS of taxes.
Go see http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/70xx/doc7000/12-29-FedTaxRates.pdf, which is a pdf document on the CBO web site. They are not easy to dig for, but there are many such documents available on that site.
In it, consider the numbers for the year 2003, which is the most recent year for which numbers are available. (The analysis for 2004 isn't ready yet and the taxes for 2005 haven't been fully collected yet.)
In this document, you'll find that those households with the top 1% of income have an average income of $1,022,400 per year, on which they paid an average individual income tax rate of 20.6%, plus Social Security and other taxes for an overall federal tax rate of 31.4%, and they paid 34.6% of all federal income taxes collected. If you dig elsewhere, you'll find this same percentile had about 16% of all the income.
Perhaps you could spend a LONG time looking at such data and then try to convince us that "the rich" (meaning those with high incomes), overall, don't pay their fair share of income tax. Of course you can find exceptions, but a sample with a size of one is not representative of anything.
Of course Krauthammer is correct. Liberals possess an inherent belief - nay, faith - that 'social justice' (a term they all use but few can actually define with any specificity, being that it is an inchoate notion arising from their feelings and a general sense that equality of condition is a desireable goal) would be acheived on Earth *if only enough people were to wish it so*.
Since it has not yet been acheived, the actual conditions in which people live - that inconvenient reality thing - are imperfect. Not being the state of perfection liberals *just know* is perfectly acheivable, it those conditions are therefore an undesireable evil. And, necessarily, anyone who does not join in wishing it so with them to acheive the system of perfection - social justice - must, perforce, *desire* that the present evil conditions persist. Such people must therefore be evil.
Holy sh!t, Dodd, YOU'RE ALIVE!
Nice to hear from you again!
...some nations have executive pay on the order of 10 times the average...
You cite Nokia as an example, but I don't understand where that 10x factor comes from. When my husband worked as an engineer for Nokia in the late 90s, engineers earned an average of $35,000-$40,000. According to this Helsinki newspaper article, Jorma Ollila made a total of FIM 86M ($17M) in 1999. That's still over 400x the groundfloor wage.
That $17M might seem modest by the highest U.S. standards, but Hubby points out that the overall pay-scale in Europe also affects the top level. My husband earned $35k at Nokia, but the same job in the U.S. pays $80k. That difference at the ground level is also reflected in the difference in CEO compensations. But the biggest factor is a welfare-state peculiarity that most people in the U.S. don't know about. Finland, for instance, makes it exceedingly difficult for companies to hire people and pay them well: every employer in Finland has to pay the government 150% of every one of its employees' salary. So, if you hire an engineer for $35k, it really costs the company $87,500. If you pay a CEO a $2M salary, it costs the company $5M. (That's money the company would just piss away, though.) But it will please you to know that CEOs pay their fair share to the government coffers. The income tax rate for $2M is 76%, while the average worker pays only 40% on $35k.
Aye, Kevin. I'm still around. And thanks for the kind words. Expect me to pop up from time to time - especially since you're still producing such excellent work.
Speaking of hubris, how about this?
Certain states re-wrote their laws of corporate governance to make e.g. challenges to board slates prohibitively difficult, and corporations quietly re-incorporated there if they hadn't already. Shareholders weren't asked if they wanted to give up all control over executive compensation to people with clear conflicts of interest, it "just happened".
Sometimes shit "just happens", but most times, PEOPLE do shit.
The top marginal Federal tax rate is what, 35% now? That's what the top execs pay, but I pay nearly 50% marginal rate. It's the middle class which pays most taxes, not the Bushes, Cheneys, and Heinz-Kerry's.
Engineer-poet, you seem to overlook that taxation is based on force.
Dammit, the beginning of my comment was lost. Just mentally prepend this to the above:
What form of coercion did the CEOs use to get their wages increased? Blackmail? Terrorism?
You used an excerpt from one of Sowell's books in your essay. Here are a couple from some of his weekly columns (One of the 15 or so that I read regularly)
"What is wrong with America, in the eyes of the intelligentsia? The same things that are right with America in the eyes of others.
If one word rings out, and echoes around the world, when America is mentioned, that word is Freedom. But what does freedom mean?
It means that hundreds of millions of ordinary human beings live their lives as they see fit -- regardless of what their betters think. That is fine, unless you see yourself as one of their betters, as so many intellectuals do...
As we celebrate both our country's independence and our individual independence on the Fourth of July, we should never forget that this independence is galling to those who want us to be dependent on them."
"The fact that academics are overwhelmingly of the political left is perfectly consistent with their assumption that third parties -- especially third parties like themselves -- should be controlling the decisions of other people who have first-hand knowledge and experience."
"If people are free to do as they wish, they are almost certain not to do as we wish. That is why Utopian planners end up as despots, whether at the national level or at the level of the local 'redevelopment' agency."
I just thought they were appropriate.
Excellent essay as usual.
And those rich folks have been able to focus that force disproportionately on people like me instead of themselves. I find this more than just a little galling, when all the police, fire, legal and other establishments paid for by those taxes benefit them far out of proportion to what they're paying.
How exactly are the rich people forcing this on people like you?
Anyway, my household pays something like $20,000 a year in income taxes. Meanwhile, rich guy across town pays $100,000 in taxes. I'd love to know how he's getting more benefit from the police, fire, and courts for that extra $85,000. Is this like belonging to the Stonecutters, where the rich people know that the real number to call is 912?
Sheesh, I can't do math. For that extra $80,000, I meant to say.
If he grosses fifteen, ten or even 8 times as much as you do, it answers your question.
How do you pay a 50% marginal rate of Federal Income Tax, Engineer Poet? Do you volunteer?
The state demands 25% of a single wage earner's income up to around 75k. If that person made 200k, they would demand 35%. So the person paying 200k pays more in absolute dollars, AND in percentage.
That does not include FICA taxes, or state income tax, or sales tax, or property taxes, or gas taxes.
Some FICA taxes top out below 100k (Social Security), while others go on forever. A Ceo pays 2% of income in Medicare/Medicaid. If he makes 2 Million dollars, that is 40k a year into a system he will likely never need. That 40k is higher than the TOTAL tax burden of most Americans.
Most State income taxes are also "progressive", so the more money you make, the higher a percentage you are called upon to pay.
Property taxes depend on the value of your home, AND the size of homestead exemption, if any. For example, in Louisiana, homeowners can claim a $75,000 exemption on their primary residence. The value of the average home in Baton Rouge just over $88,000. So a middle class family that owns one house, which they live in, owes the tax value of $13,000. Whereas a man who makes, say $400,000, and owns one home valued at $325,000, has to pay taxes on $250,000. The people with the 88k home got an 85% reduction in taxes, the guy with the 325k home got a 33%.
Sales taxes and gas taxes are applied equally, and the amount you pay varies only by consumption.
So if the "rich" are paying a higher PERCENTAGE of their income into State and Federal Income Taxes, AND get less relief, by percentage, from property taxes than the middle class, HOW again are they hosing the middle class?
How exactly are the top 5%, who paid 54.36% of Federal income taxes in 2003, hosing the bottom 75%, who paid 16.12%? ( http://www.taxfoundation.org/news/show/250.html)
Especially when those who paid 54.36% of federal taxes, only earned 31.18% of the Gross Income of workers in the United States? After exemptions, deduction and tax credits, the top 1% paid 24.31% of their income in the Fed's coffers. The top 5% paid 20.74%. The bottom HALF of taxpayers paid 2.95% of their income.
So who is getting hosed again here, E-P?
If he grosses fifteen, ten or even 8 times as much as you do, it answers your question.
No, it doesn't. I want specifics. How does paying $80,000 extra in taxes every year get you more benefits from the police, fire, and courts?
I looked in "Forms and Instructions" for my Federal Form 1040 taxes for 2005. On page 82, I found the "2005 Tax Rate Schedules". Let's look at the tax computations for "married filing jointly", and at the marginal rates as taxable income increases.
0 to 14,600, marginal rate is 10%
14,600 to 59,400, marginal rate is 15%
59,400 to 119,950, marginal rate is 25%
119,950 to 182,800, marginal rate is 28%
182,800 to 326,450, marginal rate is 33%
over 326,450, marginal rate is 35%
If we also examine the numbers for the other categories, i.e. "single", "married filing separately", and "head of household", we find the same marginal rates are applied to different ranges of taxable incomes.
We see two simple facts here: 1) NOBODY pays a marginal rate higher than 35%; and 2) the marginal rate increases as taxable income increases, meaning those with higher taxable incomes pay a higher marginal rate.
Now, let's look again at the .pdf file I cited above.
On page 4, we see that those in the top 5 percentile of income have an average pre-tax income of $377,300 per year. To me, that's not "middle class", and it damned sure ain't "poor". That top 5 percentile in income comprises 5.8 million people, which is about 1.9% of the whole population.
On page 5, we see that those in this top 5 percentile of income pay 56.6% of all individual income taxes paid. That's a bit more than half.
Now let's put that in a single sentence. The 1.9% of the population with the highest income, which comprises the top 5% of those with income, have an income that is way above "middle class", and they pay 56.6% of the individual income taxes paid.
Look further -- there are millions more people with income well above "middle class". Look at the top 10 percentile, with income averaging $260,000 per year (that's over a QUARTER MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR), and you'll see that they pay 69.6% of individual income tax paid.
If the concern is all federal taxes and not just income taxes, then note that the highest quintile (i.e. highest 20%) have an average income of $184,500 per year, which is still well above "middle class", pay 65.7% of all federal taxes.
So, if you would have us believe that "it's the middle class which pay most taxes", then SHOW US.
Stubborn things, facts.
Yessir, that's the quote.
BTW, Didn't want to sidetrack and get on a tangent with this thread.
"But, you should you browse the web site of the Congressional Budget Office before suggesting that one rich person is representative of all rich people. Fact is, overall, the "super rich" DO pay taxes. They pay LOTS of taxes."
Right, sorry, didn't mean to imply, as I did, that the very very rich pay no taxes at all.
However; they *do* have *many* tax breaks and vehicles that we don't, at any level. And that's part of the problem with the tax system, as I see it - I don't know how much you're paying when you get to those brackets, but by the (granted, possibly not-typical) tax disclosures of the rich running for office, it's to my mind, staggeringly low. (Arianna Huffington, $864, IIRC, in ***3 years?***?!?!). Teresa Heinz might be an aberration, but I can't imagine that it's THAT odd, I mean, why would you pay hundreds of thousands in additional taxes if you could legitimately save them, by paying someone a mere $100k or so a year to arrange your finances just so?
Add the complexities of the Trust Funds, which are how the super-rich keep their money protected (Kennedy family, anyone?) (and due to income and inheritance taxes)... and I just think we'd be very well suited to changing all those vehicles to a much more level, much less politically influenced, simpler code. Sorry if I was a bit short and as a result, imprecise.
There are a vew very important things to keep in mind when discussing income taxes. They are:
1) Wealth and income are not the same thing;
2) the income tax is a tax on income, not on wealth; and
3) not everyone with income has wealth, and not everyone with wealth has income.
I do not quibble that Arianna Huffington and Ms. Ketchup are quite wealthy. Where I do quibble is that, when discussing how much they pay in income taxes, their wealth is irrelevant. It is not their wealth that is taxed by the income tax, it is their income that is taxed by the income tax.
The key to my point of view is that, without seeing their actual tax returns, I have no way whatever of making any rational judgments about any "fairness" aspects thereof. So I don't make any such judgments about any individual.
I wholeheartedly follow the teachings of Judge Learned Hand: "There is nothing sinister in so arranging one's affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible," and "any one may so arrange his affairs that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which will best pay the Treasury; there is not even a patriotic duty to increase one's taxes".
So, when I see comments about the "income taxes" of the "super rich", the hair stands up on the back of my neck. Such thinking is fundamentally twisted and irrational.
If you can't put real numbers on it, it's not science and it's not engineering, it's opinion. My opinion is that an opinion about numbers that isn't supported by verifiable numbers is like an asshole -- most everyone has one of each and neither bears close scrutiny.
What those with a lot of wealth do that those without wealth don't do is shelter their wealth from estate taxes. Good for them. I have NEVER, EVER supported estate or "death" taxes. I have never, ever understood any rationale for why what I own should go to the government on my death.
And, finally, you are absolutely correct that we need
"a much more level, much less politically influenced, simpler code"
How about abolishing the IRS, the federal income tax, capital gains tax, alternative minimum tax, gift tax, estate tax, Social Security tax, Medicare tax, self-employment tax, and corporate income tax? How about ending the astonishing amount if disincentives these taxes unavoidably have? How about ending the influence of special interest groups that lobby for special tax rules for their own constituents? How about ending the billions of man-hours of effort and hundreds of billions of dollars of expense involved each year in simply complying with tens of thousands of pages of regulations?
How about doing so FAIRLY?
I support the "Fair Tax" wholeheartedly. There's not a day go by that I don't study the proposed tax a bit more. Go ahead -- convince me it's wrong or not "fair", but READ it, UNDERSTAND it, and THINK about it first.
You'll find it at http://www.fairtax.org/
"I have never, ever understood any rationale for why what I own should go to the government on my death."
Well, the Leftist one seems to be: "You don't perceive a greater concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands -- which is inevitably what would happen without a social safety net -- as a problem."
You see, "death taxes" (and other taxes) are there not to provide a "social safety net" (though that's the excuse, and a difficult one to counter) but to prevent "a greater concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands." This is, to the Left, a great evil, if not the great evil.
But you're too selfish to understand, don'tcha see?
Yup, I know the leftist line. I understand the "what", but not the "why". I can't get my head around the notion that being wealthy is wrong.
In my comment, I should have added that there is one other thing that wealthy people do with their wealth. They create and run business which employ people. After all, if you want to work to feed your family, who ya gonna ask -- someone with wealth, or someone who is poor?
Consider the person who owns the business where I worked for 22 years. He is quite wealthy. I don't know his exact wealth, as he keeps such matters close to his chest, but I know of many of his activities. So, I think have a reasonable estimate.
Now suppose the government took all his wealth from him and distributed it amongst the great unwashed of this country. Everyone would be less than one beer more wealthy. But, more than five thousand people who work directly for him would no longer have jobs, and the tens of thousands of people who make a living using the tools his company produces would no longer have jobs, and so on.
I know which situation I prefer.
"I can't get my head around the notion that being wealthy is wrong."
The economy is a zero-sum game. If one person accumulates wealth, then he "steals" it from the poor downtrodden.
At least, that seems to be the mantra.
As far as I'm concerned it's because money = power, and they believe power should be held only by government, which they convince themselves is "the people." The only "fair" way for us to exist is if we're all "equal" - and rich people are "more equal" than those that aren't.
Therefore the accumulation of wealth is "unfair."
Kevin, perhaps you should have quoted more of tgirsch's comment. A slightly more complete quote is:
"You don't perceive a greater concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands -- which is inevitably what would happen without a social safety net -- as a problem. I do."
Your response was
"Tgirsch, I think I'm going to get another Den Bestian-length essay out of this comment thread."
and you're right. It's WAY to significant a subject for an essay in the comment thread. But it needs an essay.
What I find most objectionable about this comment is it's nature. Those of us who don't follow the leftist bent are often told what we think by those who do, after which we are castigated for thinking it. Very rarely are we ever asked what we think, and even more rarely are our answers heard. It is so tiresome.
This is often used in a sleight-of-hand manner, as it was in the quoted comment. You are taken to task for not agreeing that a result of a stated cause-and-effect mechanism is a "problem", which neatly sidesteps the all-important (to me, at least) task of first proving that the cause-and-effect mechanism actually exists. The question boils down to, "How does one prove the premise that, if a portion of the taxes levied on income and payrolls is not simply distributed to others (which is what it is done, no matter by what pretty name it's called), then wealth will concentrate into fewer and fewer hands?"
It is a postulate of the left. Asking them to prove is a fair question, but the usual result is a screaming fit, but not proof.
As an opinion, however, I don't view a concentration of a lot of wealth in a few hands as a problem. Such wealth is not stuffed into mattresses. It exists, one way or another, in the form of investments in business which means people work, which means wealth is created, some of which is distributed in the form of wages and salaries to those who work. Sounds better every time I hear it.
Damn. I need to slow down. My speling is geting rilly wurser.
Anyway, everytime I see Socialism is a beautiful idea I have to vomit a little. This is a fallacy and a misrepresentation of the premises of Socialism. That lovely system DENIES the existence of the self, the individual. It subjugates all individuals to the collective, society, or whatever -- by definition. This is how 'they' raionalize away liberty. This is the definition of darkness and ugly vomitous crap. And the very reason why it only leads to such.
On the other hand selfishness and benevolence are not mutually exclusive or incompatible -- as Capitalism has demonstrated. In fact they can be and are often one in the same. No hubris or arrogance implied.
Socialism denies the self, oh smallist minority.
First, I have to say that your essays never fail to fascinate me, Kevin. I've authored a few magazine articles over the years, and engaged in the largely masturbatory act of writing two (unpublished) novels, and frankly, your ability to organize and present your essays with such clarity, focus, and depth, quite simply amazes. You are what my dad would have called "spooky-smart."
Your Robert Godwin quote regarding the liberal reliance on simplistic, feel-good slogans such as "war is not the answer" reminded me of a conversation I had with my daughter. Now, she is also one of the "spooky-smart", always has been, and, having been raised in my home, she is generally fairly bullshit-proof. However, as a gifted 18 year old thriving in the academic environment of the University of WI, Madison, it was both forseeable and unavoidable that she should be at least mildly seduced by the leftist group-think mentality. In the fall of 2004, just a week before her brother departed for Marine Corps boot camp, my wife and I took him for a farewell visit with her at the campus. We were all seated at a table in a crowded student cafeteria having lunch, when the topic of discussion turned to the war in Iraq. While making it clear that she supported her big brother unequivocally, my daughter went on to express in no uncertain terms that "the Bush administration" was just plain wrong to be sending him to fight a war that is, apparently, all our fault, concluding her little leftist diatribe with a smug, "after all, war is never the answer." I looked her in the eyes and let that turd just sort of hang there in the air for a good ten seconds, before replying.
"Never the answer? Kinda depends on the question, doesn't it? If the question is, how do we deal with the evil motherfuckers in the world, who think nothing of killing and torturing scores of their own people to accomplish their goals, who've declared to the world their intent to visit wholesale death and destruction on our country - on you and me - because we dare to live and prosper outside of their medieval cult of oppression? If the question is, how do we prevent these rabid scumbags from flying planes into buildings, or loosing the plague in a shopping mall, or detonating a nuke right here in your dormitory? There is only one answer to those questions: you kill the bastards. You send in the Marines, and you hit them where they live. Along the way, you bring hope and humanity to those they've oppressed, and any damn one of them who tries to stop you finds out first-hand that they done fucked with the wrong country. Hell, they started this war. War is never the answer? Shit! War was their fucking question!" (Note: This was at least the gist of my response, though at the time I was probably somewhat less eloquent and somewhat more profane.)
To her credit, I could see in her eyes that my words had jarred her, and that they would henceforth be given due consideration.
As has been thoroughly noted here, a primary difference between leftists and conservatives, is that conservatives believe and endorse that which works, while leftists believe in that which is lofty and "beautiful", and ultimately unattainable. It would be beautiful if we could settle matters with our enemies peacefully, perhaps over cocktails at a faculty fundraiser in support of underpriveleged, illegal alien, twice-parolled pedophiles. Realistically, though, the only way to eliminate the conflict is by means which have been observed to actually work, and killing a terrorist generally prevents them from engaging in further mischief. It would be nice to be loved, but barring that, it will do just as well to be feared.
Okay, that's just about enough outta me...