Pony Empress Jace

Freedom: What's it worth?

97 posts in this topic

6 minutes ago, Mlle. Zabzie said:

Look any action the government takes affects social policy.  This is a given.  But, in my view, the best tax system is NOT a tax system that tries to influence consumer or producer behavior or pick tax winners or losers by industry or geography, except accidentally.  In other words, the tax system should not encourage or promote (or discourage or disincentivize) behaviors that are made economic (or not) merely because of taxes.  Therefore, from a policy perspective I dislike the following:  any special tax deduction or credit that is aimed at a particular industry (I dislike it for oil and gas and I dislike it for clean energy, I particularly abhor it for real estate, but that's another discussion all together); any particular tax, tax credit or deduction that is aimed at a specific activity (anything from "sin taxes" to historic preservation).  I dislike tax items that depend on the intent of the actor (you get it if you have the right state of mind, you don't otherwise - looking at you charitable contributions).  The tax system will cause behavioral changes.  Of course it will.  But my own view is that the primary purpose should be revenue collection, there shouldn't be social policy goals.  If you want to encourage investment in "empowerment zones" the government should just spend its own money there rather than creating a tax incentive and trusting the "free market" to provide.  That is how tax shelters are born.  The revenue agents should not and cannot be in charge of making sure that private actors are accountable to the (often mysterious) social policy goals.  People aren't rational actors and the tax code shouldn't pretend they are by trying to "encourage" behavior indirectly.

Gotcha, thanks for explaining that, I know you've mentioned it before and always meant to ask.  

 

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54 minutes ago, larrytheimp said:

Gotcha, thanks for explaining that, I know you've mentioned it before and always meant to ask.  

 

Any time :)  Always happy to discuss my views on tax policy.

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Posted (edited)

7 hours ago, Mlle. Zabzie said:

 

Ok, both of you, tell me what is "income."  We currently have a concept of "gross income," which is "all income from whatever source derived."  This is all well and good as far as it goes, but what does that mean.  It could mean cash receipts (it could, but it doesn't, unless you are an individual, and then only sometimes - phantom/dry income does cause tax for individuals too).  It could mean income that has accrued, whether or not cash has been received.  Ok, fine - when does income accrue?  Annually?  Monthly?  Daily?  What does "accrue" mean?  (We have a definition now - all events have occurred to fix the entitlement, but even that is a philosophical question in the modern world; also GAAP and IFRS come to a different view).  When does gain crystalize?  How do you take into account option value and bargain purchases?  What about costs incurred in producing that income?  Which count?  Why do they count?  If you have a gross revenue tax, what about companies that are losing money (by whatever definition)?   

Okay, I usually think of income as being a flow quantity that is produced by some stock quantity (ie the stock of capital for instance) and that’s about it, as I tend to think in very stylized models.

But  of course, in the real world, measurement, timing, and matching issues are complicated and as a result any tax system of income is going to be complex.

And since this is your area of expertise and your bread and butter, at this time, I’ll go ahead and turn and run out of this before it turns into something like Muhammad Ali about to get into the boxing ring with the local neighborhood thug, where the local neighborhood thug ends up getting massacred.

7 hours ago, Mlle. Zabzie said:

Now, I do agree that politician sorts of people decided that they would try to enact social policy through the incentives of the tax codes.  Both liberals and conservatives seem to think this is a good idea.  Eff that.  It's terrible tax policy.  In my view taxes should be, to the greatest extent possible behavior neutral.  Adding these incentives is the problem.

I think this was the main thrust of I was getting at. I think typically implementing social policy through the tax code is a bad idea. And based on your comments, I don’t think we would disagree much.

To my knowledge, there is something on the order of about 1 trillion dollars that get spent through the tax code and accordingly there is a lack of transparency where the money is going and for what purpose. It seems to me tracking what we are spending on would be lot simpler and more transparent if we just cut checks most of the time.

The only exception I might make would be for certain sorts of Pigovian taxes.

Edited by OldGimletEye

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I've been reading through this and much of what I think has been suggested already.

Certainly, though, there has been something not quite nailed down: When you say "freedom", define it more specifically as I think that not everyone is assuming that it's the same thing.

Freedom could be a license to do whatever you want, but it could be just the idea that you get to contribute equally to the best of your ability.

There's also an underlying assumption that all human societies are - and must be - hierarchical. They are certainly the most common sort of society, but they're not the exclusive sort.

There are also limiting factors placed upon freedoms due to our environment. You may think, for instance, that it's within your freedoms to refuse vaccinations. However, this decision incrementally increases the statistical probability of a pandemic outbreak. If enough people make this decision, it only takes a tourist visiting a country without herd immunity to wipe out thousands of lives.

Similarly, freedom to access food and water are no doubt agreed upon by all (I hope). Yet consider the way we think of ourselves free to grow food as rapidly as possible, and have a high-meat diet. These are not sustainable, as this relies on fertilisers from fossil fuels, and one way or another we have to stop using them.

And to add my thoughts to the current discussion on taxes: it is utterly selfish not to contribute to the society that raised you. No one was raised without the assistance of their society. I say this straight faced and honestly: I don't pay enough tax. My parents grew up with wide-scale infrastructure projects as the norm, with public transport expanding rapidly, free university and healthcare. Since then, the university has been rescinded and the infrastructure wound back.

Tax cuts get you re-elected but the obvious penalty is that less is actually done. I don't think that is a fair enough trade-off.

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22 hours ago, dmc515 said:

The list of US "interventions" and its consequence therein is readily available.  If you need some other poster to fill you in on the details, you're decidedly lacking in any intellectual curiosity.  Use the googles.

I know how to find the list of interventions. :rolleyes: The reason I mentioned solo is that I was hoping he'd come see this thread -- I wanted to see his reaction to the first post.

22 hours ago, dmc515 said:

The hits just keep on coming.  Where?  When?  Why?  Do you have anything to back this up?  Please provide any type of support instead of making shit up.

The obvious examples from the twentieth century are Martin Luther King Jr. (not the assassination, but the behavior of the intelligence community) and Eugene V. Debs. There are very few people nowadays who pose a genuine threat to the system, but even relatively harmless actions not sanctioned by one of the two parties tend to get stomped (e.g. the 1999 Seattle protests).

Regarding the oligarchic bureaucracy: other people have already covered this, but indeed, I meant a bureaucracy in the service of an oligarchy. And no, I don't think that individual civil servants are evil -- but the overall effect of the system is to create inertia and an ever-growing set of regulations. Sure, it does a great job of protecting the status quo... but that's only a good thing for the people who benefit from the latter.

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There is also the Kafkaesque aspect of many bureaucracies. They can turn utterly inhuman in trivial aspects. The also cloud over important differences of content or "matter" in favor of supposed equality in formal treatment. The replacement of "material justice" with "correct formal procedure" is also an effect of modern systems of law and bureaucracy. Of course there is nothing wrong with correct formal procedure. The problem is that in many cases it has taken precedence over material justice.

I just read a little note on small local (family business) butchers in the (German) local press. They are vanishing, partly because they cannot keep up with the regulations designed for huge slaughtering factories and the meatpacking industry. (As a compromise they often don't slaughter the animals themselves but get the meat at the slaughterhouse and then make sausages etc.)  This is another aspect of probably well-meant regulation running amuck and in the end favoring a bad outcome, namely industrialized meat production that is worse for humans, animals and the environment. Of course there is no easy way out because fewer regulations could make things even worse.

 

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22 hours ago, larrytheimp said:

It's actually pretty easy to argue that many aspects of the bureaucracy are oligarchic in nature especially in the US.  I'm sure Chomsky would agree.  

I'm sure he would.  And like most of his forays into politics, he'd be incredibly wrong.

22 hours ago, larrytheimp said:

At the end of the day the administrative agencies are under the power of the executive branch and they don't change overnight.  But that doesn't mean they weren't built to be tools for the people that run this country.  

Ok, but this is distinct from my interpretation of "oligarchic bureaucracy."  To me that clearly indicates the bureaucracy itself is oligarchic, which is what I found so ridiculous because the top-level of the bureaucracy time and again has great difficulty controlling their agency - meaning power is particularly diffuse in agencies making them rather uniquely non-oligarchic compared to most organizations, government or otherwise.  If you want to say bureaucracy serves oligarchs or the elites in this country, that's entirely different.  Obviously, they can and do in some cases, but (1) this is not why many if not most agencies were created, and (2) they often are the only and/or most effective tools at combating oligarchic interests.

Take your subsequent examples.  I'll give you the MIC, but that's a rather unique case because the government is the consumer, whereas in almost all other cases the interaction between interests and agencies is one of the latter either subsidizing, regulating, or advocating for the former.  But as you mentioned with the IRS, they tend to target the wealthy - their pursuit of tax fraud is quite clearly disproportionately targeted towards the those with higher income.  I don't know how you can blame them for federal tax policy, nor how you can blame the bureaucracy for Jim Crow.

As for the financial sector, this broaches the oft-cited reason for bureaucrats serving oligarchs - regulatory capture.  Carpenter and Moss (2013) co-edited a book (quite literally) on preventing regulatory capture, bringing together seventeen scholars across multiple disciplines.  The most striking thing about these offering as how almost every submission points out the notion and/or extent of regulatory capture is not only overwrought, but often misdiagnosed.  

More nuanced terms are proposed - McCarty (Chapter 5) formalizes a model that identifies "weak capture" in which firms extract "expertise rents" from the agencies regulating them due to the former's informational advantage, Carpenter (Chapter 7) describes "corrosive capture" in which oligarchical interests such as the pharmaceutical industry shape the conversation into an anti-regulatory nature (in this case for drugs).

Even James Kwak, perhaps the embodiment of arguing agencies serve the oligarchs of the financial industry considering his previous polemic, backs away from describing the relationship between regulators and the financial industry as regulatory capture.  Instead, he proposes the industry is able to shape regulators' beliefs and actions because of "cultural capture," which entails identity, status, and relationships as leading regulators to act "irrationally."  

The underlying assumption here is that only favoring regulation is "rational" and any deregulatory beliefs are necessarily "irrational."  But, as Gordon and Hafer (Chapter 9) demonstrate, bureaucracies are attuned to political winds, and unsurprisingly regulators tend to favor industry's positions far more under Republican administrations.  In other words, if you want financial regulators to aggressively pursue the oligarchs instead of serving them, stop electing officeholders that are the real tools of oligarchs. 

23 hours ago, larrytheimp said:

Bureaucracy is just a system, and it's a tool.  What's idiotic is looking at US history and trying to claim that it hasn't been constantly used as such by the elites and power brokers and robber barons.

No, what's idiotic is viewing bureaucracy as merely a tool.  There's an entire body of literature of delegation models (e.g. Bawn 1995; Epstein & O'Halloran 1999; Huber & Shipan 2002; Volden 2002) that demonstrate each principal (Congress and the president) will delegate policymaking authority to agencies due to the latter's informational advantage (conditioned on whether Congress and the president's preferences align).  

In fact, mid-level bureaucrats have been able to achieve autonomy since at least the progressive era - Carpenter (2001) shows how by cultivating merit-based reputations, agencies "can change the agendas and preferences of politicians and the organized public" (15).  I'm not in the business of distinguishing "good" from "bad" policy outcomes, but the examples of careerist bureaucrats implementing policy outcomes at odds with the aims of either principal are legion.  There's an entire term for (bureaucratic drift)!  In this way, bureaucracy is decidedly not a tool nor oligarchic.

23 hours ago, larrytheimp said:

Your response to the term 'oligarchic bureaucracies' is histrionic, and frankly, you're better than that.

Yeah, well, I was drunk and attributing the US' oligarchic tendencies to bureaucracies really strikes a nerve.

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6 hours ago, Altherion said:

Regarding the oligarchic bureaucracy: other people have already covered this, but indeed, I meant a bureaucracy in the service of an oligarchy.

Ok, sorry for misunderstanding, but perhaps in the future be more clear than using a term like "oligarchic bureaucracy" that plainly suggests otherwise.  As for bureaucracy serving oligarchs, see above.

6 hours ago, Altherion said:

but the overall effect of the system is to create inertia and an ever-growing set of regulations. Sure, it does a great job of protecting the status quo... but that's only a good thing for the people who benefit from the latter.

Um, more regulations doesn't serve oligarchs - in fact the primary criticism of capture theory is just the opposite (again, see above).  As for protecting the status quo, only inasmuch as policymaking inertia is perpetuated by officeholders.  Bureaucratic drift, as well as instances when the president enjoys coordination and shared preferences with an agency, is actually one of the only ways in which to alter the policymaking status quo in the face of legislative gridlock.

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Christ no, I think this idea of some ideological "team democracy" killing dictators (and their babies) is terrible. Because when powerful people interfere in other countries' affairs, they do it for purely humanitarian reasons approximately never. No matter how noble your intentions, the result will be the exploitation of weaker nations. 

I'm not a pacifist and I do accept liberal intervention, under strict guidelines. But not for regime change. 

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On 4/13/2018 at 8:17 PM, dmc515 said:

Um, more regulations doesn't serve oligarchs - in fact the primary criticism of capture theory is just the opposite (again, see above).  As for protecting the status quo, only inasmuch as policymaking inertia is perpetuated by officeholders.  Bureaucratic drift, as well as instances when the president enjoys coordination and shared preferences with an agency, is actually one of the only ways in which to alter the policymaking status quo in the face of legislative gridlock.

Yes, I agree with that. Tax laws are invariably inaccessible to the average person not because they're inherently complicated, but because they serve the interests of those who wrote them.

It's no coincidence that the people who write laws are the ones who benefit from them. And when it's difficult to circumvent them, they simply eliminate them altogether. Highly (and fairly) regulated systems are difficult for oligarchs to thrive in. Bureaucracies are a means of worthwhile regulation, especially when their agencies carry real power, are open and operate within free and fair legal systems.

Oligarchs don't like bureaucrats because they hold them to account for their actions. Society bears the costs of oligarchs no matter what, especially the externalities such as environmental destruction, people pushed onto welfare, traffic congestion and so on; things that oligarchs make no effort to repair but are excellent at causing as side-effects to their indifference to anything that doesn't make profit.

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On 4/13/2018 at 6:17 AM, dmc515 said:

Um, more regulations doesn't serve oligarchs - in fact the primary criticism of capture theory is just the opposite (again, see above).

It does when the oligarchs write the regulations -- which is fairly close to the current state of affairs. Regulation and bureaucracy in and of themselves are neutral concepts, but absent some non-trivial opposing force, those with power will bend both far past the point where they are good for anyone else.

On 4/13/2018 at 6:17 AM, dmc515 said:

Bureaucratic drift, as well as instances when the president enjoys coordination and shared preferences with an agency, is actually one of the only ways in which to alter the policymaking status quo in the face of legislative gridlock.

This is true, but I don't see how bureaucrats circumventing elected legislators serves the cause of freedom. In fact, bureaucratic drift is something we have in common with most rather repressive societies -- it's present pretty much everywhere there is a bureaucracy

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7 minutes ago, Altherion said:

It does when the oligarchs write the regulations -- which is fairly close to the current state of affairs. Regulation and bureaucracy in and of themselves are neutral concepts, but absent some non-trivial opposing force, those with power will bend both far past the point where they are good for anyone else.

First, no, regulation is not a "neutral" concept vis-a-vis oligarchs.  In the main (by far), regulations and rules empower the bureaucracy with some level of control or oversight over oligarchical interests.  Second, in regards to oligarchs "writing" regulations, again see above about capture theory and how empirical findings demonstrate it is severely overestimated.

13 minutes ago, Altherion said:

This is true, but I don't see how bureaucrats circumventing elected legislators serves the cause of freedom. In fact, bureaucratic drift is something we have in common with most rather repressive societies -- it's present pretty much everywhere there is a bureaucracy

This wasn't responding to bureaucrats serving the cause of freedom, it was responding to your notion they create inertia and perpetuating the status quo - when in fact it is quite the opposite.  Stop hopping from one subject to another.  As for bureaucratic drift being "something we have in common with most rather repressive societies," there is no correlation there, this is you talking out of your ass.

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6 minutes ago, dmc515 said:

First, no, regulation is not a "neutral" concept vis-a-vis oligarchs.  In the main (by far), regulations and rules empower the bureaucracy with some level of control or oversight over oligarchical interests.  Second, in regards to oligarchs "writing" regulations, again see above about capture theory and how empirical findings demonstrate it is severely overestimated.

This wasn't responding to bureaucrats serving the cause of freedom, it was responding to your notion they create inertia and perpetuating the status quo - when in fact it is quite the opposite.  Stop hopping from one subject to another.  As for bureaucratic drift being "something we have in common with most rather repressive societies," there is no correlation there, this is you talking out of your ass.

How's that whole net neutrality thing working out?

 

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7 minutes ago, larrytheimp said:

How's that whole net neutrality thing working out?

 

:rolleyes:  Not well since Trump was able to designate Pai chairman and nominate Carr to make it 3-2 Republican.  Elections have consequences, that's not the fault of bureaucracy.

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On 4/11/2018 at 4:44 PM, Iskaral Pust said:

It's a question that weighs on me a lot.  The US represents less than 5% of the global population.  What's our responsibility to police the rest of the world?  Why do shocking pictures of dead children, whether Syria now or drowned en route to Europe last year, deserve more response than all the suffering/dying people who don't get photographed?  Does the US owe Venezualans humanitarian support when they gleefully and recklessly created their problems for themselves over decades while heaping vitriol on America in the process?

The unfortunate reality is that good governance -- from the perspective of US culture -- with low corruption/exploitation, high competence, high individual freedoms and tolerance for all sub-groups (whether women, ethnic, religious, LGBTQ, etc) represents a small minority of the global population.  Some foreign countries would even criticize the US for being pretty bad on some of these measures: high incarceration levels, a large pool of intolerant religious people, racial inequality, low state support for the impoverished, etc; so who are we to project what governance others should have?  Should Canada invade the US to protect black men? 

Good governance is mainly a privileged enclave within the western world and is strongly influenced by a cultural commitment to Enlightenment ideals; although it's hardly a surprise that the region of the Enlightenment believes those ideals to be superior, but not else everywhere agrees.  Many "bad" governments are quite popular in their country, e.g. Russia, China, Turkey, Hungary.  Many bad governments when overthrown result in a violent power struggle.  And regardless of artificial boundaries from colonialism (which I think is a poor excuse), there are too many people in this world who will attempt economic dispossession if not actual genocide on their neighbors when the opportunity arises.

It's intolerable to sit here in the US and be safe, free and wealthy while so much of the world is not.  But there is very, very little we can do to actually make them safe, free or wealthy.  5% of the population cannot police and support the rest for very long.  Just look what 15 years of nation building in Iraq and Afghanistan achieved.  And the other wealthy countries offer even less of their resources to intervene in humanitarian crises; they're happy to rely on America's military budget while criticizing them for spending so much on the Pentagon rather than social benefits.  

I want a feasible solution.  It makes me dispirited when I think about it.  I am heartened by the huge and ongoing reduction in global poverty, and yet so many people still live under exploitative, corrupt and/or brutal regimes.  My best hope is that the emergence of an educated middle class in the developing world will eventually lead to political reform or revolution.  That was historically the path to good government, and it has been hard to skip that step and have it imposed by foreigners.  The bourgeoisie are reviled by revolutionaries but they are the core foundation to sustaining good government. 

Edit: to insert a missing "B".  No offence intended by omission.

The Catholic Church shaped what is now called "Western Civilization" with some rehashed ideas from the Greeks, so my opinion on above in bold is that religion can't be viewed as a subgroup, but a mirror of what Democracy in the USA resembles.  Now, there are different religious affiliations, but I'm gonna stick with what I sort of know for now in regards to Christianity.  Canon law, if you look at it and how it's set up, is very very similar to what the US government resembles from a large scope view, as in POTUS is the supreme pontiff (albeit with checks and balances in the executive, legislative, judicial department).  Since I don't know where the hell I'm going with the rest of this, I just felt a need to point out some of this nonsensical info.

Basically what I'm saying is fervent religious jackwagons wreck it for humans across the spectrum because they can't see past/passed? their collective noses.  Bloodshed against organized religion.  There, I said it.  Which brings me to the second bolded part: After a class of populace has enriched their neuron firing 3 pounders with the good-good, how will they choose when to reform or revolt?  They have the freedom of choice right?  Would said peoples have the collective fortitude to do whatever, w h a t e v e r  it takes to achieve freedom, personal and communal?  When was the last time you saw a revolution without any blood? Hence bloodshed.

Socrates, the Enlightenment, some colonists landing in Plymouth (the original Massholes), Emancipation, Civil Rights, LGBTQ rights.  Freedom as an idea is always caught and chased and caught and chased.  It's so big and touches all aspects of the human experience.  It is something if you have it, it can show, and something if you don't have it, it shows.  It can be used as a rallying call, or can be used in fearmongering.  Hopefully a hundred years from now, society (or what's left) will look back and see how freedom was used to shape this (2018) onward.

PSA: I am really fucking stoned & this took me way too long to post. 

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1 hour ago, dmc515 said:

First, no, regulation is not a "neutral" concept vis-a-vis oligarchs.  In the main (by far), regulations and rules empower the bureaucracy with some level of control or oversight over oligarchical interests.  Second, in regards to oligarchs "writing" regulations, again see above about capture theory and how empirical findings demonstrate it is severely overestimated.

But they don't just write regulations via regulatory capture, they also (often quite literally) write the rules which the bureaucrats are supposed to be enforcing. And yes, there is also the element of "cultural capture" you mention above -- which again favors exactly the same people.

1 hour ago, dmc515 said:

As for bureaucratic drift being "something we have in common with most rather repressive societies," there is no correlation there, this is you talking out of your ass.

Do you think careerist bureaucrats in Russia, China and the like don't implement policy outcomes which clash with the intentions of their politicians when this serves the bureaucrats' aims and they can get away with it? This kind of bureaucrat was practically a staple character of Soviet storytelling...

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8 minutes ago, Altherion said:

But they don't just write regulations via regulatory capture, they also (often quite literally) write the rules which the bureaucrats are supposed to be enforcing.

Um, writing the rules in which the bureaucrats are supposed to be enforcing is part of the definition of regulatory capture.

9 minutes ago, Altherion said:

And yes, there is also the element of "cultural capture" you mention above -- which again favors exactly the same people.

Sure, cultural capture is good way of describing certain relationships.  But that's indicative of an ideology, or at least set of preferences, dominating certain issue networks - as is "corrosive" capture.  These tend to be most prevalent when the preferences of the president and top-level appointees correspond to the agency (avoiding vertical coordination dilemmas), and/or when the agency's core mission tends to be advocacy for the interests in their policy jurisdiction.

21 minutes ago, Altherion said:

Do you think careerist bureaucrats in Russia, China and the like don't implement policy outcomes which clash with the intentions of their politicians when this serves the bureaucrats' aims and they can get away with it? This kind of bureaucrat was practically a staple character of Soviet storytelling...

As you said, bureaucratic drift is a phenomenon that occurs in every bureaucracy.  There's absolutely no evidence it's any more prevalent in repressive regimes, in fact my prior would be it's far less so.

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