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Freedom: What's it worth?

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54 minutes ago, larrytheimp said:

I didn't read it in that the bureaucrats are oligarchs (although I suppose that's a valid interpretation) but rather that the bureaucracies themselves are essentially created by oligarchs with some lip-service paid to addressing concerns of the people.  I don't think this is that controversial, especially in the US. 

This reading makes much more sense, but I do hope it's still controversial. The idea that American bureaucrats don't actually care for the people is close to saying that most government departments and regulations are useless. It's equally ridiculous to claim that laws and regulations mainly benefit the 1%. Of course, it's easier to navigate the courts with money (and influence), but all in all laws and regulations are more of a hindrance to the 1% than anything else.

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I don't think the main problem with bureaucracies is that they can sometimes have oligarchic features. (I think they do at the top and like everything else they can be corrupted and gamed by more typical oligarchs, e.g. the tax systems usually are to a large extent gamed and corrupted in such a fashion.) But they are certainly restrictors of individual freedom, often severely so, and granters of privileges, earned/unearned/...

The original intention might have been benevolent (and of course one usually needs at least some bureaucracy in the modern worlds) but as we all know both rules and institutions develop a life of their own and soon exist to a large extent to perpetuate themselves. (This is most depressing when bureaucrats take over institutions that used to have a more relevant purpose of their own, e.g. schools and universities.) The only time I have sympathies with anarchists is when I am confronted with bureaucracy...

The main problem with naming beforehand certain "atrocities" (genocide, chemical weapons, weapons of mass destruction,...) that have to be answered with military intervention is obviously that such things can be provoked, fabricated (or not quite obvious cases can be exaggerated) precisely for the justification of such interventions.

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3 hours ago, OldGimletEye said:

I'm not sure about this. I think the neocons that pushed Dubya in Iraq actually believed they could transform it into a democracy in a short period of time. I think their mode of thought is an error, but they do believe that installing democracy at the point of a gun is fairly straightforward.

I'm sure they believed they could, but if they were solely, or even principally motivated to bring democracy and freedom to Iraq I'd be very surprised. IMO bringing democracy to Iraq was a nice bonus in their mind, but not the real reason they wanted to go in there.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, The Anti-Targ said:

I'm sure they believed they could, but if they were solely, or even principally motivated to bring democracy and freedom to Iraq I'd be very surprised. IMO bringing democracy to Iraq was a nice bonus in their mind, but not the real reason they wanted to go in there.

Looking at neocon history. I'm pretty sure that's exactly what they thought. They have never been all that motivated by economic matters. Or if they were, they have always been more concerned by foreign policy. Remember, many of the neocons had their origins on the left. I'm pretty sure Jean Kirkpatrick who worked for Reagan started out as a Democratic socialist. Many of the neocons left the Democratic Party, after many Democrats soured on Vietnam and became skeptical of military interventionism. They were able to find a home in the Republican Party, but the lid was kept on them by the old realist school of foreign policy, until Dubya where their influence was in full ascent. His father largely ignored their advice to go into Iraq after the first gulf war.

They took Trotsky's dictum of permanent revolution and turned it into permanent war.

Edited by OldGimletEye

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9 minutes ago, The Anti-Targ said:

I'm sure they believed they could, but if they were solely, or even principally motivated to bring democracy and freedom to Iraq I'd be very surprised. IMO bringing democracy to Iraq was a nice bonus in their mind, but not the real reason they wanted to go in there.

It was the Casus Belli both for the public and for the tattered remains of their consciences.

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1 hour ago, Pony Queen Jace said:

It was the Casus Belli both for the public and for the tattered remains of their consciences.

No I think the Casus Belli was Weapons of Mass Destruction.

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1 minute ago, OldGimletEye said:

No I think the Casus Belli was Weapons of Mass Destruction.

I was going from more of their own POV, but yes you are right.

 

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Posted (edited)
28 minutes ago, Jo498 said:

I don't think the main problem with bureaucracies is that they can sometimes have oligarchic features. (I think they do at the top and like everything else they can be corrupted and gamed by more typical oligarchs, e.g. the tax systems usually are to a large extent gamed and corrupted in such a fashion.) But they are certainly restrictors of individual freedom, often severely so, and granters of privileges, earned/unearned/...

The original intention might have been benevolent (and of course one usually needs at least some bureaucracy in the modern worlds) but as we all know both rules and institutions develop a life of their own and soon exist to a large extent to perpetuate themselves. (This is most depressing when bureaucrats take over institutions that used to have a more relevant purpose of their own, e.g. schools and universities.) The only time I have sympathies with anarchists is when I am confronted with bureaucracy...

The main problem with naming beforehand certain "atrocities" (genocide, chemical weapons, weapons of mass destruction,...) that have to be answered with military intervention is obviously that such things can be provoked, fabricated (or not quite obvious cases can be exaggerated) precisely for the justification of such interventions.

One thing that has always puzzled me.  If the problem with taxes is allowing those at the top to game the system aren't all the extensive regulations and statutes contributing to rather than mitigating the problem?  Would a grossly simplified tax code that contains no deductions or exemptions whatsoever be very difficult to game?  

X Income pays Y percentage of income

A Income pays B percentage of income

C Income pays D percentage of income.

There is no wiggle room. The only way to avoid taxation would be to hide income which would be very difficult if you want to have anything like a normal life.   In other words if the whole structure of complex and difficult to navigate rules and regulations exists to allow those at the top to game the system... why have the complex rules and regulations in the first place?

Edited by Ser Scot A Ellison

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

There is no wiggle room. The only way to avoid taxation would be to hide income which would be very difficult if you want to have anything like a normal life.   In other words if the whole structure of complex and difficult to navigate rules and regulations exists to allow those at the top to game the system... why have the complex rules and regulations in the first place?

Because most people in the US like a bit of socialism, whether they admit it or not. And it's easier to say you're not doing socialism if you hide in the tax code and call it a "tax cut".

Our socialism aversion (even though many really like it) and putting on libertarian airs often leads to suboptimal policy. For instance, with regard to housing policy it would probably be more efficient and simpler to write new and lower income home buyers a check than subsidizing their loans through a government guarantee.

But, also, its easier to hide cash handouts to various groups than just write them a check.

Edited by OldGimletEye

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19 minutes ago, OldGimletEye said:

Because most people in the US like a bit of socialism, whether they admit it or not. And it's easier to say you're not doing socialism if you hide in the tax code and call it a "tax cut".

Our socialism aversion (even though many really like it) and putting on libertarian airs often leads to suboptimal policy. For instance, with regard to housing policy it would probably be more efficient and simpler to write new and lower income home buyers a check than subsidizing their loans through a government guarantee.

But, also, its easier to hide cash handouts to various groups than just write them a check.

So... it's all to conceal the handouts to the already wealthy?

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

So... it's all to conceal the handouts to the already wealthy?

I think in part yes. It's easier to hide shit through a mind boggling tax code, then just write checks to people. 

And in part, I think its because we like to play this game with ourselves, to wit: We like a little bit of socialism with our free market, but let's pretend we really don't ie the tax exclusion for employer sponsored healthcare for example.

Remember the Tea Party? Despite quoting Hayek and the references to John Galt and putting on libertarian airs, for many the real source of their complain was: Hey man, we want to keep the socialism for ourselves!

Edited by OldGimletEye

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What gets me when you start talking about forcing your value system (freedom/democracy) on another country, is that it completely ignores the will of the people of said country. Others has mentioned that for a new democracy to work and be stable the change has to come within. While I agree with this, I also think that the fact that the will to change comes from the people. Isn't that what freedom, or self-determination is? Frankly, I think the whole idea comes off as quite derogatory. As if the people can't make that change themselves if they wanted to. Many counties in the west became democracies without help. Why shouldn't other parts of the world be able to do the same? (I realize that some things are different and there are always exceptions but this is my baseline).

21 hours ago, Rippounet said:

All this being said there are two things the West should do, if it was the shining beacon of hope that it pretends to be:
- Provide much needed economic assistance to developing countries. That is, cut the bullcrap on "free trade" and allow them protectionism. Give them back the management and profits of the exploitation of their natural resources. Eliminate their national debts. Share technological innovation. ... etc. That's the stuff that really matters. The whole discourse about "democracy" and "freedom," by comparison, is just ridiculous and makes the West look hypocritical and arrogant.
- Actively act to prevent crimes against humanity. Starting by stopping the manufacturing and selling of weapons. Also, don't recognize illegitimate or terrible rulers (even those who are "elected") and don't help them build socio-economic structures that will cement their rule. Again, this is what truly matters.

Agree with this. If we, as rich western nations, actually want to make life better for everyone and give more self-determination to people of poorer countries (I also think we tend exaggerate how much more "free" we actually are in the west, most other countries are not all that different) there are a whole lot of things we could to. Good starting points would be to 1) not use a much larger share of natural resources than we are entitled to and 2) only buy products that come from companies/states with good working conditions.

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22 hours ago, James Arryn said:

Ugh.

 

edit, to add a bit of substance...pony, the family thing alone is grossing me the fuck out...this reminds me of Carlin’s into to the Roman Holocaust eposide. He starts off by asking what you would be willing to die for. Like make a list of things you would actually die for. And then he starts listing off the uncontroversial things ‘most people’ would be willing to die for.

*your loved ones. (My reaction: yeah.)

*your country. (My reaction: uhhhh...maybe? Depends on a lot of factors. If Nazis were invading, yeah. If we were aggressively expanding our influence or exporting our ideology (these two are generally indistinguishable from one another) no. But, ok, maybe.

*your possessions. (My reaction: what? Fuck no. Is he serious? No, I will not die to keep my possessions. I can’t imagine a more useless act, really. I mean, when younger and stupid I fought a few guys trying to rob me, but I was young and stupid at the time. Anyways, Dan Carlin, I expected better if you.)

I listened to that too but when i first read your post I was trying to figure out why George Carlin was riffing on genocide. Then I figured out what you were talking about.

I dont think anyone would die for their possessions but it makes perfect sense to risk death for them or even to risk death for your property rights.  Depending of course on the magnitude of the risk and of the potential loss.  But i dont think his point is totally outrageous.

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Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, Rippounet said:

This reading makes much more sense, but I do hope it's still controversial. The idea that American bureaucrats don't actually care for the people is close to saying that most government departments and regulations are useless. It's equally ridiculous to claim that laws and regulations mainly benefit the 1%. Of course, it's easier to navigate the courts with money (and influence), but all in all laws and regulations are more of a hindrance to the 1% than anything else.

I'm certainly not making the argument that bureaucrats don't care about people.  I'm making the argument tgat the bureaucracies themselves, by their very design, serve the interests of the oligarchs.  

And yes, it's worse when Trump has the wolves guarding the hen house (see Ajit Pai, Ryan Zinke, Scott Pruitt), but even without them at the helm the ship is operating in Their Oligarchs Service.

We've had a culture where the big dogs get to self police (see how the SEC handles Wall Street, look at how Big Pharma operates, remember Enron?), while everyone else is more vulnerable to regulatory power the smaller they are.  

Look at the Department of Defense.  Sure it defends the country, but it's also a free money spigot for defense contractors.  

Look a the criminal justice system.  I'm sure that most county clerks aren't interested in packing private prisons to maximize shareholders profits, but that's the reality of the system we have.  

That's how I read the initial comment anyway, which could very well be wrong, but I think it's a reasonable interpretation and not some kind of flat-earth crackpottery.  

 

Edited by larrytheimp
Clarity

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58 minutes ago, Lady of the Wind said:

What gets me when you start talking about forcing your value system (freedom/democracy) on another country, is that it completely ignores the will of the people of said country. Others has mentioned that for a new democracy to work and be stable the change has to come within. While I agree with this, I also think that the fact that the will to change comes from the people. Isn't that what freedom, or self-determination is? Frankly, I think the whole idea comes off as quite derogatory. As if the people can't make that change themselves if they wanted to. Many counties in the west became democracies without help. Why shouldn't other parts of the world be able to do the same? (I realize that some things are different and there are always exceptions but this is my baseline).

But what about if the people of said country wishes to be more free, but they have a dictator preventing it? What if half the population (say, women) wants to, say, have the right to drive a car, but the other half doesn't want them to? Do we still respect their right to self-determination or is it legit to exert pressure on that country to not discriminate against their own citizens? (And do we have any examples of when that sort of thing ever worked? This is not a rethorical question, I'm genuinely curious.)

I'm a bit torn on this. On one hand it's derogatory to assume that the people of other countries cannot rise up against tyranny without our help. On the other hand it seems cynical to just say "well it has to come from themselves so let's do nothing".

I generally accept the idea that we in the Western world might not be all-wise and rigtheous all the time, and that our version of democracy is usually pretty flawed too, but when it comes to stuff like equality and LGBTQ+ rights, you just won't get any concessions from me. Anyone who opposes those things is wrong, end of story. And I think it feels right to try to help the people in other countries who are not as fortunate as us. At least we can do our best not to encourage it (for example by not selling weapons or surveillance tech to oppressive states).

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1 hour ago, larrytheimp said:

I'm certainly not making the argument that bureaucrats don't care about people.  I'm making the argument tgat the bureaucracies themselves, by their very design, serve the interests of the oligarchs.  

And yes, it's worse when Trump has the wolves guarding the hen house (see Ajit Pai, Ryan Zinke, Scott Pruitt), but even without them at the helm the ship is operating in Their Oligarchs Service.

We've had a culture where the big dogs get to self police (see how the SEC handles Wall Street, look at how Big Pharma operates, remember Enron?), while everyone else is more vulnerable to regulatory power the smaller they are. 

Ok, this makes a lot of sense, point taken.
As a eurocommie, I'm more used to seeing bureaucracies as being inefficient against big fish because they lack the means (manpower and money, mainly) rather than the will. But at the super-state level (the EU here, the federal governement in the US), I guess it's indeed non-controversial to see the agencies as being managed (directly or indirectly) by the very people they should be watching.
Damn, it's not everyday that I'm naive about that kind of thing.

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7 hours ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

One thing that has always puzzled me.  If the problem with taxes is allowing those at the top to game the system aren't all the extensive regulations and statutes contributing to rather than mitigating the problem?  Would a grossly simplified tax code that contains no deductions or exemptions whatsoever be very difficult to game?  

X Income pays Y percentage of income

A Income pays B percentage of income

C Income pays D percentage of income.

There is no wiggle room. The only way to avoid taxation would be to hide income which would be very difficult if you want to have anything like a normal life.   In other words if the whole structure of complex and difficult to navigate rules and regulations exists to allow those at the top to game the system... why have the complex rules and regulations in the first place?

 

6 hours ago, OldGimletEye said:

I think in part yes. It's easier to hide shit through a mind boggling tax code, then just write checks to people. 

And in part, I think its because we like to play this game with ourselves, to wit: We like a little bit of socialism with our free market, but let's pretend we really don't ie the tax exclusion for employer sponsored healthcare for example.

Remember the Tea Party? Despite quoting Hayek and the references to John Galt and putting on libertarian airs, for many the real source of their complain was: Hey man, we want to keep the socialism for ourselves!

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)?   

Basically, I completely disagree with your premises.  It isn't simple.  Modern life is complicated.  Even the most basic of tax systems is still going to have a lot of complexity in defining what to tax.  You can go to the route of a tax on things, but VATs and equivalent are regressive.  

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.

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1 hour ago, Erik of Hazelfield said:

But what about if the people of said country wishes to be more free, but they have a dictator preventing it? What if half the population (say, women) wants to, say, have the right to drive a car, but the other half doesn't want them to? Do we still respect their right to self-determination or is it legit to exert pressure on that country to not discriminate against their own citizens? (And do we have any examples of when that sort of thing ever worked? This is not a rethorical question, I'm genuinely curious.)

I was mostly thinking about more aggressive ways of "exporting" values, like an information war, targeted propaganda or military intervention. Diplomatically, we should absolutely make it clear that women's situation in Saudi Arabia, for example, is unacceptable. I also think you can come a long way with this simply by not supporting them. Most dictatorships don't make their own weapons, for example.

If the will and some sort of movement is there, I do think we should support it with diplomatic options. I think that longterm, nonaggressive support and help with building a better society, where the wishes come from the people, is the way to go. This is what I feel is right, though, based on my values as well as what seems to (not) work. 

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55 minutes 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.

What does this actually mean, policy-wise?  What kind of tax structure doesn't enact or affect social policy?  Genuinely don't understand.

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13 minutes ago, larrytheimp said:

What does this actually mean, policy-wise?  What kind of tax structure doesn't enact or affect social policy?  Genuinely don't understand.

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.

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